Dane County Office of Lakes & Watersheds
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Dane County Watershed Network

Dane County is blessed with not only 69 named lakes, 475 miles of streams and rivers and more than 52,000 acres of wetlands, but also thousands of people that care deeply about protecting, improving and enjoying these resources today and long into the future.

Likewise, Dane County Office of Lakes & Watersheds has a history of bringing these many people together to share solutions to the variety of challenges they all face, such as monitoring, strategic partnering, capacity building, volunteer coordination and more. Through the Dane County Watershed Network, organizations with a connection to lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and more share ideas, solve problems and learn from each other.

The Office of Lakes and Watersheds expanded the Community Engagement Program in January 2014, recognizing the critical importance of working with this groups to achieve water quality improvements. The 2014-2015 Dane County Lakes and Watersheds Community Engagement Report provides an overview and highlights notable accomplishments of this expanded program during the past two years.

Water-Related Groups in Dane County

Find what watershed you live in, then look at our list to see what groups are active in your area.

Design of Network

Drawing on the strengths within the broader community (including non-profits, government agencies, and educational institutions), leadership for these gatherings is collaborative and dynamic. Each gathering has a different “design team” in order to avoid depending on only one group or burning out volunteers. Ideas, innovations and best practices are shared at each session in order for participants to be inspired about on-going work that they may not have heard about. Participants also have time to network and talk with one another about specific needs they have that another group might be able to help with, share resources and ideas, and feature upcoming events. Attendees help decide what topics will be covered and help plan future agendas.

Countywide Involvement

All Watershed Network Gatherings (WNGs) are free of charge to attendees. It is important to note that while much attention is currently focused on the Yahara watersheds, the WNGs are open to all groups in Dane County regardless of geographic location or number of members. WNGs strive to connect volunteer groups to share and collaborate. Many of the attendees are “boots on the ground” who appreciate the opportunity to network with members of similar organizations to answer their specific needs. Over 70 different groups have been invited to or attended these gatherings.

Dane Stewards Listserv

This listserv (emailing list) provides a connection among groups and people interested in water and land conservation in the Dane County area. We welcome watershed associations, friends groups, land trusts, and people from university and college departments, programs, and groups, government agencies, and any other group or individual. The listserv is a forum for announcements, exchanging information and advice, and to coordinate activities among the groups to prevent overlap, identify gaps, and provide an opportunity for partnerships.


Please click on the link below to sign up.

2016 Watershed Network Gatherings

Previous Network Gatherings

February 2016: Fundraising Seminar

Twenty people gathered at the Warner Park Community Center to learn about effective fundraising strategies from Allison Werner (Local Groups Director for the River Alliance of Wisconsin). The interactive seminar helped groups work through their fundraising goals, create a simple fundraising plan, and discuss related topics, such as board involvement in fundraising, developing a successful membership program, and donor management techniques.

Resources from this gathering are available in our online Network Resources folder.

June 2015: Social Marketing & Behavior change

On a sunny June evening, about 25 people came together at the Madison downtown Public Library to learn about social marketing strategies that help enhance strategic communication. A social marketing leaf management pilot project conducted with the Friends of Lake Wingra, City of Madison and Strand Associates Inc was presented as a case study. Towards the end of the meeting, attendees shared their organizational goals, identified overlapping themes and discussed desired behavior changes that could be addressed through a similar social marketing campaign.

January 2015: Communicating About Water to Engage Wider Audiences

On January, 28th over 30 individuals representing 20 different organizations gathered for the first watershed network meeting in 2015. The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters’ Jane Elder and Meredith Keller lead the “beta” workshop for members interested in becoming more impactful watershed advocates. Attendees explored frameworks for communicating about complex issues and how to develop effective messages around water.

October 2014: Watershed Literacy Fair

36 people came together on a crisp fall evening to learn how healthy watersheds function. 28 different organizations were represented at the fair which took place in the auditorium of the UW Arboretum Visitor Center. This highly interactive experience included several maps, models and curriculum guides. Many exhibits emphasized current land conservation practices and data assessment tools used by local resource managers. Dane County’s watershed literacy principles were also presented publically for the first time at the event.

