News from the Wisconservation Blog

Wisconservation Blog

The WisConservation blog is a collection of posts from individuals at the Foundation and around the state about conservation news—and heroes—in Wisconsin. Follow along for stories of inspiration and hope.

NRF Joins Year of the Bird

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the most important bird-protection law ever passed. This 100-year-old law laid the groundwork for bird-protection initiatives throughout the country. To celebrate, National Geographic and Audubon Magazine have joined forces with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and BirdLife International to establish 2018 as the Year of the Bird. We would like to take this moment to recognize Wisconsin’s particularly successful endeavors to...

Tracking Wisconsin Snowy Owls

In December of 2017, responding to an urgent plea from bird researchers in Wisconsin and our fellow conservationists at Project SNOWstorm, we raised enough funding to outfit two Wisconsin snowy owls with tracking devices. Thanks to our generous donors and a sponsorship from Wisconsin Public Service Foundation, we now have two snowy owls we can (almost) call our own! Badger, the first Wisconsin snowy owl Badger, a young female, was the first snowy owl captured...

Winners of the 2017 Field Trip Photo Contest

Each year as the Field Trip season ends, we ask you to send us your best pictures from any Foundation Field Trip to our Field Trip Photo Contest. And each year you blow us away. Not only because your photographs are beautiful (which they are), but they tell such a wonderful story of the Foundation’s impact on you and our efforts to protect Wisconsin’s incredible lands, waters, and wildlife. Thank you for being a part...

2017 Great WI Birdathon Breaks Records!

Birds that spend time in Wisconsin got a big boost from the Great Wisconsin Birdathon this year. Birdwatchers participating in the walkathon-style fundraiser, organized by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, raised more than $90,000 for bird conservation by forming teams, soliciting pledges and donations from friends, and trying to see as many bird species as possible in one day....

Help Track Snowy Owls!

Update: We did it! Meet NRF’s Snowy Owls: Badger and Austin Thanks to our generous supporters, a sponsorship from Wisconsin Public Service Foundation, and the support of local partners Madison Audubon Society and the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, as many as six Wisconsin snowy owls will be outfitted with transmitters! Researchers will begin field work after the holidays, and once the owls are fitted with the transmitters, Project SNOWstorm will create a tracking page for each...

Tracking Wildlife on Madeline Island

We saw the sun rise over Lake Superior as we passed Washburn, Wisconsin on our Northland College research team made its way to the Madeline Island Ferry. To our surprise, our van was the only vehicle on it. The lake was cold and calm. When we reached our destination, we drove off down the road to check on our camera trap network. Thanks to the funding provided by the C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant Program, we...

Five Field Trip Facts

Lauren Koshere, donor relations coordinator at the Natural Resources Foundation, shares fun facts and first impressions of our long-standing Field Trip program. Lauren’s Field Trip Facts Getting active in nature is so important to NRF that it’s actually part of my job description. How cool is that? Field Trips are a seriously awesome program tool for a nonprofit organization. Each trip is an opportunity for members to meet each other, staff to get to know...

Bat Talk and Walk Program

One of the goals of the North Lakeland Discovery Center, a nonprofit environmental education center in northern Wisconsin, is to connect our community to the natural world. We do this through outdoor education programs, hikes, lectures, workshops and most importantly, citizen science. Our citizen science project this summer and early fall was our Bat Walk and Live Education Bat Programs....

Harold Ramon Cram, Jr. Bluebird Restoration Fund

When we lose someone we love, it can feel like a gaping hole is left behind. While nothing can ever  replace what has been lost, as humans we have a strong instinct to help our loved one live on in some way. Creating a memorial fund “After Dad died, people wanted to make donations to something that would live on in his name—something he believed in and loved,” remembered Cathy Cram, daughter of Harold Ramon...

2017 Conservation Grants Announced

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin has awarded $27,945 to 29 applicants through the 2017 C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant Program. The program annually awards grants up to $1,000 that support the conservation of Wisconsin’s natural resources as well as education and outreach. The 2017 conservation grants range from pollinator protection to community trail building. “We believe that nature has inherent value and that people want to make a difference,” said Ruth Oppedahl, executive director for...

First Cherish Wisconsin Outdoors Fund grant impacts three State Natural Areas

In the historic first disbursement from the Cherish Wisconsin Outdoors Fund, $50,000 will be invested in Walworth and Dunn counties. This announcement comes just ahead of Public Lands Day on Saturday, Sept. 30, and funding will be split between these two high-use properties that are home to a wide variety of game, non-game, and Species of Greatest Conservation Need (endangered, threatened, or in decline). The Natural Resources Foundation is grateful to the Natural Resources Board, the...

