Red Cedar Watershed Conference Sessions & Presenters

Red Cedar Session and Presenter Information
In this Section
Red Cedar Watershed Conference Keynote Rebecca Smith

LAND Keynote: “The Mighty Mississippi” Red Cedar River’s Role in Nutrients, Complexity and a Collaborative Spirit

Rebecca Smith, Mississippi River Basin Project
Director, The Nature Conservancy

LAND Keynote Description
“The Mighty Mississippi” Red Cedar River’s Role in Nutrients, Complexity and a Collaborative Spirit

The flowing waters and diverse landscapes of the great Mississippi River Basin connect millions of people across the country and beyond. Over the years, this great river has gifted America with unparalleled recreational and economic opportunities that have defined our way of life. The river quenches our thirst, nourishes our crops, energizes our homes, and transports the goods we create. Funneling fresh water into the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi sustains robust fisheries, which provide food, jobs, and economic security to millions of people.

Today this fabulous river faces a critical challenge: excessive nutrient runoff.

Each year, heavy rains and melting snows wash massive amounts of nutrients—mostly nitrogen and phosphorous—from sewage treatment plants, farms and other sources into the Mississippi River Basin. The nutrients flow downstream to the Gulf of Mexico, posing health hazards to the people and wildlife that rely on the Mississippi, as well as considerable economic risk to the communities along the way.

Today, the Mississippi needs our help to heal and return to the vibrant river it is meant to be. The challenges are complex and demanding. Success hinges on the collaborative spirit of cities, farmers, agribusiness, policy makers and other watershed stakeholders to embrace science-based solutions both on-the-ground and at the policy level. Learn about the many people across basin who are testing new solutions that offer hope to us all.


Rebecca Smith Biography

Rebecca Smith directs The Nature Conservancy’s Mississippi River Basin -Healthy Rivers, Healthy Gulf project. She works with private and public partners in the Mississippi river basin to improve water quality in the basin and to reduce gulf hypoxia. She directed The Nature Conservancy’s conservation programs in Wisconsin for 15 years. She has an undergraduate degree from UW-Madison and a graduate degree from the University of Chicago. She lives in Wisconsin and loves to spend lake time “up north”.

Red Cedar Watershed Conference Keynote Kevin Masarik

WATER Keynote: Quality Matters: Groundwater in the Red Cedar River Basin

Kevin Masarik, Groundwater Education Specialist,
Center for Watershed Science and Education,
UW-Stevens Point

WATER Keynote Description
Quality Matters: Groundwater in the Red Cedar River Basin

Nearly 3 out of 4 Wisconsinites rely on groundwater as their primary water supply. Municipal water supplies are regularly monitored and have an obligation to meet drinking water standards. Meanwhile, private well owners must act as their own water utility manager when it comes to day-to-day decisions about their household wells. Changes in land use, new industries, increases to population and a changing climate all make groundwater management an increasingly important consideration for Wisconsin communities. Both community leaders and rural landowners have a need for accessible groundwater quality information if they are expected to effectively manage their water supply.

Using data collected from over 30 years of well water testing, this presentation will provide an overview of common water quality concerns in Wisconsin. We will explore the complex relationship between land-use, geology, soils and groundwater quality concerns such as nitrate, bacteria, arsenic, and hardness. The data will provide a statewide perspective. Local data for the Red Cedar Watershed will also be provided that allows comparison to other areas of Wisconsin. This presentation hopes to increase understanding of where our drinking water comes, highlight the important connection between groundwater and surface waters, and provide insight into current and future groundwater quality challenges.

Kevin Masarik Biography

Kevin Masarik is a groundwater education specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. For the past 14 years, he has assisted tens of thousands of well owners in testing their water through locally organized well water testing programs. The benefits of these programs are two fold; individual well owners are able have a better understanding of their individual well water quality and overtime the results have helped paint a detailed picture of water quality across Wisconsin. He uses information learned from his outreach and other research efforts to educate communities across the state about the effects of land-use on groundwater.

Red Cedar Watershed Conference Keynote Mary M Kolar and Steve Rasmussen

PEOPLE Keynote: We are all in this Together!

Mary M. Kolar, District 1 Supervisor, 
Dane County Board of Supervisors

Steve Rasmussen, District 4 Supervisor and Chair
Dunn County Board of Supervisors

PEOPLE Keynote Description
We are all in this Together!

