Pope Farm Conservancy Weathers Severe Spring Storms

Eighty-year old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Spillway Handles 5″ of rain in 3 hours on June 16


The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Spillway in Pope Farm Conservancy built in 1938 in cooperation with the Soil Conservation Service.  As it looked on 06.20.18

Sections of highway and stormwater infrastructure in parts of  northern and southern Wisconsin crumbled under the force of this spring’s storms.  In addition to damage to roads, homes, and property, eroded topsoil flowed to the nearest stream or lake.  Especially intense were downpours from Saturday June 16 through Monday June 18 when 10′ of rain fell in a short time in Bayfield County, Wisconsin and surrounds.


Looking north from the outlet of the CCC spillway from Blackhawk Road.  As it looked on 06.20.18

Meanwhile, the Pope Farm Conservancy spillway remains intact and the surrounding landscape undamaged.

The Pope Farm Conservancy in the Town of Middleton, of Dane County in southern Wisconsin is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the 105 acre Pope family farm.  The Pope Farm Conservancy  “sits on top of three recessional moraines in the Town of Middleton, Wisconsin, where three different watersheds come together. A 360 degree panoramic view of Lake Mendota, the Capitol and Madison’s west side can be seen to the east, the Black Earth Creek valley to the North, and the terminal moraine to the South and West.”  (About Pope Farm Conservancy)

The design, engineering, and construction of the 1938 spillway is a marvel and is still functioning as intended 80 years later. For more information about the spillway design, click here.  This longevity is even more remarkable since modern day storm water infrastructure often fails much sooner.

There will be m,ore about the Civilian Conservation Corps, this CCC project and the Pope Farm Conservancy in subsequent posts.

Posted in Civilian Conservation Corps, Pope Farm Conservancy, Storm water | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A Few Images From the Spring 2018 Prescribed Burn Season

As is usual in spring, in Wisconsin, prescribed management fires were conducted all across Dane, County Wisconsin.  Fire dependent plant communities such as prairies, savannas, oak woodlands, and wetlands were managed by the careful and constrained use of fire.

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The first prescribed management fire in the UW-Madison Arboretum was conducted in 1951 on Curtis Prairie.  The annual spring management ritual, which now uses fire to also manage savannas, oak woodlands, and wetlands has been conducted every spring since then.

After an early start to the burn season in mid-March, snow and cold interrupted burn plans for a couple of weeks in early April.  Burning was back on track in late April until the last couple of days during which excessively dry conditions, and return of strong SW winds have injected a note of caution into burn planning.  But, these ups and downs are typical of a spring burn season.

Stephen B. Glass-7701

Fires such as this one are called “prescribed management fires” because 1) they are conducted under a set of prescribed weather conditions; and 2) are intended to achieve a set of prescribed management outcomes.

Prescribed fire is an efficient and effective ecological restoration tool, the benefits of which were demonstrated by scientific study at the UW-Madison Arboretum by Curtis and Partch in 1948.

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Fire prescriptions are written to maximize safety while still achieving the desired management outcomes.

ND8_7600April 08, 2018Stephen B. Glass

A recreated prairie on private property in the Town of Dunkirk, Wisconsin.  This is possibly the only prairie in the Town of Dunkirk.

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A professional land management company conducting a prescribed burn for a private landowner.  The burn crew members seen here have all received training in the safe use of fire and are certified fire professionals.


“Prairie Ravine” along the SW Bike Path in Madison.  Planted, managed, and burned by the Westmorland Neighborhood under the leadership of private citizens–who are also trained and certified.

Prescribed prairie burns, conducted by neighborhood groups, are now common in many public spaces in Madison, such as along the SW Commuter Bike Path shown above.


Curtis, J.T. and M. L. Partch. 1948. Effect of fire on the competition between blue grass and certain prairie plants. The American Midland Naturalist, 39, 437-43.

