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Advancing Land Health: Welcoming New Stewardship Staff

The foundation’s day to day work is advanced by a dedicated group of staff, interns and volunteers. Over the past year, we’ve been fortunate to be able to welcome some new faces to our Stewardship staff team, and we thought we’d give you a chance to meet them as well!

Carl Cotter, Leopold-Pine Island Important Bird Area Stewardship and Fellowship Coordinator

Carl CotterWhat do you do for the foundation?
Most of my time is devoted to one of three areas: active land management, IBA programming and the fellowship program. I work with other staff on long term planning and day to day implementation of stewardship practices on the 617 acres that the foundation owns, as well as on adjacent private lands. I also coordinate the programming and outreach for the Leopold-Pine Island Important Bird Area. Lastly, I oversee the foundation’s land stewardship fellows, a program that has produced over 50 young conservation professionals that have gone on to do great things in the field all over the country. The fellowship program is especially important to me, because got a lot out of it during my time as a fellow.


What is your educational and professional background?

I attended Iowa State University, with a BS in Global Resource Systems and Forestry and a minor in Sustainability. I started at ISU in the inaugural year of a program titled Global Resource Systems. GRS is an interdisciplinary program that mixes hard science with some policy courses and development policy. I valued my time there getting a good background knowledge in forestry, but also got to learn about non-profit management and development policy. I really enjoyed my cohort in my major and got a lot out of my time at ISU.

Where are you originally from?
I am a Wisconisite, born and bred. I have had the pleasure of living in 6 Wisconsin counties. But I consider Columbus (where I spent my high school years) my hometown.

What brought you to work in the environmental field?
My experiences in the outdoors as a young person led me to love and appreciate the wilds of Wisconsin. In high school, camping, canoeing, fishing and hunting and hiking throughout the state with my best friend really defined my career path.

When did you start working with the foundation?
I started as a Land Stewardship Fellow in early February 2014.

What is your favorite part of your job? 
My favorite part is the emotional connection that I have to this piece of property and to this organization. Five years ago, if you would have told me that I would be able to work on, play on and experience a landscape that was so formative to Aldo Leopold, I wouldn’t have believed you. It has been a blessing and a pleasure to get to know this property and to work for its betterment.

What is the biggest challenge?
There are too many exciting things going on here at the foundation. Trying to juggle so many projects can turn into long weeks.

How has working for the foundation changed your thinking?
I have changed the way I think about landscape-scale management. After being involved with the IBA project and seeing their model of science-driven, landscape-scale management on a large, mixed-ownership, I have a new appreciation for the work that goes into planning and execution of meaningful management.

What is your favorite Leopold quote/essay?
My favorite Leopold essay is “Axe-In-Hand,” from the November chapter of A Sand County Almanac.  That is the essay that speaks to me most because I have chosen to spend my professional life “writing my signature on the face of the land”. It is an essay that always recharges my batteries and makes me happy that I have chosen the field that I have.

Dakota Johnson, Site Manager

Dakota JohnsonWhat do you do for the foundation?
I maintain the function, safety and beauty of the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s properties and associating environs, including taking care of the Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm, the Leopold Center, our fellows housing, and our sandhill crane viewing blinds.

What is your educational and professional background?
I have a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Where are you originally from?
North Freedom, WI

What brought you to work in the environmental field?
Growing up in Sauk County surrounded by an engaged conservation community.

When did you start working for the foundation?
I started as a 6 week summer land stewardship fellow in 2013.

What is your favorite part of your job?
The chance to put every work day into context next to Aldo Leopold’s legacy.

What is the biggest challenge?
Learning 1,600 acres of land along with all of our assets in order to be the best steward of each that I can be.

How has working for the foundation changed your thinking?
I am learning to not work blindly; I am learning to work with a purpose the purpose of better understanding the land, people, and culture.

What is your favorite Leopold quote/essay?
“Then you hear it-a vast pulsing harmony-its score inscribed on a thousand hills, its notes the lives and death of plants and animals, its rhythms spanning the seconds and the centuries” (From “Song of the Gavilan”)