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LA Receives Inaugural Environmental Steward Award


The Hixon Forest Nature Center includes forest, marsh, rare native prairies, bluffs, rivers and the habitats of numerous wildlife species.

Pete Bemis, landscape architect for the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and assistant director of the school's physical plant, was honored for his conservation efforts during Hixon Forest Nature Center's 20th annual meeting.

Bemis was chosen as the first recipient of the Hixon Forest Nature Center's Stewards of Environment Leadership award after leading proactive environmental programs including a campus-wide recycling program, educational program, for students, staff and the public, and reducing the use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides in campus landscaping. The award recognizes businesses or individuals who promote preservation, conservation and wise use of natural resources. Award criteria include a demonstrated commitment to promoting environmentally-friendly programs or practices, such as development of green practices at a business and pollution prevention, and recycling and waste minimization.

Bemis is responsible for managing the university's recycling program. In 2002, the program recovered 365.5 tons of materials that did not go into the waste stream. Bemis is credited with getting students and staff into the recycling habit and fostering an appreciation for the long-term benefits of thoughtful environmental management.

A nomination letter for the award written by Michael Daniel, director of facilities management at UW-L, and Ron Lostetter, associate chancellor, said Bemis exemplifies the meaning of environmentalism.

"Those differences affect many thousands of people in the La Crosse community and beyond," the letter said.

"The neat part for me is that my bosses wrote the letter," Bemis told LASN. "That makes you feel real good even if you don't win."

Brenda Haug, executive director of HFNC, said Bemis' forward-thinking attitude positioned him as the best candidate for the inaugural award.

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse was founded in 1909 as the La Crosse Normal School. Today, it is one of the 13 four-year campuses in the University of Wisconsin System. The compact 119-acre campus is located in a residential section of La Crosse and has seen enrollment grow from 176 when the doors opened to more than 9,000.

According to Bemis, every floor of every building has a recycling station for paper, glass tin and other materials. He said that in 1991, Wisconsin started mandatory recycling and the university has been able to exceed requirements set up by the state.

"We are not only recycling on campus but pulling materials out of the waste stream," Bemis said. "This is then recycled and used as mulch for trails."

Bemis received undergraduate and graduate degrees from UW-L, earning a master's degree in parks and recreation administration in 1982. He also holds a master's in landscape architecture from the University of Illinois. He has been employed on campus since 1986.

Throughout his time at the university he has instituted many environmentally conscious programs, such as creating safe bikeways; selecting plant materials indigenous to the La Crosse area to reduce the need for watering and special soil supplements. Bemis initially developed the university recycling program in 1991, which has worked in accordance with Wisconsin Act 335.

"We were impressed with the wide array of environmentally friendly practices that Pete uses in his career and promotes across campus," said Kim Fredricks, chair of the awards committee.

"He fulfills the duties of his job by being a steward of the environment."


Pete Bemis, landscape architect for the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, honored for his conservation efforts.

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June 27, 2019, 1:59 am PDT

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