“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

Madison Groundwater Pumping Alert

Why is City of Madison Pumping Groundwater Down the Stormdrain?

A resident of Madison’s Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood alerted me this evening (5.25.17) that the street reconstruction project on Sprague St. had likely hit a groundwater vein and that crews had set up a pumping system to send the water down the storm drain at the corner of Monroe St.  See photo below.  The resident said the pumping was going on 24/7.

Groundwater being pumped into storm drain at Sprague and Monroe Streets.

We will be following this event over the next few days and weeks but right now we know that by a conservative estimate about 100 gallons per minute (gpm) are flowing down the storm drain and mixing with polluted storm water, and then on to Lake Wingra.

Think about that.  Twenty four hours at 100 gpm equals 144,000 gallons of groundwater down the drain.  In just one day.

Problem is, the water flowing to Lake Wingra will not be clear, clean spring water but contaminated storm water.

The pumping system is shown in the above photo.  

If this were a broken water main supplying fresh water to homes and businesses, City water utility crews would likely be on the scene immediately to make repairs.

We don’t know what the City’s short or long term solution is.  Will the groundwater pumping continue over the long Memorial Day weekend, or not.

Stay tuned.

Posted in Restoration ecology | 2 Comments

May Is Time to Garden With Native Plants

Pasque Flower (Anemone patens) at The Swamp Lovers Foundation

Madison, WI–The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is encouraging people to get outside and put a few more native plants in their gardens to help increase wildlife habitat.

The DNR’s  Wisconsin Native Plants publication lists native plants that will do well in various parts of Wisconsin area and links to specific guides for plants to benefit pollinators, birds and more.

The department also provides a list of Wisconsin native plant nurseries.

Monarch butterfly on Showy Blazizingstar, a good garden plant.

Below is a list of some native plant sales around the state in May.  Experts will be on hand at the dates and locations listed below and can help you get started with plants and gardening advice.

May 9, Madison
Native Plant Sale, a fundraiser for DNR’s Endangered Resources Fund, GEF 2
May 13, MadisonUW-Madison Arboretum Native Plant Sale, UW-Arboretum
May 13-14, Franklin
Mother’s Day Native Plant Sale, Wehr Nature Center
May 20, Mayville
Wildflowers for Wildlife, Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
May 20, Port Washington
Native Plant Sale, Forest Beach Migratory Preserve
May 21, Madison
Dane County Master Gardeners 2017 Spring Plant Sale, Dane County/UWEX Office
June 3, Ashland
Bayfield Regional Conservancy Northern Native Plant Sale, Northland College

Posted in Restoration ecology | Leave a comment

White Trout-Lily

Madison, WI.  On Sunday I went down to the Arboretum’s Wingra Oak Savanna with some friends to show them around the restoration project and to look at the nearby Council Springs, and Dancing Sands Springs.  And, of course, to botanize.

One of the highlights on this gorgeous spring day were the carpets of white trout-lily (Erythonium albidum) under the spreading open-grown bur and white oaks that provide the framework for the savanna.  The bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) was past and the Jacob’s ladder ( Polemonium reptans) was just that day starting to flower.


White trout-lily a native Wisconsin woodland and savanna wildflower.

There were so many large colonies of white trout-lily at the Wingra Oak Savanna it was hard to take them all in; seemingly everywhere you looked was another patch.  But only a few flowering stems of yellow trout-lily were visible.

White trout-lily and its cousin, yellow trout-lily (Erythonium americanum) are true spring ephemerals, meaning they go dormant by late spring or early summer after producing seed, just after the tree canopy  closes in.   Trout-lilies like moist woods, forests, and apparently savannas.  The white variety is more common in southern Wisconsin; the yellow form common in the northern part of the state.

All trout-lilies grow from small underground vertical structures called corms, which are an enlarged, fleshy, solid base of a stem.   Each corm sends up two leaves and, usually, a single flower stalk.  However, both white and yellow trout-lily are notorious for producing sterile, non-flowering corms which produce dense colonies of single leaves.  Truly though, I don’t know what evolutionary advantage there is to a plant being sterile.

The leaves of trout-lilies are shaped like a fish and are mottled or spotted, giving it the appearance of the markings of a brook trout.


Each flower has six petals, called “tepals”, the term used when the petals and sepals look nearly alike.