Southern Kettle Moraine Restoration

Conservation and restoration of our public lands is central to our mission at the Natural Resources Foundation. The Southern Kettle Moraine encompasses several high priority State Natural Areas that are home to multiple rare ecosystems as well as threatened or endangered species. The Natural Resources Foundation partnered with the Brookby Foundation this year to support restoration work in the area. Additional work will be done in 2018 thanks to the first disbursement from the Cherish...

Sustaining State Natural Areas

Wisconsin’s State Natural Areas protect the last remnants of our state’s rarest and most ecologically significant ecosystems. These places need our help. This informational booklet outlines the State Natural Areas that have been identified as having a high priority for conservation in Wisconsin. Special thanks to the Sally R. Luthin Memorial Fund for making this publication possible....

Future of Environmental Education in Wisconsin

At the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin we are honored to share some important news about the future of environmental education in Wisconsin. Our partners at the Wisconsin Environmental Education Foundation have done so much to further environmental education for over a decade. We are excited and honored to be handed the baton and to bring our collective passion and resources together in this important effort. Please read on for an important message from Janet...

Restoration at Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve

The Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve (also known as Stroebe Island Marsh) is owned and managed by the Northeast Wisconsin Land trust and encompasses an area of 48 acres located in the Village of Fox Crossing (formerly the Town of Menasha). In the last year, the preserve has undergone many restoration efforts. Invasive Species Removal Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust staff and volunteers have had tremendous success removing invasive species such as garlic mustard and common buckthorn at the...

Protecting rare plants at Kohler-Andrae

The shores of Lake Michigan preserve some of the last remaining Great Lakes dunes in Wisconsin, and harbor some of our state’s most incredible and rare plants and animals. At Kohler Park Dunes State Natural Area within Kohler-Andrae State Park, a series of beautiful dunes and swales face Lake Michigan. This State Natural Area was created to preserve this unique natural community and provide critical habitat for the rare and native species found within it....

Fighting for Prairie at Battle Bluff State Natural Area

The Battle Bluff State Natural Area has a lot to offer history buffs as well as nature lovers. Battle Bluff gets its name from the Black Hawk War of 1832, a tragic fight for land between members of the Sauk Nation and the United States. History of Battle Bluff State Natural Area The Sauk warriors would use the high bluff to evade U.S. soldiers and to find a safe place to cross the Mississippi River....

Family uses Foundation Field Trips to stay connected

As children get older and become busy with school, work, and responsibilities, it can be difficult to find the time to get together with family. It can be just as hard to make time to take a break from everyday life and return to the pleasures of Wisconsin’s wilderness. One family, however, has found a way to combine these two endeavors through the Natural Resources Foundation’s Field Trips....

Grant Project Blends Art and Conservation

Katie Martin-Meurer and her 3-D Concepts classes at UW-Milwaukee displayed their beautiful work at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee in spring 2017. This unique blend of art and conservation was the culmination of two semesters of students who chose to commit their projects to promoting a better understanding of insects in our world. Insect populations are on the decline in Wisconsin and throughout the US. Martin-Meurer and her students hope their work raises awareness for...

Building a home for insects

Insect family seeks cozy home in quiet neighborhood… Insects aren’t so different from us; they too need a safe space to grow and raise their young. While many of us may have a tense relationship with insects, they are crucial to any healthy ecosystem—from our yards and gardens to forests and prairies. Even farms and orchards rely on beneficial bugs to keep crops healthy. But insects are finding it more and more difficult to find...

Eagle watching on the Fox River

Eagle watching in Wisconsin was once impossible. In the winter of 1987-1988, 1000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukuana, Wisconsin, was the location of the first bald eagle sighting in decades. Slowly and steadily, thanks to many legal protections and regulations (including those offered by the Endangered Species Act and the Environmental Protection Agency), those wintering eagle populations have grown. We’ve come a long way Today, bald eagles are flourishing all over the country, but especially...

Traveling to Isle Royale with the Foundation

As our Natural Resources Foundation (NRF) tour left the sheltered dock at Houghton, MI, and headed toward open water and Isle Royale, I was wondering: What did Lake Superior have waiting for us? The Michigan shore slowly disappeared below the stern of the Ranger III and the skies remained clear. Winds were favorable for our five-hour voyage across Lake Superior to Isle Royale National Wilderness Park. It was a beautiful day and our excitement grew as...

Amid massive declines, NRF joins national effort to protect the monarch butterfly

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin is proud to announce our recent partnership with the Monarch Joint Venture (MJV), a collaborative effort with more than 50 partners including government agencies, universities, and nonprofit organizations working to conserve, protect, and promote the monarch and its habitat throughout the country. The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is arguably America’s most recognizable insect. Despite its popularity, monarch populations have been reduced by a staggering amount—researchers estimate that 80 percent...

