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What a year! Thanks to supporters like you, Groundswell protected special places in our community, restored important wildlife habitat, connected people to nature, and more. Read all about our latest projects in our 2021-2022 annual reportHere’s a preview of the stories inside.

Photo credit: Mario Quintana

Protected Forever: A Centennial Farm on the Shore of Hook Lake

In early August, the Town of Dunn and Groundswell Conservancy placed a permanent conservation easement on the Peterson Family centennial farm. This easement preserves valuable farmland by restricting development on the 133-acre property…READ MORE.

Photo credit: Sue Ann Schwank

Protected Forever

This past fiscal year our relationships with landowners and communities resulted in the permanent protection of wetlands, farmland, a park, and shorelines. That means our communities are more resilient to flooding, farmers can invest in their soil with the confidence that it won’t be developed, wildlife has more places to thrive, and we all can enjoy more public nature spaces….READ MORE.

Photo credit: Roberta Herschleb

Fall Harvest Picnic

We held our second annual Lifting Hearts Fall Harvest Picnic at Westport Farm on Saturday, September 10. This year, we had a record turnout, with over 120 adults and kids attending…READ MORE.

Groundswell is excited to announce that we have been awarded the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers (2501) Program grant to bring more resources to HMoob farmers in our community! 

The funding, provided by the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement, will support three years of technical assistance for HMoob farmers.

In partnership with UW-Madison Division of Extension, FairShare CSA Coalition, and Black and Brown Womyn Power Coalition, we will work with community organizations serving or aspiring to serve HMoob farmers in Wisconsin. We’ll help HMoob farmers access USDA programs, reach additional markets, and get support from Extension, agricultural lenders, and peers.

You can learn more about this grant program and other recipients in the USDA’s press release.

Introducing Harlie Pingel! Harlie is Groundswell’s new Social Media Intern. She’s an avid Youth Volunteer for Conservation with Dane County Parks and will be a senior at Waunakee High School this fall.  Harlie is passionate about conservation and hopes to pursue a career in environmental protection.


“Through this internship, I’m hoping to gain more environmental experience and direction for college. I’m excited to learn all the aspects of conservation and apply them to my interests in the future,” she says.

Harlie will be creating content for our Facebook and Instagram pages while Liz, our Development & Outreach Coordinator, is on parental leave this summer. Be sure to follow us on social media if you don’t already!

We’ve got some great posts planned for the season. Harlie will join other Groundswell staff and supporters out on the land, sharing stories from special places around Dane County. She’ll also continue the tradition of sharing cool nature facts. For example, did you know that robber flies mimic bees to avoid predators?

           

Robber fly (left) mimics a bumble bee (right). Photo credits: Mary Binkley

We’re so excited to have Harlie be part of the Groundswell team this summer. You can get in touch with her on social media or at harlie@groundswellconservancy.org until September. Thanks for helping us welcome her!

Groundswell is growing and that means we need more support! We’re hiring a half-time Administrative Assistant. This is an exciting opportunity to join a successful nonprofit and help protect special places forever where diverse people and communities can thrive.

The Administrative Assistant plays an important role in the success of Groundswell. This person works as part of our team of seven staff members, making sure our events run smoothly, bills are paid on time, and donors, volunteers, and board members have positive and meaningful experiences. As with all staff at Groundswell, the administrative assistant will help build lasting relationships with people and partners that enable us to create a world where everyone can enjoy nature and equitable access to land.

This is a half-time (20 hours/week), salaried position with paid benefits including health and dental insurance, annual and sick leave, and retirement.

Check out the full job description to learn more and for directions on how to apply. Applications are due by Friday, July 22, 2022.

I’m excited to join Groundswell Conservancy as its new executive director! Before joining the team, I spent decades helping to protect the environment and working with underrepresented communities with groups like Wisconsin Conservation Voters. I’m a hiker, biker, paddler, and I love getting out in nature. I’m also a storyteller. To introduce myself, I thought I’d share the story of the week leading up to my first day with Groundswell. It goes like this…

It was late February, and there was a chill in the air. I was feeling overjoyed after landing an amazing job. Unfortunately, as with all lucky streaks, the universe decided to strike back. You’ve been there, I’m sure. First, my computer broke down. Then my collie Rose developed a stomach bug. Last but not least, my car stalled in the drive-up lane at the local Walgreens. “Why me?” I remembered thinking, only to be met by the harsh, cold stare of my darkened dashboard. What could I do? I turned towards the intercom to let the pharmacist know that my car decided it needed a rest. That’s when I noticed them – two tiny snowflakes on the driver’s side window. Just before they melted, I took in their lacy, intricate designs and thought “no two snowflakes are identical”. It was something I’d known…well…forever, but at that moment, I was filled with awe. Suddenly, my horrible week seemed pretty insignificant. Nature in all its wonder and diversity had come to the rescue and put everything in perspective.

Now it’s spring, and, if we’re lucky, the snowflakes are fewer and far between in Wisconsin. The cranes and robins are nesting, and
the prairies, farms, and wetlands we love so much are reborn. Yes. There are challenges ahead: overdevelopment, pollution, food insecurity, inequitable access to the land, and the greatest of all – climate change. But I’m an optimist. I know what engaged and empowered people can achieve. And I know that our Groundswell community is strong and diverse. I also know how committed we are to protecting the land forever and for everyone, and that fills me with hope. Finally, I know that, in a world where billions upon billions of snowflakes have fallen and no two have ever been alike, anything is possible. I can’t wait to meet you and get started!

To read more stories from our Spring 2022 Newsletter, click here.

We have excellent news to share!  We would like to introduce you to Angela West Blank, as we welcome her as our new Executive Director. 

Angela comes to us with a depth of nonprofit leadership experience. Most recently she was the Director of Strategic Development for Wisconsin Conservation Voters. She oversaw the development program and played a leading role in strategy and capacity building. She has a passion for bringing people and groups together to promote healthy ecosystems, diversity and equity, and meaningful change in the community. We are thrilled that she will bring her creative energy to Groundswell.

“I love the mission and incredible team at Groundswell,” Angela says. “I am thrilled to have the chance to help protect Wisconsin’s farmland, wetlands, wildlife habitat, and streams. Connecting people from all walks of life with these special places excites me. Groundswell is on a solid path and has a strong track record of success. I’m honored to be a part of it. Here’s to the new and groundbreaking things we can all accomplish together!”

We are deeply grateful for the legacy Jim Welsh leaves in his retirement. Anyone who has worked closely with Jim has heard him echo the following Groundswell truisms: “conservation doesn’t happen by accident” and “we are in the business of building relationships.” Angela’s leadership and commitment to environmental and social justice will ensure that we continue to protect special places forever for everyone. Angela is known for building strong relationships among staff, board, organizational partners, and volunteers.

Jim has been planning his retirement for some time. He is leaving Groundswell in a strong financial position with an incredible team of skilled and passionate staff. His last day was Friday, February 25th. Angela’s appointment is the culmination of a multi-month hiring process that attracted more than 70 applicants. We worked with Mark Richardson of Unfinished Business Consulting to help guide us through the search. He specializes in talent recruitment and process coaching with a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens. Our hiring committee was a team of ten current and past board members as well as staff. We are grateful for their time and commitment as they shared decades of Groundswell knowledge to help us land in the right place!

Groundswell has big plans for the future. We look forward to working with Angela as we continue to connect people with nature, act on the climate crisis, provide equitable access to land, and create green school yards. Together we will continue our mission to protect special places forever. We know this is essential for our communities’ physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

As Groundswell moves into this exciting new chapter, we thank you for your continued support.

This is a bittersweet week for Groundswell board and staff as we celebrate Jim’s final days as our Executive Director. We will certainly miss him, but we’re excited for him to start his next chapter and enjoy retired life!

“It has been an honor for me to work with so many conservation-minded landowners over the years.  Collaborating with our excellent staff and board, our volunteers, our partners, and all of our supporters has made my job enjoyable and very rewarding.” -Jim Welsh

Jim enjoying a paddle on Waubesa Wetlands. Photo credit: Christine Leigh Photography

Jim has been instrumental in the permanent protection of many of the most loved and valued places in south central Wisconsin. During Jim’s successful tenure over the past 18+ years, Groundswell has achieved national accreditation and has conserved more than 13,000 acres of farms, forests, prairies, and wetlands in and around Dane County.

Under Jim’s leadership, Groundswell has preserved land in rural, agricultural, and urban environments, a testament to his belief that everyone deserves access to nature and open spaces. In addition to his success in expanding conservation areas, protecting new lands and conserving historical areas, Jim has worked with community members to provide equitable access to land and nature, including expanding the outdoor classroom at Lake View Elementary School in Madison and securing land tenure for immigrant farmers and farmers of color.

Thank you, Jim, for everything you have done to create a world filled with green spaces.

Stay tuned for an announcement about our new Executive Director coming soon!

Your voice is URGENTLY needed to prevent Wisconsin’s State Legislature from undermining the protection of lands funded by the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund. This action would put many of your favorite nature preserves in a perilous state.

TELL THEM NO!

In a recent hearing, the State Senate was presented with Senate Bill 802 which would allow for the sale of lands acquired with Knowles-Nelson dollars provided the grant money and accrued interest are returned to the state.

The good news that we shared yesterday about the Dell Creek property we just purchased is an excellent example of the faith that landowners put in us and the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program to ensure that land purchased with Knowles-Nelson funding will never be developed.  Although we can’t imagine a turn of events in which Groundswell would ever sell land for development, the changes being proposed to the Stewardship Program would allow us to do just that.  The 40 acres we bought yesterday was part of a farmer’s 160-acre farm.  We believe that he wouldn’t have sold his land to us if he suspected that we might be able to turn around and sell it to a developer.

