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Natural Resources Foundation donates $33,000 to Wisconsin DNR

February 11, 2015

The Natural Resources Foundation (NRF) donated $33,000 to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) last month to help manage and restore the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway.

This donation is the result of a fund established 10 years ago by former DNR wildlife biologist Paul Brandt.

Brandt was instrumental in the creation of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, and the foundation has honored that legacy through the donation of more than $33,000 from a fund established in 2005. The fund will help protect and restore native plant communities, enhance habitat for native wildlife species and connect people to the riverway.

“Through the creation of the riverway, we were given yet another great spot to enjoy wildlife and beautiful scenery in the area,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “Paul’s work, along with partnerships between groups like the [NRF], acts as a constant reminder of the wonderful resources we’ve been given and our responsibility to act as stewards of the land.”

The State Natural Resources Board accepted the donation at its meeting in Madison, Wisconsin.

Brandt created the fund with an initial $25,000 gift, which he supplemented with $600,000 from his estate when he passed away in 2006. The fund currently generates more than $30,000 annually to the department’s Bureau of Wildlife Management to support wildlife habitat and natural areas within a six-county (Grant, Crawford, Richland, Iowa, Sauk and Dane) area along the riverway.

Brandt joined the DNR in 1972 and worked for more than 30 years as a special conservation warden, land acquisition agent, property manager, educator and wildlife biologist. In 1998, he was awarded the department’s Wildlife Manager of the Year Award for his work within Grant and Richland counties. In 2008, two years after Brandt’s death, the department dedicated the Millville Unit of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway in his memory.

“When Paul entrusted the foundation with this fund 10 years ago, he was entrusting us with the health of this incredible state treasure,” said Ruth Oppedahl, NRF executive director. “Paul’s legacy lives on in every wildlife species that calls the riverway home, in every tree and native plant that grows here and every person who camps, hikes or goes fishing along its banks.”

The department currently owns roughly 40,000 of the 79,000 acre riverway border. This donation will help support efforts to restore and manage barrens communities in Iowa, Richland and Grant counties, including: continued use of prescribed fire to maintain the community of pine, oak and sand barrens; tree harvesting and thinning, especially where the use of fire is difficult or impossible; protecting turtle nesting sites; restricting soil-disturbing activities in sensitive areas; aggressive invasive plant control; and connecting and expanding open barrens, prairies and wetlands to provide grassland bird habitat.

The NRF helps provide sustainable funding for Wisconsin’s most imperiled species and public lands, while helping citizens connect with our state’s unique natural places. In 2014, the Foundation provided more than $140,000 to the DNR for work on public lands management and rare and endangered species. For more information, visit www.wisconservation.org.

For more information regarding the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords “Lower Wisconsin State Riverway.”