2016 Field Trip Photo Contest Winners

All of these photos were taken during Field Trips with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. The name of the Field Trip is included for reference. Join us for our 2017 Field Trip season. Registration opens for current or renewing members on March 22, 2017 at noon. Make sure your membership is current before February 15th, in order to receive your 2017 Field Trip Guidebook in the mail. Grand Prize: Jerry Newman for Muralt Bluff Prairie...

Protecting Snakes in Wisconsin

Rattlesnakes, like Wisconsin’s native eastern massasauga (Endangered in Wisconsin and recently added as a federally Threatened species) and timber rattlesnakes, usually get a bad rap in society, and are often portrayed as creepy, deadly pests. But these animals play a critical role in maintaining Wisconsin’s diverse ecosystems. The Human-Snake Dilemma In Wisconsin’s early history, expansion of settlements called for the draining of much of the marshy wetlands in which the eastern massasauga thrived, leaving this...

Marty Henert steps up as Foundation’s next Board Chair

In January of 2017, Martin (Marty) Henert was voted on as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. Marty has been with NRF since it formed in 1986 and played a fundamental role in getting the Foundation connected to funding in its first years. He even took over as Executive Director of the Foundation when Ron Semmann, the first Executive Director, was called upon to serve as Deputy Secretary...

Bob and Nan Rudd discuss their conservation endowment

In an interview for NRF member newsletter, Bridges, Bob and Nancy (Nan) Rudd reminded us that conservation is a gift that gives back for generations. In the fall of 2016, Bob and Nan established the Robert and Nancy Rudd Conservation Fund. This conservation endowment fund will support the perpetual management and restoration of their land, along with other priority conservation projects in Green County....

Study maps long-term impact of climate change on plants

Climate experts are predicting a northward shift in forests and wetlands in the coming decades. In order to test how and if that is happening they must establish a record of past and current plant cover for historic and future comparison. To aid this important work the Natural Resources Foundation is contributing to a project that began over 50 years ago in the Brule River Watershed of Douglas County, Wisconsin....

Two Decades with the Natural Resources Foundation

My wife Barbara and I became members of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin circa 1998. In the years since I’ve had the chance to see the many ways NRF carries out its mission, creating opportunities for its members to see and experience the very best parts of our state while building support for important conservation efforts. Along the way, I’ve had a chance to see just about every side of the NRF—from fundraising to...

Funding Bird Conservation Efforts

Each year the Bird Protection Fund reviews conservation needs in Wisconsin and prioritizes projects where funding can make a critical impact for bird conservation. Every year a few priorities always rise to the top. Funding these projects is made possible in part thanks to the Great Wisconsin Birdathon. Kirtland’s Warbler Monitoring and Management The Kirtland’s warbler is a federally endangered bird that has been known to nest in Wisconsin since 2007. This project is an...

Supporting Internships at Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center provides unique opportunities to learn and explore the outdoors. With property on both the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the scenic St. Croix River, the nature center preserves 725 acres of wildlife habitat while also providing educational opportunities for over 7,000 K-12 students annually. Hiking trails wind through restored and prairie habitat and mixed deciduous forest on the 300-acre Wisconsin campus. So how does one organization manage so much territory? Internships provide critical staffing...

Managing wetlands on your property

Across Wisconsin and the globe, wetlands have historically been misunderstood and underappreciated. Wetlands—found where land and water meet—provide countless benefits to wildlife, landscapes and communities. But despite their value, past and current land use has filled, drained or degraded many wetlands. In Wisconsin, we’ve already lost half of our wetlands. Of the wetlands that remain in Wisconsin, 75 percent are owned by private landowners, giving landowners a vital role in caring for them. Every wetland...

Wetland Restoration in Wisconsin: A private landowner tells his story

Mequon resident, private landowner, and Foundation member Ben Arnold loves nature, and not just from a distance. Whether it’s keeping a careful eye on a clutch of hatching turtle eggs, planting rare native species or sharing photos of a pheasant that wandered across his yard, Arnold is always engaged. Forty years ago, Arnold’s love of nature took him on a surprising journey—the challenging and rewarding journey of native forest, prairie and wetland restoration to create...

Funding State Natural Area Management

State Natural Areas contain some of the rarest and most ecologically important landscapes in Wisconsin and North America. These protected areas provide critical habitat for endangered or threatened wildlife and rare plants. They also contain some of the last remaining parcels of Wisconsin’s native landscapes as they would have been prior to farming and development. But to maintain the delicate balance and keep these landscapes healthy, State Natural Areas require a lot of care and...

A Passion for Land Stewardship

The seeds of conservation and preservation were planted in me during my formative years while camping with my family in Columbia County just north of Madison. But it took a solo cross country bike ride for me to elevate my game and pursue land stewardship with a passion. The Ah-Ha! Moment It was the fall of 2014 and I was mentally and physically drained after spending a few days pedaling across Kansas. Forewarned about the...

