UW-Stevens Point: has leading role in Future of Farming Forum in Ashland

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) experts will play prominent roles in a forum focusing on the people, resources and local economies in northern Wisconsin.

Presented by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, the “Preserving the Best, Growing Wisely: A Forum on Northern Wisconsin Rural Issues” forum will be held Friday, July 21, in Ashland. UWSP College of Natural Resources (CNR) Dean Christine Thomas is co-chair of the forum along with Amery Mayor Harvey Stower. Eric Olson, instructor and land use specialist in the Center for Land Use Education at UWSP, is one of the presenters.

The forum will explore issues affecting rural Wisconsin and is part of the Wisconsin Academy’s Future of Farming and Rural Life in Wisconsin project. Stan Gruszynski, director of Rural Leadership and Community Development in the Global Environmental Management Education Center in the CNR, is co-chair of the 18-month project.

The Ashland forum is the third in a six-part series of regional forums being conducted around the state to gather citizen input. In addition to presentations, the forum will feature breakout sessions and a town meeting to help develop a vision for a sustainable and healthy rural Wisconsin.

The forum will be split between two venues. A morning program beginning at 9 a.m. at Northland College will feature expert presentations on changing land use, demographic and economic trends, and a Native American perspective on preserving natural resources and heritage. Following lunch at the college, participants will move to the celebrated Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center two miles west of Ashland for an afternoon program beginning with a panel discussion, “Perspectives on the Future of Rural Wisconsin.” The remainder of the program focuses on gathering citizen input on these same issues.

Trends in land use, population and economics have direct impacts on rural life in the north and other regions of Wisconsin, says Thomas. “The goal of these Wisconsin Academy forums is to convene the discussion, so that citizens from throughout the state have a chance to express their vision for the future of rural Wisconsin,” she says.

“We are hoping for a spirited but thoughtful discussion about the future of rural life in the north and throughout the state,” adds Gruszynski. “We also intend to celebrate the rich cultural and artistic fabric of rural life in Wisconsin.”

Other presenters will include Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Jim Holperin and Paul DeMain, managing editor of News from Indian Country.

Previous forums were held in Menomonie and Oconomowoc, drawing hundreds of Wisconsin citizens for discussions on topics like food systems, innovation and land use.

Each forum emphasizes different issues influencing rural Wisconsin’s economic, social and cultural health. Information gleaned from the forums will be used as part of a comprehensive final report that will recommend future courses of action.

There is no cost to attend the forum, but participants are encouraged to register in advance at www.wisconsinacademy.org/idea/index.html to allow planners to accommodate logistics requirements. Advance registration will allow you to participate in the optional lunch ($12 in advance). Registration forms are also available in the display area at the Vaughn Public Library in Ashland.

Developing information, resources and project updates are posted regularly on the Wisconsin Academy’s Web site, www.wisconsinacademy.org. For more information on this forum and UWSP’s role, contact the CNR’s Steve Menzel at (715) 346-2032.