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.

Posted in Freshwater resources, Lake Wingra Watershed, Madison lakes and beaches | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Fall is The Time to Sow Milkweed Seeds


Whorled milkweed, (Asclepius verticillata).  Photo by Steve Glass.


More Milkweed Plants

If you, like me, want more milkweed plants in your butterfly or pollinator garden next summer, now is the time to get started. You can sow seeds outdoors this fall either in pots, in flats, or directly in the ground.  After a period of cold stratification, seeds will germinate next spring and blooming plants will be ready in 2-3 years.

Species of milkweed, and many other native plants that attract beneficial insects, germinate easily from seed after period of winter cold outdoors. Spring seedlings can be transplanted to larger containers the first or second growing season or when the second set of true leaves appears. They will usually bloom the second or third growing season.

The three species of milkweed most commonly cultivated in Wisconsin—common, marsh, and butterfly milkweed—can all be grown from seed by this method.


Seeds of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) ready to be sown. Photo by Steve Glass.

Strive for Diversity

Each year I add a few native plants to my prairie garden, using this method, in hopes of increasing the number and kind of species that are attractive to native bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. I look for plants that provide habitat, or serve as pollen, nectar, or food sources for as many of our native insects as possible.

“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee

One clover and a bee

And reverie

The reverie alone will do

If bees are few”


           —Emily Dickinson

By growing from seed you can save some money over the cost of mature plants. In addition—if seeds are obtained from known and trusted sources—you can be assured that the seed is from a local source and appropriate for your region. But more importantly, from an ecological perspective, by growing from seed (rather than purchasing identical cloned plants) you can boost the genetic diversity of local plant populations.

To obtain seeds, do not collect from nature preserves or other wild places without permission. In fact, check first with local conservation organizations or native plant societies as they may make milkweed seeds available to you either free or at a nominal cost as part of their education programs.

Butterflies and Milkweed

My experience last summer tells me my garden needs more—lots more—milkweed plants; perhaps several dozen more.

Although this past summer I reared and released 22 monarch butterflies from eggs and caterpillars found on more than two dozen milkweed plants in my prairie garden, there could have been more butterflies headed to Mexico late last summer if my gardens grew more milkweed.

Milkweeds are essential because monarch butterflies (Danaus plexipus) lay their eggs only on milkweed leaves and the caterpillars eat only milkweed leaves.   This is an obligatory relationship: no milkweeds means no monarchs.

Simply put, there were not nearly enough milkweed plants in my gardens to host and provide food for as many of the monarch butterfly caterpillars that I had hoped would temporarily call my Monarch Way Station home.

My resolution is that next summer there will be more milkweeds in the garden so I am starting production now.   This fall I will be sowing seeds of common, marsh, and butterfly milkweed in flats and letting them overwinter outdoors.

I’ll also plant several varieties of blazing stars and gay feathers (liatris), asters, and goldenrods to provide nectar for the adult butterflies.

Getting Started


Milkweed seeds sown 3 to a cell in a seedling tray.

It’s easy, fun, and satisfying to grow plants from seed.  Follow these steps:

  1. Use individual pots or a seedling tray with individual planting cells at least 3” deep and fill with a good quality commercial grade potting soil.
  2. Sow 2-3 seeds per pot or seedling tray cell and cover with a layer of soil about as thick as the seeds (about 1/8” to ¼”).
  3. Cover the soil surface with a thin layer of coarse sand to prevent the seeds from washing away in a rain.
  4. Label each pot or seedling tray with the species name and date planted.
  5. Water thoroughly and cover with hardware cloth or other wire mesh to prevent rodents from getting at the seeds.
  6. Keep moist until the soil freezes
  7. Keep outside or in an un-heated garage where the pots/seedling flats will stay frozen until spring.
  8. Resume watering in the spring and look for tiny seedlings to appear.
  9. Thin the seedlings to one per cell.
  10. Transplant individual plants to larger containers after the second set of true leaves appears.


Posted in Milkweed, Monarch butterfly, Prairie flowers, Prairie plants | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Emily Dickinson Offers Advice on Prairie Restoration

Rock outcrops on Picnic Hill, Swamplovers Foundation

Rock outcrops on Picnic Hill, a prairie restoration at The Swamplovers Foundation.

