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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. 

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