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A hero enters the hall of fame

Trumpeter Swans at Prescott, Wisconsin, February 18, 2016, by Susan Mueller.
Trumpeter Swans at Prescott, Wisconsin, February 18, 2016, by Susan Mueller.

One of my heroes will be honored this weekend. Dr. Noel J. Cutright (1943-2013) will be inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame on Saturday, April 30, 2016, and I’ll be there.

In case you don’t know, Noel served twice as president of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, he was the founder of the Riveredge Bird Club (now known as the Noel J. Cutright Bird Club), in Newburg, Wisconsin, and he was instrumental in the creation of the innovative Bird City Wisconsin program, which works to ensure that Wisconsin’s urban residents maintain healthy populations of birds and grow an appreciation for them.

He played important roles in efforts to install Osprey platforms, reintroduce Trumpeter Swans (pictured above), erect Peregrine Falcon nest boxes, create bluebird trails, and establish State Natural Areas in Wisconsin and reserves in Belize and Costa Rica.

Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Noel J. Cutright.
Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Noel J. Cutright.

He was also a co-author and senior editor of the first Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, completed in 2000, and in 2010 he founded North America’s newest bird observatory, an organization I’m proud to serve as a director — the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory.

Noel’s vision was for an observatory that conducts coordinated research, monitoring, and education that advances the conservation of birds and bats in Wisconsin and throughout the Western Great Lakes Region. I’m happy to say that the organization he founded has accomplished much in a very short time.

Inspired by his example and led by Director William Mueller and Chief Scientist Bryan Lenz, the observatory has helped establish the Midwest Landbird Migration Monitoring Network, which promises to deliver, for the first time ever, a detailed picture of the factors that influence avian survival during migration across the Midwest. It has been involved in every step of the successful second Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, which will run from 2015 to 2019. It has conducted ground-breaking waterfowl/waterbird surveys over Lake Michigan via aircraft. And from its new waterbird watch, it has counted tens of thousands of waterbirds as they migrate along the west shore of the lake I look at every day. (You can read more about the observatory in its just-published first annual report.)


I’d like to think the observatory alone would qualify Noel for induction in the Hall of Fame, but I know it’s just one part of a lifetime devoted to bird conservation, citizen science, and ecological restoration.

According to the Hall of Fame, its inductees are people who “have significantly contributed to conservation programs, projects, public understanding, and conservation ethics within the state of Wisconsin and the nation.” Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, and the explorer, naturalist, and author John Muir were the first, inducted in 1985.

Since then, 86 other conservationists have been inducted, including George Archibald, a co-founder of the International Crane Foundation, in Baraboo, Owen Gromme, the dean of U.S. wildlife artists, and Gaylord Nelson, the governor, senator, and founder of Earth Day. Noel will be taking his place among the giants of conservation, and rightly so.

He will be inducted along with Wisconsin naturalist, writer, educator, and game manager LeRoy Joseph Lintereur.


The ceremony will begin at 10 am on Saturday, April 30, at the Sentry Theater, in the Sentry Insurance headquarters, 1800 Northpoint Dr., in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. It will include tributes by invited speakers and the presentation of plaques that will later be displayed permanently in the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame Gallery, in the nearby Schmeeckle Reserve at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. A coffee reception will precede the ceremony. The public is invited. — Chuck Hagner, Editor

Visit Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

The Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory is located in the town of Belgium, in Ozaukee County. Its headquarters occupy the rustic clubhouse of an 18-hole semi-private golf course that, at Cutright’s suggestion, in 2009 was converted into the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, 116 acres of grassland, wetland, and other habitats used by migratory birds. It’s a great place to go birding.

Get tips, maps, and driving directions to Forest Beach


Noel Cutright, scientist, conservationist, friend.

Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame.

Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory.

Wisconsin Society for Ornithology.

Bird City Wisconsin.



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