Those of us who restore prairies—or plant new ones from scratch—continue to debate, research, and discuss the proper way to go about it. What are our goals? Should we strive for complete restoration that matches, species-by-species, our image of virgin prairie or should we be content with a much simpler version that provides wildlife habitat and urban beautification? We wonder about the appropriate species mix, the best time to plant, and the preferred methods, tools and techniques that yield the desired outcomes.

Whether we are working on restoring prairie—or any other kind of ecosystem—our answers have as much to do with science and the history and circumstances of the restoration site as it does with our visions and dreams, art and desire.

As it turns out, Emily Dickinson, the American poet (1830-1886) addressed the subject of making a prairie more than 130 years ago.   In a short, and surprisingly prescient poem that anticipated the practice of ecological restoration she boiled down the process to its fundamental essence and described the basic ingredients that go into making a prairie.

What is Ecological Restoration?

According to the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) “Ecological Restoration is he process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.” In my view, this includes an attempt to provide the conditions under which the products of history—plants, animals, communities, and ecosystems—can continue to thrive.

The Poem

Emily Dickinson wrote nearly 1800 poems, most of them hidden away, unpublished, and little known (except to close family) until after her death. Because Dickinson did not date her poems, it is not known in what year Dickinson wrote To Make A Prairie.   In lieu of a date written, Dickinson’s poems are assigned numbers, in alphabetical order of the first line.   “To Make a Prairie” is # 1755

 “To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,

One clover, and a bee.

And revery.

The revery alone will do,

If bees are few.”

What is she saying here? Her recipe sounds too simple to be true. Is she confused about what it takes to restore, or make a prairie from scratch? Those of us, who toil in this field, know that restoration requires much effort over many years. The job includes lots of hard work that is both tedious and backbreaking: collecting seeds, eradicating weeds, preparing the soil, and working under the hot prairie sun.

No, she was not confused about what might go into such an effort.

Dickinson did not, as far as we know, visit a prairie but as a life-long gardener and a student of botany, she was quite familiar with the effort required to create and tend a garden—which utilizes some of the same methods and tools that a prairie restoration does. In her hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts—which she rarely traveled beyond—she was famed both for her beautiful garden that she tended with dedication and for the lavish bouquets she shared with friends. Her poems that accompanied the bouquets received less attention at the time.


Purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea)

I believe she was speaking of ecological restoration (or other restorative acts such as native plant gardening) as distinguished from traditional perennial gardening.   In traditional perennial gardening the focus is on the individual plant and does not require, or necessarily encourage, ecological relationships of the type that exist between a clover and a bee in a prairie.   In a traditional perennial garden, one can have a clover without a bee.

In this poem she captures the mechanics and magic of ecological restoration and evokes the imagery and imagination that inspires and energizes those of us who work to repair the damaged earth. Although Dickinson wrote about making prairies long ago, I think her words speak to restoration ecologists today, everywhere, no matter whether their work is in tall grass prairies, the boreal forest, or coral reefs.

But Dickinson was onto something else in this poem. In addition to science, ecological restoration requires art, imagination, and desire. Dickinson could see this. Thus, the key to understanding “To Make a Prairie” is “reverie.”   But first, let’s go through the poem line-by-line.

A Closer Look

“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee” Dickinson is referring both to the species and the species relationships that comprise an existing prairie, and of course suggests that if a human wanted to make a prairie, these co-dependent species must be included in the mix.

“It takes a clover and one bee” To emphasize the point, Dickinson repeats herself.

The clover and the bee are important parts of the prairie and the two go together: the clover needs the bee for pollination and the bee needs the clover’s pollen. She was saying that the prairie is an ecosystem—decades before scientists in the early 1900’s even developed the concept of ecology, let alone what we have come to understand as its underlying principles.

In these two lines Dickinson demonstrates first a sophisticated understanding of ecological relationships and ecosystem functioning (mutualistic relationships between species, critical ecosystem functions like wildlife habitat, and ecological services such as pollination and provisioning of food.) Insights she probably gained from working in and observing her garden. As I said, it is not known if she ever visited an eastern prairie but because scattered prairie remnants occur throughout the east it is possible that she did.  Certainly Dickinson could have received first-hand accounts of the prairie from friends and discussed them with explorers who had seen the prairie.