Some think the tepals are shaped like a long canine tooth, hence the alternate common name of dog-tooth violet, despite the fact that the plant is not a violet but rather, is in the lily family (Lillaceae).  Other common names include Fawn Lily and Adder’s-tongue (Fassett, 1976).

Trout-lilies are clonal species meaning that while a given patch consists of many individual stems, they are all produced by common underground stems or stolons that arise from the mother corm and have an identical genetic makeup.  New colonies can be produced by seed.

Research has shown that trout-lily clones can live a long time.   Whitford (1951) studied the structure and age of a typical mesic forest stand in Green County, Wisconsin.  He determined “that the average age of a trout-lily colony was 145 years, ranging from 40 to 313 years.” (Curtis, 1959.)  This upper age estimate  was just six years after the explorer Nicolet in 1636 visited what would become Wisconsin.



Curtis, J.T. 1959.  The Vegetation of Wisconsin.  University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, WI.

Fassett, N. C. 1976.  Spring Flora of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI.

Whitford, P.W. 1951.  Estimation of the age of forest stands in the prairie-forest border region. PhD thesis, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Posted in Bagpipes and Bonfires, Council Spring, Restoration ecology, Spring ephemerals, Spring wildflowers, Springs | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Madison’s Well #14 Reaches Critical Chloride Contamination Level

Remedial Actions Triggered

Some Residents of Lake Wingra Watershed Affected

Madison, WI December 1–The Madison Water Utility announced yesterday that “Sodium levels in Well 14 are around 45 mg/L, higher than the recommended limit for people on salt-restricted diets. Chloride, the component of salt that causes the “salty” taste, has been measured at the well at 125 mg/L, or 50 percent of the EPA’s secondary maximum contaminant level (SMCL) for the chemical.”

While the health of most people is not directly impacted by high sodium and chloride levels, elevated salt levels are a concern for those on salt-restricted diets.   High sodium and chloride levels do pose a threat to water quality and can contaminate the soil and adversely impact plants and soil organisms.

Contamination Levels Trigger Remediation Actions

The water quality policy of the Madison Water Utility requires that remediation actions be initiated when a contaminant, such as chloride, reaches 50% of its threshold.  The water utility outlined a series of remediation steps that include an analysis of the situation to determine which below-ground areas are contributing the most sodium chloride, to re-building the well in order to draw from a deeper aquifer, to on-site desalination, or even abandoning the well altogether.

Dudgeon-Monroe and Vilas Neighborhoods in Lake Wingra Watershed Affected

Well # 14, at 5130 University Avenue, is a major source of water for the near west side of Madison  and supplies the following neighborhoods across at least a couple of watersheds:  Spring Harbor, Glen Oak Hills, Hill Farms, Sunset Village, Regent, Dudgeon Monroe and Vilas. In addition, Well 14 serves the Village of Shorewood Hills and parts of the University of Wisconsin campus.   Although Well #14 is outside of the Lake Wingra Watershed, it supplies two large neighborhoods in the watershed:  Dudgeon Monroe and Vilas neighborhoods.  Click here to see a map of the location of well #14 and its “wellhead protection zone”.

Source of the salt

The Madison Water Utility points to de-icing salt, as the source of the contamination.  The utility cites road salt as a major contributor: “Every winter, about 140 tons of road salt are dumped on the two-mile stretch of University Ave. between Segoe Rd. and Allen Boulevard.”   The utility  also points to salt applied to sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways of both commercial and residential properties.  Even salt from water softeners contributes to the problem.

For a history of road salt use in Madison and chloride concentrations in its lakes, see this earlier blog post.

Other Wells Have Not Escaped a Salt Overdose

According to the Madison Water Utility, “Well #11 on Dempsey Rd., Well #6 on University Ave., and Well #16 on Mineral Point Rd. all show increasing levels of sodium and chloride, albeit at much lower levels than Well 14” (click here for chart). The water utility concludes “It’s possible that if nothing is done to decrease road salt use across our area, we will be looking at costly chloride mitigation efforts at some of those of wells and others in the coming decades.”

Chloride Contamination Concerns Go Beyond Water

As we reported in this blog over three years ago, chloride concentrations are a year-round concern in Madison and the surrounding area. In fact, each spring and summer rain, flushes accumulated salt from the soil and into our freshwater supplies. As we reported then:

“The road salt (usually sodium chloride) applied on our streets, sidewalks, and driveways to make winter driving and walking easier, does not just disappear once the storm is over. It mixes with melt water or rainfall and washes down the storm drain where it ends up in Madison lakes, the groundwater, and eventually our drinking water wells.”

