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The 9th Annual
Thursday, March 11th, 2021
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Illinois Department of Natural Resources: A State Partner Perspective

John Rogner - Assistant Director

Illinois Department of Natural Resources


The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has suffered a nearly continuous erosion of base funding and staff capacity since the mid-2000’s, culminating in several years of no or partial budgets during the previous administration.  We have now moved from survival mode into recovery mode, and are re-starting programs and projects that were dormant for several years.  This presentation will speak to challenges and opportunities both unique to Illinois and those shared by fish and wildlife agencies across the nation, and highlight some recent and anticipated project successes in the Fox River watershed.

In July 2019, John Rogner was nominated by Governor JB Pritzker to serve as Assistant Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. From 2013-2018, John worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the Coordinator of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative, leading a coalition of federal, state and private conservation organizations in Great Lakes Basin-wide collaborative natural resource planning. During this period, he also provided leadership in the establishment of two new national wildlife refuges (Hackmatack and Kankakee) in the Chicago region, eventually serving as Manager of both. From 2009 - 2013 John served under an appointment by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn as Assistant Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Prior to that he served as Field Supervisor of the Chicago Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a position he held since 1997.  He directed all of the Service’s programs in endangered species conservation, environmental contaminants, conservation planning assistance, habitat restoration, and environmental education in the six-county Chicago metropolitan area.  During this time, he also served as Chair of Chicago Wilderness, a coalition of over 240 organizations dedicated toward conserving the biodiversity of the Chicago region. John began his career with the Chicago District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, where he held various positions implementing the regulatory program under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, eventually becoming Chief of the Regulatory Branch. Mr. Rogner has undergraduate and graduate degrees in biological sciences from Northern Illinois University.

Summit Keynote Speaker  
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Promoting Soil Health -

On-Farm Costs, Risks, and Rewards

Jamie Patton - Senior Outreach Specialist, Northeast Wisconsin, Nutrient and Pest Management Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Featured Speakers  

Changing a farming system to improve soil health may involve a number of infrastructure, input, and human capital investments. Like with any business change, we have to ask, “What is the return on investment?”.  In this session, we will broadly explore the potential economic and social on-farm costs, risks, and rewards of adopting soil health management practices in our area.  We will also discuss how companies, municipalities and communities are supporting the soil health movement, both regionally and nationally.

Jamie Patton, PhD, CPSS, is a Senior Outreach Specialist for northeast Wisconsin with the Nutrient and Pest Management Program (NPM), UW-Madison. Her research and outreach activities focus on farm system approaches to improving soil health as a means to achieve food sovereignty, farm profitability and resiliency, and ground and surface water quality. Working as part of the interdisciplinary NPM team, she provides education and technical expertise to farmers, organizations, and agencies on nutrient management, soil health, and cover crops. Jamie earned her PhD in Soil Science from Oklahoma State University.  Prior to joining the Nutrient and Pest Management Program, she was an Associate Professor of Soil Science at Northwest Missouri State University and an Associate Professor/Agriculture Educator with University of Wisconsin-Extension in Shawano County. 

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Vegetation Management

Keir Peckham

President -Vegetation Management Specialist

Natural Landscapes, Inc. (NLI)

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Vegetation management is forever a necessity in assuring long success for desirable vegetation establishment throughout natural growing spaces. Techniques used by Natural Landscapes, Inc. (NLI) to control unwanted plant species mostly include selective cutting and timely mowing, depending on species to be managed. Avoiding soil disturbance has been the biggest contributor to our success.


Natural Landscapes, Inc. has been helping municipalities, engineering firms, general landscape contractors, developers and private land owners with their vegetation restoration and management needs since 2001. NLI specializes in the restoration and installation of natural landscaping projects including prairie and wetland restoration, as well as shorelines and water gardens.                                                                           

Keir began his career in 1990 (30 years ago) working for a native wetland plant and seed nursery in Muskego (Country Wetlands Nursery). In 2001 he established his own company, Natural Landscapes, Inc. Keir continues to work in the field with installing, managing and monitoring prairie and wetland restoration projects. The bulk of his knowledge has been acquired from the successes and failures of numerous natural landscaping projects throughout his career.

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100 Years Later: Fox River Photo Canoe Trip

Scott Johnson - Science Teacher

Oswego East High School

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In the summer of 1912 Dwight Young (Scott’s great-grandfather) and John Condon paddled a wooden rowboat down the lower Fox River, from Oswego to Ottawa. Along the way, Dwight, an aspiring photographer, captured 52 photographs of the surrounding landscape.  100 years later, in 2012, Scott and his family attempted to recreate the photographic canoe trip and relocate the locations that were originally documented in 1912. The comparisons between both trips provide great insight into how the Fox River has changed, and remained the same, throughout a century of human and natural forces.

Scott grew up along the Fox River in Oswego Illinois, immediately downstream from his environmentalist grandfather, the late Dick Young.  Under his grandfather's guidance, Scott acquired a deep appreciation for the natural world and spent his childhood exploring islands, catching fish, and photographing nature.  After graduating from North Central College, he became a Science Teacher at Oswego East High School and currently sponsors the Ecology Club.

