Climate Corner: Wisconsin’s Most Innovative Counties and Municipalities Join Together

By Curt Witynski

A diverse group of Wisconsin cities, villages and counties have joined with the Department of Natural Resources and several nonprofit organizations to help each other advance sustainability goals. The group, which was first created in 2010, is known as Green Tier Legacy Communities (GTLC). This network of local governments focuses on promoting environmental stewardship, economic growth, public health and social equity.

Put in order

Today, the association includes the following 13 cities and villages: Appleton, Ashland, Bayfield, Bayside, Eau Claire, Fitchburg, La Crosse, Middleton, Monona, Port Washington, Sheboygan, Weston, Wisconsin Rapids, as well as the counties of Bayfield, Eau Claire, La Crosse and Sheboygan. GTLC participants receive advisory and collaborative support from the Department of Natural Resources, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, the Wisconsin Counties Association, 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, UW-Madison’s Center on Wisconsin Strategies, the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation, and other organizations.

The group meets quarterly and shares information, resources and ideas. The participating local governments regularly collaborate on projects, activities and grant applications. For example, GTLC recently joined with the University of Wisconsin–Madison UniverCity Alliance Program, (a partnership initiative with local communities) to apply for a grant from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health to improve health and address health disparities within GTLC’s membership. GTLC’s application has advanced to the third and final round. The group is likely to receive up to $1 million in funding in a five-year period. The money is to be used to encourage and provide assistance to municipalities and counties within GTLC to implement policies and practices that incorporate health and health equity considerations into local government decision-making, which is known as a “health in all policies” framework.

GTLC is open to all Wisconsin cities, villages and counties. To join, a local government’s governing body must adopt a resolution expressing its intent to join GTLC. The benefits of membership include access to the resources and expertise of collaborating nonprofit organizations, access to a single point of contact within the DNR along with agency technical assistance, networking opportunities with other innovative municipalities and counties across the state, access to the monthly Sustainable Strategies Webinar Series for Municipal Professionals, and use of the Green Tier Logo for promotional use. Another critical benefit is that members receive additional points on certain state grant applications, including Urban Forestry grants, Urban Nonpoint Source & Storm Water Management grants; and the Wisconsin State Energy Office on the Municipal Energy Efficiency Technical Assistance Program grants.

The cost of participating in GTLC is minor. There are no initial fees. There are no ongoing membership fees. The only cost is the time and resources local government staff and officials devote to participating in the program. At a minimum, members are expected to participate in the group’s quarterly meetings. An executive committee meets monthly to plan the quarterly meetings and recommend activities the group may want to engage in. The entire membership votes on whether to pursue particular activities.

The Green Tier Legacy Communities Charter provides opportunities for local governments to share information, have face-to-face engagement with DNR staff, and strive together to accomplish superior environmental performance. For more information on the Green Tier Legacy Communities Charter, contact Laurel Sukup, DNR, at 608.267.6817 or [email protected].

More information on GTLC is available at the following websites:;


Curt Witynski

Curt Witynski

Curt Witynski is assistant director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. His primary responsibility at the League of Wisconsin Municipalities is to represent the interests of Wisconsin cities and villages in the state capitol. He writes the Legislative Bulletin and Capitol Buzz for municipal officials when the legislature is in session. He holds degrees from Carthage College and the University of Wisconsin Law School. He is a former member of the City of Madison Zoning Board of Appeals.


The Climate Corner is a monthly column featuring a variety of writers from around the state and Door County addressing various aspects of the challenges and opportunities climate change presents. The column is sponsored by the Climate Change Coalition of Door County, which is dedicated to “helping to keep our planet a cool place to live.” The Coalition is always open to new members and ideas. Contact the Coalition at [email protected].

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