Thursday, 25 July 2019

Score big with Wisconsin Wetlands Field Trips

image of the Fish Creek estuary in Ashland County.

Fish Creek Estuary is a haven of bio-diversity at the head of Chequamegon Bay.

Make the summer of 2019 a real hit with this triple play from the Wisconsin Wetlands Association. As part of their 50th Anniversary celebration, WWA is offering field trips to some of coolest wetlands in Wisconsin. There are three field trips, all quickly coming up. So fit at least one of these into your calendar and make it a summer you will not soon forget.

image of springs in the Chippewa Moraine wetlands.

Wetlands are all about the place where water and the land meet.

 

 

 

 

Field Trips

July 27, 29019 – Wetlands of the Chippewa Moraine. Treat yourself to a diverse tour of the bogs, sedge meadows, and ephemeral ponds that make up the Deerfly Swamp State Natural Area. Wear rubber boots because this is a walk for those who aren’t afraid to get their feet wet.

August 1, 2019 – Wetlands of the Penokee Hills. You may know the Penokee Hills as part of the Gogebic Range that was the site of proposed iron mining several years ago. Take a walk through interesting wetlands that are the home of cold water brook trout, beaver, and trumpeter swans. Learn how these wetlands capture runoff and provide cool, clean water to the creeks and rivers downstream, all the way to Lake Superior.

August 16, 2019 – Paddling the Fish Creek Estuary. This fish creek is not in Door County. This fish creek feeds the Chequamegon Bay in Ashland County. This is an important Lake Superior fish spawning grounds that is packed with wildlife in an incredibly bio-diverse setting.

image of Penokee Hills wetlands.

A creek flows through the wetlands of the Bad River watershed.

Add some excitement to your summer with a field trip to one of Wisconsin’s delightful wetlands. Treat yourself and your family to an adventure into some of the most interesting and diverse ecosystems in Wisconsin. You will be batting a thousand when it comes to making nature a big part of your summer enjoyment.

May 2019

Friday, 24 May 2019

Farming Better Wetlands

Seventy-five percent of Wisconsin wetlands are privately owned. When private landowners act to conserve those wetlands, we all benefit. Wetlands provide much of the groundwater recharge that we all depend on to make sure our wells have enough water for our homes and families. We all depend on wetlands for flood control during the spring thaw and heavy rains. They also filter out sediments that would otherwise clog our rivers and streams.

Wetlands also provide water, food and shelter for a wide variety of wildlife we all enjoy. Likewise, wetlands are critical resting places for migrating birds.

Farmers’ Role

Farmers are the largest group of private wetland owners. They live on the land and make their living from the soil. As stewards of their land, farmers make decide how to best use their property. They can protect wetlands or ignore them. In the past, farmers often drained or degraded wetlands to make way for grazing and cropland.

Today, farmers take a different view of the places they used to see as wasteland. Farmers like Nick and Dianne Somers, potato farmers in Plover, are leading a revolution on the farm. Wetland are starting to get the attention and respect they deserve. Nick shares his love for the wetlands on his property in a Wisconsin Wetlands Association video, Farmers Care for Wetlands.

The Wisconsin Wetlands Association produced it as part of a six part video series, celebrating American Wetlands Month and their 50th Anniversary. They provide information and assistance to farmers and other private landowners in Wisconsin who want to preserve their wetland resources. You can also check out our Resources page.

Wetlands Future

Wisconsin farmers hold the future of our wetlands, the groundwater and biodiversity in their hands. Nick believes, “It’s something everybody should do.” When you choose to protect and improve your wetlands, you are making an investment in your family’s future and the wildlife that call you farm home. As Wisconsin’s most important land stewards, the decisions you make will ensure we all continue to enjoy the this great natural heritage.

 

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Landowners Care for Wetlands

Landowners Karen and Marty Voss have owned their land near Eau Claire since 1981. They like you, the they take great pride in their land and want to do what they can to conserve it. Over the years, they have spent untold time and energy improving their wetlands. Karen and Marty did it for their own enjoyment, as well as to be good stewards of their little corner of the watershed.

According to the Wisconsin Wetland Association, “Private landowners own 75% of Wisconsin’s remaining wetlands and as much as 85% of potentially restorable wetlands, giving them a vital role in caring for wetlands.”