Posted in Ecological restoration, Prescribed fire, Restoration ecology, Restoration in Madison Wisconsin, SW Bike Path | Tagged | 2 Comments

Two Weeks Until SER MWGL 10th Annual Meeting–April 20-22

Continuing Education Credits, Discounted Registration Deadline, and Call for Student Volunteers


Poster session at the SER MWGL 2017 annual meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan 

The Midwest-Great Lakes Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) is excited to announce that its upcoming meeting in Stevens Point, WI has been pre-approved for Continuing Education Credits (CECs) from the following organizations:

Society for Ecological Restoration (SER): 6 CECs
International Society of Arboriculture (ISA): 6 CEUs
Society of American Foresters (SAF): 22.5 CFEs

At the meeting, a ” continuing education credit passport” will be provided that you can use for tracking your attendance and independently seeking professional development hours from other organizations. Please email us (mwgl.ser@gmail.com) if you are interested in obtaining continuing education credits, so we may properly sign you in to get full credit. Additional directions and the meeting passport will be available onsite at the registration table.

About the Midwest Great Lakes Chapter of SER

The Midwest-Great Lakes Chapter of SER was established in March 2008 and serves Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  The chapter’s mission is to promote the science and practice of ecological restoration to assist with the recovery and management of degraded ecosystems throughout the Midwestern and Great Lakes region of the USA.  Click here for more information about SER MWGL

Discounted Registration Rate Still Available

We are two weeks away from the 10th Annual Meeting and there is still plenty of time to register online and obtain discounted registration rates. If you have not yet registered, then we encourage you do so before April 15, 2018 to get the discounted registration rates.  Click here for registration information.


Student Volunteers Needed

Annual meeting organizers are still seeking student volunteers to assist with onsite registration at the upcoming 2018 Midwest-Great Lakes SER Chapter Meeting in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.  Assistance is needed on Friday April 20 and Saturday April 21, 2018. Depending on the availability of funding, there may be up to 8 volunteer opportunities. Student volunteers will receive a free meeting registration in return for their help. Students will be selected on a first-come-first served basis and their availability to work one of four time blocks listed below:

Friday 7:00 am -11:00 am
Friday 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Friday 3:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Saturday 7:00 am -11:00 am

Those interested in volunteering need to email the chapter at  mwgl.ser@gmail.com as soon as possible expressing your willingness to volunteer and provide information on blocks you would be available and prefer to work.

Meeting Program

We have a fantastic meeting lined up, featuring a keynote presentation by Stephen Carpenter of the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Friday and a plenary presentation by Tracy Hames of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association on Saturday.  Click here for more information about the meeting program.

Meeting Host and Sponsors

We are grateful for the generous support of this year’s meeting hosts (University of Wionsin-Stevens Point’s Lakes Extension and College of Natural Resources) and our meeting sponsors (Applied Ecological Services, Atwell, Cardno, Cindy Crosby-Northwestern University Press, Eco Logic LLC, Eco-Resource Consulting, Environmental Consulting & Technology, Ernst Seeds, Genesis Nursery, Grand Valley State University, Landscapes of Place, Metro Consulting Associates, Partnership for River Restoration and Science in the Upper Midwest, Stantec, The Nature Conservancy, University of Northern Iowa Tallgrass Prairie Center, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wisconsin Wetlands Association).

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Monarchs Are in Trouble and They Need Everyone’s Help

Ecological restoration, civic engagement, and people working for the common good will be components of a successful monarch recovery strategy

The annual monarch migration is one of the most magnificent and intriguing of all natural phenomena but this natural spectacle is at risk, risk of vanishing as monarch populations continue to decline. This is because the monarch population of the central U.S. flyway is in decline.



Monarch butterfly on Showy Blazizingstar

Monarch butterfly on Showy Blazizingstar, a good nectar plant that is suitable for the home garden.

We know from on-site monitoring that monarch numbers on their overwintering sites are decreasing. For the third year in a row the forest areas occupied by the overwintering adult monarch butterfly population in Mexico has declined, according to a report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which conducts the monitoring.

In December of 2017, 9 colonies in Mexico covered a forest area of 2.48 hectares,   “an area that represents a decrease of 14.77 percent with respect to the previous season (2.91 ha).”, according to the report released on March 5, 2018. By comparison the forest area occupied by adult monarchs in 2015-16 was 4.01 hectares.

