NRF funds projects that have a significant and positive impact on Wisconsin’s lands, waters, and wildlife, and that connect people to Wisconsin’s natural wonders. Through our grants for conservation, we supported hundreds of projects in 2023. Thank you to our members, conservation partners, and other supporters for making this possible!

Shadows on the Prairie at West Dane Conservancy

Thanks to a 2023 distribution from NRF’s West Dane Conservancy Fund, The Prairie Enthusiasts continued restoration work at West Dane Conservancy. Photo by Douglas Steege

Our 2023 Impact

In 2023, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin granted $948,533 to support 219 conservation and environmental education projects to 139 unique organizations across the state. NRF supports efforts to protect our state’s natural resources and connect people with nature. NRF’s three primary impact areas are lands and waters conservation, wildlife conservation, and environmental education. We also support projects that build climate resiliency for Wisconsin’s natural resources.

Simultaneously, we support projects that help make the field of conservation and access to the outdoors more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

2023 Grants for Conservation StoryMap

Our 2023 Grants for Conservation StoryMap shows all the grants made throughout the year. There are three maps: the first shows grants for Wisconsin’s lands and waters, the second shows grants for environmental education, and the third shows grants for Wisconsin’s wildlife.

Exploring the natural world at Oneida summer camp

2023 grants for conservation feature - Students learn about aquatic invertebrates from Oneida Nation staff while on a hike

Alaina Noll (Oneida’s Water Resource Specialist) teaches campers about aquatic invertebrates in Trout Creek. Photo by Erin Giese

In 2023, NRF supported transportation costs for Oneida Nation youth participating in a nature-based, outdoor summer camp through our Go Outside Fund.

The purpose of the annual camp is to guide Oneida youth in exploring the natural world and teach them about Oneida culture and language through the participation of a respected Oneida tribal elder.
Erin Giese

Camp director and Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society president

Grassland Point on Oneida reservation

Drone photograph highlighting the Trout Creek prairie restoration site. Photo by Michael Arce, Oneida Nation

Hosted on 3,000 acres of restored forest, prairie, and wetland, the Oneida Nation summer camp offered three days of adventure, conservation, and cultural education for 11 youth campers. The excitement kicked off on day one as the campers embarked on a nature walk at Trout Creek wetland. After lunch, the group traveled to Coyote Run where they had their Oneida daily teaching on sweatlodges and learned about net sweeping of insects in a wet prairie. The following days consisted of equally enriching activities. The campers engaged in bird watching, plants and pollinators studies, art projects, and more.

Additionally, they participated in meaningful teachings with an Oneida tribal elder to dive deep into Oneida culture and language. Throughout these experiences, students explored the diverse landscapes and wildlife of Oneida Nation land, from marshes and ponds to grasslands and forests — all restored from agricultural lands.

Students birdwatching and looking through a spotting scope.

Campers looking through a spotting scope to look for birds at Oneida’s Trout Creek prairie restoration site. Photo by Erin Giese

Fostering cultural connection and academic aspirations

Erin Giese, camp director and NEW Audubon president, reflected on the camp, saying “I loved hearing the campers speak the Oneida language and correctly answer questions from an Oneida Tribal Elder about their culture, history, and language, which is so important to carry onto the next generation.” After visiting the UW-Green Bay campus and meeting Indigenous professors and scientists, Giese shared that one of the campers expressed interest in attending college.

Some of the camper’s favorite activities were learning Oneida social dances, visiting the Oneida Longhouse, and visiting UW-Green Bay’s First Nations Center. The campers even put their GPS field navigation skills to the test by searching for a sneaky stuffed animal hidden in the woods! This activity mirrored the scientific quests of wildlife researchers, showcasing how they track down elusive creatures and conduct surveys using GPS units.

