Monday Morning Blogging: The Wisconsin River

Here is a picture of the lovely and expansive Wisconsin River, as it runs through Iowa County. It is the second to last county that is touched by the river on its 430 mile course through Wisconsin:  from its source in the far north (where it is a narrow winding stream) to its mouth where it empties into the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien.

Wisconsin River - photo at Flickr (Used with permission.)

The Wisconsin River, flowing westward through Iowa County – photo at Flickr (Used with permission.)

The Wisconsin River is currently “trending” for many conservationists in Wisconsin thanks to the personal odyssey of Ruth Oppedahl. Between September 27th and October 14th, Ruth is paddling the length of the river, often in the company of other conservationists, and talking to people who have spent whole careers working to protect water in Wisconsin.

Ruth, the leader of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (the NRF), has said she always wanted to paddle the length of the river “someday,” and suddenly, this year, forces aligned to make such a trip seem not just attractive, but compelling.

As explained on the NRF website: Wisconsin parks and all our natural resource programs have received “unprecedented funding reductions this year jeopardizing some of the things Wisconsinites love most about this         state. . .” Included in the state budget cuts: an $84,100 nonprofit capacity grant that NRF has received annually since 2000.”

A Hope to Rejunvenate:  ” . . by living outdoors for 18 days . .”

And as Ruth herself wrote: “Saddened by the reduction in support for conservation and natural resources in our state, I felt like I had to do something . . . people were asking me what could they could do?”

She scrapped plans to vacation in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, planning instead “to vacation in Wisconsin and paddle our namesake river . . . I hope to rejuvenate myself by living outdoors for 18 days. . .” While doing so, Ruth is meeting others along the river “and sharing the many ways we all care for our beautiful state.”

There are a number of ways you can follow Ruth’s adventures, meeting who she meets, learning how she deals with daily challenges from fixing a leaky kayak to portaging around dams; both beaver, and hydroelectric dams.
The quick and interactive method is NRF’s Facebook page where you can leave encouragement and advice, or ask a question.

My personal favorite is at NRF’s Wisconservation blog, where Ruth’s audio diary is transcribed each day. Here’s just one of the many Wisconsin River facts I’m learning along with Ruth: not all that long ago, the river near Hat Rapids (between Rhinelander and Tomahawk) was a polluted mess.

From Ruth’s post: ” . . . this was a place where human waste and paper mill – pulp mill – waste accumulated on top of the river and it was just a foam. Nobody lived on the river, it was disgusting. And then, thanks to the Clean Water Act, thanks to the work of people like Susan, the Wisconsin River is much, much cleaner than it was just 40 years ago.” I’d encourage anyone to get involved with Ruth Oppedahl’s odyssey; check it out.


Summer in Wisconsin: Woodlands, Wetlands, Monarchs & More

[This is another post in the series, Summer in Wisconsin: Woodlands, Wetlands, Monarchs, and Rocks.” What began as one of several items for a “roundup” of summer notes, has grown into five separate blogposts, published one at a time in this first and second week of August. You can access all the Summer in Wisconsin series by clicking on those words; they are listed among the categories at the end of each post.]

A Walk in the Woods Can Change Your Mind

We’ve always known this, intuitively, right? A walk in the woods, or on a path next to a stream or lake, is good for us, and good for our mental health. Now a research project at Stanford University seems to offer the science-based truth of this common sense belief.

I found the news of this all over Facebook – in my own news feed and at pages I often visit such as Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Door County Land Trust, and Gathering Waters. For those who may not have seen it, I pass it on.



     [The author of The Badger & The Whooping Crane has been lucky, this year, experiencing a number of really wonderful woodland walks. Here are photos from four favorites – beginning in Wisconsin’s Door County, January 3rd, at the North Bay Preserve – left, and below.]





Published in July in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study by a team of Stanford researchers asserts that there is a growing body of evidence that links urbanization – or “decreased nature experience” with the “development of mental illness.” Wanting to know more about that, the team focused on a negative thinking pattern commonly known as “brooding,” – described by cognitive scientists as “morbid rumination.” Others studies have shown that such thinking can be a precursor to depression and is more common among city-dwellers than people outside urban areas.