Habitat Loss in the Eastern United States

In the Midswest, research and monitoring of monarchs has provided strong evidence that the primary threat to monarchs in the eastern U.S. is due to loss of breeding habitat (Pleasants and Oberhauser 2012, Pleasants 2015, Monarch Joint Venture). Breeding habitat includes milkweed (Asclepias species) host plants for monarch eggs and caterpillars, and nectar plants for the adult butterflies.


Upon release, a netted and tagged monarch kisses a visitor before heading south on its flight to Mexico.

The Biology and Migration of the Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Joint Venture provides a description of the monarch life cycle and a video of a monarch emerging from its chrysalis here.   An overview of monarch migration from Monarch Joint Venture is found here.

There is Urgency.

What can you do? Plant milkweed species, lots of them, and then add nectar plants.

Experts estimate that an additional 1.8 billion milkweed stems are needed in the central U.S. monarch flyway (Billions more milkweeds needed to restore monarch) to support monarch reproduction and migration. This many milkweed stems (Asclepias species) are required for the caterpillars (monarch caterpillars can eat only milkweed leaves), as well as plentiful nectar plants like asters, goldenrods, and blazingstars, for the adults butterflies.

The 2018 Monarch Conservation Implementation Plan calls for: “an approach that engages “all hands” and “all regions” to most effectively support the eastern population. The South Central region plays a significant role in supporting both the spring and fall migrations.”

Beautiful butterfly weed on the Odana Rd. Prairie.

A neighborhood organized and managed native prairie planting project along the SW Bike Path in Madison.  Photo by Stephen B. Glass.


It will take a big, united effort to accomplish this feat. Everyone needs to get involved in the effort to save the monarch. Every nook and cranny of unused land; every plot of waste space, every backyard garden, every restoration project needs to be devoted to plants that support the monarchs.

Vacant lots, bike path rights-of-way, and community gardens are ideal spaces in which to create butterfly gardens—with both milkweed stems for the caterpillars, and nectar sources for the adults.

Every interested person has to help.  If you have not yet ordered your milkweed plants or seeds, do so soon to have them ready for planting in just a few weeks.  Look to native plant sales, or native plant nurseries as reliable sources of plants, seeds, and information and tips about growing butterfly gardens.



Pleasants, J.M., and Oberhauser, K.S.. 2012. Milkweed loss in agricultural fields because of herbicide use: effect on the monarch butterfly population. Insect Conservation and Diversity. 6:135–144

Pleasants, J.M. 2015. Monarch butterflies and agriculture in Monarchs in a changing world: biology and conservation of an iconic butterfly. Ed: KS Oberhauser, Kelly R Nail, Sonia Alitzer. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.

Posted in Monarch butterfly, Monarch migration, Restoration ecology | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Faith In A Seed: Prairie Restorationists at Work Collecting Seed

Seed-based restoration is one of several methods used to establish or enhance restorations.  This method is widely used in prairie restorations in the midwestern United States, and in grasslands world wide.  Seed-based restoration is especially popular with organizations that place an emphasis on local ecotype origin, and diversity.  Seed-based restoration also requires good organization and large numbers of volunteers to collect, clean, and sow the seeds.


Seed collecting at The Prairie Enthusiasts Mounds View Grassland.  Recruiting volunteers for fall seed collecting is easy, especially on glorious, crisp fall days like the ones pictured here from a couple of years ago.  Photo by Steve Glass.

“Collecting seed from remnants near the restoration site has several advantages, the most significant one being that the origin of the seeds is known.  Given the proximity to the restoration site, the plants and their seeds are likely to be of a local ecotype that is adapted to the site conditions.” (Howell, Harrington, and Glass. 2012).    The use of seed  does have drawbacks, including the time required for germination and establishment, as well as often high rates of loss due to predation.


Tall grass prairie. Photo by Steve Glass

Other disadvantages of the seed-based approach include scarcity of high quality remnant sites from which to collect all of the target species.  Seed availability may also be low due to weather conditions that impact flowering and seed production.  For example, either drought or wet years can influence seed production of different species in different ways.