Secondly, she is suggesting that the prairie needs both the clover and the bee to make it a prairie.

And thirdly, by repeating the first line she indicates that to make a prairie the step must be repeated over and over and also with other species pairs as well.

These are ecological concepts that represent current thinking but were visions, only in the minds of poets, when Dickinson was working.

“And revery” The modern spelling of the work is “reverie”.   Reverie unlocks the poem and is the key to my understanding what Dickinson was talking about and provides to modern readers a new insight into the fantastic—perhaps delusional—notion of ecological restoration.

Reverie has several meanings.  In one sense it means   “A state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream.” In the Oxford American Dictionary Reverie: n. 1 A fit of abstracted musing (was lost in a reverie), 2. Archaic: a fantastic notion or theory; a delusion. 3. Music, an instrumental piece suggesting a dreamy or musing state. But it is the second meaning, the archaic one, “a fantastic notion or theory; a delusion” I think, that Dickinson intended in this poem.


This is a poem, according to the musician Elizabeth Alexander, “about dreams and creation.” http://www.seafarerpress.com/works/to-make-a-prairie.

By extension, the poem suggests that without dreams, fantastic notions or theories, and personal delusions we would never get started on a crazy project. This applies especially to the job of ecological restoration.

Emily Dickinson understood all this.

A Harbinger

The poem, I think, anticipates the field of endeavor that has become ecological restoration.  Ecological restoration is a task that is hard and time-consuming work filled with practical tasks: pulling weeds, working and preparing the soil, gathering and sowing seeds, battling pest plants, conducting prescribed management fires and then doing it all over again, year after year with very little chance of achieving your desired outcomes.  But there is another side to ecological restoration.

To make a prairie”, refers on the one hand to the hard to practical work done by earnest, well-meaning people. But, with the introduction of “Reverie” Dickinson alludes to the other side of making a prairie—the likelihood that few people in their right minds would undertake to restore a prairie without reverie.  Such an undertaking, laced as it is with uncertainties and unknowns,  amounts to a “fanciful or impractical idea or theory”; a “fantastic notion or theory; a delusion.

“And revery alone will do

if bees are few”

Perhaps what Dickinson is hinting at is that is that “reverie”, the delusion or fanciful thinking is required to get the restoration project started in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that the project may be futile and ill advised.

Reverie sustains many an ecological restorationist through tough times of uncertainty and scarcity.   Emily Dickinson understood this.   It is about the vision and dream; about getting started, about art and desire.   As Cynthia Malone says,

“Maybe the poem is suggesting that we begin making something long before we know enough, and long before we pick up our tools.” http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1007&context=headwaters

This is how many a restoration begins: without having all the parts or even knowing what all of the missing pieces are. But we begin with a dream and a vision—as unrealistic as it may be—and a desire to learn how to get the job done.

“The Only Teller of News”

Dickinson anticipated, and wrote about what we know today as ecological restoration, at least 50 years before Leopold’s work at The Shack and in the UW-Madison Arboretum.   “To Make a Prairie” was written at least 100 years before ecological restoration became a widespread practice in the mid-1980’s.  But how did a person who probably never visited a prairie have these insights? How could Dickinson have anticipated and written about ecological restoration over 130 years ago?

Perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson gives an answer in his essay “The Poet”

“The poet is “The only one capable of articulating the transcendent nature of things, the poet is the one who can identify “symbols” and “emblems” of the world.”

“The sign and credentials of the poet are, that he announces that which no man foretold. He is the true and only doctor; he knows and tells; he is the only teller of news,”




Posted in Art and ecological restoration, Ecological restoration, Poetry about ecological restoration, Prairie restoration, Restoration ecology | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Bigelow Prairie Pioneer Cemetery (Ohio) State Nature Preserve

The first prairie I ever saw was a prairie pioneer cemetery in central Ohio.  The visit was an ecological epiphany and set me on the course to a career in ecological restoration.

