fit-opn-col-rcc001

In her 2017 book, “Waubesa Wetlands: New Look at an Old Gem,” Aldo Leopold Professor Emerita Dr. Joy Zedler describes what the Waubesa Wetlands have to offer people in our area.

This amazing natural wetland area, full of wildlife and scenic views, is definitely worth going to see for yourself. And it’s something we can all work to protect.

Located just a few minutes east of the City of Fitchburg in the Town of Dunn, it is owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy and Dane County. The wetlands were designated a State Natural Area in 1974.

A wetland is an area of land, usually with shallow water, that supports an ecosystem with diverse populations of rare animals, aquatic life, and native plants. Wetlands act to purify runoff from surface water, reduce flooding impacts, produce organic matter, and store carbon dioxide.

The beautiful landscape of the internationally renowned wetlands features more than 500 acres of sedge meadows and marshes, and its clean water promotes recreational fishing and wildlife hunting upstream.

The Waubesa Wetlands provide the proper environment for rare and endangered plant and animal species to thrive. When you visit, you might see animals such as Sandhill cranes, Blanchard’s cricket frog, plains garter snake, peregrine falcons or rusty patched bumble bees. Interesting plants you could encounter include woolly-fruited sedge, northern bog aster and sage willow.

While wetlands provide a benefit to the community, they are sensitive to a changing environment, especially upstream land use changes and a changing climate.

For example, the wetlands rely on groundwater (which bubbles to the surface through springs) to maintain clean, cool water for the sensitive species that live within the wetland. Creating impervious surfaces can reduce the ability of water to soak into the ground and replenish the groundwater aquifers on which the Waubesa Wetlands rely. More intense storms can cause erosion along stream banks that can cause large amounts of dirty water to enter the wetlands.

Water from a portion of the City of Fitchburg flows down Swan Creek and Murphy Creek into this wetland gem. This gives our residents a unique opportunity to protect this natural resource.

Installing rain gardens or native plants can help clean water, promote infiltration, and replenish our groundwater aquifers. Setting up a rain barrel will help reduce runoff from intense rain events. Properly disposing of pet feces and restricting your lawn fertilizer usage will help reduce contaminants entering the wetland. Reducing your winter salt usage will help reduce the amount of chlorides entering the wetlands. Chlorides are damaging to both plant and animal life.

A fascinating natural ecosystem is right in our backyard, and if we all do our part, we can preserve Waubesa Wetlands for generations to come.

To see its splendor for yourself, you can drive to The Nature Conservancy’s road-side lot off of Lalor Road. You can also access the wetlands by kayak and boat from Lake Waubesa. The closest boat launch is at Goodland County Park at the southwest side of the lake.

To learn more about what you can do to protect the Waubesa Wetlands, visit fitchburgwi.gov/2622/Seasonal or read Dr. Joy Zedler’s book at town.dunn.wi.us/media/1486/ww2ed.pdf.

Hannah Buscemi is a City of Fitchburg environmental engineering intern and a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.