Support for the Aldo Leopold Nature Center

The Natural Resources Foundation and the Aldo Leopold Nature Center have a long history together, since the very beginning of the Nature Center’s formation. Some of our first grants from the Besadny endowment went to the construction of an accessible pier on the Edna Taylor Park grounds in 1996. Since then, we have supported several of their programs, including summer camps, invasive species programs, educational workshops and more. The Aldo Leopold Nature Center, situated east...

Crane watching: One of nature’s many gifts

The great Sandhill Wildlife Area crane watching event occurred mornings and evenings in the fall. Thousands of sandhill cranes gathered together in a landing stage before making their way south on their autumn migration. Sandhill cranes are elegant, five-foot-tall creatures of varying shades of brown, topped off with a mark of red on their small heads. This event was brought to us by nature, instinct and habit, with a little help from the DNR and...

Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program: Valued volunteers

The Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program is a network of well-informed citizens dedicated to conservation education and service within communities across Wisconsin. There are hundreds of certified Master Naturalist Volunteers in Wisconsin who share their passion, interest, and dedication to science and nature by volunteering to share their knowledge with others. Organizations across the state rely on these individuals to help with natural resources efforts. “The goals of the Wisconsin Master Naturalist program match my own—preparing and enlisting...

Long-term study to assess recovery of Wisconsin loons from mercury and lead exposure

There’s something haunting about the beautiful call of common loons. This sound, however, nearly vanished from Northern Wisconsin as a result of mercury and lead poisoning and hunting, all of which devastated loon populations starting in the late 1800s. Since then the federal government has taken steps to bring these birds back from the brink and conservationists in Wisconsin, with help from the Natural Resources Foundation, are conducting research to make sure those measures are...

Listening for Frogs: Volunteers lend an ear for the Frog and Toad Survey

It is a late night in June in Wisconsin’s beautiful Kickapoo Valley and I am straining to hear the calls of frogs around me. It’s not that they’re faint, it’s that there are too many of them, coming from the woods in all directions. I try to remember what a seasoned birder once told me—that picking one species out of the cacophony is a lot like training yourself to hear just the violin section of...

Bringing salamanders back to Mequon Nature Preserve

Seven years after staff at the Mequon Nature Preserve (MNP) in southeastern Wisconsin began a project to re-establish the hardwood forests that once dominated the landscape, they noticed wildlife returning. But while snakes, frogs, and birds had returned in abundance, one important resident family of species was still missing: salamanders. Farmland development, parking lot construction and other urban sprawl projects around the preserve had essentially closed it off, making it difficult for salamanders to find...

White trumpeter swans make an impressive comeback

Wisconsin has an astounding number of adult white trumpeter swans. These animals are the largest native waterfowl species in North America, and they’re quite the sight—beautiful white birds that stand five feet tall and weigh up to 35 pounds. As their name suggests, one sure way to know you are around a trumpeter swan is if you hear their loud trumpeter call. While the species may be thriving now, it has not always been that...

Flambeau River Forest fund: Protect what you love, and help others love it, too

By Lisa Charron   Imagine 90,000 acres of protected forest. Seventy-five miles of hardwood-lined river winds its way through the property. Paddlers and people fishing drift on the open water, while thrill-seekers maneuver through the rapids. Deer, wolves, raccoon, black bear, otter, bald eagles and ospreys make their homes along the lush banks while musky, sturgeon, trout, walleye, bass and pan fish thrive in the waters. Families spend evenings around the fire in the rustic...

Discovering nature (and supporting conservation) through a camera lens

  Josh Mayer is a longtime Foundation member, and has allowed the Foundation to use his stunning photographs for pretty much every form of publication and outreach. For the Foundation’s 30th anniversary, he’s gone one step further and donated this image to be printed, framed and auctioned off at the Foundation’s 30th anniversary party on August 30th. Read the following Q & A with Mayer to learn about his connection to nature and photography, what...

Origins: Creating the Wisconsin Natural Resources Foundation

By Ronald L. Semmann, founding Foundation board member In 1986, a group of individuals associated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources embarked on a journey to seek alternative funding for its programs, supplementing the scarce and diminishing financial resources appropriated through legislated channels. This is the fascinating story of that successful venture. Sufficient funding for public programs has always been difficult.  Perhaps that is the way it should be, ensuring the taxpayer that public...

Restoring more than land: How conservation work in one unique landscape invigorates, connects and inspires

By Lisa Gaumnitz, Foundation member and volunteer (guest blogger)   The sign off the highway announced “Ridgeway Pine Relict State Natural Area” but there were no other clues we had arrived at one of Wisconsin’s unique landscapes to help sow prairie seeds and burn brush that crisp January day. No cars, no people, no sublime nature — just a sign next to a nondescript house with a field behind it and a windbreak of pine...