[On the left, Spanish Moss hangs from the trees on one of the many loops of  the Hiking Nature Trail that extends nearly 40 miles through the Myakka River State Park. This Florida state park is nine miles due east of Sarasota.  Below right, the trail runs through a marsh. Both the hike and the photos were taken March 30, 2015.]






In this just-published study the research included brain scans of 38 healthy, urban-dwelling volunteers who had spent 90 minutes walking; half walked in a natural setting, and the others spent their time walking in an urbanized, heavy traffic area. The part of the brain associated with brooding – the sub genual prefrontal cortex – showed less blood flow, therefore less morbid rumination activity, among those who had spent their time in the natural world.




[On Memorial Day weekend I joined one of the many field trips sponsored by the Natural Resources Foundation, and spent a morning getting to know the ecology of Moonlight Bay’s bedrock beach (pictured below, right), and hiking through the adjacent State Natural Area.]




It may seem like a “no-brainer,” but really, discovering how a part of the human brain reacts to this natural remedy – getting outdoors for a long walk – is news that could potentially be used for the good of everyone by other professionals; pros like architects and urban planners, perhaps.

2015-06-16 11.13.16



[This was a beautiful summer day in mid-June, and a hike to Mosquito Beach (see the trailhead, left) at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was followed by a stop at the Miner’s Castle Information Center and Overlook, where the photo (below right) featuring a glimpse of the Miner’s Castle rock formation, was taken.


2015-06-16 17.31.54To read more about this study linking nature walks with good mental health, you can visit the link above (to an item at the New York Times) or at this one to The Atlantic. The Times includes a link to an abstract of the study itself. The Atlantic has a link to a long-ago article in its archive by one of its authors who described the benefits of the natural world over the developed one. And you probably can guess the name of that author: Henry David Thoreau.

See Wisconsin on a Natural Resources Foundation Field Trip

If you’re in Wisconsin – or you’re someone who will be visiting Wisconsin in the next six months – and if you appreciate a good field trip with knowledgable guides at affordable prices – then this post is for you! The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF) which has been offering “get-outside-and-get-to-know-Wisconsin” field trips since 1993, recently published their Field Trip Guidebook for 2015.

You can download a PDF copy of the guidebook online and see the depth and breadth of what the NRF is offering in their 151 guided trips to the state’s natural resource gems. The opportunities begin in mid-April and continue through mid-November.

The guidebook will also show you at a glance what level of physical demand each trip requires. They are rated this way: Accessible, Easy, Average, Challenging, and Extreme. See page 1 of the guide, for the color-coded key, and the number that show where in the state each field trip is located.

Moonlight Bay State Natural Area, an NRF field trip destination in May.

Moonlight Bay State Natural Area, the destination of an NRF field trip focused on rare plants and birds; in May. (A “Badger & Whooping Crane” photo)

You can also quickly ascertain which are “family friendly,” which are birding trips, which focus on Wisconsin’s wilderness gems – our State Natural Areas. This year, the NRF announced, it is proud and pleased to be offering over 50 field trips to visit State Natural Areas – which are “Wisconsin’s precious wilderness gems.”

Registration for those who are already NRF members began today. As of April 1, the general public can register, and also join the NRF for the discounted price of only $15 (you must become a member to go on a Natural Resources Foundation Field Trip). The trips themselves range in cost from FREE up to $100, but the great majority of these field trips seem to range between $12 – $30, so even with your membership fee, these are still a seriously good deal.

The higher-priced trips are fund-raisers for various good causes, so they still can be considered a good deal that provides you with a wonderful experience along with the opportunity to financially support a cause you care about!

Last year, for The Badger & the Whooping Crane I participated in NRF’s special Rare Bird Field Trip (which I reported on here), and this year there are 3 trips in late Spring in Door County, and I hope to participate in at least 2 of them.

On my rare bird trip last year I met, and enjoyed a conversation with the NRF’s Barb Barzen about the history of these field trips. Whose idea are these? When did they start? Were they always this numerous and popular? “You’ve come to the right person,” Barb told me in an email; “I was the first person hired by the NRF of WI back in 1988. . . . After four years of working around DNR staff in the Central Office (the NRF was initially set up and run, on a part-time basis, by DNR staff.) Barb began to think about the”very important and interesting work many in the DNR were doing,” and she began to envision a way for them to show the importance of this to a general audience of Wisconsin citizens and visitors.