 

The Wisconsin Wetland Association produced this video as part of their 50th Anniversary celebration. It is part of a six part series of Wisconsin wetland videos. Check out the entire series and get better acquainted with their work.

Conservation Digest and the Wisconsin Wetlands Association are your partners in conservation. We can help no matter what kind of wetland you own or its condition. Check out our resources and events. Find out how you can improve the diversity and functioning of the wetlands you call home.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Celebrate Wisconsin Wetlands

 

picture of blooming sedge

May is American Wetlands Month. Wisconsin Wetlands Association produced six short videos that help tell the story of these incredible resources.

The first is called Wetlands: Vital Solutions. “Wetlands are among the most important parts of our landscape,” says WWA’s Outreach Programs Director, Katie Beilfuss.

Conservation Digest will share these videos with you throughout May as part of American Wetlands Month.

Help WWA celebrate its 50th Anniversary and American Wetlands Month. Discover the many ways that wetlands makes life better for all of us.

2017

December 2017

Monday, 11 December 2017

Forest Killing Weed: Japanese knotweed

closeup of Japanese knotweed flower

Japanese knotweed, also called Mexican bamboo grows up to 15 feet tall.

What would you say if somebody told you that a weed could crack the asphalt in you driveway, force its way through the foundation of you house and prevent maple regeneration in your woodland? The weed is called Japanese knotweed and it is here in Wisconsin.

Picture of silver maple floodplain forest community.

Healthy silver maple lowland floodplain forest community with native ferns as ground cover. Courtesy of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Researchers in Pennsylvania found that the invasive plant, Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), can grow so thick in river floodplains that it can prevent silver maple seeds from taking root and regenerating the forest canopy.

It appears, however, that poison ivy may be a competitor for Japanese knotweed. And unlike knotweed, poison ivy seems to be much more of a team player. Areas with high density of poison ivy had more diversity than those dominated by knotweed. Not withstanding the problems it causes humans, poison ivy seems to be  better neighbor for stream bank plants.

Japanese knotweed is a serious threat in wet soils, especially in lowlands and along riverbanks. Knotweed is also found along bike paths in Madison and roadways in Iowa County.

Knotweed Control

Getting rid of Japanese knotweed is very tough. It grows up six to ten feet tall on hollow stalks that die back in the winter. Knotweed produces a large amount of seed that sprouts really well. High water and even mower decks can easily spread seed or small pieces of cut stalks; both of which can start an whole new infestation. Knotweed also spreads through underground roots called rhizomes that can grow up to fifteen feet deep and twenty feet horizontally in a single year.

Kill very small patches by covering with black tarps that must be held down in place and cover an area fifteen feet wider than the patch itself to keep the roots from creeping out around the edge. The tarps must be left in place continuously for at least three years. This approach does not work for most situations.

Use a combined approach to attacking your Japanese knotweed problem. Cut down in June when the plants are around knee high. This removes stored nutrients from the roots and weakens the plant. Carefully bag and remove EVERYTHING and burn it completely or take it to a commercial landfill. Every small piece of stem that contains a node (where the leaf and stem meet) can form a completely new plant. NEVER take cuttings to a compost facility or place them on a home compost pile.

Repeat the process of cutting, bagging and removing all stems, leaves, flowers and seeds in late August or the first week of September. Again, burn the cuttings completely or taken them to a commercial landfill.

Three weeks later, spray the plants that have re-sprouted with Glyphosate (commercial products include Roundup) according to the label directions.

Japanese knotweed requires three years or more following the same regime to totally eliminate the problem.

Find More Help

For more information about managing Japanese knotweed, check out the Wisconsin DNR Invasive Species factsheet or the UW Extension bulletin.

August 2017

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Little Things Mean a Lot

A new Ontario study shows that destruction of small wetlands can increase algae blooms in the Great Lakes basin. The Canadian Press notes that while government agencies tend to focus more of their attention on large wetland remediation projects, smaller wetlands actually punch above their weight when it comes to filtering out nutrients from runoff.

Authors, Nandita Basu and Fred Cheng, writes in Water Resources Research, Biogeochemical hotspots: Role of small water bodies ilandscape nutrient processing, “Results suggest that small wetlands play a disproportionately large role in landscape-scale nutrient processing.”

