Volunteer Highlight: Piece of Praise for Hard Work and Service

By Cindy Becker, Director of Conservation Programs

This past week, I took a few hours to enter the volunteer log sheets that have been piling up on my desk. This deep wave of gratitude and a feeling of warmth came over me as I documented the many hours of effort our steadfast volunteers have put in at our properties this year.  Each site is different.  Erickson Conservation Area has been under the care of a cadre of volunteers since it became an Ambassador Property, while Sardeson Preserve and Spring Valley Tract have only recently been getting care and attention.  My mind flashed back to the many work days DALC held this year – each with a different crew, a different obstacle, and a different goal.  I feel surrounded and supported at times like these, and for that, I am so very grateful. Together, our volunteers have logged nearly 750 hours on DALC properties.  And there are likely hours that I still am not accounting for. 


This year, DALC also worked hand in hand with three WisCorp crews (www.wiscorps.org) towards our restoration goals. With their help, we started our work clearing brush from the oak savanna at Spring Valley Tract, expanded the prairie-wetland complex at Erickson Conservation Area,  and built several miles of the Driftless Trail. Each crew was truly a joy to work with – even as we fared temperature extremes that ranged from a 95 degree heat wave to a sudden wet snowy blizzard.   


So, my Piece of Praise is my gratitude for the volunteers and members of our community involved in service.  Your work does not go un-noticed. 


Thank you!


Cindy Becker

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Resha Wyman and Chuck Tennessen 


Volunteer Highlight: The Joy of Working with Like-Minded Folks

Resha’s been a dedicated environmental activist for most of her life.  While working as a speech pathologist in the Dodgeville School District Resha helped launch the Green & Healthy Schools program.  At the same time, in the community she was a dedicated member of Sustain Iowa County and a citizen lobbyist representing Iowa County with Citizens’ Climate Lobby.  In that capacity Resha joined other citizen lobbyists in Washington D.C. to advocate for a fee on carbon-based fuels.


Resha has been volunteering for many years, doing everything from stuffing envelopes to seed cleaning. More recently, she helped with DALC’s county-wide CLEA-N project that encourages folks to exchange incandescent lightbulbs with efficient LEDs.  “I delivered LED light bulbs for CLEA-N because it is a great idea to help people reduce their carbon output even a little bit.  And I know from experience that when a DALC staff member invites me to help with something it will be environmentally and socially significant and will involve meeting and working with fun, interesting, smart and caring people.


“I was surprised at how friendly and helpful people were when I called about delivery times for the LED bulbs and at how many people remembered to put out their old light bulbs for me to pick up. 


“When I went back to the DALC office to pick up a second batch of bulbs, I was delighted to see an old friend from Citizens’ Climate Lobby, whom I had not seen since before Covid.  She was also getting another batch to deliver.  We talked briefly, and I felt lightened, fortunate and enriched by just having talked to her and by remembering how much we had had in common over the past 20 plus years.”


Besides volunteering, Resha loves to tend and improve her 4 acres in the Driftless area.  “Just about anywhere in the Driftless is beautiful and very interesting.”


"I am intrigued by small details in nature that are often overlooked."

Volunteer Highlight: Capturing the Beauty of Bloomfield

As we celebrate our 20th Anniversary and highlight the generosity of our community we'd like to introduce the DALC family to some special donors and supporters. Danni Lang, our Development Associate, spoke with the artist M.Roelli. Her photos are used in countless DALC publications and help tell the story of conservation. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook to see more of her work or order prints. 


How did you first hear about Driftless Area Land Conservancy?


I moved to this region from Northern Wisconsin to work at Folklore Village. Shortly after I started, Driftless Area Land Conservancy members burned Folklore Village's prairie. This was my first encounter with large scale, hands-on conservancy work, and my first time seeing a burn. (Pretty exciting introduction!) This opened my eyes to the incredible changes that can happen to the land when people care for it. 


What inspires you to take photos at Bloomfield Prairie and other beautiful places in the Driftless?


I am intrigued by small details in nature that are often overlooked. Wide views are gorgeous, but when you get close and take the time to really look at a flower or rock or leaf you discover a world of intricate beauty. Textures and color combinations always amaze me and make me smile. I try to capture this feeling in photographs to not only help it last, but to remind us all to look closer. 


Why do you volunteer to let DALC use your photos to tell the story of conservation?


