Kathy Zeglin is a member of the Trempealeau County Environmental and Land Use Committee, serving as the town government representative. A self-taught environmentalist and family farmer, Kathy is a strong advocate for conservation education and believes it is key to ensuring local resources for generations to come.
What committee or positions have you held with WI Land+Water committees/positions?
Land Conservation Committee Western Region Board member, May 2016 – present.
How long have you been on the County Board/Conservation Committee?
My seat on the county committee began in May, 2013. This is the start of my sixth year of service.
What previous experiences/education prepared you for your position on the Conservation Committee?
My conservation education is totally self-taught through observation, reading, and practical experience. I grew up in an urban environment. My first contact with land and water was by digging in the soil. As a kid, I used to make mud dams and rivers and then watch rainwater run through my rivers and break down my dams. Frequent visits to my aunt’s farm thrilled this city kid with farm and country living. Visits to urban parks and lakes were always welcome.
When I married my husband, Tim, 47 years ago, he proposed we move to the country and I was pretty much ready to go. We settled on a beautiful little farm in Trempealeau County and began a small farm operation, raising sheep and working the land. Over the years, I watched dairy farms gradually decline and cash cropping take the lead in agriculture. Soil conservation practices slowly disappeared as well. The steady decline of waterways, grass buffers, tree shelter belts, crop rotation, and contour planting on our hills took its toll on the land. In the last ten years, the county experienced five “one hundred year floods,” each causing greater and greater erosion problems.
Now thankfully, there is an increased interest in soil and water conservation with a vibrant producer-led watershed group, many active rod and gun clubs, and a soon-to-be established Agricultural Enterprise Area. I am a strong advocate for conservation education, both for adult farmers and landowners as well as for our youth, and believe it is the key to any continued conservation success in the future.
What makes Trempealeau County’s committee structure different from a conventional LCC?
I am a little different than the average County Supervisor LCC member. Trempealeau County has a blended conservation and zoning committee, called the Environment and Land Use Committee. It has eight members; five are county board supervisors, one is the FSA representative, one is a livestock producer, and one is a town government representative. I am the last type of member. I was interviewed and appointed by the county board chair shortly after my election in April, 2013. I am now serving my 6th year both as town board supervisor and as a town government representative, and hope to continue both for many years to come.
What made you decide to run for County Board?
I originally ran for town board against a supervisor whom I felt was not participating in the process. It seemed his only reason for being on the board was to cast an opposing vote to every decision made, and never offered anything constructive or positive to the township. Too many problems were emerging to have such a cavalier attitude, so I ran for office.
Why do you think it is important to be active on the Conservation Committee?
The Conservation Committee protects county resources. Though its decisions and policies, the committee aids the agricultural industry with solid practices to conserve the soil in a manner that has the ability to increase productivity, while keeping the soil enriched and in place. It also helps protect our surface water for recreation and tourism, and our ground water for the health of all our residents and visitors. The committee plays a major role in the future stability of the county in many ways.
What does the future of Wisconsin conservation look like?
Unfortunately, our state government has ignored conservation practices for quite a few years now, even to the extent of obstructing solid conservation measures. The future is starting to look much brighter through the hard work, research, and education by organizations like WI Land+Water and others. I think the state is on an upward trend and hopefully will continue that trend.
How would you improve the state of conservation in Wisconsin?
I believe education at all ages is the key to improved conservation. A strong Department of Natural Resources is also pivotal to improving conservation statewide. State policy must be changed to enforce better conservation standards and funding must be increased for conservation practices.
What is you county’s most valuable Natural Resources?
Trempealeau County has several valuable resources. We have four rivers for fishing, canoeing, and tubing: The Buffalo River, the Trempealeau River, the Black River, and Mississippi River. We also have beautiful parks and public lands, including many acres of DNR land for hunting and fishing, Pietrek County Park, Perrot State Park, the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge, and the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge for camping, birding, and wildlife viewing at its best.
What is one interesting fact about your county that few may know?
Near the northern edge of the Driftless Area, Trempealeau County is home to 487 miles of bicycle trails, with 19 connecting loops. It is the largest connected bike loop system in the United States! The trails offer a variety of cycling skill levels, and showcase the varied landscapes and beauty of each township. Visit the Trempealeau Trails Bicycle Association website for more information at http://www.tourdetremp.com/.
What is your favorite outdoor activity in your county?
My favorite outdoor activity is simply a hike. Whether hiking on my own land or on one of the many hiking trails offered throughout the county, I love enjoying all the sights and sounds of nature along the route, and then resting at the top of a ridge to enjoy the vista.