Students and staff making silly faces while standing in a prairie during a field trip during the Oneida summer camp program

Campers posing with silly faces with Oneida Tribal Elder, Randy Cornelius, at Oneida’s Trout Creek restoration site. Photo by Erin Giese

NRF is proud to have supported a camp working to engage youth in nature, break down barriers in the world of conservation and outdoor recreation, and uplift Oneida culture and language. Thank you to our members for connecting children to Wisconsin’s outdoors through our Go Outside Fund. The summer camp is part of a larger Oneida Bird Monitoring Project co-led by Northeastern Wisconsin (NEW) Audubon Society. Also, NRF is a proud supporter of the Oneida Bird Monitoring Project through our Bird Protection Fund.

Featured grants

Historic Indian Agency House - A Historic Prairie Reborn

Historic Indian Agency House received a grant from the C.D. Besadny Conservation Fund to support the protection and expansion of a rare historic prairie landscape of natural and historic significance. The C.D. Besadny Conservation Fund was established to invest in grassroots conservation and education projects. The fund prioritizes projects that benefit imperiled natural communities and species, support diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and/or build climate resiliency.

2023 grants for conservation feature of volunteers stacking brush in burn piles by hand after the mechanized logging operation in preparation for planting prairie species.

Photo courtesy of Michael Novey

Friends of Point Beach State Forest – Tracked Wheelchair for All-Terrain Mobility

Friends of Point Beach State Forest received a grant from NRF’s David & Joyce Weizenicker Fund for State Parks to support the purchase of an action track chair for Point Beach State Forest. This project made Point Beach the first property in the state park system to fundraise and purchase a track chair. The park also hosted an outdoor wheelchair program to promote inclusive access to public lands. They provided demos for new adaptive equipment and shared resources for all things accessible at Wisconsin’s state park properties.

Four outdoor wheelchairs on pavement during an outdoor wheelchair program at Point Beach

Photo courtesy of Quinn Henseler

Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation – Urban Pollinator Habitat Kits

Thanks to a a grant from the Wisconsin Pollinator Protection Fund, the Xerces Society created pollinator habitats at nine different urban project sites in partnership with and managed by sustainable community initiatives. Host community groups included community garden groups, school gardens, farm collectives, and healthy food education projects. The pollinator habitat kits helped each kit awardee create a new, beautiful space for both pollinators and people.

American Family Insurance volunteers helping Operation Fresh Start and Jody Weyers plant their habitat kit out front of their Madison homebase.

Photo by Jody Weyers

Ice Age Trail Alliance - Madison East Environmental Science Students on the Ice Age Trail

Thanks to a Go Outside Fund grant from 2023, the Ice Age Trail Alliance brought an AP Environmental Science class out from Madison East High School to the Alliance-owned Steenbock Preserve in Lodi, Wisconsin. Funding was used to transport the students to the trail. Students consolidated brush piles, cut down invasive brush, and tossed brush onto a burn pile.

2023 grants for conservation and environmental education feature of students standing outside in the winter while burning a pile of brush.

Photo by Miranda Murphy

Omro Middle School - Outdoor Environmental Education Experience

Omro Middle School received a grant from the Teachers’ Outdoor Environmental Education Fund to help support their Outdoor Environmental Education Experience program. 6th grade students had the opportunity to spend two days at Camp Lucerne engaging in outdoor activities ranging from canoeing, boat building and racing, land and water study, archery and fishing, to name a few! 

Students playing outside

Photo by Carrie Sabel

Thank you

NRF’s grantmaking is made possible through the support of our donors, supporters, and members. We are grateful to everyone who supports our work to conserve Wisconsin’s lands, waters, and wildlife and connect generations to nature. Lastly, thank you to our grant recipients for the important work that you do for Wisconsin!

  Written by Emma Schatz, Digital Communications Coordinator

Welcome to the Foundation, Tee!

We’re thrilled to welcome our new volunteer, Tee Karki!

From PlayStation to Potawatomi State Park: How Camping Transformed My Life

Escuela Verde senior, Jonathan, led a three-day camping trip at Potawatomi State Park for 12 students thanks to a Go Outside Fund grant.

Watershed Health and Outdoor Fun on the Namekagon River

Thanks to a 2023 Go Outside Fund grant, 46 students canoe the Namekagon River for hands-on learning about watersheds.