I try to photograph nature in ways that make people pause and smile. I know DALC strives to preserve this land - I strive to help people notice  it. I'm honored that you share my photos and hope they inspire people to explore and spend a little time with whatever bit of the world they encounter. 


What is your favorite part of the Driftless?


I grew up among the lakes and forests of Northern Wisconsin. When I moved here, I was absolutely blown away by the rolling hills, rock outcroppings and panoramic views that seemed to just open up around every curve.  I wondered if that feeling would wear off after "I got used to it."  It hasn't. I'm still in awe every single day.  Mix in the spring ephemerals tucked in wooded areas, the showy blooms of a prairie and the magnificent lone oak trees in fields and you have the incredible Driftless. (I realize this is more than one thing, but I can't choose a favorite. My favorite is the incredible diversity!) 

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"The key to me seems to be to do what you can."

Volunteer Spotlight: Keith Burrows at Sardeson Preserve

What inspired you to volunteer with DALC at Sardeson Preserve?

I had two reasons. I'd already been looking for a way to volunteer with DALC for a while, and since this opportunity was right in my backyard it seemed like an easy first step. I also knew Roland Sardeson; he was particularly welcoming when we moved to the area fourteen years ago. Roland had a huge influence on Mineral Point and this seemed like a good way to honor his memory.


Can you share a favorite moment or part of the volunteer experience with others?

Definitely learning more about forests from the conversations with the DALC staff--their explanations of concepts like the soil seedy bank really helped me understand forest management practices better.


Why do you value giving both your time and financial support?

I don't think DALC could do the work they do without both. Some people have more time available, some have more money available, but the key to me seems to be to do what you can.


What is your favorite part of the Driftless?

That's such a hard question, but last year I started fishing and so all the beautiful trout streams are my newest favorite part of the Driftless.


Board Member Highlight: 20 Years of Service and Support

Mark Mittelstadt first met the Driftless Area while in UW-Madison through the hills and winding roads and during a little trout fishing.  After graduating he decided to stay a while since it looked like the woods, streams and dairy farms in western New York where he grew up.  Forty years later he's still here!  Mark is wrapping up a career as a forester for private landowners, spending more time on his own lands and with DALC projects including land management and the CHC transmission line opposition.    


Mark first met his wife Brenda on a natural area tour, and their wedding rings include a savanna oak and an endangered frog.  Their love for the outdoors moved them to join a group of neighbors and local conservationists to form the Driftless Area Land Conservancy 20 years ago. 


They both served as early board members, helping DALC find its direction.  Mark continues to serve on the board to this day.  Their involvement in projects like the Thomas easement in Barneveld, the Boley property, and winning Land Trust of the Year in 2017 bring them a lot of pride. He has been a key connection to the Erickson Conservation Area in Argyle, where the volunteer group noted that he's the constant from DALC who has been with them from the beginning. 


Mark and Brenda not only give of their time and expertise, but also provide financial support. The lack of permanence in forestry and land projects, particularly when the land changes hands, has been frustrating.  However, DALC conservation easements provide protection for the land and natural resources, forever.  Mark was particularly inspired by the thoughts of past Board member Jim O'Brien and his wife Rumi: to give to good causes while you can see the results, instead of waiting until you pass on.  "When DALC has more to work with, more good work gets done."


A big thank you goes out to Mark and Brenda Mittelstadt for all their hard work and support over the last 20 years!


"My participation on the board and in other Conservancy activities was the privilege of a lifetime."

Donor Highlight: Early Contributions from Doug Booth

As we celebrate our 20th Anniversary and highlight the generosity of our community we'd like to introduce the DALC family to some special donors and supporters. Danni Lang, our Development Associate, caught up with long-time supporter Doug Booth earlier this year.


How did you first hear about Driftless Area Land Conservancy? 


I initially became interested in land trusts after doing some academic research on the role they were playing in 1990s Mountain West land protection at a time of explosive growth in rural housing development. In 1999, Tim Freeman (Mineral Point), Dave Lowe (Dodgeville), and I attended a workshop on land trusts given by The Nature Conservancy. We discussed the need for a land trust in the Driftless Area with the presenters, and they suggested connecting with Gathering Waters (GW). An organizing meeting was called with GW’s help, and the ball was rolling for the founding of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy. I became a board member and treasurer, positions I held for the next seven years. 