Exhibitors & Resources

Lindsay Andrews: Program Coordinator, Lower Sugar River Watershed Association

Laurie Lambert: Conservation Specialist, Dane Co. LWRD

Phil Gaebler: Environmental Engineer, CARPC

Marian Farrior: Earth Partnership Field Manager

Jessica Conaway: Dissertator- Environment and Resources, Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies

Nancy Sheehan: Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program Coordinator, The Rock River Coalition

Carol McCartney: Outreach Manager, WGNHS

Sue Jones: Watershed Management Coordinator: Dane Co. LWRD

Wisconsin Wetlands Association's resource guide

August 2014: Learning About Watersheds: Working with Teachers, Non-formal Educators and Youth

On a beautiful evening near the shore of Lake Wingra, 15 people from 14 different organizations gathered in the Washburn Heritage Room of Edgewood College to share case studies and personal experiences about engaging youth and schools in water data collection and service learning.

June 2014: Creative Placemaking

On a beautiful evening in early June, 30 people gathered in the Wall Pavilion at Tenney Park to share case studies and personal experiences with creative placemaking at the intersection of art, science, and water. Before the meeting began, several people joined a walking tour of the art installation “Reflections from the Banks of the Yahara River."

February 2014: Maximizing Volunteer Efforts

Over 20 people from 17 different groups trekked to the Lussier Heritage Center on a cold, snowy evening to learn more about Maximizing Volunteer Efforts.

November 2013: Volunteer Monitoring

More than 40 people from 20 organizations attended the WNG featuring an overview of water quality monitoring efforts happening throughout the county. Not only was this WNG very well received, but strong interest in a follow up meeting on monitoring results was indicated.

September 2013: Strategic Partnerships

In September 2013, about 30 people from over 20 groups attended a WNG on the topic of strategic partnering. Several groups shared how they worked with businesses, schools, agencies and other institutions to achieve water quality protection and improvement goals.

April 2013: Reconnecting and Networking

Thirty-nine folks from 32 different groups attended to share their projects and learn from each other. Attendees drafted a list of topics they’d like future Watershed Network Gatherings to address.

Other Ways to Get Involved

Check www.takeastake.org for many events to help with or attend.

Comments from Attendees

Getting new ideas has been really helpful. Learning about Earth Partnership for Schools was great because I realized there are already curriculum/lessons out there and I don’t need to write a new one for every school I visit. Also brings in resources from outside of Dane County.
- Megan Phillips, Upper Sugar River Watershed Association Executive Director

At the most recent gathering, an attendee shared, ‘I’ve been doing this work for 25 years and this is the first time I found out what the City of Madison’s public heath department is monitoring. Thank you so much for bringing us together.’ My colleague at the UW-Madison Arboretum was delighted to be able to showcase her watershed education work. Several people followed up with her about her curriculum. At a previous meeting, I helped someone brainstorm ideas for their monitoring program and followed up with contact names at the Arboretum that they needed.
- Marian Farrior, UW–Madison Arboretum

The Watershed Network Gatherings weave together all the water connections, which vary at each event.
- Kate Heiber-Cobb

The networking—making connections between groups—is such a strength of the Watershed Network Gatherings. Several groups have had specific outcomes as a result of coming to these meetings.
- Anonymous exit survey response

It’s great to know what others are doing (‘What ya got? What do you need?’). It’s a bottom-up approach that serves the needs of the participants.
- Anonymous exit survey response

Connections are being made for future joint work and projects or to mentor one another.
- Anonymous exit survey response

Peer learning, growing energy from synergy of purpose and interest are real strengths of these meetings.
- Anonymous exit survey response

Thanks for organizing and holding this!
- Anonymous exit survey response

For More Information

Contact Sue Jones
Dane County Office of Lakes & Watersheds
5201 Fen Oak Drive, Room 234
Madison, WI 53718-8827
Phone: 608-224-3764
Fax: 608-224-3745



Yahara Waterways Trail Guide The Yahara Waterways Water Trail Guide is a great resource for exploring our area waters.