Long-term Solutions Sought

“Rising levels of chloride in our groundwater and lakes should be a cause of concern to all of us,” says Madison Water Utility general manager Tom Heikkinen. “As a region, we are on an unsustainable path with respect to wintertime salt use and we need to figure out how to solve this problem now for the sake of future generations.”

We will report next time on some of these efforts to go on a reduced road-salt diet.


Posted in Chloride concentrations, Groundwater, Road salt, Road salt use | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Annual Chapter Meeting of SER Midwest Great Lakes March 24-27 in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Assembling the Restoration Community is Theme of Annual Meeting.

The Ninth Annual Chapter Meeting of the Midwest-Great Lakes Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan from March 24 to March 26, 2017.  Next year’s meeting theme is Assembling the Restoration Community.  The meeting will be hosted by the Department of Biology at Grand Valley State University.

Deadline for Symposia and Workshop Proposals is Dec. 16, 2016

The call for workshop proposals and symposia proposals is now open! Meeting organizers encourage submission of workshop and symposium proposals directly related to the meeting theme,  or any topic related to ecological restoration. The deadline for submission of workshop and symposium proposals is December 16, 2016. Details here. Example of a correctly formatted proposal here.

The Midwest-Great Lakes Chapter of SER was established in March 2008 and serves Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  The chapter promotes the science and practice of ecological restoration to assist with the recovery and management of degraded ecosystems throughout the Midwest and Great Lakes region of the United States.

Members receive opportunities to network with colleagues and showcase your work at annual chapter meetings and state events, discounted event registration, webinars and chapter communications highlighting regional restoration issues and news.

Other Annual Meeting Deadlines

December 16, 2016: Deadline for receipt of symposia and workshop proposals

January 6, 2017: Deadline for receipt of abstracts for contributed oral and poster presentations

February 1, 2017: Registration opens.

For more information about the 2017 annual meeting or to submit proposals contact SER MWGL at mwgl.ser@gmail.com


Posted in Restoration ecology | Leave a comment

Storm Water Management versus Ecological Restoration–a review of Pond #1


Fraying of Social and Ecological Connections

Sometimes changes to landscape features happen so gradually, and over such a long time frame that we come to take them for granted. If we see them at all, we consider them part of the background, or think the situation they represent is the way it has always been, the way people want it to be, and always should be. This is certainly true of the storm water pond and collapsed infrastructure on the southwest edge of Curtis Prairie.  It has left an open wound that continues to fester.

The storm water wound on Curtis Prairie has physical and symbolic implications beyond the confines of Curtis Prairie; it has poked a hole in the watershed’s social and ecological fabric.  The collapsed flume typifies the “broken windows” syndrome:  neglect begets further neglect until neglect becomes the norm.

As a result, the ecological and social fabric of our common home, our shared Lake Wingra Watershed, is slowly coming unraveled. The events that tear at a community’s ecological connections often start small and are unnoticed, by most. Like an ignored and un-mended rip in the fabric of a favorite jacket, the hole will eventually get so big the owner has to mend the jacket, or throw it away—out of embarrassment, if nothing else.

History of Storm Water Management Issues

In 1969 the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WIDOT) excavated (with University and Arboretum acquiescence) a 3 acre storm water detention pond in the iconic Curtis Prairie, the world’s first prairie restoration. The WIDOT expansion of the nearby Beltline Highway had increased stormwater runoff into the prairie, necessitating the detention pond to hold the silt-laden water coming from the roadway construction.

The pond was connected to the Beltline Highway (US 12-14-18-151) storm water outfall—about 100 yards distant—by a concrete raceway, or flume.

To add insult to injury, the new pond—the first of eventually six in the Arboretum—dug up research plots established to study the effect of prescribed fire on restored prairies. The state’s excavation compromised and ended the experiment.

Over the years the concrete flume became undermined and, in the summer of 1996, it collapsed. Storm water, however, continued to flow; and with it the erodible sandy soil of the Leopold Pines flowed downstream.

Concrete slabs of the former Pond #1 flume lie in disarray as if an earthquake has pushed them aside.

