Wisconsin Nature Conservancy Co-Founder Honored for a Lifetime of Conservation Achievement

Gene Roark has been a driving force behind the Conservancy’s success in Wisconsin since he helped found the state chapter 50 years ago.

MADISON, WI | September 20, 2010

Gene Roark, a founder of The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, will be given a Land Conservation Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award later this month by the statewide conservation organization, Gathering Waters Conservancy.

“Roark has been a fixture in the Wisconsin conservation community for decades,” says Gathering Waters Executive Director Mike Strigel. “He deserves this award several times over.”

The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Nature Conservancy State Director Mary Jean Huston remarks, “Gene has been a driving force behind our success. We’ve felt his leadership over our entire 50-year history.”

In addition to being a founder, Roark served on the Conservancy's Board of Trustees for 23 years and as chairman from 1978 to 1981. He continues to be active, helping guide the Conservancy's work in the Baraboo Hills as a long-time member of the Baraboo Hills Working Group and assisting the Conservancy in advocating for public funding and policy related to natural resource conservation.

“One thing that makes the long list of his contributions so remarkable is that he does it all as a volunteer,” adds Huston.

Roark’s volunteer conservation accomplishments are so numerous it’s hard to keep count. He joined the Madison Audubon Society as a teenager, helped found The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin while in graduate school and went on to hold positions on boards of directors for the Natural Heritage Land Trust, Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Dane County Conservation League and Wisconsin Wetlands Association, among others.

Roark has dedicated many of his volunteer hours to influencing public policy to conservation ends. He has served on legislative and public policy committees for The Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association and the Invasive Plants Association of Wisconsin, another organization he helped found.

“Gene is a model activist for me,” says Strigel. “When you hear ‘environmental activist,’ it conjures up images of people chained to bulldozers. I don’t think anyone would think of Gene that way, but I know of few people who have committed so much time and energy to efforts that benefit all of us.”

This Lifetime Achievement Award will be an addition to a long list of similar honors. Roark has been formally recognized for his leadership by The Nature Conservancy, Madison Audubon Society, Dane County Conservation League and the Wisconsin Council on Invasive Species.

We can expect that list of honors to keep growing. Roark continues to serve on boards of directors and advisory committees for conservation groups statewide.

Huston remarks that “The Nature Conservancy joins many distinguished organizations in recognizing Gene as not only a link to the history of Wisconsin conservation but also a leader who, even after 60 years of service, continues to drive our future efforts.”

Currently, Roark serves as President of the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame. Perhaps this particular act of conservation leadership forecasts his induction to that esteemed list of his peers.

The Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration will be held Thursday, September 30, 2010, in Madison. For more information and to register to attend, visit

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

Contact information

Cate Harrington
The Nature Conservancy
(612) 316-6416

Mike Strigel
Gathering Waters Conservancy
(608) 251-9131 x14

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