In the Northern Kettle Moraine, the destination of an October field trip in which can sharpen your autumn photography skills. (A "Badger & Whooping Crane" photo)

In the Northern Kettle Moraine, the destination of an October field trip in which can sharpen your autumn photography skills. (A “Badger & Whooping Crane” photo)

“As a transplant from Minnesota, I also came to realize what a keen interest the citizenry of Wisconsin has in natural resources and nature-based activities in general,” said Barb.

Barb Barzen’s thinking and observations led to the offering of 3 field trips in 1993, and she remembered them all, sharing these details of each trip: “seeing the Trumpeter Swan Recovery Program in action at the Mead Wildlife Area with Sumner Matteson and Becky Abel; hiking Rush Creek State Natural Area in the Mississippi Bluffs with Mark Martin; and howling for wolves with Adrian Wydeven.”

In the years that quickly followed, the program expanded by leaps. “I ran it for five years,” said Barb, “and then hired Christine Tanzer to take it from there. The best thing I ever did. Christine has carefully and masterfully grown the program to the point of offering 151 trips this year.”

Put Nature in Your New Year’s Resolutions

Here’s something special for you as the holidays wind down, a brand new year is launched, and – in places like Wisconsin – winter really takes hold. Frigid temperatures may have you wishing for “hot chocolate and down comforters” (a remedy the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin has acknowledged) but I’ve found the perfect inspiration to make you want to get outside anyway. Here are 10 Reasons Why You Feel So Good in Nature – from EcoWatch, a favorite website of mine for “green” news and lifestyle stories.


Whatever the season . . .

We need nature “for our psychological well-being, because it’s in our DNA,” writes psychotherapist Kris Abrams. But that wasn’t enough of an explanation, she said, to fully understand what it is “about nature and our relationship to it, that brings us so much joy?” Over time she’s developed her own fairly elaborate theories to explain why nature “makes us feel good and helps us heal.”

Nature reminds us that we belong to the Earth, and are connected to a community of all living things, Kris writes. It connects us to the spiritual world, too, and “brings you closer to your own spirit.”

plenty of reasons . . .

And in nature, our minds calm down and time itself slows down – two very powerful reasons right there to motivate you to schedule more outdoor time. Here are just a few examples of places to spend winter time outdoors close to home in the Badger state.

Our State Natural Areas in Winter

Wisconsin’s abundant – 673 of them – state natural areas are everywhere and a few of them offer unique wintertime experiences whether they have designated trails, or not. The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF) has posted an interview with Conservation Biologist Thomas Meyer about winter aspects of his job with the DNR State Natural Areas Program.

 . . .  to seek some quiet time in nature.

. . . to spend more time in nature.

The NRF post draws some attention to the following State Natural Areas (SNA’s): Rush Creek Bluffs and Battle Bluff Prairie in southwestern Wisconsin; North Bay and the Bailey’s Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands in Door County; Mecan Springs in Central Wisconsin, and in the northeast, Van Vliet Hemlocks in Vilas County.

Winter Workdays in the State Natural Areas

And here’s another way to enjoy and get active in the State Natural Areas: the Wisconsin DNR sponsors Workdays at different SNA’s throughout the year. All levels of participation – from someone with no experience to others who qualify to become stewards of all the volunteer activities in a particular SNA.

Six SNA Workdays are scheduled in January and February of 2015 – all dedicated to brush cutting. Here are the properties, the counties where they can be found, and the dates for brush cutting: York Prairies in Green County, Jan. 10; Kettle Moraine Oak Opening in Jefferson and Walworth Counties, Jan. 10; Rocky Run, Columbia County, Jan. 24; Muralt Bluff Prairie in Green County, Jan 29 and 31; Bluff Creek in Walworth County, Feb. 14; and Magnolia Bluff in Rock County, Feb. 28. For more information contact Jared Urban, volunteer coordinator, 608-267-0797.

The trail along the gorge in Copper Falls State Park, a Wisconsin State Natural Area. (Photo by, Kelly W. Dora, used with permission.)

The trail along the gorge in Copper Falls State Park, a Wisconsin State Natural Area. (Photo by, Kelly W. Dora, used with permission.)