It was in the early 1970’s and I had the opportunity to go on a field trip sponsored by the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC).  The field trip began in Columbus, OH on a Sunday afternoon in July.  We carpooled for what seemed like hours through the flat and unchanging agricultural landscape of central Ohio.   The Ohio landscape was much like what one sees in central Illinois, northern Indiana, and parts of Iowa–it’s America’s Corn Belt and former prairie land.   At the time I had no inkling of what a prairie was, let alone an idea of what a prairie pioneer cemetery was all about.  But I guessed I was going to find out.

Western and central Ohio is the eastern-most extent of America’s  once-great prairie peninsula, thus parts of the state did have a true prairie landscape.  And, like most of the prairie peninsula, that prairie landscape has been reduced to small and scattered remnants.   The survivors of the extensive prairie are found today along railroad rights-of-way, steep and rocky hillsides, in other neglected spots, and in the cemeteries of the European pioneers who conquered the prairie ecosystem.

These pieces of the original prairie survived because they were either never plowed or were only lightly grazed or mowed once every great while. Remnants along RR tracts also benefited from the occasional fire sparked by passing trains.

Our caravan eventually turned off the main road and then rattled down several miles of dusty gravel roads through a maze of towering corn stalks.   When we turned in to a small roadside pull-off we were there.    An old cemetery in front of us filled with colorful and unfamiliar plants and corn fields on all sides–the sight was amazing.

To see a piece of the virgin prairie–even if a tiny patch–is today a special event and those of us on the trip were very fortunate to visit Bigelow Prairie Pioneer Cemetery.  I was struck by many things.  For one, the area was small, just about one half acre.  For another, the adjacent fields were a good 8″ below the grade of the virgin prairie; one had to step up from the fields into the cemetery.   The height differential, the tour guide explained,  represented the amount of soil that had been lost through wind erosion over the years.

I was also impressed by the plants I was seeing for the first time.  Some of the new plants, I learned, were native to Ohio (to me a new and intriguing concept).  Among the prairie plants in the cemetery were big bluestem, cup plant, and royal catchfly.  I did not have a camera with me that day so you will have to visit the website of the Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve to get an idea of what it looks like today. 

The tour group wandered through the cemetery for a couple hours, looking at the old gravestones, examining the prairie grasses and flowers, guessing their identify, and pausing in the shade of the few open-grown oaks to cool off on a very hot day.

In 1978, Bigelow Cemetery was dedicated as an Ohio interpretive state nature preserve. According to the website:  “A special management program for the preservation of the historic tombstones, perpetuation of the prairie species and elimination of noxious weeds was initiated following dedication by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.”

If you get a chance, stop in to see Bigelow.  It is a piece of our natural heritage.  Bigelow and places like it across the country need to be managed, preserved, and perpetuated.


Posted in Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve, Ohio Division of State Natural Areas and Preserves, Prairie pioneer cemetery, Prairie plants | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Fall Color of the Prairies and Savannas

It’s not too late to enjoy the beauty of fall on the prairie, savanna, or oak woodland near you.  The prairie does not produce the brilliant yellows, oranges and reds of the northern forest, but rather has a more quiet appeal and subtle beauty.


Fringed gentian (Gentianoposis crinita). A native annual or biennial that likes moist conditions; often found in wet meadows and near streams.

The images shown are of restored prairies in central Wisconsin, all within an hour’s drive–or, in some cases,  an easy bike ride–from Madison.  Some are urban and others in rural Wisconsin.  Chances are there are many restorations and natural areas near you to visit.

Fall scenes at the Aldo Leopold Foundation

Aldo’s Prairie at the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

The pleasures of the prairie are best enjoyed on a hike through one of our local nature preserves and restoration sites.  A few suggestions for trip planning would include:  Cherokee Marsh, a unit of City of Madison Parks;  Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, WI; The Swamplovers Preserve on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail as well as Dane County’s Festge County Park, both near Cross Plains.

Sunrise over Curtis Prairie

Early morning October light on Curtis Prairie in the UW-Madison Arboretum

And early morning is a good time for a peaceful walk in your local prairie restoration.

Fall scenes at the Aldo Leopold Foundation

Prairie smoke and oak leaf at the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

One often needs to slow down and look closely to enjoy the fall colors of the prairie.

04 Steve Glass "Fall in the Arboretum"

Fall in the UW-Madison Arboretum on the edge of Curtis Prairie.

