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. 

Piping plovers return to Green Bay

I recently had the opportunity to visit one of the projects we support through our Bird Protection Fund: the banding of federally endangered piping plover chicks near Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Wild Alaska

Discover Alaska, a rugged, mysterious, and breathtaking experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. From glaciers that seem to reach the clouds to the big game wildlife that makes Alaska the epic wilderness it is, you will be mesmerized by its untouched landscape.

Bats & Owls & Snakes, Oh My!

In honor of the spookiest season—October—we’re busting some myths surrounding traditionally “scary” creatures that deserve a snuggle just as much as any other cute creature.

The Wonders of Africa

In October 2020, we will be traveling from Zimbabwe to Zambia to Botswana, experiencing their movie-like landscapes and what makes them unique to Africa.

2020 Bird Protection Fund Projects

The Bird Protection Fund has decided upon its 2020 Priority Projects, with more than $60,000 going towards priority bird conservation projects that range from research to reintroduction efforts.

2018 Photo Contest Winners

Every year you send us your best photos that capture incredible moments from our Field Trips. Our 2018 Photo Contest winners give us an inside look into the unique experiences and critical conservation being done throughout the year – take a look!

Exploring the Canyonlands of the Southwest

The southwest is home to some of America’s most iconic landscapes, as well as several stunning national parks. In March 2020, we will be travelling to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and Monument Valley Navajo Park with professional naturalist Paul Regnier and professional geologist Dr. Roger Kuhns.

Hundreds of ‘Birdathonners’ Raise Funds for Bird Conservation Efforts in Wisconsin

The Great Wisconsin Birdathon is one of the most popular “bird-a-thon” style fundraisers in the nation, bringing in over $400,000 since it was created in 2012 to raise funds for bird protection efforts for Wisconsin birds.

Supporting Green & Healthy Schools Wisconsin

The Natural Resources Foundation is a proud supporter of Green & Healthy Schools Wisconsin, a program that empowers, supports and recognizes schools for nurturing healthy kids and sustainable communities.

A Walk Through Time and Hemlocks

All of this beautiful snow here in Madison reminds me of a winter trip I took to northern Wisconsin, when I had the opportunity to explore a new place: Germain Hemlocks State Natural Area in Oneida County.