Hoping to bridge the gap between agricultural and environmental interests, Dane County created a “Healthy Farms, Healthy Lakes Task Force” in August 2017 to recommend lasting solutions to nagging water quality problems. The HFHL Task Force -- which includes farmers, scientists, clean lake advocates and elected officials – hopes the results of their efforts will be a dramatic reduction of the amount of nutrient-rich material that ends up causing excessive weed growth and dangerous algae blooms in local waterways. This group of advocates has made a year-long commitment to meet monthly and listen to featured agriculture, water and other experts. Multiple viewpoints are shared as members discuss the featured topics, and steadily build to the completion of a final report to the Dane County Board of Supervisors and other policy makers. Supervisor Kolar chairs the Task Force and will highlight the accomplishments to date and the expectations of the final report.

Dunn County and the City of Menomonie in particular, lie at the foot of the Red Cedar Watershed. Over the years, Lakes Menomin and Tainter have seen increasingly severe algae blooms and sedimentation. This results in decreasing property values, tourism and health and economic activity in the community. Dunn County Board Chair Rasmussen will briefly describe the problem the community faces, but more importantly will describe the collaboration between governments, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, land owners and citizens focusing on data based solutions for improving water quality in the Red Cedar Basin.

Mary M. Kolar Biography

As the representative of downtown Madison on the Dane County Board of Supervisors since April 2013, Mary remains focused on improving the level of human services the county provides, improving lake water quality, and promoting economic development. She is Chair of the Healthy Farms Healthy Lakes Task Force, Chair of the Zoning and Land Regulation Committee, Vice Chair of the Dane County Housing Authority, member of the Lakes and Watershed Commission and the Cultural Affairs Commission. A retired U.S. Navy Captain having served 28 years on active duty, Mary has served in leadership roles with a wide depth and breadth of responsibilities supporting multi-million dollar operations.

Steve Rasmussen Biography

Steve has served Dunn County as a County Board Supervisor since April 1990 and as County Board Chair since April 2006. Prior public service includes Town of Hay River Clerk and also Town Supervisor. His governing philosophy is that you must govern from somewhere in the middle as he represents all of his constituents and collaboration yields better and greater results than going it alone. Everyone has something to offer. He was a principal in organizing the Dunn County Visioning Project, bringing together stakeholders from various disciplines across the county to chart a course for taking Dunn County forward. As County Board Chair, Steve initiated an exhaustive strategic planning project with his entire board. Initiatives that rose to the top included developing an environmental policy focusing on water quality. Steve is a member of the Wisconsin Counties Association serving on the Frac Sand Task Force and Chairing the Shoreland Zoning Task Force.

Steve’s day jobs have included farming, business development in sheltered workshops for developmentally disabled adults and owner of a food distribution business.

2018 Breakout Presentations

Morning Session Block
10:15 am – 11:15 am

Afternoon Session Block
1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

LAND: Conservation Pays Dividends
Conservation Pays Dividends

Memorial Student Center, Great Hall, 10:15 am – 11:15 am

Hear from two local farmers that have used conservation practices to improve the environment and improve the economics of the farm.

John Sippl, District Conservationist, Dunn County Natural Resources Conservation Service
Biography: John Sippl, District Conservationist USDA-NRCS, has held several positions with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources prior to becoming the District Conservationist in Dunn County. He feels passionate about the conservation of our natural resources and has experience as both a producer and an educator. John grew up in rural Wisconsin both grazing animals and managing timber resources for his family's maple syrup business. His educational background comes from his time at UW-Stevens Point with BS degrees in both Biology and Wildlife Ecology.

Red Cedar Breakout Speaker Gary Seipel
Gary Seipel,
Farmer, Seipel Farms
Seipel Farms have been practicing no-til for about twenty years, starting with corn on alfalfa when we had the dairy operation. After exiting the dairy business in 2001, my brother and I switched to a cash crop corn soybean rotation with limited alfalfa and a 200 head steer finishing operation. Through trial and error and help from NRCS, we learned the great benefits of no till and cover crops on our land,not only reducing erosion and runoff, but increasing yields with limited weed pressure while substantially reducing input costs.