Their conclusions suggest that what you do as an individual landowner makes a real difference. “Thus, given the same loss in wetland area, the nutrient retention potential lost is greater when smaller wetlands are preferentially lost from the landscape. Our study highlights the need for a stronger focus on small lentic systems as major nutrient sinks in the landscape.”

The Wisconsin Wetlands Association publishes My Healthy Wetland a handbook for landowners. They also host workshops and publish a quarterly e-newsletter.

July 2017

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Good Things Come in Small Packages

Wetlands educator show difference between Reed Canary Grass and native wetland grasses.

According to a new study released by University of Waterloo (Ontario, CA) professor Nandita Basu, small wetlands seem to be more efficient at reducing nutrient loading. His team reviewed 600 studies worldwide of wetlands rivers and reservoirs. They concluded that smaller wetlands are more effective as “nutrient sinks” because they have more soil that filters less water.

These findings are particularly important for Wisconsin because too much nitrogen and phosphorus cause the algae blooms that poison our lakes.

The way you manage runoff from your land affects the land and waters that are downhill. Small wetland restorations high in the watershed make a big difference. Restoration contractors and consultants can help you figure out the best practices to manage nutrient runoff.

Wetland restoration can be complicated. Moving soil and many other activities in wetlands require the right licenses and permits. Look for a professional who is trained in wetland ecology and has a proven track record doing wetland projects. Make sure to ask for and check out their references.

The Wisconsin Wetlands Association is a great first stop to find information about out wetlands. They not only have general information about wetlands, they provide really good resources for private landowners. The Wisconsin DNR has an online Wetland Restoration Handbook that has chapters to walk you through the entire restoration process.

Wisconsin’s wetlands are so much more than cattails. You will be amazed at how easy it is to fall in love with your swamp.

2016

March 2016

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Opening Day

Sunday was the first day of burn season. Okay, it was the first day of burn season for me. The truth is my fellow burn buddies in The Prairie Enthusiasts started without me on Friday. Worse, because many of them are retired, they will be burning on Monday and Tuesday while I am punching a time clock.

Burn season is that magical time in early spring between winter brush season and fishing season. Throughout the winter, on days when the weather permits, chainsaws, brush saws and loppers reclaim neglected southern Wisconsin shrub-land to a semblance of the prairie and savanna that settlers found when the arrived nearly two hundred years ago. Brush clearing drives away the winter doldrums, but it is fire that makes the magic.

Fire from prescribed burns is needed to keep the invasive shrubs and aggressive trees like boxelder and black locust at bay. Most trees and shrubs do hot tolerate fire. Their bark burns and the sap layers beneath are destroyed, killing the woody plants. Some trees and a very few shrubs tolerate fire. For millennia, bur oaks, white oaks and hickory have used their tough bark to protect them.

Before European settlement, lighting and fires set by Native Americans keep the prairies and savannas of southern Wisconsin clear. Today, that task falls to public land managers, private landowners and volunteer groups like the Pheasants Forever, Quail Society, Prairie Enthusiasts and Nature Conservancy.

We meet up at the barn at noon and within a half hour a dozen hearty soles are at the first burn unit getting our briefing. Weather is perfect, northwest winds 10-15 mph with relative humidity in the mid 40s means the fire will be manageable, even on the steep slope that makes up our first unit.

A pair of sandhill cranes move off the marsh scared by the commotion of a dozen humans even before flames light up the hillside. They are just beginning their nest building and have not begun laying eggs. Enough unburnt spots will remain in the marsh for them to rebuild a nest in time to raise their family.

The burns continue through the afternoon, right up to sunset. We burn two upland hillside units and a third large marsh area, which has six test wells that must be protected from the flames. All goes according to plan, with the final fire line being closed off as the sun set over the ridge.

Most days I keep my Nomex hood pulled up over my cheeks and nose to protect them from the flames. Today, however, it is the chill wind that keeps my face covered, especially as our crew is forced to wait to light off the upwind side of the marsh unit.

With luck, burn season will continue until Mother’s Day weekend and opening day of fishing season. For everything there truly is a season and a time to every purpose. Helping to restore balance to the land is what conservation is all about and looking over that valley ready for its spring rebirth makes me feel blessed.