Mission, Values, Vision
Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes . . .
promotes environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities.
Our culture is built on . . .
Respect . . . Our mission stems from our respect for the other species on this planet and future generations. We will treat each other – our staff, members and volunteers – with respect at all times. We respect different tastes in landscaping but also ask that others show respect for the common good by considering how they can conserve resources and improve the environment via the inclusion of native plants in their landscapes.
Personalized Support . . . Our members value the opportunity for direct contact with other Wild Ones members and the ability to “learn locally.” This sets Wild Ones apart from many similar organizations. Networking and education are our most important functions.
Appreciation – Volunteers R Us . . . To keep our dues low and our efforts local, Wild Ones is a grassroots organization that runs primarily on volunteer effort. We will continue to rely on volunteers to carry our mission forward. We will support our volunteers and recognize their efforts, especially those in volunteer leadership positions.
All Members are Valuable Members . . . At the national level our income is largely derived from member dues and donations. We appreciate all members, respecting that everyone has varying priorities and demands on their time which impact their ability to volunteer.
Fresh and Malleable . . . While we stay focused on our core abilities and goals we will continually look for and solicit ideas from our Board, our members and honorary directors for new strategies that we might use to further our goal of promoting sustainable landscape practices.
To become the most widely recognized voice for native plants and the sustainable landscaping movement, . . .

promoting increased use of native plantings that create living landscapes through grassroots efforts by example, education, marketing, and personalized support.

    • We will raise public awareness regarding the benefits that native plants, including trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses, offer in a variety of settings so landscaping with native plants becomes the norm rather than the exception.
    • We will convince the general public that including native plants in home and public landscapes is aesthetically pleasing and healthier for our environment, and that reducing unnecessary turf grass reduces storm-water runoff and unnecessary use of water, fuel, and lawn chemicals.
    • We will see the use of native plants extend into an increasing number of areas where plants touch the soil – applications such as agriculture (pollinator support) and public places.
    • We will join forces with others to preserve native plants and biodiversity from loss due to development and other forces, including displacement by non-native invasive plants.
  • Widely recognized: Means getting our name and what we do in front of the general public over and over until it is as commonly understood as “Audubon Society = Birds.”
  • Leading voice: Means that we are the group most people think of first when they need information, advice, or support on the “how to” or benefits of landscaping with native plants.
  • Join forces: When it comes to preserving native plants from loss due to habitat destruction and other related causes we will collaborate with other groups who take on such efforts as their primary mission to lend our support. We understand that the survival of native plants in the long term may depend on these efforts. However, Wild Ones’ core focus will be to support native-plant community restoration through education.
As the only national not-for-profit educational organization with a mission to . . .
promote environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities, Wild Ones serves as a resource for private individuals, schools, commercial property owners, and community decision makers as they move toward ethical choices in land use and in the redefinition of current guidelines and ordinances affecting our landscape. Because we are a “plants-roots” organization, our organizational goals are accomplished through local chapters and their individual members.
In 1977, nine people attended a natural landscaping workshop . . .
offered by the Schlitz Audubon Center of Milwaukee, WI and became intensely interested in the new concept of landscaping with native plants. Their enthusiasm blossomed into Wild Ones®, a national nonprofit organization with a mission to educate and share information with members and community at the “plants roots” level and to promote biodiversity and environmentally sound practices.
On June 8, 1990, Wild Ones Natural Landscapers Ltd was organized under . . .
Articles of Incorporation — Non-stock Corporation Law, Chapter 181 of the Wisconsin Statutes. On April 11, 1995, Wild Ones was granted exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code for educational purposes.
Prior to 1995, the original Milwaukee Chapter of Wild Ones (Milwaukee-North) . .
had been functioning as the administrative hub for the entire membership and there were only a few chapters. Because of membership growth, it became necessary to rethink the organizational structure in order to meet present and future needs and to enhance communication among the growing number of chapters.The summer of 1995 marked the first meeting of the new National Board and national officers. Bret Rappaport, a Chicago attorney, was elected as President, and continues to serve on the national Board. At that time, the national Board of Directors was comprised of nine elected at-large members plus each chapter president. In 2000, the By-Laws were changed to facilitate decision making and enlarge the Board to 15 elected at-large members.
The Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Program (SFE) . . .
began in 1996 and was named in honor of naturalist and Wild Ones inspirational leader Lorrie Otto, a pioneer in the natural landscaping movement in the United States.SFE annually awards grants to places of learning and other organized groups who successfully communicate their vision of creating natural landscapes using native plants for the purpose of educating users of the facility and the community. Applications are judged and winners selected by a volunteer panel of educators and naturalists. SFE Nursery Partners (native plant nurseries and propagators) also donate seeds, plants and guidance to grant recipients.
In 2003, the Wild Ones national board approved a new name for Wild Ones . . .
The legal name remains Wild Ones Natural Landscapers Ltd, but for purposes of more clearly aligning our name with the mission of our organization, we now refer to ourselves as: Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes®.
In 2008, through grant assistance from . . .
the Fox River/Green Bay Natural Resource Trustee Council (NRDA) and the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund,and because of some wonderful Wild Ones donors and friends, Wild Ones headquarters moved into what is now called the WILD Center (Wild Ones Institute of Learning and Development).

