The subject of human-caused climate change continues to spark fierce debate. While most scientists affirm that climate change is real and that humans must act to fight it, a significant number of Americans continue to push back.

And yet, wherever you might fall on the political spectrum, most Wisconsinites can agree that the outdoors are integral to who we are. This deeply held love of the outdoors—from hunting and fishing to birding and hiking—can open opportunities for honest, compassionate conversation around contentious issues.

Joey Heinrichs, Foundation member and donor, operates an energy-efficient HVAC company in New Berlin, Wisconsin. He grew up on a farm in Franklin and has always loved the outdoors. But Joey hasn’t always been a conservationist.

Like many Wisconsinites, there was a time when Joey believed the environmental movement to be at odds with business and personal-property rights. Admittedly influenced by conservative talk shows, Joey says, “I suppose any alarmist could be a scapegoat for my earlier beliefs. Of course, the real issue was my unwillingness to question and learn.”

Questioning popular rhetoric

As an undergraduate student at Carthage College, Joey had the opportunity to go to Costa Rica for a short-term study focused on ecology. There he listened to discussions of human impacts on the environment from his professors and classmates, as well as biologists.

Initially Joey clung to the rhetoric he’d learned previously. “I reminded myself the environmentalists were wrong, they aimed to hurt business,” Joey said. But then he began to ask himself, “What harm will come if I am wrong?”

When Joey returned to Carthage College, he switched his major to environmental science. He began reading Aldo Leopold and soon became deeply connected to the cause.

Today, Joey integrates green practices into both his personal and professional life. He has been operating Heinrichs Home Comfort in New Berlin — a residential HVAC company — since 2002. Joey’s commitment to conservation means that his business operates with a lower profit margin installing super energy efficient HVAC equipment to promote energy conservation.

His family shares a lawn with many critters Joey formerly believed were “enemies of the farm,” like groundhogs, mink, and opossum. An avid birder, Joey contributes to eBird, with his yard bird species count at about 100. Last summer, he completed the Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program and will be participating in various workdays at different state natural areas this year.

Helping others understand conservation

Many people seem to think their backyards are representative of the globe, so Joey likes to debunk misconceptions about global warming by explaining the difference between climate and weather. He suggests speaking to climate change deniers with an empathetic tone.

“Ultimately, my goal in talking to a denier or uninterested individual is to learn what they care about,” Joey said. “If I succeed at this, it becomes my responsibility to offer examples of why conservation matters to them.”

Blog contributed by Hibah Ansari.

Heinrichs Home Comfort supports the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. 

Foundation Grants Support Project Wild Child

Every Monday during the school year, nearly 75 students and volunteers with Project Wild Child pile into buses and travel to the nearby school forest for the day. Transportation to the school forest has been made possible for two years in a row thanks to the Foundation’s Go Outside Fund and Teachers Outdoor Environmental Education Fund.

Grant from REI makes a deep impact at Wisconsin’s beloved Devil’s Lake State Park

Devil’s Lake State Park is one of the most highly visited and cherished public properties in Wisconsin, with more than 2.5 million annual visitors who come from across the country to experience beautiful landscapes, unique geologic features, and outstanding recreation opportunities, including 15 hiking trails, segments of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, rock climbing opportunities on exposed quartzite, and paddling on Devil’s Lake. Funding from REI was used in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation, which completed critical restoration activities throughout 2018, with the goal of eradicating harmful invasive species, and promoting the growth of native plants, thus improving native southern Wisconsin natural communities like talus slopes, dry prairie, bedrock glade, open oak woodland, and closed canopy southern hardwood forest, and providing the necessary habitat for the many wildlife species that call Devil’s Lake home.

Wisconsin’s threatened reptiles

We have 36 species of reptiles in Wisconsin and more than half of them are listed as endangered, threatened, or a species of special concern. These animals are vulnerable and critically important to the health and balance of our ecosystems.

2018 CD Besadny Conservation Grant Awardees

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin has awarded $28,043 to 30 organizations across Wisconsin through the C.D. Besadny Conservation Fund. The fund annually awards grants up to $1,000 that support grassroots conservation and education projects.

Students experience nature untouched by humans at Isle Royale

The Natural Resources Foundation helped fund trip for seventh graders from Phillips Middle School to Isle Royale. Students learn about renewable energy, environmental stewardship, earth science, and history as well as picking up the basics of camping and leave-no-trace ethics.

Nature and Mental Health

Spending time in nature has a physiological effect on the body, reducing blood pressure and the hormone cortisol, which is associated with stress. Thus, our time in nature serves to lessen stress and refresh our brains, improving focus, creativity and problem-solving.

Prairie restoration at Faville Prairie SNA

Faville Prairie is a highly diverse prairie with over 200 native prairie plants, but in recent years, invasive shrubs and trees have invaded the remnant prairie resulting in a loss of native species diversity. With support from the Natural Resources Foundation, the Arboretum worked with Tallgrass Restoration, LLC, to remove about eight acres of invasive shrubs and trees as part of a prairie restoration at Faville Prairie SNA.

Kestrel Banding with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin

The Natural Resources Foundation’s kestrel banding Field Trip is a long-time favorite. These trips are so popular that it can be hard to get a spot. Fortunately, one incredible Field Trip participant put together an amazing slideshow to share his experience. 

Diversity in Conservation

The natural world is something that every person living in Wisconsin has a right to enjoy. Historically, however, the underprivileged and people of color have not had the same opportunities to access the outdoors when compared to more privileged communities. We are committed to removing barriers so that every Wisconsinite has a chance to connect with nature.

Importance of bat monitoring to saving Wisconsin’s bats

White-nose syndrome is devastating Wisconsin bat populations, decreasing them by as much as 98% in some locations. Volunteer bat monitors are helping Wisconsin DNR and other groups to assess the impact and, hopefully, save our bats.