So I would like to tell you about an amazing opportunity that I was lucky enough to experience…LTA Rally in Milwaukee, WI! So LTA Rally is the national conference of the Land Trust Alliance (LTA). LTA is the national convener, strategist and representative of more than 1,700 land trusts across America. Every year LTA has Rally in a different city in the US. It’s essentially a convention for all land trusts. From across america conservation partners come together to learn, network, and discuss conservation strategies. This is my first Rally and so far I am having a wonderful time.
I came to this conference to learn more about conservation easement monitoring as I will be gradually taking over the monitoring role of our easements in the Southeast Coastal Plain. The seminars were very helpful and I learned so much, meeting new people is always one of my favorite things, but the best part of the whole Rally was the field trip.
The field trip I attended was an exploration of Wisconsin partnerships in conservation, I thought I would like to see what creative techniques folks are using in Wisconsin to protect land. Boy was I amazed at what is going on up here in the bitter cold temperatures along the coast of Lake Michigan (and yes it was soooooooo cold for my thin North Carolina blood, 58 degrees and blustery wind gusting around 40 mph).
Our trip, led by Shawn Graff and Garry Schalla of the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT), included 3 stops at places they had partnered to protect. First stop was to the Mequon Nature Preserve, a natural classroom learning facility that was made possible by a partnership with the OWLT and the city of Mequon, WI. The preserve is 1 square mile of restored farm land that also offers a natural classroom for local schools.
The learning facility is a converted church, and when I say converted I mean completely converted, leeds platinum converted. Absolutely beautiful from the green roof all the way down to the recycled carpet tiles. It was an amazing project that took 11 years to create and still has several years planned. What a great opportunity for local schools and the community.
Our next stop was the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, a converted golf course that is now the first midwest migratory bird 5 star hotel. The preserve came to be from a partnership of 10 different agencies including The Nature Conservancy! The preserve is managed by OWLT and is open to the public for birding and hiking. A unique part of this amazing preserve is the 40 acre sustainable farm called Fondy Farms that provides fresh local produce to some of Milwaukee’s poorest neighborhoods; amazing. The farm provided our lunch for the field trip and it was soooooo delicious! To learn more about Fondy Farms click here.
Our next stop was a 26 acre OWLT preserve called Donges Bay Gorge. The property was owned by the Kurth family, an old barley malt family who made their fortune during the Milwaukee beer boom. The historic home, which no longer exists, was located on a 100 foot bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. The most significant natural features of the property are the ravine that runs through the center of the property and the 100 foot bluff overlooking the, which also happens to be the home of a nesting pair of bald eagles. The eagles have been on the property for 4 years and have fledged 10 eaglets. So cool! The OWLT will be partnering with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra to hold summer outdoor musical events on the property. There is an old pool house that has ben restored and a small amphitheater that will be constructed to hold concerts. This effort will hopefully bring a different demographic out into nature. What a great and different partnership.
Our final stop (and a great way to end a Wisconsin day) was a brewery tour at Sprecher Brewery in downtown Milwaukee! Milwaukee was once the beer capital of the US, and though its production of beer has slowed in the past couple of decades, it is still home to many microbreweries, including the small family owned Sprecher Brewing Company. We had a tour and tasted many beers and sodas. That’s right! Sprecher is better known for its sodas, specifically its root beer. It sells more root beer than all of its other products combined! Sprecher Brewery uses triple filtered Milwaukee River water for all of its products and is in the process of partnering OWLT to protect valuable land at the headwaters of the river, so innovative. Protecting natural spaces that can relate to a human interest is what I witnessed in this beautiful region, and it’s working so well, for the benefit of nature and people.
And so it goes in Wisconsin…