As we celebrate Wisconsin Wetland Association’s 50th Anniversary, Laura England, former Outreach Programs Director, looks back on her time with Wisconsin Wetlands Association (WWA) and how it has inspired her recent work in North Carolina.
My five years working for WWA was a formative time for me. I was excited to have the opportunity to focus more deeply on my favorite issue—water—and I was surrounded by brilliant and passionate colleagues, led by our fierce Executive Director Becky Abel.
My outreach work was rewarding for many reasons, the foremost being connecting with others who shared a commitment to wetlands. Days in the field hosting wetland restoration workshops led by Alice Thompson were among my favorite. I witnessed wetland landowners’ faces light up as they explored restored and restorable wetland sites. A reliable “lightbulb moment” came when Alice dug soil pits and gave participants the chance to see, smell, and feel the difference between wetland and upland soils. Participants delighted in working the muck in their hands as much as they enjoyed hearing Alice’s joyful, inimitable laugh.
As lead planner for our annual conference, I found myself immersed in a community of wetland enthusiasts from every sector, including researchers, educators, consultants, regulators, and more. And what a generous community it is—these professionals gave generously of their time and expertise to help us create a program each year that enriched the work of the wetlands community in Wisconsin and beyond.
Other states rightfully look to Wisconsin’s wetland community and WWA’s outreach work as a model. Several years after I left Wisconsin for the mountains of North Carolina, I joined a small group of wetland enthusiasts and experts in founding the Carolina Wetlands Association (CarWA), a significant and tangible example of how WWA inspires wetlands work well beyond the borders of Wisconsin. CarWA is committed to the same kind of science-based approach to wetland advocacy and outreach taken by WWA.
I led CarWA in developing its flagship outreach program, Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas, which is modeled after WWA’s Wetland Gems® and is helping CarWA connect with and grow the community of wetland enthusiasts and advocates around the Carolinas. I carry forward what I learned from WWA in both big and small ways. You won’t ever catch me saying, “I’m swamped!”
As we face the growing impacts of climate change in the coming decades, wetlands around the world become ever more important. I’m so grateful for WWA’s half-century of steadfast wetlands work and for WWA’s commitment to a future with healthy and abundant wetlands!