Nonprofit Groundswell Conservancy has purchased wetlands adjacent to the Lower Mud Lake State Fishery Area.
The property lies on both sides of U.S. Hwy. 51 and is within the Lower Mud Lake Natural Resources Area. This increases the amount of acres the Groundswell Conservancy to 69 for public recreation and habitat restoration.
Groundswell Conservancy will manage the property, consistent with state land, to increase opportunities for public enjoyment and provide a permanent place to live for ducks and other wildlife, community conservationist Tony Abate said.
More importantly, with how much flooding Dane County has endured in the last couple years, wetlands help prevent flooding by temporarily storing and slowly releasing stormwater, he said. They also reduce water flow, allowing sediments and associated pollutants to settle out. Roots of wetland vegetation hold soils in place, stabilizing banks of rivers and streams.
The nonprofit, he said, purchased the property for around $297,800. Dane County provided Groundswell Conservancy with funding through its Conservation Fund Grant Program. A Knowles Nelson Stewardship grant and contribution from the Town of Dunn helped complete the purchase as well, a March news release states.
The grant funded half the purchase, Abate said, and the Town $5,000.
That means the property is currently open to the public, and that Groundswell will have to keep up with protocols to manage it. There, people can get out of the house to go hunting — when the season merits — hiking, cross country skiing in the winters, trapping, fishing and bird watching.
“We will annually be walking the property,” Abate said. “We also may be looking to install a parking lot to allow for better public access.”
The nonprofit, along with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, will implement a burn regime, which keeps the wetland complex healthy. Dead brush is burnt to a crisp, Abate said, allowing for new vegetation to grow in its place. The fires make the soil fertile enough for that to happen, also heating up the ground more quickly in spring.
Such protocols will preserve the habitat and the wetlands that produce native Wisconsin plants and wildlife, Abate said.
He said as the public walks the property, they might see a lot of prairie grasses and wildflowers in the summertime.
They might also observe many bird species, including mallard ducks, blue winged teals, great blue herons — even great horned owls.
Even more native species will grow as the nonprofit addresses invasive species like cattails.
Abate said overall, preserving the area helps maintain Wisconsin’s overall ecosystem functions — the more patches of land protected, the better.