An outdoor lab in the city of ravines

By Kelly Koller, Fox River Academy (guest blogger) Hidden amid the pulse and flurry of modern life, every city, village and countryside offers monuments, both natural and human-made, that weave together the rich fabric of history from thousands of years ago until today. For the students of Fox River Academy, that natural landmark is the Ravine. A refuge from the bustling downtown City of Appleton and an important sanctuary for wildlife in the sprawling development of the Fox Cities, the Ravine is home to what our students estimate...

Battling invasive species with herbicide and education

By Jill Hapner, Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium, Inc.   Give the natives a hand At first glance, it looks like a peaceful grassland. But if you look closer, you will see a battle unfolding. Controlling invasive species is challenging, and replacing those invaders with native species can be a long process. In 2011 the Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium (SEWISC) initiated plans to establish a small native prairie restoration demonstration site on the grounds...

The ugly side of road salt, and how you can keep it out of Lake Wingra

By Susan Frett, Friends of Lake Wingra   Lake Wingra is the smallest of the five Madison lakes, and it is a hidden treasure on the near west side of Madison. It is well-loved by people who live nearby, with many neighbors visiting daily to paddle on the lake, play Frisbee in the park, try their luck catching fish, walk their dogs or simply sit along the shoreline and enjoy the peaceful view. During the...

Ray Zillmer: A Vision Come True in the Kettle Moraine

By Kathlin Sickel, freelance writer Check out Kathlin’s blog, The Badger and the Whooping Crane.   The natural resources of our state contain not just the gifts and wonders of nature, but also the seeds of many a story. Consider, for example, the story of the Ice Age Trail, the Kettle Moraine State Forest and a life-long Wisconsinite named Raymond T. Zillmer.   Ray Zillmer’s story highlights the fact that a very different landscape might...

Telling Wisconsin’s stories: A Q&A with Tim Eisele

The Foundation is thrilled to have Tim Eisele, freelance outdoor writer and photographer, join our board this month. His stories have appeared in the Wisconsin Outdoor News, Capital Times, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal. He edited Woodland Management magazine for 12 years. A third-generation Madisonian, Eisele previously worked in information and education for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. We recently sat down with Eisele to talk to him about what he cherishes...

Inspiring the next generations: A Q&A with Tom Dott

The Foundation is thrilled to have Tom Dott, vice president of commercial banking at First Business Bank, join our board this month. Dott has more than 20 years of commercial banking experience. He served on the Board of Directors of the Henry Vilas Park Zoological Society and serves in several leadership roles for the United Way of Dane County. We recently sat down with Dott to talk to him about what he cherishes most about...

Keeping leaves (and nutrients!) out of our streets and lakes

By Theresa Vander Woude, Clean Lakes Alliance   By the time leaves have started to fall in Dane County, most of us have tucked away swimsuits and beach towels for the year. The lakes are too cold to swim in and too liquid for winter sports. This fall, Clean Lakes Alliance and the Village of DeForest partnered to tackle one of our lakes’ biggest headaches: nutrient pollution from fall leaves. In particular, we wanted to answer...

Paddling for the love of Wisconsin: The final tale

By Ruth Oppedahl, Natural Resources Foundation This article was originally published in the Winter 2015 edition of Bridges, the member newsletter of the Natural Resources Foundation. When my mother turned 50 years old, she joined a group of women who were training to hike the Grand Canyon. She filled my brother’s Boy Scout backpack—a heavy canvas thing—with bricks and walked the hills around our suburban neighborhood in Iowa to get prepared. Her euphoria on doing...

The thrill of…counting birds

By Lisa Charron, Natural Resources Foundation “That’s the silliest question ever!” Ryan Brady exclaims when I ask him if he has a passion for birds. I guess it is a silly question, seeing as he’s been coordinating WBCI’s Wisconsin Bird Monitoring Program for seven years. Brady recruits, organizes and trains 150-200 volunteers each year to monitor the bird species that fall through the cracks of other surveys: night birds and secretive marsh birds. In 2015,...

Our Wisconsin Tundra Swan Connection

By Connie and Peter Roop, Foundation members and guest bloggers Each year we try to experience one or more of the more than 150 field trips offered by the Natural Resources Foundation. This November we had the opportunity to enjoy the abundance of waterfowl migrating along the Mississippi Flyway between western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota and Iowa.   Our sightings included mile-long rafts of canvasbacks (in the tens of thousands), hundreds of green-winged teal and mallard ducks,...

