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Lake Stewardship Awards

Wisconsin Lake Stewardship Awards

2024 Lake Stewardship Award winners (L to R): Kerry Romsa and the Pelican Lake Association for Excellence in Building Partnerships, Jeff Meessmann for Excellence in Public Engagement*, Peggy Sherman and Jay Gutenkauf representing Big Doctor Lake Association for Programmatic Excellence for Lake Health*, and Tracy Arnold for Excellence in Professional Service
* The winner of these awards are nominated to the North American Lake Management Society’s corresponding award for national recognition.

Deadline: December 1, 2024
(see Nomination Steps below)

Do you know an outstanding person or group who dedicates time and talent to our state’s water resources? We encourage you to nominate them for a prestigious Wisconsin Lake Stewardship Award! The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership presents the Wisconsin Lake Stewardship awards each year in celebration of the extraordinary volunteer and professional efforts made to protect and improve lakes in Wisconsin. The Stewardship Awards represent our best collective effort to honor and celebrate all the incredible work that goes into ensuring the future of our state’s legacy of lakes.

Please review the Nomination Categories, Scoring, and Criteria sections below before proceeding.

For over three decades, we’ve been celebrating Wisconsin’s outstanding lake stewards. In 2021, we updated the categories to reflect the importance of the organizational work and projects in which individuals and lake organizations are involved. We want to recognize those who are strengthening their community capacity with the goal of protecting and improving lake health. In 2024, we are adding a fourth category which will allow us to recognize professionals who work hard to increase organizational capacity for lake associations, districts, and lake communities in general. 
View short videos of Lake Stewardship Award Winners from 2016-2019 (YouTube playlist)
Winners from 1986-present (Google sheet)

What is Capacity?
Our model of lake organization capacity is built around four related parts: membership, internal functions, external relationships, and programs. Membership is the basis for the other three: a group needs members who provide financial and volunteer support to fuel their efforts. Organizations thrive when the internal functions of a lake association or lake district are efficient and effective. Organizations develop relational capacity by collaborating and networking with external people and groups. Lake groups leverage these first three types of capacity to increase their ability to get things done: programmatic capacity.

We understand that capacity looks different for each organization since each is working on different areas in order to boost their ability to get things done. We want to recognize individuals and organizations who are strengthening the capacity of lake organizations in the following categories:

Excellence in Public Engagement Award
This category will recognize an individual, group, or business who has taken steps to increase public understanding, engagement and support for lake issues and opportunities. Examples of excellence in public engagement should have measurable success such as:

  • Providing educational programming to property owners/members throughout the year through in-person, virtual, and print communications (details would include the number of individuals reached, as well as outcomes).
  • Expanding outreach efforts to include community members and organizations who aren’t lakeshore property owners but who still benefit from the lake
  • Creative/innovative outreach efforts that manage to “cut through the noise” at a time when there are many issues and messages competing for public attention

*The winner of this award will be nominated to the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) for their Leadership and Service Award for Community Education and Outreach. Learn more: Nomination Process – North American Lake Management Society (NALMS)

Excellence in Building Partnerships Award
This category will recognize an individual, group, or business who has helped an organization develop new or strengthen existing external relationships to benefit a lake or watershed. Examples may include:

  • Collaborating with the town, county, or neighboring lake organizations to increase visibility of issues and strategize as partners on solutions, both for the lake and the greater community
  • Reaching out to new groups, such as local tribes, schools, and churches to build relationships which advance the learning and understanding of lake issues and opportunities


Programmatic Excellence for Lake Health Award

This category will recognize an individual, group, or business who excels in programs that improve the quality of our lakes due to program implementation. Program implementation will need to go above and beyond and have measurable impact. Examples of programs include:

  • Major restoration projects to improve lake water quality
  • Watershed and shoreline protection projects that maintain lake health
  • Aquatic or other invasive species prevention and management projects that maintain healthy lake ecosystems
  • Educational programming focused on lake protection and management

*The winner of this award will be nominated to the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) for their Lake Management Success Stories Award. Learn more: Nomination Process – North American Lake Management Society (NALMS)

Excellence in Professional Service Award

This category is meant to recognize professionals who work hard to implement the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership mission: protecting in partnership our legacy of lakes. These individuals earn a living doing work related to lake protection and restoration, so it would not be fair to weigh their nominations against those who are volunteers.

