Stories in Wisconsin

Celebrating 60 Years in Wisconsin

The Mink River Estuary in Door County, Wisconsin.
Mink River: The Mink River Estuary provides critical habitat for wildlife. © Jason Whalen/Fauna Creative
What Does Conservation Look Like? At The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, it looks like people coming together to protect our lands and waters so all people and nature can thrive together.

Sixty years ago, a small group of people who loved Wisconsin’s lands and waters and were concerned that they were disappearing came together to take action to protect them. They formed the Wisconsin chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

I’m guessing they had no idea that, 60 years later, they and those who followed in their footsteps would have protected more than 236,000 acres of Wisconsin’s most beautiful and diverse native habitats.

I want to give a shout out to these early TNC founders and supporters and to our members, donors, volunteers and the organizations and agencies with whom we collaborate today for that remarkable achievement. I hope you are as proud as I am of everything we’ve accomplished together.

During our 60th anniversary year, we’ll celebrate those successes and share inspiration for the work that lies ahead. From climate change to degraded water, our natural world faces many challenges, and the time to address them is now. We will focus on four vital priorities in the coming years, and you can help.

We are grateful for you and your efforts, and we invite you to continue to work with us and engage even more people to help solve these big challenges.

Elizabeth Koehler
Wisconsin State Director

For the Love of Wisconsin

Together, we can build on our 60-year legacy of conservation in Wisconsin and help ensure that our world is a place where people and nature can thrive!


It’s an exciting time to lead the work of the Wisconsin chapter as The Nature Conservancy celebrates its 60th anniversary in the Badger State! From a small but dedicated group of 38 members in 1960, we have grown to include more than 20,000 households who are helping protect the places in nature they care about.

The world has changed since 1960, and TNC continues to evolve as an organization to meet the conservation challenges we face today. I want to take this opportunity to share a little bit about our future direction and answer a few questions you might have about our conservation priorities.

Beautiful clear blue lake with rocky shoreline in foreground, green forest and wetlands in distance with blue sky and puffy
Pine Lake: TNC will build on its 60-year legacy of conservation in Wisconsin, creating a network of connected lands and waters that are resilient in the face of climate change. © Jim Brekke

Does TNC still protect land?

Yes! We have a 60-year legacy of pioneering new and innovative ways of protecting some of Wisconsin’s most beautiful and diverse landscapes and waters. We are proud of the vast scope and scale of our land acquisition and restoration accomplishments and of the wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities they provide.

We continue to do that work and are focused on creating a network of connected lands and waters that are resilient in the face of climate change. We also know that nature can help solve problems like flooding and poor water quality, and we are working with communities, agencies, and decision-makers at all levels to invest in Wisconsin wetlands, forests and other natural lands to help address these challenges.

On the map below you can see all the places where we’ve every protected land in Wisconsin (little acorns). Some of these lands have been transferred to other entities for long-term management and protection. You can also see the places where our other conservation strategies are touching down in Wisconsin. Download a map of the map below showing our work in Wisconsin

Wisconsin priorities
Where We Work See where our work to protect land and water, address climate change, build healthy cities and provide food and water sustainably touches down in Wisconsin. © TNC

What is TNC doing about climate change?

Climate change is the biggest challenge we face for so many reasons, including the fact that it exacerbates other major challenges like water pollution and flooding. It also puts all the lands and waters TNC has protected in our 60-year history at risk. Sadly, it has become such a polarizing issue in the U.S. that we find it difficult to talk about even with family and friends. But it’s imperative that we talk about climate change if we hope to find solutions.

Globally, TNC is focused on making nature part of the solution to climate change, such as restoring forests from Brazil to Indonesia, and working to ensure a clean energy future. In Wisconsin, we are changing the way we manage our forests in northern Wisconsin and the Baraboo Hills, so they remain healthy and resilient even as the climate changes, and we are helping private forestland owners earn income for capturing carbon in their woods. 

Man in blue shirt giving a presentation on soil health
Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance TNC is working with farmer-led groups in Wisconsin like the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance to improve soil health and water quality by using conservation practices like cover crops and reduced tillage. © Jajuan Lyons/TNC

Why is TNC working with agriculture?

With food demand expected to increase by more than 50 percent in just the next 30 years as the world’s population grows, farmers will be challenged to meet that need while protecting the health of our soil and keeping our water clean here in Wisconsin and nationwide.

We believe healthy soil is the key to both productive farming and clean water. Through the Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance, we are working with five farmer-led groups centered in Dane, Door/Kewaunee, Lafayette, Sheboygan and St. Croix counties to improve soil health and water quality by using conservation practices like cover crops and reduced tillage.

So far, the farmers in these groups have put these practices on more than 80,000 acres of land and are sharing what they learn with other farmers and encouraging them to do the same.

A woman leans over a long table with a box of white seed packets, brochures and an open laptop with a nature photo on it, ta
Escuela Verde Students: TNC is collaborating with a organizations like Escuela Verde to bring the benefits of nature to more people in Milwaukee; EV students are shown here sharing their prairie seed collection project with their community. © Gary Porter

TNC is doing more work in cities now. Why is that?

By 2050, two of every three people on Earth will live in a city. To protect nature, cities can no longer be an after-thought. Cities, and the people who bring them to life, can be the solution to many of the environmental challenges we face.

In Wisconsin, we launched a year-long planning process in September 2018 to explore conservation opportunities in the Greater Milwaukee region where we could make a difference. We especially focused on underserved communities, which face the greatest threats from degraded or depleted natural resources and stand to benefit the most from land and water conservation.

Today, our goal is to help create a more resilient and equitable Milwaukee by collaborating with other organizations to use nature to improve water quality and climate resilience and reduce the worst impacts of flooding. I look forward to reporting early outcomes this time next year.

Together We Are Stronger

The Nature Conservancy has ambitious goals for the coming decade, and you, as part of the Conservancy family, are more important today than ever. The challenges we face are urgent and complex. It will take science, innovation and a diversity of voices and perspectives to find solutions. We all have a role to play in creating a more sustainable future for ourselves and for our planet, and together we are stronger.

For the Love of Wisconsin

Together, we can build on our 60-year legacy of conservation in Wisconsin and help ensure that our world is a place where people and nature can thrive!