"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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David and a drawing from his 2020 exhibit.

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.