Reviewers will rank individuals and/or teams nominated for this award according to their impact, not necessarily how long they’ve been doing this work. Examples of a person or team who would be recognized in this category could include professionals who have:

  • worked with numerous lake organizations in a region or across Wisconsin;
  • a record of productivity illustrated by numerous presentations, reports, newsletter articles, grant proposals;
  • earned admiration of their peers and colleagues;
  • fostered leadership across and within lake communities, empowering others.

Teams will review and score each nomination according to the following measurables. The scores will help guide the decision-making process; however, the score alone may not be the only deciding factor. 

Excellence in Public Engagement:
(view scoring rubric)

  • Increased public engagement (with measurable results)
  • Increased awareness and understanding of lake issues (with measurable results)
  • Creative/innovative outreach efforts

Excellence in Building Partnerships:
(view scoring rubric)

  • Increased number of relationships/partners
  • Increased impact due to relationships with partners (with measurable results such as surveys, collaboration on funding, letters of support)
  • Creative involvement in efforts to resolve broader community challenges


Programmatic Excellence for Lake Health:
(view scoring rubric)

  • Number and diversity of programs (are programs spread across all categories such as lake water quality, watershed and shoreline protection, invasive species prevention and management, and educational programming)
  • Effectiveness of Programs (with measurable results)


Excellence in Professional Service:
(view scoring rubric)

  • Number of organizations and/or lakes worked with
  • Testimonials reflecting on leadership development and empowerment of others

  • Creative and innovative outreach efforts
  • Impact made such as number of site visits/meetings attended, presentations, reports, etc. to raise awareness and increase understanding (with measurable results)

  • Feedback from colleagues regarding their performance and accomplishments

In addition to the information outlined above, we are also interested in recognizing people, groups and projects that include diversity, equity and inclusion in their work.

Diversity includes not only diversity in our ethnicities, but also our perspectives – how one person might think completely different from another person based on experiences, religion, socio-economic status, etc. Diversity also includes the variety of groups/organizations that come together to work on an issue (public, private, government, social) and includes diversity in gender and age.
Equity includes providing various levels of support and assistance so that everyone, regardless of their specific needs and abilities, are able to participate in lake-related experiences.
Inclusion includes the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.

Our collective action to protect and restore lakes is more effective and enduring with diverse perspectives at the table.

  • Past recipients can be nominated again under new categories.
  • Only one nomination per nominee (i.e. you can’t nominate a person or organization for two or three awards).
  • The selection committee can move a nomination to a different (more appropriate) category.

*All materials must be assembled and submitted by December 1 for your nomination to be considered. The nominator may seek help from the nominee in providing information for this award.

  1. Choose a category. Choose one of the three categories (described above) that fits most closely with your nominee. The Stewardship Awards Selection Committee may elect to move a nominee from one category to another, more appropriate, category.
  2. Complete the nomination form. 2024 Wisconsin Lake Stewardship Awards (google.com)
    Please fill in all the information requested on the nomination form.
  3. Gather at least two letters of support explaining why the nominee is deserving of the Wisconsin Lake Stewardship Award. The nominator must submit at least 2 letters of support from individuals or groups with knowledge of the nominee’s efforts and, better yet, experience working with the person or group who has been nominated. No more than 5 letters of support will be accepted. Please keep all letters of support to no more than 2 pages. More letters of support will not translate into a higher ranking of the candidate— the Awards Committee seeks quality over quantity. Please provide these letters electronically.**
  4. Gather no more than 3 pieces of supporting information that demonstrate why the nominee deserves a Lake Stewardship Award. Examples of the kinds of materials that may be submitted include: news articles highlighting the nominee’s efforts and contributions, materials developed by the nominee, survey results showing measurable impact, or other awards or recognition the nominee has received for their lake-related efforts. Choose concise materials that are relevant to your petition encouraging the nominee’s selection as a Lake Stewardship Award winner. No more than 3 pieces of supporting information will be accepted (aim for quality over quantity). Please provide materials electronically.**

**Uploads to the nomination form are limited to 5 documents (ideally 2 letters of support and 3 pieces of supporting information).