Curtis Prairie, one of the world’s earliest restoration projects.

For prairie viewing trips further afield, think about the International Crane Foundation, near Baraboo, WI; or Goose Pond Sanctuary, a project of Madison Audubon Society, near Arlington, WI

The "Shack" and Aldo's Prairie at The Aldo Leopold Foundation

Aldo Leopold’s Prairie adjacent to Leopold’s Shack at the Aldo Leopold Foundation near Barabo, Wisconsin.

Aldo’s Prairie is sixty miles from the UW-Madison Arboretum’s Curtis Prairie.  According to Leopold family members, work on this restoration project began the same year–1935– as plantings in Curtis Prairie were initiated.

Posted in "The Shack", Aldo Leopold, Curtis Prairie, Fall foliage, Prairie forbs, Prairie plants, Prairie restoration, Restoration ecology, The Aldo Leopold Foundation | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Walker Promises Foxconn Deal Will be “Transformational” for Wisconsin

Some Think What He Has in Mind is Transforming (eliminating) Wisconsin’s Environmental Regulations

As you may know, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin has signed an incentives agreement with Foxconn, the giant Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, to build a liquid crystal display (LCD) manufacturing plant to southeast Wisconsin’s Racine and Kenosha Counties.

Governor Walker’s incentives package has now become Assembly Bill 1.   AB 1 establishes an Electronics and Information Technology Manufacturing Zone and exempts any new manufacturing facility located within that zone from all state wetland and waterway permit requirements.

For example, as we reported in an earlier post, AB1 would permit Foxconn to alter the direction of streams, build man-made bodies of water that connect with natural waterways, and dredge, fill, and discharge into wetlands with authorization from the State Department of Natural Resources (Wisconsin State Journal July 29, 2017.).     This, despite the fact that it is unreasonable to exempt a project this size from an environmental impact statement and accepted environmental standards.

Legislation Moving Quickly

Last week the Wisconsin Assembly held hearings on AB1. And on Thursday (August 17) the Assembly voted to approve the legislative package and sent it on to the Wisconsin Senate. The senate is also expected to pass the measure despite stiff opposition from the public, some lawmakers, and concerns about the economic costs (tax breaks for Foxconn) and potential environmental impacts (no environmental impact statement would be required).

Proponents of the legislation argue that the economic incentives and relaxation (read: abandonment) of environmental regulations are necessary to land this once-in-a-lifetime job-creating deal.

Until now, objections to, and questions about, the Foxconn deal have centered on the details of the economic package. But those concerns, though valid, miss the real long-term impact, which, as the Wisconsin Wetlands Association points out, is a precedent-setting rollback of environmental safeguards. And, by misdirecting the discussion, and hoping the public will focus exclusively on the financial giveaway, Walker and partners hope we will not notice the larger trick they are pulling—rolling back hard earned, fair, and common sense environmental standards.

According to a WWA analysis of AB1:

The wetland impacts from the project may or may not be substantial.  We won’t know until Foxconn selects a site.  We do know that the changes to wetland law enacted in 2012 provide more than enough flexibility to approve permits to construct a facility like Foxconn. The proposed exemptions are unnecessary in an altered landscape like Southeast Wisconsin.”

As the WWA points out, because under wetland law enacted in 2012 “. . There is more than enough flexibility to approve permits to construct a facility like Foxconn. The proposed exemptions are unnecessary in an altered landscape like Southeast Wisconsin” (WWA, 2017)

Read the full WWA statement on Foxconn deal: https://wisconsinwetlands.org/updates/wisconsin-wetlands-associations-statement-on-the-foxconn-bill/

What Natural Features Are at Stake?

True, southeast Wisconsin, one of the state’s most populous and saturated with industry and commerce, is an altered landscape. But, there are still many valuable environmental features in Kenosha and Racine Counties, including several State Natural Areas (SNAs).

State Natural Areas “harbor natural features essentially unaltered by human-caused disturbances or that have substantially recovered from disturbance over time. The finest of these sites are considered for establishment as State Natural Areas (WIDNR 2005).

The People of Wisconsin own and manage eight designated state natural areas in southeast Wisconsin: three in Racine County and five in Kenosha

In addition, there are several wetlands that have such ecological significance that the Wisconsin Wetlands Association has designated them Wetland Gems. There are only 100 such wetland gems in the entire state, four of which are found in Racine and Kenosha Counties.

There is some overlap between SNAs and Wetland Gems. Chiwaukee Prairie, and Renak-Polak Maple Beech Woods have the added significance and ecological importance of being designated as both SNAs and Wetland Gems.

State Assault on Environmental Protections

These, and other State Natural Areas and Wetland Gems could be impacted either directly or indirectly by the activities of the Foxconn plant construction and operation, but we don’t know. We don’t know because the prospective site has not been revealed.   However, the broader point, as made eloquently and forcefully by the Wisconsin Wetlands Association is that what is at stake is precedent.   If Foxconn is allowed to get away scot free with environmental degradation then there will no stopping the next company that comes calling on Gov. Walker and the Wisconsin state legislature.  If AB1 passes in its current form then the state will have a playbook by which to review and approve all future construction projects—large or small–in the state.

“Make no mistake…this is an attack on Wisconsin’s protections for isolated wetlands and an attack on Wisconsin’s long-standing tradition of protecting public waters for public benefit.  From what we see in the news, it is also a calculated, incremental step in a broader campaign to eliminate Wisconsin’s wetland regulatory program all together.” (WWA, 2017).

Federal Assault Also Likely in One-Two Punch

According to a New York Times report (NYT 08.16.17 by Lisa Friedman) Donald Trump announced on Tuesday (08.15.17) “that he had signed a sweeping executive order to eliminate and streamline some permitting regulations and to speed construction of roads, bridges, and pipelines.”

The Trump federal rollback combined with Walker’s desire to revoke Wisconsin’s environmental protections, the state’s natural resources would be defenseless against any and all who desired to exploit them.

What You Can Do

If you live in Wisconsin, and oppose this deal, contact your state representative and senator and let them know your opinion.   Then try to persuade them to consider alternative approaches to achieve the desired sustainable economic growth within a planning framework that recognizes the need to protect wetlands, first by avoid building in them, secondly by minimizing impacts to them, and thirdly by attempting mitigating damages.





Posted in Wetland Gems, Wetland protection, Wisconsin State Natural Areas, Wisconsin Wetlands Association | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Walker’s Desperate Attempt to Create Wisconsin Jobs Threatens the State’s Natural Resources

Announced Foxconn Deal is Not a Plan for Sustained Economic Development in Wisconsin

Foxconn, the Taiwanese technology giant, maker of iPhones and components for other consumer electronics products, has pledged to build a 20-million-square-foot, 1,000 acre campus in southeastern Wisconsin to produce liquid-crystal displays (LCD’s). The project, if built, might bring from 3,000 to 13,000 jobs.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has pledged $3 billion in incentives (including income tax credits and $150 million in sales tax exemptions for materials used to build the facility) to bring the company to the state. But there will be a huge “cost” to the state both in terms of drain on the state budget, burden on state taxpayers, and potential damage to the state’s air, land, and water.

Governor Walker has, according to a story in the Wisconsin State Journal (July 30, 2017), negotiated a benefit package for Foxconn that totals between $15,000 and $19,000 per job, per year. The Wisconsin State Journal quotes Timothy Bartik of the Upjohn Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan as saying “the amount they’re paying per job is very, very high.” Bartik’s research shows that the “average state tax subsidy per job, per year, for large projects is about $2,500.

Beyond that, Governor Walker has pledged to let Foxconn bypass state environmental regulations, including the requirement to complete an Environmental Impact Statement. State lawmakers will begin considering a bill this week (week of August 1, 2017) that would: “allow the company to move or change the course of streams, build manmade bodies of water that connect with natural waterways and discharge materials in state wetlands without authorization from the state Department of Natural Resources. It exempts the company from being subject to an environmental impact statement.” (Wisconsin State Journal July 29, 2017)

The state legislature may decide either to go along with this package, or to add or subtract incentives, but the potential environmental damage of the proposed environmental rollback and give away is enormous.