Concrete slabs of the former Pond #1 flume lie in disarray as if an earthquake has pushed them aside.

I worked at the Arboretum when the storm water flume collapsed. The financial and technical magnitude of the repair task was beyond the meager resources or capabilities of the UW-Madison Arboretum, a research unit of the university’s Graduate School. We sought advice and assistance from the WIDOT.  And the WIDOT offered to repair the broken flume to approximately the design and condition prior to its collapse. Arboretum officials considered the proposal but, on the advice of water resources and stormwater experts in the university and extension office, rejected the offer of help.

Instead of fixing the flume right away, a storm water committee was formed to consider Pond #1 and the entire scope of storm water issues afflicting the Arboretum.

Arboretum Storm Water Committee

The Arboretum Storm Water Committee, on which I served, consisted of university and Arboretum faculty and staff. One of the first things the Arboretum Storm Water Committee did was develop a set of storm water management values. These values were to “better guide the Arboretum storm water planning process, and to provide criteria for making decisions about future storm water management options.” (2006 UW-Arboretum Facility Storm Water Management Plan, p 5.)

Arboretum Storm Water Management Values

These values were developed and approved in 2004 by the Arboretum Committee, a University faculty governance committee.  They are published in the Arboretum’s 2006 report, “Facility Storm Water Management Plan”.

  • “Managing storm water on UW-Arboretum property should attempt to maintain (or restore) conditions of storm water transport and infiltration that best serve Arboretum restoration objectives, while protecting the environment.”
  • “Flows of storm water runoff onto Arboretum property resulting from the surrounding urban areas should be controlled to pre-settlement levels to the extent possible, and managed for minimum impact upon Arboretum ecosystems.”
  • “The quality of storm water runoff (e.g. nutrients, solids, temperature) entering Arboretum ecosystems and draining to surface waters, should be consistent with pre-settlement quality.”
  • Any construction of storm water management infrastructure (e.g. detention ponds and dikes) on Arboretum property should serve and enhance Arboretum restoration, teaching, research, and outreach goals.”
  • “UW-Arboretum should encourage wise storm water management practices throughout the surrounding watershed community, by example and through education.”

The values looked good on paper but never got traction among the engineering planners who generally viewed them at best, as irrelevant, or at worst, as an obstacle.

The former flume has become a small stream, carrying runoff from a portion of the watershed south of the Beltline.

The former flume has become a small stream, carrying runoff from a portion of the watershed south of the Beltline.

The storm water committee eventually developed a few conceptual plans to repair the collapsed flume, dredge the existing pond and better design it to meet City of Madison storm water management needs and requirements and Arboretum restoration and research needs and requirements. Trouble was, as we discovered, 1) the needs, and requirements of the City (and University?) and 2) of the Arboretum were entirely different. One group valued an engineering approach; the other valued an ecological approach. The values gulf between the two could never be bridged.

That philosophical obstacle, as well as financial ones, prevented development of construction designs and plans. The storm water committee could not secure sufficient funding from the University, the City, or the State to take on a project whose costs were estimated to exceed $1million.  So, here we sit in 2016 and no plans have been approved, let alone money allocated, to repair the collapsed flume and Pond #1 itself. A search of the UW-Madison Arboretum website turns up no mention of the Pond #1 flume, its current condition, nor plans to repair it.

Native Soil Continues To Be Lost

In the meantime, the Arboretum Storm Water Management Plan, (2006 p. 17) estimated that in the 10 years since the flume collapse, more than 1000 cubic yards of native soil was eroded from beneath the flume and accumulated in the pond. This overload of soil limited the capacity of the pond for containing storm flows and removing nutrients.

Time Passes

Twenty years later, as of this writing in early Nov. 2016, the collapsed flume has still not been repaired. It is estimated that in the 10 years between 2006 and 2016 at least an additional 1000 cubic yards of native soil have been washed away. The total over 20 years is a loss of 2000 cubic yards of native soil; and with it the native flora and fauna.

Access gate to the fenced off Pond #1 flume area.

Access gate to the fenced off Pond #1 flume area.

What’s Happened Since 1996 Here on Earth

In case you have forgotten, or were not alive in 1996, or are new to Madison, the collapsed flume is not normal and is not good for the Arboretum or the watershed. Twenty years is a long time to let a wound fester. The infection has now spread throughout Curtis Prairie, and beyond.