Finally, here is information about two venues that cater to anyone interested in watching the eagles that are wintering in the area.

Eagle Watching !

The little Wisconsin River towns of Prairie du Sac and Sauk City – known together as the Sauk Prairie area – have made themselves into the eagle watching capital of the state. Located a bit northwest of Madison and directly south of Devils Lake State Park, the area is home to the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council a local grassroots organization working to protect bald eagle habitat in the area since 1988.

You can observe eagles anytime from a public Overlook adjacent to the municipal parking lot on Water Street in Prairie du Sac. A permanent spotting scope is always available for people to view eagles on nearby Eagle Island, and those perching in trees along the river. Saturday mornings during January and February the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council staffs the Overlook with volunteers who can answer questions and direct visitors to additional watching locations.

Bald Eagle Watching Days, a special gathering with exhibits and presentations added to the usual eagle-gazing activities are scheduled this year for Friday night, Jan. 16, and Saturday, Jan. 17.

If you just can’t get enough of the beautiful bald eagle, and you’re curious, too, about its elusive “cousins” the golden eagles – they use the bluff lands of the upper Mississippi River Valley as their wintering territory – head on over to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN. This is right on the Mississippi River, about an hour’s drive southwest of Eau Claire.

With a staff of presenters and five eagles in residence, public programs are given every day at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Field trips, via bus, to view golden eagles in the wild, are scheduled for Jan. 24 and Feb. 7; bald eagle viewing field trips are scheduled for Feb. 28, and April 18.

Some of the best things to see and do in Wisconsin in early 2015 are right outside. Make some plans now to get outdoors; resolve to add more nature activities to your life in the new year. You’ll feel good!

Making Plans: September Fests, Hikes, Field Trips, Etc!

Hard to think about (for those who love summer best), but September is just around the corner. But if that’s the “bad news,” the many ways to get outdoors and celebrate Wisconsin in September – that’s the good news.

Here are some dates to keep in mind – brought to you by the Door County Land Trust, the Gathering Waters Conservancy, Operation Migration, the the Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and more – as you make September plans.

September 3 – Hike, Sunset Picnic, & Concert at the Lautenbach Woods Nature Preserve & the WoodWalk Gallery, in Door County; sponsored by the Door County Land Trust.

The Door County shoreline; on the bay of Green Bay. (A Badger & the Whooping Crane photo)

The Door County shoreline; on the bay of Green Bay. (A Badger & the Whooping Crane photo)

Headlined “This Land Is Your Land,” this event is both one of the Door County Land Trust’s public events, and part of a Woodwalk Gallery  folk festival. Sounds like fun, but check it out quickly –  there IS already a waiting list for this event!

Sept 6 & September 22 – Night Walks, at the UW-Arboretum, Madison.

From 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept.6, catch the last choruses of night-calling insects and migrating birds. Or observe the Equinox on Monday, the 22nd, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Watch the sun set and learn more about the autumnal equinox on this naturalist-led tour.

Septbemer 12, 13, 14 –  The Whooping Crane Festival; in Green Lake County; sponsors include Operation Migration and the Berlin Rotary Club.

Watch the training of whooping crane chicks (weather permitting!) as they learn to fly with ultralight aircraft. Listen to the experts, including, Professor Emeritus Stanley Temple on the extinction of the passenger pigeon, George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation, OM Pilot Joe Duff, DNR Pilot Beverly Paulan, Raptor Rehabilitabor Pat Fisher, and Birder Tom Schulz. Events take place at Princeton High School and several other locations near White River Marsh State Natural Area.  See ALL of the details by clicking on the Whooping Crane Festival link.

Sept. 12 – Saving Family Lands, a panel discussion sponsored by the Wisconsin Friends of John Muir, 6:30 – 8 p.m., at the UW-Extension Community Room, in Montello.

This program, part of the Muir Friends’ “Popcorn and Ideas” discussions, will bring together staff from the Gathering Waters Conservancy and a panel of local landowners from Marquette County to discuss experiences with preserving farmland and/or the natural landscape.

Sept.13 – Barn Dance & Chautauqua, at Saxon Homestead Farm, in Cleveland, WI, 4-10 p.m.