Governor Walker’s idea seems to be to give away the store. He is proposing to give Foxconn total free rein to have its way with Wisconsin’s air, land, and water before legislators and the public have even had a chance to learn what Foxconn’s plans are, let alone have time to review and comment on them. The environmental, social/cultural, and economic costs of fouled air and water, lost open space and habitat, and hydrological alterations has not even been estimated yet.

There is little specific information about Foxconn’s plans so it is hard to evaluate the proposal. But, we know the site is intended for Racine or Kenosha Counties. Besides that we don’t know the specific parcels Foxconn is interested in, if the project land contains waterways, or sensitive environmental features, or how the project might impact them.   These unknowns are what an environmental impact assessment and the resulting environmental impact statement are designed to discover and why it is such a bad idea to exempt the Foxconn project from going through the environmental impact discovery and assessment process.

The kinds of environmental alterations that Foxconn could make under Walker’s proposal (reversing the direction of streams, creating new water bodies, discharging into wetlands, and perhaps filling wetlands) are environmental assaults. As a practicing restoration ecologist, I know that the damage done cannot be mitigated against elsewhere or reversed through ecological restoration on-site.

The proposal would also set a dangerous precedent. What if Foxconn wants a second or third manufacturing site in Wisconsin? Would they get the same tax breaks and license to wreck the environment? What about other manufacturers? Would they get the same deal?

Walker’s Foxconn giveaway is just a deal; it is not an economic development plan. Nor is it a strategy to enhance Wisconsin’s heritage as an environmental leader and social and cultural haven. What Wisconsin needs is not a race to the bottom but a plan for sustained economic development that uplifts all Wisconsinites while honoring our history of respecting the environment, and protecting the state’s natural resources.

To give the Governor and Foxconn the benefit of the doubt, maybe they are considering utilizing one of the many empty former industrial sites in Wisconsin.   Perhaps they plan to use the abandoned former GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin or the recently-shuttered Oscar Meyer plant in Madison?

Urban infill like this would be good if it happens.  But the Foxconn deal, as it now stands, does not respect or enhance Wisconsin’s status as a great place to live. Yes, the state could benefit from many more well-paying and meaningful jobs; especially since Governor Walker has failed to come through on his promise to create 250,000 jobs in his first term. Now nearing the end of his second term (and thinking about running for a third) he is many tens of thousands of jobs short of that goal.

We in Wisconsin has so many good things going for us that we do not have to bow down to the commercial powers and give away all that we hold dear.

We can do better.


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“Flight of the Monarchs” Screening to Raise Funds for Friends of Lake Wingra


Female monarch on showy blazing-star (Liatris ligulistylis). Photo by Steve Glass

From our friends at Friends of Lake Wingra (FoLW) comes this reminder that there are things each of us can do to help the monarch butterfly.  Aiding the monarch is a true act of ecological restoration

“Hello monarch lovers,

“It’s time for another showing of that wonderful movie, “Flight of the Butterflies” in 3D IMAX. It’s coming soon–Sunday, 10:45 am, August 13. We’ve sold out every time before, so don’t delay. It’s perfect for young children! Tickets are available only online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3057340″

“After the movie, you can purchase live monarchs–eggs, caterpillars, or chrysalids. Equipment for raising monarchs will be available (cash or checks accepted). We might even have live butterflies emerging or butterflies your kids can feed.”

More monarch events this summer !

  • “Friday, August 4, 10 am-2 pm: Butterfly Action Day at Olbrich Gardens
  • Sunday, August 6, 9 am – 1 pm: Monroe Street Farmers Market
  • Late August: 3-hr Teachers Workshop: Raising monarchs in the classroom
    Weekends in August: Purchase live monarchs and equipment for raising them. See www.lakewingra.org or Facebook for times.”

Monarch Volunteers Needed!

“We especially need volunteers to host neighborhood events where kids can see monarchs. We provide the monarchs at no charge and have lots of emerging butterflies around Aug 9-13, plus other dates. Perfect for a neighborhood association meeting or Scouting event. Contact David at lakewingra.org

Support monarchs at schools this fall

Last year, Monarchs for Kids supplied 10 monarchs to each of 118 classrooms in 30 elementary schools. It’s a big operation–we need help!
Volunteers needed to assist teachers by bringing milkweed to school, to feed their caterpillars.
Sponsor monarchs at your neighborhood elementary school. The typical cost per school is $50-$100 for eggs and equipment. Without your generous support, many teachers will pay from their own pockets. Suggested contribution for a school of your choice is $50. Sponsors are recognized on our website. If total contributions per school exceed school expenses, the funds will be applied toward the salary of our monarch coordinator.

