Black Earth Creek is a treasure that starts near Middleton, where cold clear spring water bubbles freely from the earth. The creek winds and bends countless times on a journey to the Wisconsin River. It’s considered one of the 100 best trout streams in the nation by Trout Unlimited.

The creek is as fragile as it is precious. It’s threatened by runoff, development, and pollution. Groundswell is working with landowners and supporters to protect the stream. We recently completed three important conservation projects on the creek, and each represents a major accomplishment. Collectively, they add an important layer of protection to the Black Earth Creek watershed while providing new opportunities for the public to connect with nature.

In December, we purchased 38 acres along Black Earth Creek that includes ¾ of a mile of shoreline. The property is adjacent to land owned by the Department of Natural Resources as part of the Black Earth Creek Fishery Area. The landowners have been good stewards of the property and when they decided to sell, we were ready. Groundswell will own and manage this property as part of the public conservation lands along the creek.

Photo credit: Sue Ann Schwanke

In March, we purchased a 93-acre agricultural easement on the south side of Black Earth Creek. The farmland property is next to a stream bank easement held by the DNR along 3,000 feet of creek. The easement keeps the rich soil available for farming. It prevents development that could force large amounts of sediment-laden water into the creek. It also limits construction of impervious surfaces to a one-acre portion of the farm. This allows precipitation to continue to seep into the ground and keeps the watershed healthy.

In late December, we helped the Village of Black Earth acquire one acre of land to provide a new spot for canoeists and kayakers to get into the creek. The property was owned by David Cooper, a long-time resident. David’s house and garage were heavily damaged in the huge flood of August 2018. David had let Black Earth Administrator Shellie Benish know that he thought his land would make a great park, and Shellie agreed. The property is next to land owned by the DNR as part of the Black Earth Creek Fishery Area. It includes 120 feet of shoreline on the creek. This winter we donated the land to the Village. The Village will take on the work of removing the buildings and turning the land into a park, complete with creek access. “It’s a story of how people working together can make nature more accessible. It’s also great news for paddling enthusiasts!”

These projects only happened because of the generosity of conservation-minded landowners, partners, and supporters. Funders included the Dane County Conservation Fund, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, and Groundswell supporters including the Norm Anderson Conservation Opportunities Fund.

Groundswell has a long commitment to this watershed. These latest projects build on a long history of conservation success. Over the last two decades, Groundswell supporters helped protect more than a thousand acres (more than 900 football fields!) of farmland, wetlands, stream corridors, and hiking trails in the beautiful and significant Black Earth Creek valley.

To read more stories from our Spring 2022 Newsletter, click here.