Day XVIII: The last leg of the I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip

Listen to Ruth tell the story of her last day on the Wisconsin River: Day XVIII transcribed:  Last day of the I Heart Wisconsin River Trip. I woke up this morning to the sound of birds flying overhead. I was completely socked in by the fog. I couldn’t even see the edge of the water that was only 20 feet away. It was a solid bank of fog. Yet I could hear, not that far...

Day XVII: Campfire magic and sandbar living

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XVII:  Day XVII transcribed: Today I traveled from Muscoda Village campground down to the Wauzeka wildlife area. It’s— what I think is—my longest day on the river at about 25 or 26 miles. I was joined for camping and this morning by Mike Mossman and Lisa Hartman. And what a lot of fun to travel with these folks! Last night the winds were still blowing until who...

Meeting up with Ruth on the river

By Bill Keen, Foundation member How to meet up with Ruth on her extraordinary journey?  We decided that the only day possible was Sunday the 11th. Next step was to email the NRF office and Camille, who got the word to Ruth that we would join her in Arena.  Once we received the password to follow her GPS, details on how Lisa and I could meet Ruth on her paddle needed to be worked out....

Day VII and VIII Revisited: Learning from the Land and the Power of Partnerships

By Mike Mossman As my wife Lisa and I stood on the sandy banks of the Wisconsin River at the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s Leopold Memorial Reserve last Thursday evening, awaiting Ruth’s arrival, I was grateful to know Sauk County as my home. It has been a conservation hotbed since even before the 1930’s, when Aldo Leopold and his family began to restore this worn-out piece of land and learn its many lessons. The Leopolds, and...

Ruth’s River Angels: The Heart of the I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip

By Lisa Charron, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin At the Natural Resources Foundation, we are amazed by all of the “River Angels” who have stepped up to help Ruth out. They’ve opened their homes and their kitchens, shared their river stories and their conservation efforts, guided her through tough waters, helped her lug many pounds of gear and gave her a lift when the river got too choppy. We’re shining a spotlight on a few of those River...

Day XVI: Striving for clean air, clean water and a connection to nature

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XVI:  Day XVI transcribed:  This is the October 12 blog. I want to start with a list of towns that I’ve been in so people have an idea about the route of the Wisconsin River. The closest town at the start is Land O’Lakes, although the river actually starts in a lake called Lac Vieux Desert, which is on the border between Michigan and Wisconsin. From there...

Day XV: Going with the FLOW, and cranes galore

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XV:  Day XV transcribed: This is the blog post for Sunday, Oct. 11, day 15. This morning started with a welcome by Timm Zumm of the Friends of the Lower Wisconsin, FLOW. Their motto is “go with the flow.” Timm came to the boat landing in Prairie du Sac and spent the day with me. He was a really great guide to the river and helped me...

Day XIV: Westerly winds

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XIV: Today I’m totally defeated by the wind and waves on Lake Wisconsin. I started out at 9 a.m. this morning after Pete Ostlind helped me go over the boat. We did a little extra patching, he replaced a rivet on the washboards (sort of like the cockpit edge) for me and we went over the whole boat and I headed out around 9 a.m. There was...

Day XIII: The beauty of birds

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XIII:   Day XIII transcribed: We woke up on the site of the Aldo Leopold Shack and it was a morning of learning and discovery for me. Mike Mossman and Yoyi Steele, who work on the Leopold Pines Important Bird Area, were there, along with Dan and Carl from the Aldo Leopold Foundation. This is a really interesting and significant area for the State of Wisconsin, and probably...

Day XII: Aldo Leopold, campfires and the Dells

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XII: I’ll start with the ending of the day. I pulled up on the right side of the Wisconsin River at the site of Aldo Leopold’s shack. What an inspiration to be coming down this river that he was so familiar with, with eagles flying overhead, with cranes flushing off the sand bars and settling back down—hundreds of cranes—and with the geese arcing across the evening sky...

Paddling Through History

By Lisa Charron, Natural Resources Foundation All my life, I’ve walked through the woods and imagined what it would have been like to do so long ago. What would a Winnebago Native American see from atop this hill? What potential did Wisconsin’s first fur traders see in this stream or that lake? Richard D. Durbin, professor emeritus of UW Madison’s Plant Pathology Department, does the same thing when it comes to paddling down the Wisconsin...

Day XI: Rock, stone and floating boats

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XI:  Day XI transcribed: This is the Oct. 7 blog for day 11 on the river. I first wanted to start out answering a few questions people have asked. One is about if my boat is still leaking–it is. When I was in Point, my boat was completely unloaded and when I turned it upside down, I saw two pencil-lead-sized holes where I could see daylight straight...

Day X: Stevens Points and the gifts of wetlands

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day X: Day X transcribed: This is the blog for Oct. 6, day 10, in Stevens Point. A couple of weeks ago when I was talking about this trip with Tracy Hames at the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Tracy hatched an idea that ended up being an incredible experience today. Tracy had done his graduate work at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point on the wetlands system and islands upstream from...

