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OWLT News

The 2015 Preservation Awards

The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust is a true community organization. It quite literally could not exist without the support of volunteers, donors, and supporters of all types. That is why OWLT takes great pride each year in presenting their Preservation Awards for leadership, outreach, stewardship and volunteerism.

The awards are presented each year at the OWLT Fly In Feast – an annual celebration of the land trust’s great work and great friends. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, August 22 at the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve in Port Washington.

The Recipients

The 2015 Patricia Wilmeth Stewardship Award will be presented to Erwin and Jane Dohmen. The Stewardship Award is for outstanding work on behalf of our natural environment.

When OWLT acquired Forest Beach Migratory Preserve in 2008 it came with a few structures that are not part of your typical nature preserve.  One of those structures was a clubhouse.  Not sure about a future re-use of the old building, OWLT shut it down for its first winter and began to contemplate its use.  That is when good folks like Noel Cutright and Marjie Tomter came forward with some crazy ideas like operating a bird observatory or hosting an annual event to celebrate the treasured public spaces in Ozaukee County.  Staff started thinking about housing interns in the attached apartment.  Partner organizations such as the Department of Natural Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin Coastal Management and Gathering Waters inquired about using the building for events and programs. 

The need was there, but there was just one problem – the roof and many of the windows leaked, gutters were damaged and the inside walls were dark and in need of a fresh coat of paint.  That’s when Erv and Jane Dohmen stepped forward. 

As neighbors to the preserve Erv and Jane were elated that the former golf course was protected from development and slated to become a major migratory stop over site.  They became excited about the potential of the building and were confident that it had a viable future.  But Erv and Jane knew there was no future for the building if something wasn’t done to stabilize it quickly.  They stepped forward to make sure the roof and window repairs were taken care of and that a fresh coat of paint was applied to the walls of the main level. 

Today the building serves as the headquarters for the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory and Treasures of Oz, houses dozens of interns and AmeriCorps crew members each summer and hosts many conservation programs and workshops sponsored by OWLT and partner organizations. 

And if the Dohmen’s generosity in stabilizing the building was not enough, they were also instrumental in helping find and commission artist Don Rambardt to design and build the handsome sign that now graces the entrance to Forest Beach Migratory Preserve.  

The Michael Frome Outreach Award will be presented to Dan Egan of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The Outreach Award is for demonstrating excellence in educating or sharing information related to land preservation and the environment.

Since 2003, Dan Egan has been reporting on threats facing the Great Lakes.  His groundbreaking work has shown the damage caused by invasive species and has laid out the bold steps that could be taken to restore and protect the world’s largest freshwater system.  He has been twice named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his environmental reporting.    

In his 2012 series “Deep Trouble,” Dan took an in-depth look at the solutions being recommended to protect not just the Great Lakes but virtually all American inland waters from the Asian carp.  In 2014, Dan dug into the stories behind the massive manure fueled algae blooms that were creating dead zones in Lake Erie and Green Bay.   He methodically chronicled the events leading up the poisoning of Toledo’s water supply and clearly articulated how the phosphorus-rich manure is getting into the streams, creeks and rivers that flow into Green Bay. 

His reporting helps the reader understand the impact we are having on our most important natural resources and forces us to think differently about the cause and effect of our actions and non-actions. 

The 2015 Timothy Kaul Leadership Award will be presented to Kevin Shafer, Executive Director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD.) The Leadership Award is given to a public servant or community leader who has shown outstanding leadership in conservation. 

When Kevin Shafer become Executive Director of MMSD in 2002 he made a commitment to providing green infrastructure solutions to help with water quality and quantity in the Milwaukee River Watershed.   His innovative Greenseams Program reflect his own personal commitment to Wisconsin’s land conservation movement.  Kevin Shafer promotes this movement by utilizing green infrastructure to advance river health, stream health, and lake health; and directly by conserving precious and valuable lands through the Greenseams Program. 

Beyond green infrastructure, this program directly contributes to land preservation through land purchases and conservation easements in the Milwaukee, Menomonee, Oak Creek, and Root River watersheds.  Greenseams not only protects land from development but restores many properties to their native wetland, prairie, and forest habitats.  Through the Greenseams Program, MMSD partners with and provides funding to several area land trusts and local government units to protect over 2,300 acres.  Last year the program went beyond its district boundaries and is protecting lands in the upper reaches of the Milwaukee River Watershed in Ozaukee and Washington Counties.  Today Greenseams affects over 1 million residents, and is creating 28 healthier communities. 

In 2015, MMSD took the Greenseams program another step further and committed to spend $400,000 per year for the next four years to protect working agricultural lands in Ozaukee and Washington Counties.  This companion program called the Working Soils Program will partner with local land trusts and government agencies to oversee land conservation.  The Working Soils Program will match MMSD dollars with funds from the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and other public and private funding sources to ultimately acquire land or easements.  The program will then work with farmers to implement best management practices that reduce sediment and filter runoff before it reaches our streams and rivers.   

The Arthur E. Schait Volunteerism Award will be presented to the wonderful group of office volunteers - Pat Bernhagen, Barb Gahan, John Hacker, Janis Lopez, Chris Mueller, Mary Paul and Roseann Strigel. This group fills out the OWLT office staff every day of the week. They don’t often get recognized for what they do, but OWLT would struggle without them! This award is overdue for these tireless volunteers.

On Mondays Janis Lopez is a data entry professional tracking volunteer/staff hours, projects, grants and hunting applications. On Tuesdays and Thursdays Pat Bernhagen sews up a storm making bird bags for banding operations, quilts for our silent auctions, and handles other office projects as needed. She’s joined by Chris Mueller who serves as a receptionist, comptroller, mail courier and finder of good buys. On Wednesdays John Hacker works with databases doing ad hoc reports and analyses while Barb Gahan maintains newspaper clippings and related articles of OWLT. Barb also organizes the filing system and takes good care of indoor plants.

You’ll also find Roseann Strigel writing letters or Mary Paul working on staff development and presenting workshops for volunteers and staff.

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