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Development of Water Quality Model to support Fox River Implementation Plan


Rishab Mahajan, Geosyntec Consultants and

Cindy Skrukrud, Fox River Study Group

The Fox River in Illinois is listed as impaired for water quality by Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The Fox River Study Group (FRSG) is a diverse coalition of stakeholders working together to preserve and enhance water quality in the Fox River watershed. FRSG has undertaken a multi-phased approach to address the water quality impairments in the Fox River. This approach includes intensive water quality monitoring and development of  water quality model to support the  Fox River Implementation Plan (FRIP), which is the roadmap to eliminate the water quality impairments (FRSG 2015).The presentation will discuss the development of a water quality model for 98 miles of the Fox River from Stratton Dam to Dayton, IL. The water quality model will be applied to identify the management actions to improve the water quality in the Fox River.

Rishab Mahajan is a water resources engineer principally involved in hydrodynamic, sediment transport and water quality modeling with a focus on regulatory permits and requirements, stormwater management, surface water system assessments, TMDL development and implementation, and nutrient criteria limit development. He has over 10 years of experience in the development and calibration of hydrodynamic and water quality models. Rishab is currently managing the development of the watershed and water quality models for 98 miles of the Fox River in support of the FRSG’s Fox River Implementation Plan.


Fox River & Total Phosphorus; a status update from Wisconsin DNR

Nick Lent - Wastewater Engineer, Wisconsin DNR


Due in part to an expanded network of interested and/or regulated parties, there is more in stream water quality data than ever before to help characterize and evaluate total phosphorus conditions in in the Fox River and its tributaries.  Join Nick Lent from the Wisconsin DNR for a status update on the Fox River and Total Phosphorus.  This update will briefly cover past and present water quality data and summarize where things may be headed as the WDNR begins work on development of a water quality model known as a Total Maximum Daily Load to address excess total phosphorus and sediment conditions in the Fox River Basin.  This presentation will also provide an overview of some compliance alternatives that have recently been selected by point source permit holders in the area to improve and protect water quality.   

Nick obtained his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from UW-Milwaukee.  While studying at UW-Milwaukee, he developed an interest in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering and completed an internship with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District that introduced him to the wastewater industry.  He has worked as a Wastewater Engineer with the Wisconsin DNR out of the Milwaukee office since 2014.  His initial assignment at the DNR was to complete effluent limit calculations for point source discharges to surface waters in southeast Wisconsin that protect applicable water quality standards.  This work expanded his interest in water quality assessment and improvement.  In 2018, he transferred into more of a compliance maintenance role that involves working with facilities to help ensure they are aware of and in compliance with wastewater permit conditions. 

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It's Our Fox River Day

Saturday - September 18th, 2021

Gary Mechanic - Friends of the Fox River

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In the spirit of The Fox River Summit, and Friends of the Fox River's goal to promote collaboration among all communities in the Fox River's watershed, we are encouraging local governments along the river, and throughout the watershed, to proclaim the 3rd Saturday in September "It's Our Fox River Day". The draft resolution below also pledges support for local efforts to clean up and celebrate the value and the place of the Fox River in our communities, and in our lives.

Download and start organizing your own It's Our Fox River Day with this template proclamation

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Snapshot Wisconsin:

A trail camera project to monitor wildlife

Claire Viellieux

Snapshot Wisconsin Volunteer Coordinator

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources


Let's discover our wildlife together! Snapshot Wisconsin is a partnership to monitor wildlife year-round, using a statewide network of trail cameras. The project provides data needed for wildlife management decision support. It is also a unique opportunity for individuals, families, and students to get involved in monitoring the state’s valuable natural resources.

Claire Viellieux has worked on the Snapshot Wisconsin Team for nearly two years now. She loves getting to share her passion for wildlife with trail camera hosts across the state. Claire received her B.S. in Conservation Biology from UW-Madison in 2018 and spent her undergrad years researching the diet of California spotted owls. In her free time, she can be found exploring new places out in the woods or teaching yoga classes.


Salt in the Environment:

Water Quality Update for the Fox River Basin

Justin Poinsatte

Senior Specialist-Biologist

Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission has an ongoing study on the introduction of chloride to the environment and its environmental impacts within Southeastern Wisconsin. This study aims to provide a comprehensive inventory of the historic and present sources of chloride loads to surface and groundwater resources; an assessment of the effects chloride has on the environment, and in particular on the surface and groundwater resources of Southeastern Wisconsin; address current research and emerging technologies and policies related to mitigating chloride’s environmental effects; and identify alternative means as well as formulate recommendations to achieve desired chloride levels and abate its undesirable environmental impacts. Justin will share preliminary study results for the Fox River and discuss opportunities to evaluate water quality trends throughout the entire basin.

Justin is a Senior Specialist-Biologist with the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, where he assists with the development of lake and river management plans. Justin earned his BS from the University of Notre Dame and his PhD from Washington State University. Prior to joining the Commission in 2019, Justin worked as a Natural Resources Research Scientist at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in the Bureau of Water Quality.

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