WI Land+Water goes virtual to host 68th Annual Conference

March 11, 2021 |
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MADISON – The Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association (WI Land+Water) moved online to host its 68th Annual Conference on March 2-5. The virtual event brought together more than 400 conservation professionals from various organizations across Wisconsin.

During the four-day conference, attendees were able to join a variety of virtual sessions, such as technical roundtables, conservation presentations, and multiple networking opportunities. Those attending the conference included county Land Conservation Committee (LCC) members and Land Conservation Department (LCD) staff, state and federal agency staff, and both nonprofit and industry representatives.

The conference opened with keynote speaker Jimmy Emmons, Oklahoma farmer and soil health expert. Emmons is the third generation on his family’s 2,000-acre farm, and he has worked to rehabilitate the land by focusing on soil health. Over two decades ago, Emmons started no-tilling practices. As he learned more about beneficial conservation practices, he implemented the use of crop rotations, cover crops, and grazing management in order to reduce soil erosion.

“Soil is the most important thing on the planet,” said Emmons. “Without it, we have nothing. Not the water that comes from it, the plants that come from it, the food.” Emmons urged attendees to take advantage of new tools and technology to ensure a healthy future for our soil and our environment.

Other sessions focused on topics such as pollinator habitats, wetland mitigation practices, and Carbon Farming Programs. “We were excited to be able to recruit speakers on such a diverse mix of conservation topics,” said WI Land+Water Executive Director Matt Krueger. “It provides a real benefit to our county conservation members who are dealing with these topics and more on a daily basis, at the local level.”

In addition to the sessions, attendees were able to participate in the 64th Annual Conservation Awareness Poster and Speaking Contest. Students recorded and submitted their speeches prior to the conference, and the winning speeches were available to stream during the event. For the poster contest, students’ artwork was displayed online and attendees cast their votes during the conference. Poster contest winners will advance the national competition.

WI Land+Water also recognized several individuals who have made extraordinary contributions in conservation across the state. The recipients of the 2021 Conservation Awards are:

  • Greg Leonard, Eau Claire Co. – Outstanding Employee, County Conservationist
  • Fay Amerson, Walworth Co. – Outstanding Employee, Senior Urban Conservation Technician
  • Tracy Arnold, Portage Co. – Brad Matson Youth Education Award
  • Dan Nankee, Iowa Co. – Outstanding Supervisor.
  • Drew Zelle, DATCP – Special Recognition/Friend of Conservation
  • Short Lane Ag, under the leadership of Matt and Craig Oehmichen – Conservation Steward

Kevin and Carolyn Parr of Harmony Hills Farm were recognized at last year’s conference as the Conservation Farm Family of the Year, and will host the 2021 Conservation Observance Day after last year’s event was postponed due to COVID-19.

Even in its online setting, the conference offered numerous opportunities for attendees to connect with each other and with conference sponsors with virtual social and networking hours.

“The ability to video conference and chat with friends and colleagues in the networking room allowed for there to be somewhat of an ‘in-person’ feel,” commented Iron County conservationist, Heather Palmquist.

Attendees were able to video chat with the conference’s sponsors and partners during a dedicated Sponsor Networking Hour. “We are so grateful to our sponsors, whose support and partnership is so vital to our being able to put on a top-notch event,” said Krueger.

Those sponsors and partners include:

Silver Sponsors:

  • Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
  • Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • North Central Region SARE
  • Organic Valley
  • Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards (PACRS)
  • Resource Environmental Solutions
  • Silt Sock Inc.
  • Standards Oversight Council
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Bronze Sponsors:

  • Compeer Financial
  • Pfaff Public Affairs
  • Professional Dairy Producers – PDPW
  • Sand County Foundation
  • Transcendent Technologies
  • Wisconsin Farmers Union

Nonprofit Partner Sponsors

  • Pheasants Forever
  • River Alliance of Wisconsin
  • The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin
  • Savanna Institute
  • Wisconsin’s Green Fire: Voices for Conservation
  • UW Stevens Point – Center for Watershed Science and Education

The conference closed with the annual business meeting of WI Land+Water’s members, where the organization’s finances, legislative priorities, and planning initiatives were discussed.

WI Land+Water’s 69th Annual Conference is scheduled for year March 2-4, 2022 at Chula Vista in Wisconsin Dells.

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WI Land+Water is a nonprofit organization that supports the local and statewide efforts of all county land conservation committee supervisors and conservation staff across Wisconsin. Its mission is to protect, conserve, and enhance Wisconsin’s natural recourses by advocating for and supporting county conservation efforts, for current and future generations.

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