Driftless Notes

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Julia Henley

Publisher and Editor Julia Henley, along with other area media professionals, hope that Driftless Notes Magazine and other such entities have a ripple effect upon the economic development of the Driftless Region.


Area media professionals teaming up to promote 

environment, economic growth in Driftless Region

By Ted Pennekamp


The creator and editor of a Driftless Region magazine has joined forces with two local, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmakers to explore the possible creation of a single, multi-channel, nonprofit publishing organization with a joint mission of education and advocacy for best practices that result in a healthy and vibrant Driftless Region. Julia Henley, editor of Driftless Notes Magazine, and the president of River to Valley Initiatives, a non-profit focused on economic development in Southwest Wisconsin, is in discussions with filmmakers Tim Jacobson and George Howe, who served as executive producers of the recent film “Mysteries of the Driftless” and are working on a new feature-length film.

Henley created Driftless Notes Magazine in 2014 to cover all things Driftless in the region from all four states: culture, policy, events, environment, agricultural issues, organics, outdoor sports and recreation, food, brews, events, places to visit, and resources to quickly connect the reader to local communities. In addition, she works with Ken Harwood of H2integration to publish weekly E-news services, called Wisconsin Development News and Wisconsin Development Green in addition to Driftless Notes Magazine and Driftless Notes.com.

“The Driftless Region is a really special place, unique in the world,” said Henley. “We want to amplify our stories to reach an audience to the world.”

Henley said that Driftless Notes Magazine was launched in September of 2014 to complement Driftless Notes.com, which is a weekly news aggregation of stories and photographs relevant to the entire Driftless Region. 

“We would like to share interesting stories not only about the geology and watersheds of this pristine and beautiful region but also about the environmental history, the cultural history and the economic development history, including such developments as the growth of the organic market,” said Henley. “We would like to identify new business and entrepreneurial opportunities, and we can’t have great economic growth without a great environment.” 

Henley said that one of the missions of Driftless Notes is to educate residents and visitors about possible business opportunities within the Driftless Region and to hopefully improve the quality of life and to help stem the tide of declining populations in the region and to get young people to stay and older people to retire here. 

“We do better when we work together,” said Henley. “We are trying to get people connected with each other. Because of the Internet and other forms of communication, we’re not as isolated in the rural areas anymore.”

Through Driftless Notes Magazine, Driftless Notes.com and the other websites, it is hoped that people may learn about an idea, a business opportunity or a good job opportunity in the Driftless Region that they hadn’t known about or thought of before.

“We would like to help in tangible ways, not only with information,” said Henley. “Hopefully, we can make an impact toward sustainable economic growth.” 

Driftless Region media professionals Ken Harwood and Henley as well as Tim Jacobson and George Howe realized they were operating on parallel tracks and had closely aligned missions. So, they decided that it would make sense to work together to spread appreciation for the Driftless Region.

Filmmakers Jacobson and Howe recently formed the Driftless Environmental Education Project, otherwise known as “DEEP,” with a mission to produce and distribute innovative digital media, and particularly a feature-length documentary film, that effectively educates the public about, and enhances enthusiasm for, the rare and diverse natural and scenic resources and unique history of the Driftless Region, while also promoting sustainable economic development. DEEP has partnered again with Rob Nelson of Untamed Science, the director of “Mysteries of the Driftless,” to make the new documentary.

“There is more coming. There are new products coming in the next month. It is very exciting,” said Henley, who noted that the parties are in the process of exploring a goal to transform their informal cooperative relationship into a formal, joint nonprofit organization, consisting of a comprehensive interweaving of communication channels to reach a wide variety of viewers, including a feature film and video shorts, an annual print publication, a quarterly E-Magazine, a weekly newsletter, and local and national presentations, with cutting-edge social media support for each.

“I’ve been working on economic development, publishing, and design work all around the Driftless Area for years, and I have a real passion for highlighting and celebrating the ways in which we can work toward a brighter, more vibrant and sustainable future,” Henley said. “I firmly believe that a combination of our print, digital and video media, along with a program of education for youth and promotion of this region to the rest of the country, can have an enormous impact on strengthening Driftless communities.”

Henley said that she is thinking about possibly transforming Driftless Notes Magazine into an annual book, and later, a biannual book. “I want something that people look forward to on an annual basis,” she said. “I don’t want to have a throw-away.”

Henley said that the team is growing and starting to come together.

George Howe, a biologist and environmental educator, expressed enthusiasm about the effectiveness of film, coupled with other media channels, as teaching tools. 

“Even long-time residents of the area can learn a tremendous amount about the Driftless Region, and they can have a lot of fun at the same time,” Howe said. “Learning should be fun. We made our first film a true adventure of exploration for the viewer, and we injected plenty of humor. I’m very interested in exploring ways that we can create a new film and other publications to draw people toward deeper ecological knowledge and caring for the environment, while also enhancing local economies.”

Bringing people together to work cooperatively on common goals of community growth and enhancement has been a long-term passion of Tim Jacobson, a local economic development director and former land conservation leader who once traveled to the Middle East to gain a firsthand perspective on regional conflicts and opportunities for peaceful resolution of issues. 

“I’ve enjoyed working with Julia Henley in several of her endeavors, including Clearwater Farm Foundation, Gays Mills flood recovery, and as a feature writer for Driftless Notes Magazine,” Jacobson said. “George Howe and I are thrilled to explore the potential synergy from coupling the mission of Driftless Environmental Education Project coupled with that of Driftless Notes. It seems like a natural fit.”

Henley further stated, “We intend to increase our efforts to provide support for artists, authors, photographers, innovative thinking and entities intent on linking quality of life, a healthy environment and economic development within the region. This will result in workforce attraction and retention, sustainable environmental management, increased recreational participation for residents and visitors and a healthy population overall.”

“In the case of sustainable economic growth,” Henley argued, “we must, and can, educate and promote wise efforts, smart concepts, the work that is being done, and the successes and challenges that make a place cherished and livable. We must understand that cooperative thinking and working towards shared goals, understanding tough topics communicated with respect, perspective and celebration of both the short and long view, results in the most effective outcomes. We must realize that our children need to be nurtured in growing their wisdom about this special place from an environmental perspective to manage our shared existence in this fast changing world, and to capture their own interest in having a bright future right here.

“We must underscore that we can smartly grow our larger cities, re-energize our smaller towns, cherish our history, adapt for the future with all the changes in demographics and technology, and care for our wild areas without sacrificing the unique culture and shared environment that is the Driftless Region.”

More information about the Driftless Environmental Education Project can be found at www.DriftlessEducation.org. Information about Driftless Notes can be found at www.DriftlessNotes.com.

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