Wisconsin Lakes

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WI Lakes

2016 Organizational Report

Welcome to Wisconsin Lakes’ 2016 Organizational Report. Here we recap the past year, and provide greetings and thoughts from our Board President and Executive Director.

2016 financial information will be added when available sometime in 2017. In the interim, we’ve provided information from 2015.

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Contents: President’s Greeting ~ 2016 Accomplishments ~ 2015 Financial Information ~ Executive Director’s Comment

Greetings from President Mary Knipper

December 21, 2016 – Lake Delavan
WI Lakes President Mary Knipper

WI Lakes President Mary Knipper

As we reminisce following another season spent enjoying Wisconsin’s waters, and enjoy time spent with family and friends at the holidays, each of us can look back with a special appreciation for the efforts of the professionals and volunteers statewide who together make the protection of our natural resources their passion and commitment. Wisconsin Lakes has had a special place in my heart for many years, and I have had the honor to serve this fine organization, first as a Director since 2007, and as President for the past four years. As I move into the final year of my leadership role, I carry with me the many, many stories of all of you who serve your community as strong advocates and vocal supporters of the need for strong and enduring water protections that ensure sound environmental policy for future generations.

The past couple of years have presented some serious challenges and threats to our precious resources throughout the state, and with your help and membership, Wisconsin Lakes will continue to lead the effort to bring your voice to elected officials locally, regionally and statewide. We provide the information, advocacy tools, workshops and conferences, leadership support and networking opportunities to make this happen.

Thank you for your hard work, endless energy, shared stories, and hospitality……you inspire me.

Meeting the Challenge – 2016 in Review

Wisconsin Lakes entered 2016 in a difficult spot. Governor Walker’s 2015 budget veto of the longstanding partnership contract with Department of Natural Resources led to the elimination of the position of Education Director and a farewell to longtime employee Susan Tesarik, not to mention two-thirds of the organizational budget.

But sometimes challenges can bring positive change, and the Wisconsin Lakes that leaves 2016 behind is a leaner, more efficient, more focused organization that is ready to take on the new challenges of 2017. And given the past year’s obstacles, the accomplishments of 2016 speak to the stability and strength of Wisconsin Lakes, thanks in large part to the overwhelming support of the lakes community in Wisconsin.

Notable accomplishments in 2016 included:

Speaking out for strong water policy. In the fall of 2015 through the end of the legislative session in the spring of 2016, legislators launched a boatful of legislation damaging to lake policy. While not able to stop everything, Wisconsin Lakes, along with our conservation partners, helped prevent passage of damaging legislation on groundwater, dredging in lakes by individuals, and threats to Wisconsin’s public trust doctrine protections. In addition, working with Republican and Democrats alike, we were able to gain new liability protections for groups wishing to place habitat structures or navigational hazard buoys in lakes, and pass refinements to lake district law.

Participants view a presentation on advocacy at a workshop

Citizens learn to be advocates for clean water at a workshop in Rhinelander

Lakes in Action. Instrumental in the successes of the 2015-16 legislative session was the active participation of Wisconsin Lakes members, a fact that showed the power of a lake community actively advocating for lake protection. To foster and organize that power, Wisconsin Lakes partnered with the River Alliance of Wisconsin to resurrect our Lakes In Action citizen advocacy program, holding workshops in the fall to teach basic advocacy skills to individuals and lake organizations. Lakes in Action will expand in 2017 with the intent to amplify the voice of the lake community, through additional workshops, and targeted work with regional and countywide groups on local issues.




Wisconsin Lakes Partnership. Despite the end of the contract with DNR, Wisconsin Lakes remains committed to our partnership with DNR and UW-Extension’s Lakes Program, serving as the “citizen voice” in the Partnership. In 2016, our Partnership activities included:

  • WILAKES_Infographic_PartnershipThe Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Convention. This annual event in Stevens Point concentrated on our citizen monitors in Wisconsin in 2016, and is co-planned by Wisconsin Lakes and other members of the partnership. In addition, Wisconsin Lakes took over financial management of Convention funds in 2016.
  • The Lake Leaders Institute. Every other year, the Partnership gathers roughly 30 citizens, agency staff, academics, or other government employees for a course on leadership and lakes. In 2016, Crew 11 of Lake Leaders heard seminars and conducted activities on everything from basic limnology to capacity building for lake organizations to the basics of government and policy development in Wisconsin.
  • The Wisconsin Lake Stewardship Awards. Coordinated by Wisconsin Lakes and voted on by representatives from the Partnership, the Lake Stewardship Awards are handed out each year at the Lakes Partnership Convention and celebrate the best among us for efforts to protect and preserve our lake resources.

It’s Your Water, Wisconsin. A collaborative effort to illustrate the support of strong water policy by all Wisconsinites and to foster communication between advocates of disparate issues facing water in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Lakes joined with the Central Sands Water Action Coalition and the River Alliance of Wisconsin, creating a website and launching a social media campaign highlighting these issues.

