On June 26, 2018, we protected 95 acres of wetland along the Yahara River on the north side of Cherokee Marsh. This important acquisition connects a 160-acre block of county and state land near Hwy. 19 and the Yahara River with the bulk of the public conservation lands at the marsh.
Our thanks go to the Wisconsin Laborers’ Apprenticeship and Training Fund for selling the land to us. According to Craig Ziegler, Director of the Training Center, “We felt it was important to have the wetland that we owned be left in its natural state. What better way to have that done than to put it into conservation.”
This purchase is the latest in a six decade-long effort to protect the 3,600-acre wetland complex that is Cherokee Marsh. (Thanks to the Friends of Cherokee Marsh for figuring out that the Cherokee Marsh wetlands – extending from the northeast tip of Lake Mendota to just north of DeForest, and including Token Creek — cover that many acres).
In the late 1950s, the Dane County Conservation League, the City of Madison, and the State Conservation Department (now the DNR) developed a plan for state ownership of about 3,000 acres of the marsh, at an estimated cost of $250,000 spread over 20 to 30 years. At that time only 120 acres had been acquired. In 1981 a plan was adopted by DNR, Dane County, the City of Madison, and Towns of Burke, Westport, and Windsor to protect 3,000 acres of the core wetland and up to 3,000 additional acres of adjacent upland. Every year we get closer to that goal, but the price tag has increased, to say the least.
Conservation of great places like Cherokee Marsh doesn’t happen by accident. Since the first acquisition, the DNR, Dane County, City of Madison, Groundswell, Friends of Cherokee Marsh, the Towns of Westport and Burke, the Village of Windsor, and Madison Metropolitan Sewage District have worked to assemble an incredible public conservation landscape on the northern doorstep of Madison. It is an accomplishment we can all be very proud of.
Funding to purchase the Wisconsin Laborer’s property was provided by Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Dane County Conservation Fund, Friends of Cherokee Marsh, and supporters of Groundswell.
Thanks to everyone who made this success possible. Perseverance pays off.