The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently named Ginny Coburn, of Whitewater, the 2021 State Natural Areas Volunteer Steward of the Year. She was honored for her work to help restore State Natural Areas in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. (Photo courtesy of Scott Farrell)

Ginny Coburn, of Whitewater, named steward of the year

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently announced that Whitewater resident Ginny Coburn is the 2021 State Natural Areas Volunteer Steward of the Year. The honor is for Coburn’s work within the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest.

Driven by a passion for nature and ecology, Coburn began volunteering at Kettle Moraine State Forest in 2012. She and fellow volunteers have provided thousands of hours of labor at Bluff Creek, Kettle Moraine Oak Opening, Whitewater Oak Opening and Clover Valley Fen State Natural Areas in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, according to a DNR press release.

The projects Coburn and other volunteers have been involved with include removing brush, controlling invasive plants and collecting and sowing native prairie seeds. Coburn also serves as a contact for monthly workdays and greets and signs in volunteers.

“Ginny has had an important role in protecting and restoring some truly amazing prairies, springs, oak openings and fens in the Kettle Moraine,” the DNR’s Jared Urban said.

Urban, who serves as the DNR’s volunteer program coordinator for state natural areas, said Coburn “was the first one to say yes to starting volunteer workdays to remove invasive plants in the Kettle Moraine and has been essential to keeping monthly workdays going,”

With nearly 10 years of volunteering at Kettle Moraine State Forest, Coburn possesses a wealth of knowledge, including safely wielding a chainsaw, collecting seeds and controlling invasive plants, the release states. She is also instrumental in engaging others in this vital work, including her grandchildren who have volunteered alongside her on various projects.

Coburn’s deep community connections helped her recruit individuals and organizations for special projects, including a cooperative project to install a boot brush at Bluff Creek to prevent anglers from inadvertently spreading aquatic invasive species, according to the DNR.

“Everyone likes Ginny. I most admire her energy to help make things happen. She is always ready to learn and is a let’s-go-do-it kind of person,” Urban said.

In addition to seeing great progress at State Natural Areas in Kettle Moraine State Forest, one of Coburn’s favorite parts of volunteering is the people she’s met along the way.

“They are fun and knowledgeable and will come out and help or work in any weather,” Coburn said.

“We learn a lot from each other and have a very enjoyable time. We feel like we’ve done good work toward a really big goal,” she added.

State natural areas are designated to conserve the best of Wisconsin prairies, forests, wetlands and other habitats. These unique places support 90% of rare plant species and 75% of rare wildlife species. Nearly all properties are open to the public to enjoy while bird watching, hiking, hunting and fishing.

The Wisconsin DNR is actively recruiting volunteers to help care for these unique places. No experience is necessary, and training and equipment are provided on-site.

To get involved and sign up for notifications of workdays, visit and search State Natural Areas volunteer program. The related page contains a wealth of information about the program including a downloadable volunteer handbook, annual reports and links to training and volunteering opportunities.


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