The WILD Center consists of a home, renovated for office space, and 16 acres of upland, riparian woodland and marsh along the Fox River. The Guckenberg-Sturm Marsh is one of the last functioning marshes along the Fox River waterway which is part of the Great Lakes watershed. It is the perfect site for Wild Ones to establish demonstration areas of natural landscaping and formal gardens for all ecotypes, while at the same time preserving this very vital marsh and riparian woodland. The entire site is protected by conservation easements.


Phase I of the landscaping developed 4 rain gardens, a pollinator garden, a wet mesic/oak savanna prairie and a turtle nesting area. Buckthorn was and continues to be removed and understory restored. The forest, primarily ash, soon will be decimated by the emerald ash borer so it is being diversified with other species to maintain the natural filtration system provided by the tree line.


Phase II will undertake larger efforts related to the restoration the marsh in conjunction with Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust who is the caretaker for the remaining 48 acres of the marsh.
On July 23, 2009, the State of Wisconsin recognized Wild Ones . . .
in honor of its 25th anniversary as an exemplary organization. Wild Ones celebrated the occasion of its 25th anniversary with a blow-out annual meeting and conference in Madison, Wisconsin. Keynote speaker was Robert Michael Pyle, noted speaker, professor, and ecologist and award-winning author. We were fortunate to have several of the original founders celebrate with us.

In 2014 we celebrated our 35th anniversary in the Fox Cities of Wisconsin.
In 2013, Wild Ones joined with the Monarch Joint Venture to educate the public about the plight of the declining Monarch butterfly population . . .
and to institute programs to enhance their survivability. The program, called Wild for Monarchs was a tremendous success.

Informational brochures, posters, and other materials were produced and distributed through all chapters to public schools, environmental groups, and other public-facing organizations. A massive effort was initiated to provide milkweed seed and plants to schools, organizations, and private citizens in hopes of extending the already depleted habitat. This program truly inspired individuals to work together for the benefit of Monarch butterflies.
Staff, Board, and Honorary Directors
Janet Rothe, Marketing Manager :: [email protected]Janet Rothe, Membership Manager
Janet is responsible for providing membership reports, maintaining social media, and serving as the first point of contact for chapter customer service. In partnership with the National Director, Janet provides the organization with insight and support for the Wild Ones brand, technology, training, and marketing initiatives. Janet holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh in fine arts, including visual communications design and strategic messaging.

  Marti Agler, Director, Internal Audit
TN, thru 2022, Finance, MBA, biology degree


  Ellen Folts, Director
NY, thru 2022, Native perennial nursery owner; speaker


 Denise Gehring, Director, Vice President, Chair SFE
OH, thru 2020, Naturalist; environmental programs dir.



  Susan Hall, Director, Secretary
WV-PAL, thru 2022, Horticulturalist, landscape designer



  Janice Hand, Director
MT-PAL, thru 2020, NFP, leadership



  Matthew Ross, Director, Chair Honorary Directors
PA, thru 2020, Head of Cont. Ed., Longwood Gardens



  Rick Sanders, Director, Treasurer
MT-PAL, thru 2020, NFP, IT, marketing, accounting



  Karen Syverson, Director, Chair Governance
WI, thru 2020, Teacher (retired); former Chapter Pres.



  Pam Todd, Director
IL, thru 2022, Marketing, PR, advocacy, market research



  Rita Ulrich, Director, President
MN, thru 2022, NFP, fundraising, financials, former ED



  Sally Wencel, Director, Technology
TN, thru 2022, JD, CEO, counsel for membership.org



  Bret Rappaport, Corporate Counsel
IL, Attorney



Wild Ones® honors and recognizes individuals respected and known for their expertise in fields such as native plants, pollinators, education, climate change, or conservation, whose work

  • makes outstanding contributions in the environmental and/or native plant and natural landscaping,
  • provides scientific information important to furthering the public’s understanding of our interdependent ecosystem,
  • furthers Wild Ones’ goals of promoting the importance of native plants and restoration of local plant communities and ecosystems, and
  • advocates for Wild Ones and will help influence others and add to the organization’s credibility.

Lifetime Honorary Directors

Honorary Directors, 2015 – 2019

Honorary Directors, 2018 – 2022

We are a Nonprofit Corporation

Wild Ones Natural Landscapers, Ltd. is a nonprofit, environmental education and advocacy corporation registered in the State of Wisconsin.

  • We are a 501(c)(3) organization, registered under Tax ID# 39-1695443.
  • All membership dues and donations are 100% tax deductible to the extent of the law.
  • Our Executive Committee is made up of the national officers — President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Past President — and the Executive Director.
  • Except for the Executive Director, all members of the Executive Committee, Board of Directors and chair people are volunteers. Each person brings their own unique expertise to our organization for the purpose of implementing the Board’s directives and guiding chapter operations.
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