Techinically, this is called the “Partnering for Progress Barn Dance & Chautauqua” and proceeds from the event will benefit the 3 partners that make up the Partners for Progress: the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership, the Gathering Waters Conservancy, and the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers.

Aldo Leopold (Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation)

Aldo Leopold (Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation)

Here’s what to expect:  a showing of the film “Green Fire,” about Aldo Leopold, with commentary by Curt Meine, Senior Fellow at the Aldo Leopold Foundation;  a Harvest Buffet of locally grown food;  and the barn dance to the sounds of Buffalo Stomp. Tickets are priced at $30 an individual, $50 a pair, and $10 per student. You are advised to “Get yours today!” Only 250 will be sold – “then they’ll be gone!”

Sept. 13 Yahara Riverfest, hosted by the Rock River Coalition, at Conservancy Commons Park, in DeForest. 1-7 p.m.

This fest includes a 5K trail tromp (begins at 1 p.m.), a rubber duck race, and beer and wine tasting. Randy Korb, the “Frog Guy,” will present a unique, highly engaging amphibian program for children and adults.

September 13 – Hike Kangaroo Lake Nature Preserve, with the Door County Land Trust, 10 a.m. to noon.

This is part of the Land Trust’s “Take a Hike and Call Me in the Morning” series; a 1.5 mile hike at the Land Trust’s very first nature preserve.  It includes spectacular vistas, serene lakeshore, a spring-fed creek and wetlands, and boreal forest.

Sept. 20 – Explore the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Nature Preserve with the Door County Land Trust, 10 to 4 p.m.
This “Explore the Door” activity brought to you by the Land Trust, runs concurrent with the city of Sturgeon Bay”s Harvest Fest. Enjoy Harvest Fest and take a diversion through the nature preserve, located at the southern end of Sturgeon Bay, on the southwest side of the ship canal. There will be hiking opportunities and activities for people of all ages. Nature Preserve hosts will be available to share the history and ecology of the preserve.

Map of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal (via Wikimedia)

Map of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal (via Wikimedia)

Sept. 20 – Field trip to the Newell and Ann Meyer Nature Preservewith the Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, located in Waukesha and Walworth Counties, 9 a.m. to noon.

Join the conservancy staff and enjoy the restored native prairie in bloom.  The prairie and grasslands of this nature preserve provide a refuge for rare birds and other wildlife.

Sept. 20 – Birds & Bat Migration in Milwaukee, with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, at Riverside Park, 8 to 11 a.m.

This is one of the expert-led field trips sponsored by Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and to participate, you ‘ll need to purchase an NRF membership ($25 per individual, $40 for a family).  On this particular field trip you will learn all about what urban areas can do for bats and migratory birds.  You will observe a bird banding station, mist-nets, acoustic bat monitoring demos, and see songbirds “up close & personal.” This field trip is recommended for children, age 10 or older, and adults. There is a $12 charge per adult; $6 per child, (and the price of a membership if you ‘re not already an NRF member).

 Sept. 27 – John Muir University of the Wilderness sponsored by the Wisconsin Friends of John Muir, 7 p.m., at Vaughn Hall, in Montello.

This “narrative concert” features the contemporary, classical and Celtic music of the Chance Quartet and the words of Scottish-born, American wilderness-educated, naturalist John Muir.  Tickets to this one-night show are available at the door, or in advance from the MORE Health Foods restaurant in Montello.


News briefs: Getting outdoors in Wisconsin

More than half-way to its fundraising goal of $75,000, the Great Wisconsin Birdathon 2014 has thus far earned $38,296 for bird conservation in the state. The Birdathon is a month-long event during which birders collect donations for each bird they will identify in one 24-hour period at some point during May. Among the 8 different bird conservation projects supported, are the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Program, and the Monitoring and Management of the Kirtland’s Warbler.

Birding on Lake Michigan (Photo at Flickr by Peter Gorman)

Birding on Lake Michigan (Photo by Peter Gorman, at Flickr)

Take a Birding Blitz field trip

There are at least 3 or 4 different ways to participate in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon. One that’s particularly tailored to those who are new to birding are the Birding Blitz field trips sponsored by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. Expert birders will be your guide through an educational morning at various birding hotspots around the state. Four Birding Blitzes still have openings, including: the Southern Kettle Moraine (Friday, May 23rd), the Buena Vista Grassland (Saturday, May 24th), Birding Hot Spots of Green Bay Bird City (Saturday, May 24th), and Birding Blitz Door County (Saturday, May 31st). A fifth Birding Blitz at Wyalusing Haunts (Friday, May 23rd) is listed as “Full,” but if that’s the one that would work for you, it never hurts to call the Natural Resources Foundation (866-264-4096) to see if there have been cancellations.

