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Driftless Area Land Conservancy's 2021 Highlights

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

Your support makes great things happen! 2021 had many challenges, but thanks to our community of donors, partners, volunteers, and supporters, DALC accomplished incredible work. Check out some of the highlights!

Land Conservation and Stewardship

Created a Director of Conservation Programs position. Cindy Becker stepped into this role at the beginning of the year to fulfill DALC’s commitment to “protect what we manage and manage what we protect.” All of our fee title properties now have updated management plans and an increasing number of volunteers to help care for them.

Revitalized our volunteer base. Under Cindy’s leadership, we saw 66 volunteers provide nearly 750 recorded hours of service in 2021, bolstered by two six-person WisCorps crews. They controlled invasive species, carried out two large prescribed burns, removed fences, built trails, and catalogued a huge diversity of flora and fauna.

Opened the first segment of the Driftless Trail. The Weaver Road Trail is a mile-long out-and-back trail that takes you from a spectacular vista, down a wooded valley and around a rocky pine relict to a spring-fed stream. WisCorps crews spent three weeks constructing trail a second 2.7 mile segment that will open in 2022. We are set for making great progress on the ground in 2022!

Completed the Spring Valley Tract land management plan. We and our partners have spent 2021 learning from this land and designing management strategies that contribute toward our vision of demonstrating compatible agricultural, recreational, and biodiversity goals. Restoration has begun on the oak savanna.

Achieved our fundraising goals for Ringelstetter Wetland. In 2020, a grassroots effort was launched to preserve this 154-acre marsh along the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. Community members asked DALC to take the lead on acquiring this special place. DALC secured a Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grant, and the community led local fundraising efforts. Awareness grew about this special place, and with the help of The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, numerous members of the local community, and a successful Giving Tuesday campaign, we met our fundraising goal. DALC will acquire the property in early 2022 and will subsequently transfer ownership to the DNR to make it part of the Riverway, designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.

Partnerships and Community Resources

Strengthened our many partnerships, despite pandemic related challenges, and celebrated many accomplishments, including:

Lowery Creek Watershed Initiative:

  • Collected our third year of stream monitoring data, which has inspired others to start monitoring, and partially contributed to elevating Lowery Creek to a Class I trout stream. This stream has a healthy “heritage population” of native brook trout.

  • Brought back the popular Evenings Afield series, bringing community members together outside on such topics as monitoring water quality, regenerative fruit production, and installing solar panels.

  • Completed an online mapping tool with 22 layers of data.

Iowa County CLEA-N (Clean Local Energy Alliance – Now)

  • Completed an energy efficient lightbulb exchange, distributing 750 bulbs to 1100 households, which will save an estimated $550,000 of electrical costs over the lifetime of the bulbs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 200 metric tons annually.

  • Partnered with a local solar contractor for a “solar group buy,” with a goal of adding solar to at least fifty homes and businesses. The group buy makes solar energy more accessible, as it reduces the cost and streamlines paperwork.

Southern Driftless Grasslands

  • Worked with landowners to improve over 1,000 acres of grassland habitat.

  • Displayed the Celebrate Grasslands! Exhibit at six local libraries. This traveling exhibit on grassland bird ecology shared insights into preferred habitats, stories of migration, and protection efforts.

  • Created a video highlighting conservation practices adopted by grassland managers and landowners to enhance grassland habitat.

Transmission line opposition

  • With the dedicated support of our law partners at ELPC, DALC pursued cases against ATC and received encouraging signs in both state and federal court, as judges agreed that conservation groups are likely to prevail on the merits of the case.

  • Opponents of ATC worked hard throughout the year to make their voices heard by attending hearings, contacting elected officials, putting up signs, and attending a vehicle protest parade in November.

  • In early 2022, our efforts were rewarded. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin issued a ruling blocking the Cardinal-Hickory Creek (CHC) transmission line project from crossing the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. We have a ways to go to completely stop the transmission line, but this ruling certainly bolsters our efforts and reinvigorates our campaign.

Organizational Capacity

Completed our five-year accreditation renewal. Accreditation by the national Land Trust Alliance shows that DALC meets the highest standards of excellence, trust, and permanence. Renewal is an intensely detailed process and we commend our Operations Manager, Natasha Rank, for leading this process!

Added four new board members. Jordy, Yasi, Peter, and Tim have brought a wealth of knowledge about land restoration, public policy, and local communities to DALC, and contributed so much to our work in their first year. Thank you!

Held ongoing JEDI conversations. Staff explored issues around justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in preparation for a deeper commitment to JEDI work as we enter our next strategic plan.

Accepted a major gift. We were honored to receive a $100,000 gift from Don Nelson, the uncle of our Project and Grants Specialist Barb Barzen. A longtime conservationist in his hometown of Northfield, MN, hearing DALC’s mission statement instantly touched Don’s heart. This gift, provided from an IRA distribution, will help plant the seed to inspire other IRA distributions, and will be used over multiple years to leverage other funds and support the Lowery Creek Watershed Initiative and other projects.

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