Showy goldenrod, one of the collecting target species and ready for the picking.  Photo by Steve Glass.

There are other disadvantages to collecting seed from remnants.  It may be difficult to collect any (or enough) seed because: 1)the species of interest may be widely scattered across a large landscape; 2) of a low or hidden stature; or 3) have explosive seeds that disperse before the collector arrives.  These facts of prairie life may sometimes make collection of adequate quantities difficult or impossible.


Multi-tasking.  Photo by Steve Glass.

To overcome these constraints some organizations that plant hundreds of acres at a time supplement wild collected seed with that collected from plants grown under controlled and tended conditions in nursery settings.  This approach gives them a fighting chance to produce adequate quantities of seed to meet their restoration targets.



Collecting still gentian.  Photo by Steve Glass.

Although collecting native seed from remnants is enjoyable and easy to learn, it does require guidance and knowledgeable help from local experts (above) who can identify the species, know the location of local ecotypes, determine if the seeds are ripe enough to collect, and ensure that the local population are not over-collected.


Harvesting in bulk for prairie restoration projects; good work for one season.  But next comes the cleaning, sorting, and weighing.  Photo by Steve Glass.



Black, M.R., E.J. Judziewicz,  2009.  Wildflowers of Wisconsin and The Great Lakes Region.  University of Wisconsin Press.  Madison, WI

Howell, E.A., J.A. Harrington, and S.B. Glass.  2012. Introduction to Restoration Ecology. Island Press. Washington, D.C.

Rock, H.W. 1974. Prairie Propagation Handbook.  Boerner Botanical Gardens, Whitnall Park.  Milwaukee County Park System.



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Images of Winter on the Prairie

Snow-covered Curtis Prairie

The prairie continually renews itself by adapting to, and changing with the conditions.  I like to think that visitors to the prairie absorb some of the optimism, sturdiness, and flexibility inherent in the prairie ecosystem.

Curtis Prairie under a late winter snow cover. 2014-01-29DSCN0303March 09, 2009

This image from 2009, is one of my favorite photos of Curtis Prairie, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I like the cheerful, promising early morning light.

At least once a week I walk over to the Madison Arboretum to visit Curtis Prairie.  I’m fortunate that it is a short distance away.  I enjoy the prairie in the winter because of the peace, quiet, and solitude.  And I take delight in  the wildlife I can see if I look closely.

Curtis Prairie is striking at all times, but especially in the winter when covered by snow.  I always take along my camera and try to capture a few good images.  These are some of my favorites from over the years.


The Jackson Oak

The famed Jackson Oak, named after Joseph Jackson, one of the Arboretum’s founding elders.  Damage to the trunk and limbs from an ice storm in the winter of 1976-77 led to its gradual decline.   Even in death the old oak is majestic.

The beauty of the winter prairie is in the details of stem and leaf; twig and trunk.  In part, the prairie’s beauty is also in its many subtle shades and hues of brown, red, orange, and black.

Bird's next with eggs 612014-01-28DSCN9578January 28, 2008

The winter landscape also signals the coming renewal of spring.

Curtis Prairie is more than just a prairie.  It is a mosaic of different plant community types: prairie, wetland, sedge meadow, springs, storm water ponds, and shrub thickets, among others.  This diverse landscape explains some of its flexibility and why it is such great habitat for birds, insects, amphibians, mammals and, of course, the humans who enjoy visiting.

Curtis Prairie under a late winter snow cover. 32014-01-29DSCN0304March 09, 2009

Looking west out onto Curtis Prairie, a  March sunrise highlights the red osier dogwood . 

In early March, the winter stems of  red osier dogwood (Cornus sanguina) in this natural wetland area in Curtis Prairie, have already turned red, anticipating the arrival of spring.

The promise of spring and better things ahead are how I want to think about 2018, especially after all we have been through in 2017.   Let’s bid 2017 a farewell, take what lessons we can,  and look forward to 2018 with optimism, and the recognition that lots of hard work lies ahead if we are to shake off the effects of 2017 and get back on track.


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Water Is Life

Water is life. Without water, we die. Access to clean, plentiful water is a human necessity and right.   But human activities are abusing this vital force and future public access to water is now in doubt. We are the abusers and the abused. We are being systematically dispossessed of this essential component of human life.

