C.D. “Buzz” Besadny served the Wisconsin DNR and its predecessor, the Wisconsin Conservation Department, for 40 years as an appointed secretary.

By Caitlin Williamson, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin

The Natural Resources Foundation has been a model for community conservation for more than 30 years by providing hundreds of small, matching grants to local conservation groups in Wisconsin through the C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant Program. Created in 1990, the program fosters responsible stewardship of Wisconsin’s lands, waters, and wildlife by supporting grassroots, community-based projects. As of 2015, the Natural Resources Foundation has awarded $420,000 to more than 500 organizations in every county in Wisconsin.

The program is named after the late C.D. “Buzz” Besadny, who was the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources from 1980 to 1993, and co-founded the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin in 1986.

 In 1994, the Alma Road & Gun Club received a C.D. Besadny grant to purchase bluebird house material to give to Alma High School in Buffalo County, where students learned to build birdhouses.

“The Foundation is honored to make these grants to support conservation and education projects across the state in honor of Buzz Besadny,” said Ruth Oppedahl, executive director of the Natural Resources Foundation. “Wisconsin’s natural resources continue to benefit from the legacy of Buzz’s 42-year career at the Department of Natural Resources. With each grant we award, we are providing hope for the future of our state’s wildlife and wild lands.”

The C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant Program supports projects in Wisconsin that promote the responsible stewardship of Wisconsin’s natural resources at the local level. The Foundation annually awards grants ranging from $100 to $1,000 to projects that benefit the public, involve management and restoration of Wisconsin’s natural resources, or contribute to knowledge about Wisconsin’s natural resources through education. Recipients are required to match the grant on a 1:1 basis with funds or in-kind services. This means the Foundation has leveraged nearly $1 million in funding for conservation in the state.

C.D Besadny Conservation Grant Program 25th anniversary logo.

“Receiving C.D. Besadny Conservation grants has allowed us to provide opportunities to our community that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to,” said Jeanette Kelly, citizen science center director at the Beaver Creek Reserve Citizen Science Center in Eau Claire County. The Beaver Creek Reserve has received two Besadny grants over the years, most recently in 2014 for a bat education and research project. “The Besadny grant brought great attention to our organization, our programming, and the work we do.”

In addition to protecting Wisconsin’s natural resources, the C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant Program strives to involve students and communities in education.

“There are so many unique ways to approach conservation on the landscape, and getting students involved is a perfect way to stimulate an interest in a continued passion for the outdoors and its resources,” said Bob Welch of the Waupaca Biological Field Station in Waupaca County, who received a Besadny grant for oak barrens and sand prairie restoration and recovery of the Karner blue butterfly with local students.

Examples of projects funded by the C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant Program include:

  • Purchasing a great blue heron nest camera at Horicon Marsh in Dodge County
  • Developing honey bee education and land stewardship programming at the Heckrodt Wetland Reserve in Outagamie County
  • Maintaining the Aldo Leopold Memorial Reserve Trail at the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Sauk County
  • Creating a native prairie plant demonstration garden at Big Foot Beach State Park in Walworth County
  • Controlling invasive purple loosestrife with the Gordon St. Croix Flowage Association in Douglas County
  • Providing support for the Bad River Youth Outdoors tribal youth outdoor and environmental education program in Ashland and Iron Counties
  • Protecting Blanding’s turtles in urban and rural areas with the City of Middleton in Dane County
  • Creating a wetland identification and information toolkit for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
  • Developing a hands-on geology education toolkit for High Cliff State Park in Calumet County

For over 30 years, the Natural Resources Foundation’s C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant Program has provided support for on-the-ground conservation work that benefits the public, protects Wisconsin’s natural resources, and contributes to knowledge about our natural resources through education. Through the support of generous donors, we are able to provide small grants that make a meaningful difference in our communities.

If you would like to make a contribution to the C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant Program, visit wisconservation.org, or call 866-734-1485. Your generous support will support small-scale natural resource conservation projects and programs that promote the responsible stewardship of Wisconsin’s natural resources at the local level.

This blog was updated in 2023.