Celebrating Wisconsin’s Wetlands of International Importance

By Tracy Hames, Executive Director of Wisconsin Wetlands Association As executive director for Wisconsin Wetlands Association, I have had the chance to visit hundreds of beautiful wetlands across our state. And while I love every Wisconsin wetland, it’s especially fun to visit rare wetland types like Chiwaukee Prairie along the Lake Michigan shore in southeast Wisconsin. Wisconsin Wetlands Association recognized this rare wetland as a Wetland Gem® in 2009, and just recently I joined more than...

Day IX: Mystery mussels and outstanding outdoorswomen (Monday, Oct. 5)

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day IX: Day IX transcribed:  This is the blog post for Oct. 5, day nine, Merrill to Wausau. Today three good Samaritans helped me out and really made a huge difference and I wanted to say thank you. I was kind of whiny about camping at Council Grounds State Park, but there was one really great thing: the campground host. I eventually found him that night and he...

Day VII: Homer Simpson and shoe goo to the rescue (Saturday, Oct. 3)

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day VII: Day VII transcribed: This was the stretch of the river from Menard Island into Tomahawk. This morning was a really great day because I reached my one hundredth mile on the trip! But before I got there, oh boy.       I had an incredible campsite on Menard Island. I was dropped off by the Watsons and Neil on the upstream end, which was beautiful...

Day VI: Escaping time, and celebrating DNR employees (Friday, Oct. 2)

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day VI:  Day VI transcribed: This was a really special day, and I want to thank the people who paddled with me today because that’s what made it incredible. One thing I’ve noticed about this whole trip so far—I’ve been out since Sunday and today is Friday—is that I’m living totally in the present. There’s only a couple of minutes during the day when I have to think...

Day V: Waterfowl and wild rice (Thursday, Oct. 1)

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day V: Day V transcribed: Today is Thursday, Oct. 1, day five of the I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip. Today started with a freezing night, it was about 36 degrees and it was pretty cold, so I’m going to make some adjustments to how I stay comfortable at night camping. I was camping on Rainbow Rapids and had just finished up my breakfast when two dogs came running...

Day IV: Spectacular wildlife encounters…and leaky boats (Wednesday, Sept. 30)

Listen to Day IV in Ruth’s voice: Transcription of Day IV: Today is Sept. 30 and I’m on day four of the I Heart Wisconsin River Trip. This was a day of drama. Drama in a good way, and drama in a not-so-good way. The first drama: this morning, I saw a family of otters playing. There were four of them and I had been waiting for that on this trip. It was really cool—they...

Day IV: In video

Day IV of the I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip took Ruth through the Rainbow Flowage, a wildlife paradise, and to a beautiful campground for the evening. Follow along through these short video vignettes Ruth shot throughout the day:         Rainbow Flowage Beavers Wilderness Paradise Bald Eagle Campsite...

Day III: Winding waters and the power of land trusts (Tuesday, Sept. 29)

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day III of the I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip: Day III transcribed: Today is Tuesday, Sept. 29 and it’s day three of the I Heart Wisconsin trip. Today I kayaked from Eagle River down to the County O boat landing, which was just about 12 miles. That’s kind of a nice short day. I paddled with Trisha Moore, who’s a conservation specialist with Northwoods Land Trust. We started...

Day II: Lunar eclipses and millions of stars (Monday, Sept. 28)

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day II in her own voice:  Day II transcribed: Today is Monday, Sept. 28, day number two. This was an interesting day of paddling. We went from about mile eight to mile 35. The upper reach of the headwaters is a huge, winding stream that turns into endless alder thickets. When the river goes through the alders, it seems to spread out and what’s left is a shallow...

Day I: Beaver dams and heavy boats (Sunday, Sept. 27)

We put in at Lac Vieux Desert Lake around 8 a.m. Sunday morning. The wild rice bed in the distance fringed the shore. The sky was clear. I was lucky to have two friends join me for the start: Denny Caneff of the River Alliance and Bryan Pierce of the Northwoods Land Trust. After pulling over at the dam, we only had a short stretch to cross County Road E. The culverts were wide enough...

Wired up…

…and ready to go!           I’ve got: Two cellphones A waterproof camera A Gopro Spot satellite transmitter beacon Pocket radio am fm Kindle for books Battery packs Solar charger...

“Be safe”

  I’ve been hearing this phrase quite a bit this week as friends and family give me best wishes for a great trip. Usually it’s said in a way of showing care for my well-being, and sometimes there is a tinge of “be careful.” I appreciate both messages. There are three main ways I stay safe: using my experience and knowledge, planning when I am where so my support team knows what to expect, and...