Drip by drop, we misuse, abuse, pollute, and waste water.

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Arboretum Big Spring provides about 350 gallons per minute of pure spring water to Lake Wingra.

Recent Legislative Actions

The U.S. Congressional Republicans in February, 2017 rolled back an Obama era regulation called the Stream Protection Rule. The regulation was designed to prevent coal mining companies from dumping mining waste into streams. Repeal of the rule will now give mining companies free rein to pollute waters nationwide.

Implicit Permission

At best, society overlooks its water resources; at worst humans abuse water resources in countless ways, either through ignorance, carelessness, or greed. The misuse of water is so ubiquitous and such a part of day-to-day life that we don’t even notice what is going on. We have been conditioned by society to ignore the harm we cause.

So let’s remind ourselves of the ways in which society abuses water resources.   And, by society, I mean our culture in general and each of us in particular.

Our infrastructure (highways, streets, roofs and parking lots) is designed to transform basic rainfall into a toxic substance.   We tragically and automatically turn rain it into storm water, send it down the drain, add soil and contaminants on the way, and then send it into the local lake ( from which we often draw our drinking water.)  And for snow, we do the same plus we add sand and road salt for good measure and plow the disgusting mess out of our way.


Leaves headed for the storm drain at Wingra Park.

Rainfall flows into:

  • Storm drains
  • Culverts
  • Underground pipes
  • Erosion channels
  • Storm water channels, and ditches
  • Storm water ponds
  • Ground water in our basements is pumped into the street and down the storm drain.
  • Divert storm water into streams, lakes, and wetlands.

These abusive habits have become so ingrained, and such an automatic way of daily life and doing business that we rarely notice or stop to think about what we are doing, let alone the implications of our actions.


City of Madison Storm water detention Pond #5 in the UW-Madison Arboretum.

As long as society gives its implicit permission to government and managers to continue these practices, we are complicit in the abuse of water, and by definition, abuse of life.


Eliminating Wetland Protections in Wisconsin

More recently, in September 2017 the Republicans who control both branches of the Wisconsin State Legislature, proposed legislation that would strip protections from Wisconsin’s non-federal wetlands so that developers could more easily drain and/or fill them. More than 1 million acres, or about 20% of the State’s wetlands, would be left unprotected from developers, who can do such things as:

  • Construct pipelines and transmission lines through wetlands and other water bodies.
  • Celebrate the Fourth of July by discharging fireworks (and their pollutants) over lakes and wetlands.
  • Use herbicides in streams and wetland edges
  • Let pollutants and chemicals run off of driveways, parking lots, and roads into waterways.
  • Let sewage overflow and spill into waterways.
  • Let manure run into streams, creeks, rivers, and wetlands.

Other Fundamental Abuses of Water

We use and abuse water when we alter a region’s hydrological regime (the timing, duration, and extent of water flow). Or when we contaminate water with chemicals and other pollutants (rendering it unsafe to drink, swim in, or use for bathing.  Or when we exhaust ground water resources.  Or when we disturb or destroy water bodies such as streams, river, lakes, and wetlands.

For example, society allows government and commercial exploiters of the environments (often incorrectly called “developers”) to:

  • Cause chemical spills into water bodies, ground water and surface water.
  • Let cows graze in sedge meadows.
  • Destroy springs by over-pumping ground water or building on top of springs.
  • Throw litter into water bodies.
  • Fill in and build on top of wetlands.

In summer 2017 a City of Madison Streets Division reconstruction project in the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood hit a vein of ground water (in an area known to contain many springs).  The project temporarily shut down until workers could pump all the water out and down the nearby storm drain, where it headed to Lake Wingra.

Gold and Silver Mining

On Monday December 11, 2017 Gov. Scott Walker, Republican of Wisconsin signed legislation revoking a 20 year moratorium on gold and silver mining in northern Wisconsin.   Gov. Walker scoffed at the concerns of conservationists that resuming mining will lead to massive and devastating pollution from sulfide drainage.