Red Cedar Breakout Speaker Kristoper Eggen
Kristopher Eggen,
Agronomy Manager, Beskar Farms
After graduating from University of Wisconsin River Falls with a degree in Crop and Soil Science in 2012, Eggen started working for Beskar Farms as the Agronomy Manager. At Beskar Farms they are always pushing for higher yields and betting their soils in order to stay competitive in today's agricultural market. With the help of the NRCS Beskar Farms has started planting cover crops on roughly a third of their acreage and started no-till farming into those cover crops. This has cut down on both water erosion and soil erosion along with scavenge for nutrients from the previous crop. They have also started doing an intensive tissue sampling program that has helped them to dial in their fertility program and make confident in season decisions.

LAND: Soil Health and Landscaping for the Homeowner
Soil Health and Landscaping for the Homeowner

Memorial Student Center, Ballrooms, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

This session will address how to garden and landscape in ways that encourage water to soak in rather than run off regardless of the size of your property and provide suggestions for how to create a natural habitat for a local ecosystem through the building of rain gardens, ponds, catchment dams. etc. 
RCWC 2018 Cheryl Clemens

Red Cedar Breakout Speaker Cheryl Clemens
Cheryl Clemens, Harmony Environmental
Biography: Cheryl has worked with hundreds of waterfront property owners to design lake-friendly projects such as shoreline buffers, rain gardens, and other infiltration practices. She was instrumental in developing and implementing Burnett County's ground-breaking Shoreline Incentive Program and has developed many other projects and supporting grants for lake organizations.

WATER: Urban Storm Water Education and Outreach in the Area
Urban Storm Water Education and Outreach in the Area (What we are doing and what you can do)

Memorial Student Center, Cedar/Maplewood, 10:15 am – 11:15 am

Are you interested in hearing and seeing what types of Storm Water Education and Outreach Programs are taking place in our urban areas?  If so, please join us for this education session.  Storm Water permitted communities (commonly called MS4 permitted communities) are required to have an Education and Outreach Program.  At this session we will highlight education initiatives taking place within our region to support water quality improvement efforts and show you what you can do as a resident in an urban area to help us keep the waters clean. Stop by and see what we are doing in Education and Outreach (advertisements, mini-grant success stories, education tools, training plow operators to use less salt, educating elected officials on their storm water responsibilities, and community leaf pick-up programs) and learn what you can do to help.  We are all in this together.

Red Cedar Breakout Speaker Randy Eide
Randy Eide
, Director of Public Works, City of Menomonie
Biography: Randy is the Director of Public Works for the City of Menomonie. He is responsible for utilities, streets, engineering, construction and various other activities. His responsibilities include the management of the city's storm water utility. Randy graduated from UW-Madison with a BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering in 1983 and from the Air Force Institute of Technology with a MS in Engineering Management in 1988. After attending UW-Madison, Randy served in the United States Air Force as a Civil Engineering Officer for over 21-years and retired at the grade of Lt Col in 2004.

Red Cedar Breakout Speaker Dan Zerr
Dan Zerr
, Natural Resource Educator, University of Wisconsin-Extension
Biography: Dan Zerr, Natural Resource Educator with University of Wisconsin-Extension, is a regional natural resource educator with UW-Extension, based in Eau Claire. He has been working on Red Cedar River water quality and other regional water quality issues since taking this position in 2008. Previously he worked as a researcher at the University of Missouri, and as an environmental scientist for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. He has a MS in environmental science from Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, and a BS in biology from Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD.

WATER: Managing Ag Lands in the Presence of Changing Weather
Managing Agricultural Lands in the Presence of Changing Weather Patterns

Memorial Student Center, Great Hall, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

Since the 1950s, weather patterns have changed significantly throughout Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. In particular, the region has experienced an increase in “extreme” weather events that have resulted in increased flooding and runoff. This presentation will describe how these changes in weather patterns (in particular, extreme weather events) have affected soil erosion and water quality throughout the region. This presentation will conclude with a discussion of how these weather patterns are likely to evolve into the future and what options land owners have to adapt to these extreme weather conditions.

