FROM THE DESK OF EXTENSION
University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension Dodge County
Through a natural resources’ perspective, 2021 is sure starting off to be an eventful year. From starting off the year with the beautiful wintery scenery created by hoar frost to upcoming celebrations and conferences, we are in store for a year of learning and appreciation for our bountiful water resources we have in Wisconsin.
February started with the celebration of World Wetlands Day on Feb. 2. World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year to raise awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet. It is no doubt that those of us in the Rock River Basin appreciate wetlands, as historically, the basin has been shaped by wetlands. As glaciation occurred throughout this area, it left behind unsorted material—glacial till) sorted material—glacial outwash, and deposits from glacial lakes—lacustrine deposits. Many of these depositions are poorly drained and formed wetlands throughout the basin. Specifically, Glacial Lake Scuppernong covered most of Jefferson County during the last glaciation and deposited nearly level layers of clay and silty clay. You can see the flat plain that Glacial Lake Scuppernong left behind off the Scuppernong Segment of the Ice Age Trail through the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest. With the clay deposit and level elevations, many of the low-lying areas are dominated by wetlands. However, much of the landscape has changed over the last 150 years as wetlands were diminished by 50% to support urban and agriculture development.
Despite the loss of wetlands, there are still wetlands among the landscape that provide many ecological benefits. The most well-known wetland in our area is Horicon Marsh as it is a designated Wetland of International Importance. Horicon Marsh is one of the largest intact freshwater wetlands in the U.S. and one of the largest cattail marshes in the world, making this marsh an extremely important site for migratory birds. Wetlands provide many benefits to wildlife as 75% of Wisconsin’s wildlife depend on wetlands at some point during their lives. Besides wildlife benefits, wetlands also provide clean drinking water, shoreline protection, support rare plants, and provide flood protection. The Wisconsin Wetlands Association identified “Workhorse Wetlands” across the state that provide a variety of natural benefits to our community. Turtle Valley was identified as a Workhorse Wetland because it supports more than 120 species of breeding and migratory birds. Restoration efforts of Turtle Valley also provide storage of floodwaters and filter sediment to help improve water quality and lessen flooding effects throughout the Turtle Creek Watershed.
As we take Feb. 2 to appreciate wetlands and the services they provide to our environment, remember that you can celebrate wetlands every day. Try to make it a point to visit a wetland close to you and learn more about wetlands. The Wisconsin Wetlands Association has excellent resources to learn about wetlands, how to manage them on your property, and tools for communities to understand the importance of wetlands. Check out more at wisconsinwetlands.org and go to the “Learn” tab.
If you are craving more information about our water resources, consider attending the 2021 Wisconsin Water Week March 8-12. What has traditionally been the Wisconsin Lakes Convention held in April in Stevens Point every year, will be virtual this year. The first ever virtual Wisconsin Water Week will feature three days of content-rich presentations and panels on Monday-Wednesday. Monday will emphasize “Water Cycles,” including groundwater and climate, the two largest but mostly invisible pieces of our shared water inheritance.
Tuesday will explore “Water Bodies,” delving into the science of monitoring and managing lakes, rivers, wetlands, and watersheds, and evaluating their health. This includes the flora and fauna in and around these water bodies and how they interact.
Wednesday will focus on “Water Actions,” featuring examples and stories from the field that demonstrate how people and communities are tackling water challenges – even during these turbulent times. Thursday’s agenda will feature 10 regionally focused sessions; The Rock River Coalition is hosting a session and Friday’s agenda will include local action-oriented meetings and events. Register at wisconsinlakes.org and go to the ’Wisconsin Water Week’ tab.
There are many ways to celebrate our water resources, and the wetlands that help protect them. Although we may feel stuck inside this winter, there are many opportunities to connect with your fellow water lovers through virtual events or get outside and explore your favorite water resource.