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2011-2014 Strategic Plan Executive Summary
Table of Contents
Wisconsin’s landscapes – miles of beach, soaring bluffs, acres of ancient forest – were shaped by the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, the mighty Mississippi and the last great glacial retreat. These lands inspired some of the country’s conservation giants, including Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Gaylord Nelson,and Lorrie Otto. Energized by powerful geology, the natural beauty of our state and our inherited legacy of conservation leadership, Gathering Waters Conservancy advances Wisconsin’s preeminent tradition of land conservation and stewardship and promotes a land ethic among its constituencies.
Gathering Waters Conservancy helps land trusts, landowners and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special. Our goal is to increase the amount of protected land in the state through private voluntary action.
Gathering Waters was founded to support the work of Wisconsin’s land trusts. We have continually expanded the definition of “land trust service center” to keep pace with the remarkable growth and success of Wisconsin’s private land conservation movement. We provide direct technical assistance to non-profit land trusts. We are non-partisan, solution-oriented advocates for public policies supporting land conservation. We use our statewide voice to raise the profile of Wisconsin land trusts, promote a statewide land ethic, and inspire broad public support for land conservation. And we strive to incorporate best practices into every facet of our work.
Since Gathering Waters began its work in Wisconsin, the number of non-profit organizations permanently protecting land has increased from 12 to over 50. Boasting more than 45,000 members statewide, these land trusts have permanently protected well over 200,000 acres of Wisconsin’s natural heritage. Gathering Waters has successfully advocated for funding increases for the state’s renowned land conservation program, the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, and for the passage of the Working Lands Initiative. GWC has bolstered the visibility and effectiveness of conservation efforts by facilitating collaborations among land trusts and regional leaders around the state. We have introduced land trusts and their successes to statewide media. We maintain close contact with elected officials and state and federal agencies to keep conservation programs working for Wisconsin. In less than two decades, Gathering Waters Conservancy has become a respected voice for private land conservation in the state and has earned its reputation as the premier land trust service center in the nation.
We envision a strong and strategic land trust community supported and celebrated by a Wisconsin citizenry that personifies the land ethic championed by Aldo Leopold. One of Wisconsin’s conservation giants, Leopold believed that “[w]hen we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” We understand that the advancement of our mission and the success of the land trust community are inextricably linked to the advancement of a strong land ethic and the consciousness it cultivates.
The pace of land protection has leapt exponentially in recent years. We believe it will accelerate further as land trusts grow, engage in partnerships with agencies and community leaders, and promote themselves as critical community resources. We will work to see Wisconsin’s community of land trusts well-funded, celebrated and supported in their communities, and doing strategic, effective and lasting conservation work. In the next three years, we will make land trust stronger.
Direct Services to Land Trusts
We will make land trusts stronger and ensure conservation permanence by launching LEAP, a program that provides focused and enhanced resources to land trusts and encourages strategic, legally-sound land protection.
Public Policy Advocacy
We will make land trust stronger by promoting state and federal programs that will direct significant funds to land protection. We will continue to build bi-partisan support for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the Working Lands Initiative and monitor the horizon for additional opportunities to promote policies that benefit voluntary, private land conservation.
We will make land trusts stronger by utilize our expanding outreach toolbox to increase individual and community support for land conservation and promote a statewide land ethic. We believe that strong relationships between land trusts and local governments and other community institutions will yield additional acres protected beyond what land trusts can achieve working one-by-one with individual private landowners.
Gathering Waters Conservancy’s Capacity
We will make land trusts stronger by investing in our own capacity—maintaining ample operational funding and recruiting and retaining extraordinary expertise and leadership.