Red Cedar Breakout Speaker Randy Lehr
Randy A. Lehr
, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science and Management
Co‐director, Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation, Northland College, Ashland, WI
Biography: Randy Lehr is the Mary Griggs Burke Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science and Management at Northland College where he serves as the co-director of the Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation. Randy received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Winona State University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Water Resources Science from the University of Minnesota. Prior to his position at Northland College, Randy worked as water resource manager in Minnesota and a professor of fisheries and water resources in Washington State. Randy teaches courses in Integrated Ecosystem Management and Ecological Restoration and his current research focuses on understanding the relationship between land use, climate change and water quality. Randy has led and contributed to a variety of collaborative, ecosystem restoration projects for inland lake, riverine and coastal ecosystems throughout the upper Midwest, Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes and coastal Ecuador. Much of his current work is aimed at understanding lakes and streams to support climate change adaptation and integrated ecosystem management efforts throughout the Great Lakes region.

PEOPLE: The Ribbon of Life
The Ribbon of Life

Memorial Student Center, Ballrooms, 10:15 am – 11:15 am

Do you enjoy a refreshing swim in cool clean water? Waking up to songbirds and going to sleep to a chorus of frogs? Pulling in panfish one after another? Osprey and kingfishers hunting the shallow waters? These experiences all depend on a healthy watershed and shorelands with native plants, shrubs and trees thriving in and around the shallow waters of lakes, rivers and streams. A natural shoreline is a bridge between two worlds. These areas are home to as much as 500% greater species diversity than adjacent upland areas. Join John Haack to hear about the features and creatures that make Wisconsin’s shorelands "ribbons of life". Learn a few simple tips for shoreland owners to increase the health of their shoreland and attract more watchable wildlife.

Red Cedar Breakout Speaker John Haack
John Haack
, Regional Natural Resources Educator, UW Extension
Biography: John works for the University of Wisconsin Extension as a Regional Natural Resource Educator out of the Spooner Agricultural Research Station. His work includes a range of natural resource educational programs such as water quality, forestry, wetlands and wildlife. His recent projects include community based social marketing research, the Wisconsin Lakes Trivia Game, the Youth Lake Journal and the “Learn About Your Land” and “Learn About Your Lakes” educational series. John is a long time wild rice harvester and more recently a wild rice processor. Prior to his Extension career he worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in a variety of position including forestry, wildlife and water regulations. His education includes a B.S. degree in wildlife biology and graduate work in education.

PEOPLE: Boosting the Effectiveness of Local Networks...
Boosting the Effectiveness of Local Networks to Protect in Partnership Our Legacy of Lakes

Memorial Student Center, Cedar/Maplewood, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

Local organizations play important roles in Wisconsin’s strategy for lake protection and restoration. They bring together dozens, even hundreds of individual lakeshore property owners and other lake users and stakeholders to collaborate on diverse lake management challenges. Networking across different community organizations is an effective method to accomplish together what no one group could do on its own. UW Extension Lakes and Wisconsin Lakes are sharing research completed in Wisconsin and Minnesota to highlight several important dimensions of collaborating and developing relational capacity. This session will review the “mental model” that informs efforts to increase local capacity for lake health and share examples of best practices that have come from Wisconsin lake leaders, including people in the Red Cedar Basin.

Red Cedar Breakout Speaker Mike Engleson
Michael Engleson
, Executive Director, Wisconsin Lakes
Biography: Prior to accepting the Executive Director role in 2013, Mike came to Wisconsin Lakes as Membership & Communications Director in 2009. A graduate of Lawrence University in Appleton and UW-Madison Law School, Mike gained a great deal of experience with non-profit organizations while in school. He served as intern with 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, during which time he helped rural towns write ordinances implementing their land use plans. After a short stint as a general practice attorney, he spent six years working for the River Alliance of Wisconsin before coming to Wisconsin Lakes. He has served on the boards of several non-profit organizations, including Prairie Music & Arts, the Tenant Resource Center of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Community Fund, and is a graduate of Lawrence University in Appleton.

A paddler, hiker, and occasional trombonist, Mike is a lifelong resident of Wisconsin (except for four great years in Kentucky). Some of his fondest memories are of camping and canoeing the lakes of the northwoods, a pastime he now enjoys sharing with his family.

Red Cedar Breakout Speaker Eric Olson
Eric Olson
, Director and Lake Specialist, University of Wisconsin-Extension Lakes
Eric is the Director of UW Extension Lakes, a statewide outreach program based in the College of Natural Resources at UW Stevens Point. Since the early 1970s, UW Extension Lakes has supported lake associations and districts through a free quarterly newsletter, an annual Lakes Partnership Convention, a guide to forming and operating lake organizations, and one on one consultations with lake stakeholders.