Pre-trip shakedowns

Ahead of my trip, I’ve been out on a few kayaking adventures to test my equipment, make sure all of my supplies will fit in the boat and strengthen my rowing muscles. While out on some of these pre-trip shakedowns, I was greeted by bald eagles, heard the call of the sandhill crane and witnessed the beautiful bluffs of the Upper Dells. I’m looking forward to capturing more of these sounds and sights during the real trip, but...

Which boat?

When I decided to do this river trip, one of the first decisions was about which boat to use. Like a lot of paddlers, there are several boats in our garage. This past spring I bought a used kayak off Craigslist because at 13 feet, it is better for navigating southern Wisconsin streams. And, ever since reading Larry Rice’s books and watching his presentations about trips he has taken with a “boat in bag,” I have...

Drumlin and Prairie: Celebrating two of Wisconsin’s Natural Treasures

  By Josh Mayer, Foundation member and guest blogger Smith Drumlin Prairie is owned by The Prairie Enthusiasts, a grassroots conservation organization with chapters in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. TPE has worked to manage and restore Smith Drumlin for nearly 20 years, including regular burning, tree removal, mowing, and invasive species control. In the last couple of years, TPE began to seed the former agricultural field between the two drumlins back to prairie. The site...

Restoring wild rice for waterfowl in the Mead Wildlife Area

By Patrice Eyers, guest blogger from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources As far back as one can imagine, the area that sits between Wausau and Stevens Point along the Little Eau Pleine River, has been cherished for its abundance of natural resources. In pre-settlement times, the Chippewa inhabited Smokey Hill, a forested island in the former Rice Lake. The river and the lowland marshes provided a bounty of white-tail deer, bear, fish, beaver, muskrat,...

Portrait of the nature photography enthusiast

By Vince Aiello, Foundation volunteer photographer To view more of Vince’s photography, visit his website at http://vincentaiellophotographer.com. I have always had a strong interest in nature. I can’t pinpoint when it started. All I know is I’d rather spend as much time outdoor rather than inside. For me, I think it started by hearing the stories that my grandpa would tell at the dinner table. He had all of these amazing stories about things in nature....

A home for purple martins on Memory Lake

By Glenn Rolloff, Village of Grantsburg The Grantsburg, Wisconsin, area is surrounded by 1000s of acres of wildlife reserves including the 17,000-acre Crex Wildlife Area and the 14,000-acre Fish Lake Wildlife area. These large sanctuaries attract trumpeter swans, Canadian geese, sandhill cranes and even a lone garganey duck from far off Asia shores! The “big birds” certainly have a home. But nestled in the four square miles of Grantsburg Village is tiny Memory Lake. On its shores,...

A field trip of prehistoric proportions

By Susan Hoffert, Foundation member Chequamegon Bay (pronounce it like you’re saying “she warm again” without the “R”) is one of my favorite spots in Wisconsin. As an obsessed birder, I have visited often in pursuit of piping plovers, golden eagles and blackburnian warblers. On a cool day in late May, however, my objective was not feathered, but finned. Well, maybe a more accurate description is “armored.” I pulled up to a small park in...

Traveling through time with the UWM weather station

By Lindsay Renick Mayer, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin Cedarburg Bog State Natural Area is special for many reasons. It was the second place in Wisconsin to receive the state natural area designation. It is the most intact large bog in the southeastern part of the state. It contains what is likely North America’s southernmost string bog—a bog with stunted cedars and tamaracks that alternate in a unique pattern with wetter areas and sedges. And,...

Getting students outside: Peter Ostlind and the Teachers Outdoor Environmental Education Fund

By Brooke Hemze and Lindsay Renick Mayer, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin When Peter Ostlind was invited to take a 45-minute hike with a full class of kindergarteners up the ridge adjacent to their school, he wasn’t sure what to expect. What he did know was that getting kids outdoors would benefit them in ways big and small, even helping to foster the next generation of conservationists. In the end the kids came together hiking...

Hunters of the sky and the human connection

By Jillaine Burton, Raptor Trainer and Educator, Open Door Bird Sanctuary Hunters of the Sky. What does that make you think of? Fighter planes? Pterodactyls? Drones? How about raptors or birds of prey? At the Open Door Sanctuary, we currently care for 11 raptors, all non-releasable for one reason or another, but still quite majestic in their own right. About 20 years ago when I first began to realize I had an affinity for nature,...

Better than Batman: Superheroic efforts to survey Wisconsin’s bats

By Lindsay Renick Mayer When the quiet of the night is interrupted by low, mechanical ticks, at first I almost miss it. “Big brown bat,” says Andrew Badje, a conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, pointing to the squiggly lines moving across the screen of the noisy device he had hitched to the front of my kayak just moments before. I peer out over the lake to try to see the bat...
12