MADISON, WI – The Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association (WI Land+Water) recently celebrated its 70th Annual Conference, which took place from March 1-3 at the Chula Vista Resort in the Wisconsin Dells. The event brought together nearly 500 conservation professionals from Wisconsin and beyond, including county land conservation committee (LCC) members, land and water conservation department (LWCD) staff, state and federal agency staff, and representatives from nonprofit and industry organizations.
"Seventy years of conservation efforts have been made possible by the dedication and hard work of countless individuals who share a passion for Wisconsin natural resources,” commented Matt Krueger, Executive Director of WI Land+Water. “The attendance and energy at our 70th Annual Conference was a testament to the power of in-person connections, bringing together conservation professionals from across the state to share ideas, knowledge, and experiences.”
The conference started on Wednesday, March 1, and environmental historian and conservation biologist Curt Meine delivered the opening remarks. Meine is known for his writing and work on Aldo Leopold, and he used this opportunity to stress the significance of developing relationships, whether between individuals or between people and land. On Thursday, Alonzo Kelly, a globally recognized strategic leadership coach, continued the theme of building genuine relationships during his keynote speech. Kelly's dynamic and interactive address engaged the audience in the art of asking better questions to establish meaningful connections.
Over the course of three days, attendees participated in 40 breakout sessions that included technical roundtables and conservation presentations, covering topics such as urban stormwater management, agroforestry practices, and conservation 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.
The Youth Education Committee hosted the 66th Annual Conservation Awareness Poster and Speaking Contests during the conference. For the speaking contest, students deliver speeches focused on a local conservation topic to a panel of judges, and the first-place winners give their speeches during the opening luncheon. For the poster contest, student artwork was on display and voted on by attendees during the conference. Poster contest winners were announced during the lively Conservation Awards Banquet, which was sponsored by USDA-NRCS.
During the banquet, WI Land+Water also recognizes individuals and families who have made extraordinary contributions in conservation across the state. Recipients of the 2023 WI Land+Water Conservation Awards are:
- Schoepp Farms LLC, Columbia County, Conservation Farm Family of the Year
- Melissa Luck, Richland County, Outstanding County Supervisor
- Marie Raboin, Dane County, Outstanding Conservation Employee – Conservation Specialist
- Paul Sebo, Washington County, Outstanding Conservation Employee – County Conservationist
- Andy Holschbach, Conservation Legacy Award
- Mike Sorge, Department of Natural Resources, Friend of Conservation
- Justine Bula, Sauk County, Brad Matson Youth Education Award
The Schoepp family will host the 2023 Conservation Observance Day on their farm in Columbia County on June 23rd. The celebration this summer will include tours and presentations on their farm that highlight their decades-long commitment to conservation practices.
WI Land+Water concluded the conference with the association’s annual business meeting, where counties voted unanimously to update the organization’s bylaws, creating a more effective process for finding solutions to conservation issues.
“It was heartening to see attendees at the event feeling empowered and reinvigorated, ready to continue their important work in the years to come," added Krueger. “We are so grateful to all of our presenters, members, and sponsors for their invaluable engagement and support.”
The 2023 WI Land+Water conference sponsors and partners include:
- USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
- Dixon Shoreline Landscaping LLC
- Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards (PACRS)
- Silt Sock Inc.
- Wisconsin Counties Association
- Wisconsin Coastal Management Program
- American Excelsior Company
- Compeer Financial
- Pfaff Public Affairs
- Organic Valley
- Sand County Foundation
- Transcendent Technologies
- Wisconsin Association of Professional Agricultural Consultants
- Center for Watershed Science and Education - University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
- Dairy Business Association
- Discovery Farms
- Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance
- GrassWorks, Inc.
- Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
- Pheasants Forever Inc. and Quail Forever
- River Alliance of Wisconsin
- Savanna Institute
- The Nature Conservancy
- Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters
- Wisconsin Conservation Voters
- Wisconsin Farmers Union
- Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey
- Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts
- Wisconsin Wetlands Association
- Wisconsin's Green Fire
WI Land+Water’s 71st Annual Conference is scheduled for March 6-8, 2023 at KI Convention Center in Green Bay, WI.