Governor Tony Evers Applauds Conservation Efforts at WI Land+Water’s 71st Annual Conference

March 12, 2024 |
Gov. Tony Evers delivered remarks during Thursday's

The Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association (WI Land+Water) welcomed nearly 600 attendees in Green Bay, WI for its 71st Annual Conference, which took place from March 5-7 at the KI Convention Center. The annual event brought together conservation professionals from Wisconsin and beyond, including county land and water conservation department (LWCD) staff, county land conservation committee (LCC) members, state and federal agency staff, and representatives from nonprofit and industry organizations.

"This year’s conference saw record-breaking attendance and an unparalleled level of enthusiasm for conservation,” said Executive Director Matt Krueger. “Our annual event highlights the importance of convening natural resources professionals and fostering the exchange of ideas, expertise, and invaluable experiences.”

Governor Tony Evers made a notable appearance during Thursday’s lunch, engaging in discussions with members before delivering an inspiring address. Gov. Evers emphasized the crucial role conservation professionals play in protecting our state’s valued natural resources. "Now, more than ever, we need dedicated individuals to join the effort to protect and defend our vital natural resources,” said Evers. “And with the help of all you in this room, I'm confident we can achieve those goals." He further underscored the significance of state-funded conservation initiatives, including cover crop insurance rebates, farmer-led watershed groups, and coastal management grants, which play a pivotal role in preserving the integrity of our lakes and waterways.

Dan Egan, a two-time Pulitzer prize finalist and best-selling author, joined Krueger for a captivating keynote conversation. Attendees were inspired by Egan's compelling narratives from his acclaimed books, including Death and Life of the Great Lakes and The Devil’s Element: Phosphorus and a World Out of Balance. Drawing from his extensive experience as a former reporter, where he meticulously covered Great Lakes issues, Egan provided invaluable perspectives on the critical importance of preserving our natural resources and sharing the story of conservation.

Attendees also participated in 40 breakout sessions, covering topics such as shoreline restoration, urban stormwater management, agroforestry practices, and science communication skills. Many of the breakout sessions offered Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) or Professional Development Hours (PDHs) for technical staff to maintain their job certifications and licenses and learn about the latest best management practices in their fields. Social hours followed the breakout sessions, providing attendees with opportunities to network with exhibitors, bid on silent auction items, and purchase raffle tickets to support training scholarships for members.

WI Land+Water’s Youth Education Committee organized the 67th Annual Conservation Awareness Poster and Speaking Contests, which also take place during the conference. In the speaking contest, students present speeches on local conservation topics to a panel of judges, with first-place winners delivering their speeches at the opening luncheon. Meanwhile, student artwork was showcased for the poster contest, where attendees voted for their favorites. The winners of the poster contest were announced during the Conservation Awards Banquet, generously sponsored by USDA-NRCS.

Every year, WI Land+Water celebrates the remarkable achievements of individuals who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to conservation efforts throughout the state. Recipients of these awards are recognized during the Conservation Awards Banquet, and this year the organization honored:

  • Cathy Higley, Vilas County, Brad Matson Youth Outstanding Youth Educator
  • UW-Stevens Point Center for Watershed Science and Education & Water and Environmental Analysis Lab, Friend of Conservation
  • Joan Schemenauer, Chippewa County, Administrative Assistant of the Year
  • Jennifer McNelly, Portage County, Outstanding Conservation Employee - Technician/Planner/Project Manager
  • Tonya Gratz, Green County, Outstanding Conservation Employee - Technician/Planner/Project Manager
  • Melissa Schlupp, Sauk County, Outstanding County Conservationist
  • Bob Kaner, Dunn County, Conservation Legacy Award

“It's invigorating to see so many passionate individuals united in our mission to conserve and enhance our state’s natural resources, and we’re ready tackle the challenges ahead with even greater determination.” said Krueger. “I extend heartfelt gratitude to our partners, presenters, members, and sponsors whose unwavering support make this work possible.”

The 2024 WI Land+Water conference sponsors and partners include:

Gold Level

USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service

Silver Level

Cedar Corporation; Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; Wisconsin Coastal Management Program; Wisconsin Farmers Union; Savanna Institute

Bronze Level

Compeer Financial; Grassland 2.0; Pfaff Public Affairs; Sand County Foundation; Town and Country Engineering; Transcendent Technologies; Wisconsin Counties Association; Wisconsin Water Quality Trading Clearinghouse

Nonprofit Level

American Farmland Trust; Dairy Business Association; GrassWorks, Inc.; Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards; Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever; The Nature Conservancy; Trout Unlimited Oak Brook Chapter; University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension;
University of Wisconsin Stevens Point Center for Watershed Science and Education; Wisconsin Association of Professional Agricultural Consultants; WI Association of RC&D Councils; Wisconsin Conservation Voters; Wisconsin Council of Trout Unlimited; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey; Wisconsin's Green Fire;
Wisconsin Wetlands Association

The event concluded with the association’s annual business meeting, where counties reviewed the organization’s newly adopted 2024-2028 Strategic Plan.

WI Land+Water’s 72nd Annual Conference is scheduled for March 5-7, 2025 at KI Convention Center in Green Bay, WI.

View More Photos!

Visit our Flickr Gallery to find more photo albums of the event, including our Youth Education and Conservation Award winners!

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