Posted in Ecological restoration, Friends of Lake Wingra, Milkweed, Monarch butterfly, Monarch migration, Restoration ecology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Monroe Street Reconstruction: Preliminary Corridor Design Workshop Tomorrow Night

The promised resurfacing and reconstruction of Monroe Street has been rumored for several years.  Now it seems that the project may begin in 2018 because in January of 2017 the Madison City Council approved the project and a preliminary design.

Now, it’s time to get down to design details.  This design exercise will take place tomorrow evening, July 5, 2017 from 6-8pm at Edgewood College in the Washburn Heritage Room.


Workshop Goals:

Share detailed preliminary plans for the future design of Monroe Street.
Gather community input on potential placemaking and traffic calming enhancements along
Explore ideas and questions in a creative, hands-on setting.

For tickets and more info, click here:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/monroe-street-reconstruction-preliminary-corridor-design-workshop-tickets-31515051367


Posted in Monroe Street construction projects, Monroe Street reconstruction 2015-2016 | Leave a comment

A Sunday Afternoon Outing With The Prairie Enthusiasts


Prairie Enthusiasts botanizing, and socializing atop the Hauser Road Prairie, a prairie remnant in northern Dane County, WI.

June 7, 2017 Madison, WI–Last Sunday afternoon was a picture perfect day in southern Wisconsin–clear skies, warm breezes, and low humidity.   It was also a wonderful day to spend with fellow prairie enthusiasts, literally on top of the world, in Hauser Road Prairie one of the few remnants of original prairie sod in Dane County.

Hauser Road Prairie is an island in the surrounding agricultural landscape and sits on a high ridge of exposed bedrock with a 360 degree view that includes the Wisconsin’s State Capitol building–over 12 miles away.  (I didn’t have a long camera lens to capture that image so you will have to come out  yourself some day this summer to verify.)

An outing with The Prairie Enthusiasts is really an educational excursion during which time one can learn about the geological and cultural history of a site, learn about management issues, as well as how to identify native prairie plants and the grassland birds that make the prairie home.


Rich Henderson (center, in wide brimmed hat) points out and identifies an interesting prairie plant.  Notice the plowed farm fields in the middle background.

Hauser Road Prairie is owned and managed by The Prairie Enthusiasts, Empire-Sauk Chapter.  The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE) is a private grass roots organization operating primarily through volunteers.   Its sole mission is the protection and management of the last remaining pieces of the once vast and now endangered native prairie and savanna of the Upper Midwest.

Hauser Road Prairie is typical of a TPE project–it involves both preservation and restoration; the majority of the work performed by volunteers.   To permanently preserve the prairie, TPE bought the property from willing sellers, who had themselves, preserved the prairie throughout their ownership.  To restore the site, the TPE site manager pulls weeds, cuts and treats invading brush, burns the site and scatters locally-collected native prairie seeds.

Remnant of the once vast Empire Prairie

Hauser Road Prairie is 45 acres and is the largest single piece of the once extensive (over 100 square miles) Empire Prairie of south central Wisconsin.  This fine prairie remnant contains over 100 native prairie plant species with spectacular displays of shooting star, pasque flower, prairie smoke and goldenrods.



The prairie was probably never plowed because of the exposed bedrock and scattered glacial boulders.  The site was disturbed by grazing and parts still have some agricultural weeds (note the red clover in the lower right corner).  Can anyone identify the lichen on the boulder?  Notice the prairie smoke plant on the top left of the boulder.

A Sweet Spot

This was my first trip to Hauser Road–a place that a fellow prairie enthusiast that day called “a sweet spot” in the landscape–but  it won’t be the last.  In an original prairie sod remnant such as Hauser Road, each day is different.  As the season progresses, early bloomers fade to be replaced by the flowers of later season bloomers and then the fall color of the native grasses.

Posted in Prairie plants, Prairie restoration, Restoration ecology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment