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January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2024
Approved by Board of Directors November 20, 2019

Our Purpose and Vision

We protect special places forever. We want everyone to live in a world filled with green places where communities thrive. We believe that land is essential for people’s physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. If we don’t protect undeveloped land now, it may be lost forever.

Our Strengths

Since Groundswell’s founding in 1983, we have permanently protected more than 12,000 acres of important land and water that provide for a high quality of life in southern Wisconsin. Our record of success includes protecting cherished landscapes like Cherokee Marsh and the Black Earth Creek valley, valuable agricultural areas like the Town of Dunn, vital wetlands that help maintain water quality in the Yahara Chain of Lakes, and nearby places where kids can fall in love with nature and where food is grown for local markets.

Our nature preserves are community centers with vibrant outdoor volunteering programs and exciting community engagement initiatives like the bird-inspired wildlife overlook at Patrick Marsh and our partnership with Waunakee High School students at Westport Prairie. Our robust conservation easement program helps many landowners and communities provide public benefits from private lands. We are a valued partner of the DNR, Dane County, local governments, and conservation-minded landowners. Our staff, board, and supporters have built strong relationships with partners and communities, and we are a trusted conservation resource for many.

Every year more people contribute more time and money to our cause and more people have included us in their estate plans. Landowners and supporters tell wonderful stories about our work, and our events and field trips are popular ways to build community.

Our Plans

Over the next five years, we will provide lasting and significant benefits to our communities and to the environment. We aspire to achieve the promise of permanence in our work. We will continue to innovate because we work in a rapidly growing region where people are spending less time outside and forging fewer connections to nature, and because land is in high demand and not accessible to many people in the communities Groundswell serves. Further, in our increasingly diverse communities people have new and different needs for land and nature.

Community Benefits

Protecting Land
We will permanently protect at least 3,000 acres of land in Dane County and the surrounding areas with an equitable approach to saving open spaces for nature and public enjoyment, meeting the diverse needs of all of our communities, and protecting high-quality farmland from development.

Community Preserves
We will make our preserves more welcoming to all people (and make more people aware of our properties) so that they will be more valued by all of our communities thanks to the recreation, conservation, mental, physical, and emotional health benefits they provide. Groundswell will provide more opportunities for young people to engage, learn, explore, and have fun in nature.

Equitable Access to Land and Nature
We will provide more places for people to grow food for local consumption, including by people who may benefit from the therapeutic value of growing food. We will improve land tenure and success for the immigrant and minority farmers at our Westport and Pasley’s Swan Creek Farms. Working with teams of parents and teachers, we will create more “green school yards” at community schools in Madison where all children can explore and have fun in nature right at their own schools. We will improve access at our nature preserves for people of different abilities.

Environmental Benefits

Climate Crisis
We will create community resiliency against flooding by protecting and managing wetlands around the Yahara chain of lakes and other important watersheds. We will explore reducing our carbon footprint by installing solar panels on our buildings at Westport Prairie. We will consider other climate crisis mitigation strategies as appropriate.

We will manage our preserves to improve wildlife habitat, reduce soil erosion, and improve soil health. Groundswell will plant an additional 25 acres of native prairie habitat at Patrick Marsh and 20 acres at Westport Prairie. We will reduce the amount of herbicide we use to restore and manage our prairies and savannas.

Water Quality

We will permanently protect and manage land to improve water quality in lakes and streams, focusing on wetland protection to reduce flooding and create clean water.


Funding for Perpetuity
Our Easement Enforcement Endowment will increase to cover 100% of the stewardship and defense needs of our conservation easements (from the current level of ~90%).

We will have a seamless transition to a new executive director in 2022. We will renew our accreditation with the Land Trust Alliance in 2020 and we will be well-prepared to apply for renewal in 2024.

Broad Base of Support
Our board, staff, volunteers, and event participants will be more representative of the communities we serve. More people will join us to protect special places forever.