Heather Palmquist – Iron County


Born and raised in Iron County, Heather grew up in Mercer, WI. Her parents had a small hobby farm with beef cattle, horses, chickens, and pigs where Heather spent her summers swimming in a nearby lake and riding her horse. After earning a degree in Geography from UW-Parkside, she taught environmental education at different Nature Centers in Wisconsin and New York. Then in 2008 she moved back to Wisconsin to work for the Iron County LWCD, where she started the AIS program, worked on shoreline habitat restoration, and in 2012 became the County Conservationist. 

What drew you to conservation work? 

Like most other people in the field, I grew up being outside and didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk forever. When I was in college, I worked at River Bend Nature Center teaching kids about ecology, and I was so excited to get paid for having fun and playing outside. That’s why I got into environmental education. Once I started with the Iron County LWCD, I felt an immense sense of pride and satisfaction in implementing the practices I had always taught people about.

What projects are you most proud of? 

Our Loon Project. We work with two schools in our county studying 6 lakes (3 lakes per school) so students can learn about loon ecology, water quality, invasive species, and watersheds. We put out nesting platforms on lakes that historically have loons reproducing and visit the sites three times throughout the season. In the last couple years we put trail cameras on the platforms and have captured awesome footage of the loons. This is a great research project and connects the kids to the lakes and outdoor world. In the past 17 years, we have successfully hatched 58 loon chicks and have graduated about 680 students through the program.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? 

Seeing people who I have worked with on a conservation project, who after a few years are still so excited about their project and invite me back to check out how great it’s working.

What does the future or conservation look like in Wisconsin?

This is a tough question and it’s something that I ask myself every day, especially within the last year. I try to remain positive and concentrate on the positive impacts that I can make. If left to our WI Land+Water Conservation Campers, I think the future of conservation will look pretty awesome!

What is one interesting fact about Iron County that few people know? 

Iron County is the Snow Capital of Wisconsin.

What are your favorite outdoor activities?

Kayaking, fly fishing, yoga, XC skiing, snowshoeing, mushroom/wild edible foraging, photography, and playing in the garden.

When you’re not at work, you’re…

…playing outside with my three dogs.