We Need to Save Wetlands
Wisconsin weather records show our annual rainfall continues to rise. The increase has begun to overwhelm our wetlands’ ability to absorb the additional water volume and flow. Flooding is getting worse. This not only damages homes and property. It carries more pollutants into streams and lakes, ultimately affecting the quality of our drinking water.
Wetlands act like filtering sponges in our ecosystem. They temporarily hold back and then slowly release surges in rainfall, to help manage flooding. And they capture and store carbon, which reduces atmospheric greenhouse gases.
Wisconsin has already lost 50% of its original wetlands, and we can’t afford to lose more. Groundswell helps protect wetlands. One of our conservation successes is 84 acres of wetlands along Six-Mile Creek, that continues to reduce flooding in Waunakee and keep Lake Mendota cleaner by naturally filtering the creek water that runs into it. Click the Story tab to learn more about the Six-Mile Creek wetland.
Patience Pays Off
When Dave O’Malley was a boy, he didn’t think of the marsh as an important watershed that’s protecting Dane County’s lakes. It was just a place for grazing cattle and childhood adventures. It was a spot to build rafts, enjoy camping trips or go fishing for chubs.
“The only thing we thought about was where the fish were,” O’Malley said.
As adults, O’Malley and his siblings came to understand the larger value their family farm had to the environment. It’s a high-quality wetland that includes Six-Mile Creek and it has a big benefit to the surrounding landscape. The marsh acts as a natural sponge, retaining, filtering and slowly releasing floodwater before it rushes into the Village of Waunakee or Lake Mendota.
While wetlands are a defense against flooding and other impacts of climate change, they are a fast-disappearing resource. Only about half of Wisconsin’s original wetlands remain.
But the 84-acre O’Malley parcel is not going anywhere. It’s permanently protecting the watershed, reducing flooding and providing a natural space for the community to enjoy.
“It would not have happened without Groundswell,” O’Malley said.
The land has been part of the O’Malley family since the 1800s. Groundswell worked for four years to orchestrate a land deal that transferred ownership of the property to the Village of Waunakee. Funding and other support to purchase the property came from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, Dane County Conservation Fund, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Village of Waunakee, the Town of Westport, and supporters of Groundswell, including the Estate of Marie Fraser.
The property is located on the western edge of Waunakee and it’s now open for public use.
“You can kill two birds with one stone,” O’Malley said. “You can protect water quality and have flood control for the village and then you can also have a conservancy and recreation area for people to come out and enjoy.”
When he was a boy, O’Malley marveled at the spawning Lake Monona northern pike that he encountered in the marsh. How in the world could the fish travel so far?
O’Malley said the land will continue to be a place where the community can connect with the wonders of nature.