Blue mound (Flickr Photo by Jonathan Bloy)

Blue mound (Photo by Jonathan Bloy, at Flickr)

The ever-so-popular field trips of Wisconsin’s NRF

Speaking of the field  trips sponsored by Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin – both the quality and the popularity of these programs mean they fill up fast. Right now nearly 80 trips listed for June through November are listed as “full,” while only 40, or so, still have openings. In The Green Travel Guide to Southern Wisconsin, authors Pat Dillon and Lynne Diebel say “NRF trips offer expert guides, one-of a kind experiences, and remarkable low prices, making these trips among the best outdoor activities in the state. We love these outdoor adventures.”

Here are two examples from the NRF field trips scheduled for June (12 June trips still have openings):

Bluebird Trail Hike:  Come hike along an established bluebird nest-box trail, Friday morning, June 6th, at Muscoda in Iowa County;

Drawing Delights from Willow River: As noted on the schedule, this one is offered especially for artists and sketchers (novices welcome). This unique exploration combines hiking, drawing, and ecology: see and sketch waterfalls, forested slopes, spring flowers and ferns; a botanical illustrator will offer instruction for sketching with pencil, pen, or watercolor.

Flickr photo "Willow River Falls," by zman z28.

Willow River Falls (Photo by zman z28, at Flickr)


Get outdoors with The Nature Conservancy

There are many wonderful ways to “Get Outdoors” in Wisconsin, and here’s one more to consider this week. The Nature Conservancy, which has a presence in all 50 states and 35 other countries around the world, works in Wisconsin by protecting public lands and migratory songbird habitat, and by expanding protected areas, and through working with agriculture to improve water quality. Look at this page with both a map and a list of nature conservancy preserves in the Dairy State. Find a new place you would like to explore, then check out these Guidelines for Visiting a Conservancy preserve.

Peter Matthiessen, novelist and wilderness writer, lifted the cause for cranes

Novelist, naturalist, and wilderness writer Peter Matthiessen, who passed away April 5th, is credited by the International Crane Foundation’s Jim Harris with bringing “our organization and the crane cause to a new level.” After joining ICF in 1992 for a crane workshop held on a river boat on the Amur River, which forms the border between Russia and China, Matthiessen began a personal odyssey to follow all 15 species of cranes on their transcontinental migration journeys. In time a wonderful book, The Birds of Heaven, Travels with Cranes,(2001), and a national speaking tour in concert with ICF, resulted, and raised the visibility of the crane cause to new heights. Jim Harris calls this book “a significant contribution to crane literature and thought,” praising the author’s “evocation of the spirit of cranes.”

To Peter Matthiessen the cranes were “the greatest of the flying birds” and “the most stirring.” He wrote that their “clarion calls out of the farthest skies, summon our attention to our own swift passage on this precious earth.”


The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and the Promise of Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day I want to write a post focusing on a particular Wisconsin gem, our Natural Resources Foundation. I know many Wisconsinites who are unaware of it, so this seems a good day to try and spread the word and appreciate what it has accomplished for the state since it came to be in 1986.

First, though, I also want to share some nuggets of Earth Day news found around the internet today. Maybe some Gannett papers in Wisconsin are carrying this also, but I found it online at The Tennessean: this nice story about our own Gaylord Nelson, and the beginnings of Earth Day, featuring this stirring quote:  “The battle to restore a proper relationship between man and his environment . . . will require a long, sustained political, moral, ethical and financial commitment far beyond any commitment ever made . . . in the history of man.”

Happening this week in Washington: “Cowboys and Indians Ride on D.C.” – an alliance of “native peoples, farmers, and ranchers” are united in protesting the Keystone pipeline.

A Wikimedia Commons photo of a base mine and tailings pond in the Alberta tarsands region where the Keystone pipeline begins.

