When Judie and David Foster Babcock learned about the Landmark Legacy Challenge, they were ready to sign on. The couple had recently celebrated milestone birthdays and a milestone anniversary, which sparked a conversation between them about leaving a portion of their estate to Landmark. “We are both over 60 now and know that making these decisions as part of our estate planning process enables us to share the reasons for the investment while we are still alive,” said Judie.  

The couple is rooted in River Falls, with Judie being a fifth-generation member of the city’s founding family. Her father was a scout leader and fished the Kinnickinnic River nearly every day of his life; the connectedness of scouting, conservation, and strong family ties to the natural landscape influenced her upbringing. She reflects on the role of Wisconsin as a source of conservation movements in the nation, from the organizing that led to establishing Earth Day over 50 years ago, to the early writings of conservation notables like Muir and Leopold. “The history of conservation and the land ethic in Wisconsin is so deep, it’s hard to have that not be a part of you,” she said.  

Babcocks Summer 2023

‘The Kinni,’ as it’s known locally, is a Class I trout stream rising from springs in St. Croix County and is a tributary to the St. Croix RiverJudie is a former board member of the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, and both are founding members of Kinni Corridor Collaborative (KinniCC), a volunteer-led organization working with local partners toward ecological restoration. Through the KinniCC they are active stewards of the river, which they monitor through their hobby as drone pilots. David explains it as a team activity, with one as the ‘remote pilot in command’ and the other as a visual observer. “We get a lot of fun out of it,” he said. 

Drone Shot Kinni River Babcocks
Kinni River from Kinni Corridor Collaborative

When asked to describe her connection to the land and water, Judie said, “It’s hard to put into words something that is so familiar – so much a part of you – but for me, that draw back to the land, and to the community, and to that confluence [of the river’s main branch and South Fork] in particular, which I love to go look at – it’s like a lodestone. Whenever I leave, it’s there in that background, and if things are too stressful or too difficult, I know that I can go back to that… You feel like you know it well at times, but then you go exploring and you find something new every time you go out, which is what I love about the natural world. 

Judie feels fortunate to have been part of exploratory conversations that led to the merger of West Wisconsin Land Trust and Bayfield Regional Conservancy, which formed Landmark in 2018. In the face of a rapidly changing climate, the idea of bringing organizations together to form a stronger and more resilient regional land trust was appealing to her. She admired the ‘passion and grit’ leaders used to embrace a significant opportunity and face challenges directly, and she and David stay connected to Landmark through relationships formed at that time. 

Kinni River from Kinni River Land Trust

“We hope this will inspire others to make similar decisions – no matter the size of the gift – having the intent and taking the action gives us great joy.  We know this investment will have a lasting impact on conservation in our community – ensuring the special places loved by so many remain healthy and open to the public.”  – Judie Foster Babcock 

Funding through the Legacy Challenge matches each new commitment with a $1,000 operating gift to Landmark Conservancy.