Gathering Waters, Wisconsin’s alliance for land trusts, has met with several Senate offices to discuss our concerns. They emphasized that the bill, as written, would create perverse incentives to sell conservation lands in response to short term changes in the politics of local governments and fluctuations in the real estate market. They also made it clear that the bill would NOT, in fact, create a pathway to take lands out of the county forest program (the original impetus for the bill).

While they had what felt like constructive conversations with the Senate offices, they have received no assurances that they are willing to make substantive changes to the bill.

The Knowles-Nelson land sale bill has now been introduced in the Assembly as AB 852.
The language is identical to the Senate bill. The Assembly Committee on Forestry, Parks and Outdoor Recreation will hold a hearing on the bill on Wednesday, February 2 at 10:00 AM (417 North, GAR Hall).

Speak out before February 2.
Email your legislators and the Assembly Forestry Committee members to voice your opposition, using the easy letter-writing tools from Gathering Waters. The take-action page has been updated to send messages to the Assembly Committee. Please take action here even if you already emailed the Senate committee.

WRITE LETTERS HERE.

The application period has ended. We are no longer accepting new applications for this position.

With the pending retirement of long-time Executive Director Jim Welsh this winter, Groundswell Conservancy is seeking a new executive director.  Please share this announcement with anyone you think might be interested in this job.

The Executive Director will lead our team of staff and volunteers and engage with our Board to inspire and build partnerships to expand Groundswell Conservancy’s land conservation programs and make our work useful and relevant to diverse communities. The Executive Director will be a steward of the mission and build on 38 years of success protecting great places. The Executive Director will continue to expand our core mission to permanently protect cherished lands and lead Groundswell to meet emerging challenges in our rapidly growing community. Current challenges are:

This position is based in Madison, Wisconsin and responsible for fostering an organization focused on creating lasting benefits for how people and land come together. The Executive Director is a dynamic, thoughtful, and strategic leader. In addition to driving execution of the mission and the strategic plan, the Executive Director represents the organization in the greater Madison community and the larger conservation community. The Executive Director ensures the continued evolution of the organization, its partnerships, and understands what it means, and what it takes to create permanent benefits to the community.

The complete position description with salary range and benefits is available on our website here.

Please encourage qualified people you know to apply.  If you are interested in being considered for this exciting opportunity, and can demonstrate the required abilities and knowledge, please submit your resume and cover letter to grhyer@wisc.edu and/or call Greg Hyer at 608.320.3243 for more information.

Applications will be reviewed as received with the goal of identifying an outstanding candidate before the end of 2021.  The position will remain open until we have an accepted offer. The expected start date for the position is March 1, 2022.

Visit KnowlesNelson.org to take action to support the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program! If the Wisconsin governor and the legislature don’t act to renew the program in the next state budget, we’ll lose the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

The Stewardship Program has helped make Wisconsin a leader in protecting a state’s natural resources. For the past 30 years, the Stewardship Program has provided funding to the state DNR, local governments and non-profit conservation partners, such as Groundswell, to preserve valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, to protect water quality and fisheries, and to expand opportunities for outdoor recreation in our parks, wildlife areas and forests. Stewardship is an investment that directly supports Wisconsin’s $12 billion outdoor recreation industry—including a $4 billion hunting and fishing industry—and the state’s $20 billion forestry industry.

Groundswell received the first grant to a non-profit organization for the purchase of conservation easements ever awarded by the Stewardship Program. We received this $1,980 grant in 1993 to help purchase a conservation easement on Token Creek in Dane County. Since that humble beginning, Groundswell has received 65 more Stewardship Program grants, totaling almost $20,000,000. We have used that money to help protect almost 6,000 acres of land and water at great places like Cherokee Marsh, Black Earth Creek, and the Sugar River. See the list below of places we were able to protect with grants from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

Groundswell has matched each $1 provided by the Stewardship Program with an additional $1.30, more than doubling the buying power of the Stewardship Program. This has been thanks to the generosity of landowners as well other sources of conservation funds including the Dane County Conservation Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, local foundations, and private contributions.

This wise investment pays off every day for the communities we serve, helping to make sure everyone has parks, trails, and natural areas close to where they live so that everyone has the chance to hike in a natural area, catch a fish, run and play, hunt, and enjoy being outside. It is no surprise that healthy communities have convenient, nearby spaces for recreation and outdoor fun, and the Stewardship Program plays a large role in making that happen.

These are some of the special places protected with grants from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program:

Allen Creek Wetlands State Natural Area

Amey Pond Wildlife Area

Avon Bottoms State Wildlife Area

Black Earth Creek Valley

Blue Mounds Loop Trail

Brooklyn State Wildlife Area

Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park

Empire Prairies State Natural Area

Historic Indian Agency House

John Muir County Park

Kingsley Bend, Wisconsin River

Lake Belle View Park

Lower Wisconsin State Riverway

Lower Yahara River

Patrick Marsh Natural Resource Area

Six Mile Creek and Wetlands

Token Creek

Town of Dunn

Upper Sugar River

Waubesa Wetlands State Natural Area