A Wikimedia Commons photo of a base mine and tailings pond in the Alberta tarsands region where the Keystone pipeline begins.

Finally, lest we become completely overwhelmed by environmental challenges that seem never-ending “5 environmental wins to celebrate” at the Christian Science Monitor is a good reminder that over time some of the challenges have been successfully met.

But, back to Wisconsin: compared to Earth Day, now 44 years old, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin is still a youngster. It is  working to address the pressing needs that Nelson articulated. When the Natural Resources Foundation was formed in 1986, declining budgets were compromising “critical programs of the Wisconsin DNR,” and the NRF was formed to recruit members and donors, and to boost “private sector investment and involvement in state-managed natural resources.”

Since then it has developed an active membership of more than 4,000 citizens that support the mission. It has contributed $4.6 million to public and private conservation efforts, and has also created the Wisconsin Conservation Endowment which currently includes 62 funds and $3.5 million in assets that permanently support specific lands, programs, and species. Our endangered whooping cranes are one of the species to benefit.

Fish Creek, in Door County, Wisconsin (A "Badger & Whooping Crane" photo)

Fish Creek, in Door County, Wisconsin (A “Badger & Whooping Crane” photo)

Impressive as all that is, when it comes to the “relationship between man and his environment”, Wisconsin’s NRF probably does that best through it’s dozens and dozens of annual field trips. These have gotten at least 28,000 people outdoors and into Wisconsin’s very best environments – into the State Natural Areas and parks, and in touch with its lands, waters, marshes, and wildlife.

These field trips are led by DNR professionals with other experts with a love and knowledge of the places they will lead you to. Have a look at this comprehensive list of field trips that are being sponsored by NRF from now through November. But look quick, because they’re filling up fast!




Meet the Partners for Whooping Cranes

“It takes a village . . . , ” we often say, using those words to describe any complex project whether it’s raising a child, or building a house, or creating a new community organization. Or something else entirely.


When it comes to the efforts to restore an endangered species to a region from which it has long been absent, it takes a world of professionals and volunteers willing to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve the goal. In the case of the whooping cranes that are now being re-introduced into Wisconsin that “world” is made up of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, a true partnership between public and private entities working to protect the whooping crane species.

Over the years people have opened their homes to others who are working directly with the cranes. Private individuals and entire businesses have opened their wallets. And it seems everyone who learns of them, has opened their hearts to the whoopers and their story of survival.

On it’s Who We Are webpage, WCEP lists literally dozens of private individuals, organizations and corporations, as well as a myriad of government agencies, as partners and supporters of this effort. A list of the nine original WCEP partners, and a minimalist description of each follows:

International Whooping Crane Recovery Team – This is the governing body charged with responsibility for the species, and comprised of 5 scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and 5 from the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Private, Non-profit Organizations

International Crane Foundation – Founded in 1973 in Baraboo, WI, the ICF is dedicated to the conservation of all of the world’s 15 crane species, and preservation of their habitat.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Established by Congress in 1984, NFWF is one of the world’s largest conservation grant-makers, having raised more than $1.4 billion in private contributions and grantee matching funds.

Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin – A non-profit organization based in Madison, WI, the foundation boosts private sector investment and involvement in Wisconsin’s natural resources.

Operation Migration – Every year since 2001, OM has imprinted a new generation of whooping crane chicks on its ultralight aircraft, and then led them from Wisconsin to Florida on their first migration.

Government Agencies

US Fish & Wildlife Service – This bureau within the U.S. Department of Interior, is charged with conservation and management of the nation’s fish and wildlife resources, and the protection of endangered species.

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center of the U.S. Geological Survey – Located in Laurel, MD., Patuxent raises about 2/3 of all whooping cranes raised for release to the wild, and provides research and logistical support for the Wisconsin release.

USGS National Wildlife Health Center – Founded in 1975, the NWHC, located in Madison, WI, is a biomedical laboratory dedicated to assessing the impact of disease on wildlife.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – Wisconsin was the first state to officially partner with the WCRT and the USFWS in an effort to establish an eastern migrating population of whooping cranes, and has also supplied much of the environmental data used to assess the suitability of the Wisconsin sites for the cranes’ release.

You can read a more detailed description of the WCEP partners here, or visit each partner’s own website for information in-depth.