FishingBuddies_Denise_Dupras10Spreading the message – Regional events. Despite losing the dedicated funding from the DNR contract that previously paid for Wisconsin Lakes’ participation in regional events, in 2016 the organization continued its work to keep these important educational workshops and conferences going. Specifically, we continued to serve on planning committees for the Northwest Wisconsin Lakes Conference, the Red Cedar Conference covering the Red Cedar watershed in western Wisconsin, and a workshop of north central countywide lakes and rivers associations. Hundreds of waterfront property owners, government officials, citizens, and others attended and learned about important lake and water issues from polluted runoff to aquatic invasive species to shoreland development and more.

Tightening the belt. Losing a significant amount of revenue forces a reconsideration of both expenses and organizational efforts, and Wisconsin Lakes took aggressive steps towards efficiency and cutting costs without sacrificing services in 2016. In addition to the regrettable elimination of the position of Education Director, we limited other expenses as well, including the downsizing of our office by moving into a more affordable shared space that also features better accessibility to lawmakers in downtown Madison. Coupled with the first increase in organizational dues since 2002, we limited the financial damage in 2016, and with a reworked strategic plan Wisconsin Lakes is in a position to fully rebound in 2017.

Wisconsin-Lakes-MembershipImproving communication. By launching a new website in the fall and committing to a larger social media presence, Wisconsin Lakes modernized and improved its communications offerings in 2016. The upgrades allow for quicker and more efficient delivery of the kind of thorough, informative communications for which we have come to be known.

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2016 was a year of successes amid challenges and a good deal of adaptation to a new reality. The year leaves Wisconsin Lakes stronger than ever, and ready for what is to come in the new year. 

Financial Information

2016 financial information will be posted here when it is available in 2017.

2015 Unrestricted Revenue (with % of total)

WDNR contract (1/2 year)               $100,000        45%
Membership contributions              $  98,764          44%
Event registration fees                      $  24,663          11%
Other                                                    $         352          <1%

TOTAL                                             $223,678

2015 Expenses (with % of total)

Education programs                         $   85,811        36%
Publications & Newsletters             $  26,473          11%
Conferences & workshops               $  31,769          13%
Public policy                                       $  19,219            8%
Management & general                    $  49,132          21%
Fundraising                                        $  26,648          11%

TOTAL                                             $239,052

Executive Director’s Notebook

Picture of Mike Engleson, Wisconsin Lakes Executive Director

WI Lakes Executive Director Michael Engleson

By Michael Engleson, Executive Director
December 21, 2016

It is often said that the only constant in the world is change. The last few years have provided particularly strong evidence for the truth of that nugget of wisdom, and little suggests the pace of change will slow as we head into 2017.

Wisconsin Lakes’ own story of change – the state government’s elimination of our partnership contract with DNR, which resulted in the loss of a significant portion of our budget and the unfortunate elimination of the Education Director position of Susan Tesarik – has been well told. Lakes themselves were also subject to numerous changes, from changes in nature in general (both those natural, and, those that are, shall we say, “prodded” by our own actions), to changes in the way we manage our waters from a policy perspective. Changing approaches shoreland zoning, new aquatic invaders, polluted runoff, over-taxing the groundwater that feeds our lakes, droughts, floods, and more all played a role and will continue to do so in the future.  We in the lakes community must be nimble, proactive, and forceful to successfully meet those challenges moving forward.

But after numerous conversations and meetings over the last year with waterfront property owners, government officials, environmentalists of all stripes, agency folks, academics, and all of you who care so deeply about clean, healthy waters for now and the future, I am confident that we will move forward. For example, rather than just give in to the divisiveness of our time, efforts are underway in many communities to bring different stakeholders together around the common issue of lake health with buzzwords like “civic governance” and “community capacity”, but that ultimately are about discovering who needs to be talking to each other, and then finding ways to make that happen and lead to positive change.

Madison's Isthmus from the air

And the success of our own “Lakes In Action” advocacy workshops in 2016, conducted in partnership with the River Alliance of Wisconsin, show how you all understand the power that the lakes community can wield if organized and vocal. We’re committed to continuing down that path in 2017 and beyond, and I cannot conceive of a more forceful response to negative change than this.

So yes, right now the future might look a little dark and uncertain, and no doubt there are changes to come that we already fear and some that we could never foresee. But as the days get longer and brighter again, so will we, the lakes community of Wisconsin, persevere. We will, because there’s too much at stake not to do so. Look at what this organization alone accomplished in 2016 after losing two-thirds of its budget. Think of what we can all do, when working together.

And now, … bring on 2017.

Questions or comments? Contact us at (608) 661-4313 or info@wisconsinlakes.org.

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