Gold, silver, copper, zinc and other metals are typically bonded to sulfur. Such compounds produce sulfuric acid when exposed to oxygen and water, creating the potential for polluted runoff nto wetlands and other water bodies.

In 1998, lawmakers from both parties (including Scott Walker himself) put the sulfide mining ban in place to prevent the kind of environmental damage that can result from sulfide mining.

Water is misused, abused, polluted, and wasted when we:

  • Drain wetlands.
  • Dam up streams, creeks, and rivers.
  • Channelize streams, creeks, and rivers.
  • Dump coal mining waste into streams.
  • Dump sulfuric mine waste into streams, and wetlands.
  • Use lead water pipes to transfer drinking water.
Cherokee Drive storm water channel from the SW Bike Path to Nakoma Park.

A storm water channel in Nakoma Park, Madison, WI.  This is not a natural stream but one created by rushing storm water.  Note the unfortunate oaks whose roots have been exposed as the soil has washed away (“downstream” to the Arboretum and Lake Wingra.)

The legislature’s opening of northern Wisconsin to sulfide mining is ill-informed, short-sighted, misguided, and a needless assault on the environment and common-sense environmental precautions and protections.

Society has (or had) laws and regulations to protect ourselves from soiling our own nest, and from degrading and exploiting the natural resources upon which we depend. But, these environmental regulations are being weakened, and in some cases, eliminated.

We may think we don’t have to power to stop the legislative assault or to halt the diminishment of the Earth.  And, as long as we give our implicit consent to these practices we continue to abdicate our moral responsibility to the Earth, to our fellow citizens, and future generations.


A storm water detention pond in Curtis Prairie, UW-Madison Arboretum.  Native soil eroded over the past 20 years has created a small wetland delta on the southern edge of the prairie.

Once we regain consciousness and begin to resist then we can start to regain our power to protect and heal the Earth.


Posted in Abuse of water, diminishment of the Earth, Restoration ecology, Water is life | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Yahara Watershed Academy Accepting Applications


From the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, comes this announcement of the second Yahara Watershed Academy. Because the WingraSprings blog serves the Lake Wingra Watershed, a sub-watershed of the Yahara River Watershed, in this blog post we are reprinting the announcement in its entirety

Madison’s second Yahara Watershed Academy is now accepting applications to fill limited spots in the 2018 class. We would like to inform you of this opportunity and ask you to share it with your networks. Applications are due January 5th.



A private trout stream and tributary to Token Creek in Dane County, Wisconsin near the headwaters of the Yahara River.

What is the Academy?

This program brings together current and aspiring community leaders to tackle today’s land and water resources challenges. Participants will learn from experts, participate in hands-on activities, and develop projects to better our Yahara Watershed communities. Ultimately, the Academy will cultivate a cohort of leaders and change-makers for local land and water.

The Academy is founded by Clean Lakes Alliance, Aldo Leopold Nature Center and Sustain Dane, and merges the educational leadership of the University of Wisconsin’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Edgewood College’s Social Innovation & Sustainability Leadership Graduate Program, and Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District.

How will I benefit?

  • Official recognition from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College through continuing education and/or course completion credits.
  • Fun and engaging experiences that will leave you with a deeper awareness of the science, policies, and behaviors affecting watershed health and sustainability.
  • Exposure to decision-making frameworks and other resources that support the implementation of chosen project initiatives.
  • Access to an active network of fellow students, instructors, and experts who can serve as ongoing resources and collaborators.
  • Invitations to all future alumni events to share case study successes and explore ideas for future collaborations.


What can I expect?

Five full-day courses are held the second Tuesday of the month at various indoor and outdoor Madison-area venues (February through June 2018). Classroom exercises and field trips will cover the following topics: lake and watershed science, climate impacts, the “land ethic,” economic and health connections, and systems-thinking approaches to problem solving.

The standard course fee is $600, but discounted rates and scholarships are available. There are no prerequisites other than a desire to learn and apply new understandings and skills to better our community.

Please visit YaharaWatershedAcademy.org to learn more and complete an online application. Questions? Contact Issis Macias,  issis@cleanlakesalliance.org.

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