What was serving on the early board of DALC like?


For me personally, being on the board gave me a special opportunity to get to know some amazing folks with a deep interest in land protection and, most importantly, to help protect the natural wonders of the Driftless Area landscape. The drama of whether the Conservancy was going to survive and successfully protect farmland and natural habitat continued for a number of years, although we were lucky early on in being able to acquire the Deane Arne easement and protect the historic Thomas stone barn. In my seven years on the board I did a lot of commuting from my home in Milwaukee, but it was well worth it. My participation on the board and in other Conservancy activities was the privilege of a lifetime. 


What inspired you to make monthly gifts to protect the Driftless area?


I love the Driftless landscape and desire deeply to see it protected from excess development. I stand amazed at the progress the Conservancy has made in accomplishing this task over the last decade and will continue to contribute financially as long as I am able.


What is your favorite part of the Driftless? 


This is a truly difficult question to answer. I am a big fan of grasslands and love the beauty of their grasses and  wildflowers. I am also attracted to the expanses of hills and hollows visible everywhere, but especially as a backdrop to the Wisconsin River Valley. As I have learned more about the Driftless Area over the years, I have become especially impressed by its diversity of habitats and the species they support.



David leading a group through his property.


David shaking hands with former Executive Director David Clutter upon finalizing the Kopitzke-Klawiter conservation easement.

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One of David's gorgeous drawings.

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Donor Highlight: 21 Years of Support

As we celebrate our 20th Anniversary and highlight the generosity of our community we'd like to introduce the DALC family to some special donors and supporters. Atop this list is David Kopitzke and Paul Klawiter. Emily Benz, our interim communications lead, caught up with David in February and learned that his ties to Driftless Area Land Conservancy run deep, his love for the land is strong, and his trust in the future work of DALC is great. 


In 2000, southwest Wisconsin did not have a go-to source for private land protection. The Mississippi Valley Conservancy to the west and then Natural Heritage Foundation (now Groundswell) to the east were working hard but unable to expand their reach into the lands between them.  At the time, David was working for the Bureau of Endangered Resources and got to know Vicki Elkin who was at the helm of Gathering Waters, the central organizer for land trusts across the state. Vicki initially reached out to other MVC and NH but they couldn't expand their services areas. So she determined there was sufficient interest in seeing a land trust come together for southwest Wisconsin and conveyed that to David and others. David joined Vicki and several locals land stewards and conservation-minded friends from Madison at a meeting at Bud Jordahl's farm in 2000. This group would eventually create Driftless Area Land Conservancy. David, along with Tim Freeman (who was the first president), Doug Booth, Brenda Gasch, Brad Glass, Harald "Jordy" Jordahl, Dave Lowe, and Mark Mittelstadt became the founding members. 

In the early days, becoming a non-profit through official 501(c)(3) status and hiring staff were early milestones and now David is pleased with how far DALC has come. "I am so pleased and amazed. Now of us knew how it would all turn out, or if there would be staff, or ample funding." David's vocation gave him a keen sense of what real conservation work demanded of our communities and he likes to draw the analogy that conservation is like a three-legged stool. He says one leg is the government, one leg is conservation organizations, and one leg is private land owners. "If the stool is to stand properly, the private land owners must be involved."

From the outset David had hoped his property would be a candidate for a future conservation easement. He and his partner Paul Klawiter bought their place in 1974 in western Richland County. Since its inception, the Board had  had several conversations about ethical behavior and conflicts of interest in operating a land trust. They wanted to be above-the-bar and gain the trust of their supporters, something David still believes is at the core of DALC's work. "The ethical standards of this work are really important," David reflected recently. He recused himself from several meetings before it was determined that his property was ecologically important and worthy of an easement. On September 11, 2015 David and Paul's 82+ acres were signed into conservation easement. 


David is an accomplished botanist and artist and continues to support DALC in myriad ways including ongoing donations and the sale of his artwork. In January 2020, he donated to DALC a portion of the proceeds from his exhibit "Wisconsin Flora through the Four Seasons" at the UW-Madison Arboretum.


We are grateful for David's early contributions to DALC's founding and to his ongoing trust in the work we are doing every day. DALC will apply for accreditation renewal in 2021. it is through the support of generous community members like David that the conservation work in southwest Wisconsin continues to thrive. 


David and a drawing from his 2020 exhibit.