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Recipients of the 2024 Invader Crusader Awards stand with plaques at the awards ceremony held at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge on June 5, 2024. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR

Ontario resident among those recognized by DNR for invasive species work

MADISON, Wis. – Ontario, Wis. resident Marla Lind is among those being awarded the Invasive Species Action Award by the Wisconsin Departmeent of Natural Resources (DNR). The winners of the 2024 Invasive Species Action Awards were presented by the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council during Invasive Species Action Month. The governor-appointed Council advises the DNR and the state legislature on invasive species issues.

The Council gives the awards, previously known as the Invader Crusader Awards, to individuals and groups in professional and volunteer settings that positively impact the fight against invasives. The winners represent all regions of Wisconsin. They used many different approaches in their fight against invasives, but each winner is united in putting in long hours in the ongoing battle against the spread of invasive species.

This year’s winners include:

Professional Individual Category

  • Amy Kretlow, Plymouth: Kretlow has worked with aquatic invasive species since joining the DNR in 2016 as the Southeast Wisconsin aquatic invasive species coordinator. She became the statewide program lead in 2021, working tirelessly on aquatic invasive prevention, management, collaboration and policy development. She has shown a commitment to advancing the understanding, management and prevention of aquatic invasive species.
  • Jason Granberg, Madison: A DNR invasive species specialist, Granberg’s work behind the scenes has been pivotal in coordinating the statewide effort to fight invasives. He is an expert at managing data, interpreting it and explaining it in a way that tells a story. Also, Granberg has been instrumental in securing grant funds for the DNR to support control efforts at multiple State Natural Areas.
  • Jeb Barzen, Spring Green: Barzen’s mission is to help farmers give back to nature by planting native species and restoring native habitats through the “Healthy Grown” program. He educates farmers on using pesticides cautiously and regularly teaches a class on using prescribed burning as a control method. He eagerly shares the workload and teaches others the basics and importance of invasive control.

Volunteer Individual Category

  • Bob Hay, Madison: Hay’s tireless efforts have greatly benefited Mazomanie Oak Barrens State Natural Area. Hay has mentored volunteers to decrease invasive plants on site, leading a small team that has donated more than 3,250 work hours at the property since 2012, including hundreds of hours of his time. The team has nearly eliminated several invasives from the 77-acre area they manage.
  • Dan Umhoefer, Marshfield: He has removed many invasive species from Marshfield’s urban forests and restored its ecological diversity by planting and nurturing service flora. He also fights noise pollution, doing all his work by hand with a bow saw. This manual labor has transformed local environments in an unobtrusive and ecologically friendly way.
  • John Mariani, Burlington: Since 2003, Mariani has singlehandedly removed thousands of exotic invasive woody and herbaceous plant species to restore 60 acres of oak and hickory savannah near the Racine County city of Burlington. He has started his landscape design business and shows others how and why to use native plants. John also gives tours and mentors students, clubs and tradespeople on ecological restoration.
  • Marla Lind, Ontario: In addition to her work as a volunteer coordinator at the 3,821-acre Wildcat Mountain State Park, located in the heart of the Driftless Region in the Vernon County village of Ontario, Lind provided 410.2 volunteer hours fighting invasive species in the park. With her constant high energy, Lind continually monitors, surveys and identifies new invasives and leads and trains volunteers during workdays.
  • Paul Regnier, Bailey’s Harbor: Regnier’s efforts with invasives include private landowners, non-profits and governmental agencies. One example of his sharp focus on best practices is his work within Marshall’s Point, a privately owned, 1,000-acre peninsula in Door County. Regnier specializes in an ecological approach to managing natural areas, minimizing chemical and physical disturbances to native landscapes.
  • Sue Easterday, Fitchburg: Easterday, the chair of the City of Fitchburg Parks Commission since 2022, collaborates with colleagues throughout the region to bring resources to aid in the fight against invasive species in the city’s park system. She leads numerous projects, including recruiting volunteers to gather native seeds from public and private prairies to grow hundreds of native plant plugs for city parks and natural areas annually.

Professional Group Category

  • Jake and Brigid Williams, Poplar: Through their business, Regenerative Ruminants, the Williamses have put about 50 grazing goats to work in and around their Douglas County village of Poplar, eradicating buckthorn, tansy, goldenrod and other invasives on private and public lands. They ran a DNR pilot project in the Brule River State Forest that brought this innovative, fast-growing approach into statewide focus.
  • Waukesha County Department of Parks and Land Use: Taking a proactive approach to growing urbanization, the department has maintained an extensive, natural resource-based parks system covering over 8,000 acres. Community-based volunteer initiatives, data-driven land management and innovative regional partnerships have built an impressive team that fulfills its stewardship mission.

Volunteer Group Category

  • The Kappel family, Marshfield: Barry Kappel, Carol Berg-Kappel and their grandson, Christopher, have given more than 250 hours of volunteer work to provide purple loosestrife biocontrol to numerous locations in central and northeast Wisconsin, including their 70-acre restored prairie just north of Marshfield. They have created a self-sustaining insectary of Galerucella beetles to feed on the invasive plants.
  • Elm Grove Beautification Committee – Invasive Species Task Force: After forming in 2020, the group has worked almost every Sunday, providing 285 volunteer hours in 2023 to fight invasive species on public property in their Waukesha County village. One of the group’s goals is to eliminate all buckthorn from the 79-acre village park. Recently, its mission has grown to promote education on invasive species.

Congratulations to this year’s award recipients for their dedication to the prevention, control and eradication of invasive species in Wisconsin. More information about invasive species and resources for helping to prevent their spread is available on the DNR website.

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