While time seems to stand still in parts of the watershed, much else in the world has changed since 1996.  In that time the United States has had three presidents: Bill Clinton (second term), George W. Bush (2 terms), and Barack Obama (soon to complete his 2nd term).

The Arboretum has had three directors, none of whom were able to produce a solution to the storm water problems afflicting Curtis Prairie. The Arboretum storm water planning project team and the later storm water committee, while they identified the problem, have failed to develop or carry out a solution.

But the collapsed storm water flume continues to send eroded native soil down the drain.

Technological Developments since 1996

Elsewhere there have been many developments and accomplishments since 1996:
In 1996 came MP3 formatting.
The DVD was invented in 1997 and Fujitsu released the first 42-inch plasma television.
In 1998 the first digital cameras were released.
Also in 1998 computer animation was introduced.
In 1999 there were two inventions that impact us all: WiFi and the search engine Google.
In 2000, Toyota introduced the first hybrid automobile.
In 2001 the iPod was introduced, and the first artificial liver was developed.
In 2005, YouTube was launched.
In 2007 the first iPhone was introduced by Steve Jobs.
In 2016 the iPhone 7 was introduced.

In addition to items mentioned above, since 1996 there have been advances in artificial intelligence, driverless cars, virtual reality and the widespread use of wind and solar power.

All the while more native soil washed downstream and neither the state, nor the university, nor the city could muster the interest, moral resolve, or resources or overcome differences to carry out a repair to the collapsed Pond #1 flume.

Since 1996 in Outer Space

In terms of lunar and planetary exploration, NASA and private companies have accomplished much since 1996. For example:
The International Space Station has made countless orbits over the collapsed Pond #1 flume.
NASA has launched several missions to Mars and even landed exploratory rovers on the planet.
In 2005 NASA accomplished a fly-by of the Comet Hartley 2 as part of its Deep Impact mission.
In 2011 NASA launched a Jupiter orbiter.
The Hubble Space Telescope was repaired 4 times and continues to send amazing images back to earth. Launched in 1990, Hubble is expected to be retired in 2016.
In addition, there are the accomplishments of private companies such as Space X which is developing the ability to launch its own rockets for space exploration.

And the list goes on, and native soil continues to flow downstream, but still the collapsed Pond #1 flume lies in ruins on the edge of the world’s first prairie restoration.

Accomplishments Closer to Home

The Beltline Highway, again.

In November, 2016 the WIDOT is putting the finishing touches on an extensive $139 million project to expand, yet again, the Beltline Highway on the Arboretum’s southern boundary to six lanes (3 in each direction) from Seminole Highway west to Whitney Way, a distance of about two miles. The massive project began in March 2013 and is expected to conclude in early November, 2016. The project boundaries like the Arboretum, are within the Lake Wingra Watershed.

Although the State of Wisconsin can find the money for the Beltline project it can’t summon the resources to fix a 200 yard scar on the landscape. And during the highway project the Arboretum’s native soil continued to wash downstream.

A small wetland delta has formed from eroded soil has developed in the past 20 years.

A small wetland delta, formed from eroded soil,  has developed in the past 20 years.

On the Positive Side

I don’t approve of neglect as a strategy or tactic to solve problems.  But, ironically, and fortuitously, over the past twenty years neglect of the Pond #1 flume has proven to be a good teaching tool and demonstration project.    Eroded soil from underneath the flume and from the Evjue Pines on the Arboretum’s Grady Tract south of the Beltline, has formed a delta and small wetland at the mouth of the flume.

It has been documented (J. Zedler 2016 personal communication) that the wetland provides an important ecological function by denitrifying storm water inputs. Zedler also reminds me that a shallow pond is more likely to support denitrification than a deepened pond. And, because the threat to Arboretum is nitrogen (N) and not phosphorous and because there is no evidence that phosphorous escapes all the way the Lake Wingra, there is no need to dredge the pond. If the pond were dredged, and/or enlarged as the storm water engineers insist is necessary, these functions would be lost.

Whether or not these science based findings will be valued and influence future storm water management plans is an open question.    Whether or not Arboretum management can negotiate desirable restoration outcomes remains to be seen.

Posted in Curtis Prairie, Ecological restoration, Human impacts on restorations, Lake Wingra Watershed, Restoration ecology, Soil erosion, Storm water | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments