2021 WI Land+Water Annual Report

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Annual Report

WISCONSIN LAND+WATER wisconsinlandwater.org

Conserving Resources. Empowering Communities. Building Better Futures.

Message from the Director

In 2021, as with the year before it, we faced no shortage of challenges—particularly, as we had hoped and perhaps expected that we would see the end of the global pandemic, which continues to linger on. We have written and talked quite a bit about “adaptation,” which in today’s conservation world continues to take on new meaning and interpretations.

2021 saw WI Land+Water adapt many of our events, including our 68th Annual Conference, County Conservation meetings, countless trainings, youth education events, and program and committee meetings to virtual settings as we continued to work in service of our mission despite the pandemic.

The challenges of connecting through video presentations and webcams were many, without a doubt. There were obvious difficulties for rural parts of the state without adequate broadband services, and for those of us who are not technologically savvy, nor have the capacity to sit

in front of a computer screen for hours on end. There were perhaps even greater challenges for those of us who just wanted to be in the physical presence of a conservation colleague or friend from the other side of the state, to share stories, commiserate, or reconnect. In other words, to be human with one another.

Though we continued to creatively move our organization forward through a difficult time, as clearly demonstrated in this report, the pandemic made painfully obvious what our members already know—that it is the people and the relationships that are the strength of our county conservation community. We look forward to reconnecting in person with this community in the brighter days ahead.

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Lands, Waters, & People

WI Land+Water is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) that uniquely serves Wisconsin—its lands, waters, and people—through our membership, public programs, leadership, and resources. We work at the center of Wisconsin’s conservation network, supporting the Land and Water Conservation Departments and Committees in advancing our mission and vision for all communities.

Our Mission

We work to protect, conserve, and enhance Wisconsin’s natural resources by advocating for and supporting county conservation efforts for current and future generations.

Our Vision

We envision a future where our natural resources are valued and protected by informed, empowered communities advancing conservation at the local level.

2021 Annual Report 3 Contents Policy & Advocacy 07 Conservation Training 08 Our Organization 04 Our Community 06 Communications 12 Youth Education 10 Climate Resilience 14 Standards Development 16 Committee Highlights 18 Budget Summary 19

Our Organization

We have seven staff members in our Madison office, but the entire organization includes the Board of Directors, eight committees, and eight area associations, as well as the broader network of public, private, non-profit partners, and volunteers across Wisconsin.

Our Members

Our membership is comprised of all 370 county staff members of the Land and Water Conservation Departments and all 470 members serving on the county Land Conservation Committees in Wisconsin.

Land Conservation Committees

Compromised of elected county board members and appointed members, Land Conservation Committees (LCC) take a lead role in local land and water resources protection. They set the course for conservation in their counties and work closely with their respective LWCDs to put planning into action.

Land & Water Conservation Departments

All county governments in Wisconsin have a Land & Water Conservation Department (LWCD) that is responsible for carrying our programs and projects that locally conserve Wisconsin’s land and water resources. Through their leadership and expertise, LWCD staff provide educational, technical, and conservation planning assistance in their communities as the boots-on-the-ground drivers of actions.

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“A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke [of the axe] he is writing his signature on the face of the land.”
- Aldo Leopold

Board of Directors & Executive Committee

WI Land+Water’s Board of Directors oversees our organization. The Board is comprised of eight LCC members and eight LWCD staff members, representing each of the Area Associations.

The Executive Committee fulfills the obligations and conducts the business of the Board between board meetings. The Executive Committee is also comprised of equal parts LCC and LWCD members.

Standing Committees

There are seven additional committees that help oversee different programs and components of WI Land+Water and are comprised by LCC and LWCD members, WI Land+Water staff, and agency partners.

Area Associations

Eight area associations streamline the common interests of county conservation efforts for the regions, facilitate information exchange, sponsor educational and training events, elect area representatives to the WI Land+Water Board of Directors, and identify regional policy issues that may be acted on at the state level.


We work with federal and state agencies to collaborate on conservation programs and projects.


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Founded Member Counties Professional Staff LWCD Staff Office Location LCC Supervisors 450 7 Madison, WI 370 1953 72

Our Community

WI Land+Water Staff

Matt Krueger Executive Director

Christina Anderson Climate Resiliency Program Manager

Kate Brunner

Standards Oversight Council Program Manager

Kristin Teston Communications Manager

Penny Pohle

Conservation Training & Membership Services Manager

Chris Schlutt Training and Events Manager

Kim Warkentin Operations Manager & Youth Education Director

Area Association Coordinators

Lake Michigan Area Ken Dolata, Oconto Co.

Lake Winnebago Area

Chad Casper and Mary Koch, Winnebago Co.

Southeastern Area

Stephanie Egner, Washington Co.

Southern Area

Lynda Schweikert, Grant Co.

Western Area

Gaylord Olson II, Jackson Co.

West Central Area Rod Webb, Pierce Co.

Northwestern Area

Heather Palmquist, Iron Co.

North Central Area Steve Kircher, Forest Co.

Board of Directors

Lake Michigan

Ken Dolata, Oconto Co. Ken Fisher, Door Co.

Lake Winnebago

Brian Haase, Waupaca Co. Mike Hofberger, Calumet Co.

Southeastern Alan Barrows, Waukesha Co. Treasurer Monte Osterman, Racine Co., Chair

Southern Amy Piaget, Dane County Melissa Luck, Richland Co., Exec. Comm.

Western Bob Micheel, Monroe Co., President Tom Clark, Jackson Co.

West Central Chase Cummings, Dunn Co. Russell Rindsig, Barron Co.

Northwestern Ben Dufford, Bayfield Co. Craig Conroy, Burnett Co.

North Central Carolyn Scholl, Vilas Co. Secratary Bob Mott, Oneida Co, Exec. Comm.

Committee Chairs


Bob Micheel, Monroe Co. Great Lakes Greg Coulthurst, Door Co.

Legislative/Administrative Kurt Calkins, Columbia Co.

Mississippi River Basin Rod Webb, Pierce Co.

Public Outreach

Paul Backhaus, Washington Co.

Professional Improvement Tony Reali, Calumet Co. Technical Matt Hanewall, LaCrosse Co. Youth Education Tracy Arnold, Portage Co.


Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP)

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

UW-Madison Divison of Extension

Wisconsin Counties Association

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Policy and Advocacy

We advocate for locally led conservation and champion policies to promote county-based conservation work in Wisconsin.

Legislative/Administrative Committee

Advocacy efforts are informed by our Legislative/Administrative Committee, with members coming from all eight areas of the state, to ensure regional representation. The committee promotes the values of local control and flexibility in implementing conservation programs, including regulatory and voluntary approaches.

Area Associations

Eight area associations are organized to further the common interests of county conservation in their areas. To learn more about our area associations, visit: wisconsinlandwater.org/members-hub/ area-associations

State Land & Water Conservation Board

We elect three members to the state Land and Water Conservation Board that help to connect local and state governments on conservation and farmland preservation issues.

2021 Highlights

• Successfully advocated for county conservation department funding in the state biennial budget, constituting increases of $2,065,900 ($11,030,000 total) in 2021-22, and $2,315,900 ($11,280,000 total) in 2022-23.

• Alongside agricultural and conservation group partners, advocated for a $50 million “budget blueprint” to move Wisconsin toward clean water and resilient farms.

• Provided members information on accessing conservation funding via largescale federal infrastructure and COVID relief funding.

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Conservation Training


The State Interagency Training Committee (SITCOM) is a partnership effort with a mission to maintain and strengthen a statewide team of well-trained conservation professionals that carry on Wisconsin’s rich history of conserving soil and water resources through a coordinated and efficient partnership. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection provides funding to WI Land+Water for trainings and SITCOM.

Annual Conference

Each March, we hold an annual conference to provide networking opportunities and forums to discuss programs, practices, and new ideas. Breakout sessions allow attendees to build technical knowledge and be inspired by others’ passion for Wisconsin conservation. Our Professional Improvement Committee provides leadership in developing the conference agenda with support from the Technical Committee and SITCOM.

WI Land+Water is committed to providing our members with high quality, relevant trainings to develop and maintain highly trained conservation staff and supervisors. This program is comprised of consistent learning programs that enhance skill development.

Annually WI Land+Water, along with members of SITCOM, identify educational needs and collaborate to provide trainings. SITCOM is comprised of staff from WI Land+Water, DATCP, DNR, NRCS,

UW-Madison Division of Extension, UW-Madison College of Ag and Life Sciences, Area Interagency Training Committees, Professional Improvement Committee, Technical Committee, and member at large-professional engineering practitioner. A statewide training needs survey was conducted to help develop the statewide training workplan. More information about SITCOM can be found at wisconsinlandwater.org/our-work/ conservation-training/sitcom

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We build teams of well-trained conservation professionals that teach cutting edge best management practices for soil and water conservation.

WI Land+Water provided trainings virtually during the pandemic with very high participation numbers. Online trainings are recorded and later posted on the WI Land+Water website which makes them available as needed boosting utilization of training materials. When determined to meet specific qualifications, our trainings offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and Professional Development Hours (PDHs). These trainings are a collaborative effort with various statewide partner agencies and organizations. WI Land+Water continues to offer a robust training program as shown in the following deliverables:

1,998 people attended 37 live webinars hosted by WI Land+Water. Webinar recordings are posted on our website.

Farming for the Future: A Forum for Exploring Ecosystem Markets offered five webinars and over 30 organizations from five states joined to provide farmers with transparent and practical information about ecosystem market opportunities.

26 people attended one in-person training session offered by WI Land+Water and partners.

30 training sessions were offered at the virtual 68th Annual Conference with more than 425 attendees. Prerecorded sessions were also provided.

167 people attended the two virtual County Conservation meetings

160 people attended the Conservation Observance Day event in Vernon County.

2021 Conservation Awards


website’s conservation training calendar.

To find out more, contact WI Land+Water Conservation Training & Membership Services Manager.

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Greg Leonard, Eau Claire Co. – Outstanding Employee, County Conservationist (above) Fay Amerson, Walworth Co. – Outstanding Employee, Senior Urban Conservation Technician Tracy Arnold, Portage Co. – Brad Matson Youth Education Award Dan Nankee, Iowa Co. – Outstanding Supervisor (bottom left) Drew Zelle, DATCP – Special Recognition/Friend of Conservation Short Lane Ag, under the leadership of Matt and Craig Oehmichen – Conservation Steward (bottom right)
e-newsletter every
Land+Water distributes a SITCOM Training
to over 1,500 people. This
offers a wide variety of training opportunities. WI Land+Water trainings and other training opportunities are posted on our

Youth Education

We teach and inspire Wisconsin’s youth to be the next generation of environmental stewards through engaging education programs.

Wisconsin Envirothon Wisconsin Envirothon is our state’s ultimate middle and high school environmental science challenge. Teams of four or five students participate in hands-on, outdoor field challenges designed by natural resource professionals and educators. The winning high school team moves on to represent Wisconsin at the National Conservation Foundation Envirothon.

Poster & Speaking Contest

Students compete in county and area competitions with the winners moving on to compete at the state competition at our Annual Conference. The first-place posters from the state competition represent Wisconsin in the National Association of Conservation Districts’ national competition.

Conservation Camps

Our conservation camps provide positive educational outdoor experiences, foster an appreciation for nature, and introduce a variety of careers in natural resources. Professionals from various agencies present programs on topics like wildlife, habitat water quality, fisheries, forestry, orienteering and canoeing.

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While COVID continued to impact us in 2021, our Youth Education Committee worked hard to restructure our programs so students had the opportunity to participate in a few of our core youth conservation programs.

We were disappointed that our two Conservation Camps had to be canceled for the second year in a row, but we were fortunate that students were able to participate in the 64th Annual Conservation Awareness Poster and Speaking Contests and the WI Envirothon.

When the annual conference was moved to a virtual platform, the Youth Education Committee worked hard to figure out how to hold a virtual Poster and Speaking contest. With so many events canceled during COVID, students and teachers were excited to have an opportunity to participate.

As we looked toward organizing the Envirothon, we knew we didn’t want to cancel again so the Youth Education Committee began revamping the program. With the support of our donors

and NCF-Envirothon our committee worked hard to put together a virtual Envirothon. And as other states followed a virtual format, so did the NCF-Envirothon.

The 2021 Envirothon was made possible by the generous support from our sponsors:

Outdoor Heritage Education Center

• The Robert W. and Susan T. Brown Family Foundation

• Cellcom

• Smithfield Foods, Inc.

• Wisconsin County Forests Assoc, Inc.

• Advanced Disposal

• WI Farm Bureau Foundation

• Petenwell & Castle Rock Stewards

• Pheasants Forever, Inc. - Outagamie Chapter

• Lands’ End

• Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association

• Southern Land+Water Area Association

• Lake Winnebago Land+Water Area Association

• North Central Land+Water Area Association


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students sent videos of their conservation topic to be judged in the virtual Conservation Awareness Speaking Contest teams across the state participated in the virtual WI Envirothon
posters were submitted in the virtual Conservation Awareness Poster Contest


We share conservation successes, innovative solutions, and the hard work of local leaders to underscore the impact of locally led conservation across Wisconsin.

facebook.com/wisconsinlandwater twitter.com/wilandwater


Conservation in Action

Our Conservation in Action stories are in-depth articles that feature the projects and programs of county conservation department staff and supervisors. These stories highlight the relationship-building that is often required to successfully implement conservation on the landscape, as well as the engagement from passionate private landowners and groups to improve our lands and waters. These stories can be found on our website or in our newsletters.

Conservation News

Sent out biweekly, our conservation news is a public resource that organizes many of the state’s conservation-related articles in one place. We gather stories from a variety of outlets, such as state and local news media, partner organizations, and government agencies. Subscribe to this email service on our website at wisconsinlandwater.org/subscribeconservation-clips.

We began using Issuu to digitally publish our newsletter, The Note. Our three newsletters were viewed 1,187 times with an average read time of 10 minutes.



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a delay, we worked with Vernon County to support Conservation Observance Day by filming a promotional video and documenting the event at Harmony Hills Farm.

2021 Highlights

We collaborated with Cricket Design Works to create a better digital experience for our conservation community. This included developing and designing a new website that better showcases the work of our organization and provides access to resources and materials through the Members Hub.

Along with our website, we also unveiled an updated WI Land+Water logo. Looking closely at the As, there is an outline of a tree in the letter’s center in “Land” and a blue expanse of water in “Water.” Our digital publications, such as newsletters and listserv emails, also underwent a design refresh to complement our new branding.


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service of our Wisconsin State/Federal Climate Initiative grant, we worked with U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office to arrange a visit to Monroe County. More than 25 people and four news outlets attended the private tour. We developed a more streamlined process for submitting and promoting conservation success stories, which are now referred to as “Conservation In Action” stories on our website. Retired Logo
Current Logo

Climate Resilience

We support counties as they explore new initiatives, and responding to the changing climate is the ultimate integration of our resources.

Climate Resilience Program

Through our new Climate Resilience Program, we are working with partners to identify mitigation and adaptation strategies, building a resource hub to help counties integrate climate into planning efforts, identifying federal climate funding opportunities for counties, and training on carbon and greenhouse gas offset potential modeling tools.

Mid-way through 2021, we transitioned away from our Source Water Protection program and launched our new Climate Resilience Program. We will continue to support counties working to implement source water protection efforts through our Health and Conservation work group. We had hoped to relaunch this work group in fall 2021, however new COVID variants and member staffing changes delayed this effort. We are hoping to get back together in 2022, as our public health partners’ COVID-related workloads ease.

108 people attended the Intro to Carbon Farm Planning webinar in November, hosted with our partners from Carbon Cycle Institute and supported by SARE to introduce members to planning conservation through a carbon lens.

We launched the Climate Resilience Hub on our website, featuring tools and resources to help counties identify vulnerabilities and consider adaptation strategies in their counties. Learn more at wisconsinlandwater.org/members-hub/ conservation-resources/climate-resilience

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Climate Ready Innovations

In 2021, we worked with Monroe County Land Conservation Department and other partners to prepare for the increase of extreme weather events in the county.

Climate Impacts Assessment

We worked with Monroe County Climate Change Task Force and the Wisconsin’s Green Fire to conduct a rapid, comprehensive assessment that brings together climate readiness and conservation-based economic opportunities at a county level.

Monroe County Farmers

Three Monroe County farmers contributed to assessing climate impacts and determining adaptation strategies to limit the impact of climate change on farms across the county. Their contributions were part of the effort to assess climate impacts on all land use across the county.

Senator Baldwin Visit

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin visited Herricks Dairy to learn more about how farmers are working to implement climate-smart conservation practices that prepare the landscape for extreme weather events.

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Standards Development

We help shape urban and agricultural standards by utilizing the diverse expertise and experiences of our partners and team members.

Standards Oversight Council

The Standards Oversight Council (SOC) is an interagency collaboration to assist partner agencies in the development of uniform technical standards that protect Wisconsin’s natural resources. These standards are used by NRCS, DATCP, DNR, and counties in implementing urban and rural conservation practices across the state.

Teams mixed with both public and private sector participants use available research, technology, and field experience to create and update technical standards. This interdisciplinary, collaborative forum helps provide uniform planning, design, and installation criteria.

The SOC process encourages broad public input to improve the quality and implementation of conservation standards. SOC also supports outreach to build awareness and participation in the SOC process and helps coordinate training efforts at the completion of standards.

2021 marked the 25th anniversary for the Standards Oversight Council, a collective partnership among conservation agencies to develop and maintain Wisconsin’s technical standards for soil and water conservation practices.

SOC work is detailed further in the 2021 SOC Annual Report available at socwisconsin.org

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This unique collaboration ensures uniform, science-based technical standards to support a wide variety of federal, state and local conservation programs. The SOC process uses teams of local, state and federal agency, researchers, and private sector experts to reach consensus among different interests.

Bringing agencies and technical experts together early in the process, and then soliciting input to the drafts by additional practitioners, ensures that the final standards will not only meet the conservation goals, but can be also be readily implemented.

SOC continued efforts to keep the standard users engaged and involved to create more effective practice standards. In celebration of the 25th anniversary, SOC broadened outreach to continue to build awareness and increase participation. The SOC program ensured that the standards reflect current terminology, keep up with evolving technical and scientific knowledge, and involve input from different interests.

SOC supported its partner custodian agencies—DATCP, DNR, and NRCS—in publishing six technical standards in 2021. SOC is also facilitating work in-progress on eight additional technical standards. Specific 2021 accomplishments based on work through a SOC modified or full process are featured below.

• Custodian agencies published the following technical standards based on work through SOC work teams: DATCP 01 Verification of Depth to Bedrock, NRCS conservation practice standard (CPS) 395 Stream Habitat Improvement and Management, CPS 580 Streambank and Shoreline Protection, CPS 582 Open Channel, and CPS 584 Channel Bed Stabilization; and DNR 1008 Permeable Pavement.

• Work in 2021 continues on CPS 328 Conservation Crop Rotation, DNR 1011 High Performance Dry Storm Water Basins, DNR 1060 Storm Drain Inlet Protection for Construction Sites, and DNR 1072 Horizontal Directional Drilling.


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7draft standards through external review Reviews yielded 583 comments from 74 reviewers 500+ attendees at SOC presentations 62 individuals represented on active SOC work teams
you’d like to
informed about opening of comment periods
of revised standards, standard-related training
Overview If
for draft standards, publication
events, and other
to help improve Wisconsin’s technical standards, sign up for SOC emails at

Committee Highlights

Great Lakes Committee

The Great Lakes Committee (GLC) works to support, promote, and develop county land and water programming to protect, conserve, and enhance natural resources in the Great Lakes basin.

• Held five Zoom meetings in 2021, three of which were conducted after sponsoring webinars on emerging environmental topics (USACE Program Overview, Want Freshwater-Then Stop Over-Salting, and Plastics Pollution)

• Due to postponement of the annual tour, had county presentations during the December meeting to showcase special projects remotely. Douglas County presented on the Stop the Spiny Water Flea efforts and Door County presented on the Dunes Lake Restoration efforts

• Approved three mini grants for projects in Door, Douglas, and Marinette counties

Legislative/Administrative Committee

The Legislative/Administrative Committee reviews and takes action deemed necessary on proposed legislation, policies, or procedures that may impact our conservation programs.

• Identified challenges with existing resolution process; proposed new process for vetting WI Land+Water resolutions, incorporating oversight and input on particular resolution proposals from committees of relevance and better integration into advocacy efforts

• Identified challenges and opportunities related to nutrient management, informed by reps from land and water conservation departments, UW-Madison Division of Extension, Dept. of Natural Resources, and Dept. of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection

Professional Improvement Committee

The Professional Improvement Committee (PIC) coordinates the annual conference, which provides high quality training and educational sessions for our membership and the public.

• Helped organize breakout sessions and provided support for sessions at the annual conference

• Managed the member training scholarship program

• Promoted and judged conservation awards

Public Outreach Committee

The Public Outreach Committee assists counties with increasing public awareness and support for locally-led land and water conservation efforts.

• Held two virtual interest meetings to encourage new committee membership

• Developed Outreach and Communications Survey for Counties to track trends in current outreach efforts, and provide guidance as for developing resources, support and training opportunities for WI Land+Water membership.

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Technical Committee

The Technical Committee manages technical issues and provides guidance for technical projects across Wisconsin. The Committee welcomed Brian Smetana (Walworth Co.) in 2021. Here are some of our other accomplishments:

• Finalized development of the “Direct Runoff” Guidance Document with DNR

• Coordinated an effort to create a floodplain zoning conservation practice no-rise checklist

• Provided input and representation on the Wetland Rapid Functional Value Assessment

• Provided NRCS State Technical Subcommittee updates

• Promoted soil health principles and interseeding cover crops

• Promoted standardization and simplification of nutrient reduction modelling and reporting

• Coordinated technical sessions for the 2022 WI Land+Water Conference

• Provided quarterly SOC updates and followed progress related to technical standards being created or updated

• Promoted the WI Land+Water Technical Photo Gallery

Youth Education Committee

The Youth Education Committee coordinates all the youth programs - Poster & Speaking Contest, Conservation Camps, and Envirothon.

• Awarded the second Brad Matson Youth Education Award to Tracy Arnold, Portage County and Chair of our Youth Education programs

• Organized our first virtual Conservation Awareness Poster and Speaking Contests

• Conducted our first virtual Silent Auction raising $3,395.00 to support our Youth Education programs

• Organized and restructured our first virtual Wisconsin Envirothon, providing an opportunity for old and new schools to participate and experience Envirothon in a time where many programs were cancelled

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Budget Summary 55% 18% 15% 10% 2% REVENUE State Grants County Membership Dues Events Federal Grants Contributions & Other Grants 37% 25% 17% 6% 6% 5% 4% EXPENDITURES Training Administrative Technical Expertise Youth Education Source Water Protection Policy Advocacy Climate Resilience
121 S. Pinckney St., Suite 420 Madison, WI 53703 CONTACT:
T: (608) 441-2677 Photo Credits: Dave Hoefler
Land and Water Conservation Association
Saketh Garuda Monroe County LCD Wisconsin
F: (608) 441-2676 E: info@wisconsinlandwater.org