Alan Barrows – Waukesha County

Alan grew up working on his neighbor’s diary farm and was involved in scouting from childhood until college, which got him interested in natural resources and conservation. He graduated from UW-La Crosse with a geography degree and then started working for the DNR as an LTE wildlife technician, and then an LTE GIS technician. He’s been with Waukesha County since 2002.


What committee or positions have you held with WI Land+Water committees/positions?  

Board of Directors since 2015 as the Southeast Area staff representative. Executive Committee and Association Treasurer since 2016.

What drew you to conservation work?

 I grew up working on my neighbor’s dairy farm as a kid and I was always involved in Scouting, even in college.  These two things got me interested in natural resources and conservation.  I knew that I wanted a job where I could work outside but also use technology such as GIS, GPS and computers. I’ve learned over the years how GIS can be a powerful decision making tool and I use it every day.

What are you currently working on?  

I’m always reviewing erosion control and stormwater management plans for new construction projects and conducting compliance inspections.  That takes up the bulk of my time at work. Besides that, I’m working on a large shoreline restoration project, a shared web-based contact database, a floodplain forest brush management project and I’m participating in a County leadership program.

What project are you most proud of?  

Since 2005, we’ve been using a web-based stormwater database for tracking permits and permanent BMPs.  We hired a consultant to program it but we designed it in-house.  I’ve served as the project lead from our office for the database for many years.  Twelve years after we rolled out the database, we are still using the same system for tracking ponds and permits; although we have had to do some major updates over time.  I’m proud of the system that we’ve put together including integrated GIS tools and the ability for storing and serving images.  It’s a good example of how technology can make an office more efficient in the way we handle projects and provide information back to the public through a user-friendly app.  It’s been a real team effort with lots of moving parts.  

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?  

I take a lot of pride in the work that we do to conserve Wisconsin’s precious natural resources.  I like helping people with complex runoff, flooding and erosion problems.

What does the future of Wisconsin conservation look like?

 I’ve enjoyed meeting a lot of County conservation staff and supervisors at the WI Land+Water Association annual conferences over the years, as well as our partner agency staff too.  I meet many talented, enthusiastic and hard-working people each year.  We all need to tackle the issues of funding, policy and increased pressures on our limited resources.  Kids today are taught in school the importance of conserving our natural resources, access to healthy food and the need for clean water.  Collectively, I don’t think we’ll need to spend a lot of time on the “why” in the future but I do think we’ll need to work on the “how” together.  

How would you improve the state of conservation in Wisconsin?  

Getting the word out about the benefits of locally-led conservation and identifying specific program priorities is important.  County Land Conservation Departments are the “best-kept-secrets” in Wisconsin.  We need to change that, so spread the word.  

What is one interesting fact about your county that few may know?  

A century ago, Waukesha County was called “Cow County USA” as there were more cattle than people.  Things have certainly changed.

What is your favorite outdoor activity in your county?

Spending time hiking, hunting, fishing and camping in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest with my family and dog.

When you’re not working, what are you doing?  

Coaching youth soccer, upland bird hunting, camping, hiking, spending time with my three kids and wife and generally having fun outdoors.