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Hook Lake Bog in the Town of Dunn ranks as one of the highest quality wetlands in Dane County. Photo credit: Mario Quintana

Act On Climate Crisis

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 wetland. 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 6-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.

“Kids can play in the creek or the woods or wander around the marsh,” he said. “It’s just nice that it’s going to be like that forever.”

Our Wetlands & Streams Projects

Open to the Public Hunting is Allowed
38 Projects (Alphabetized by Project Area)
This 16-acre acquisition at Allen Creek Wetlands State Natural Area permanently protects sedge meadow and savanna habitat. Groundswell transferred the property to the DNR. This property is open to the public.
Thanks to the generosity of the landowner, this 181-acre farm, which includes the springs at the headwaters of Anthony Branch, is permanently protected by a conservation easement. The farm is adjacent to the Anthony Branch Fishery and Wildlife Area. There is no public access.
This ~50 acre purchase at Avon Bottoms Wildlife Area permanently protects additional critical floodplain forest habitat along the the Sugar River. The property was transferred to DNR. This property is open to the public.
This 349-acre property was restored through the NRCS Wetland Reserve Program. The Land Trust transferred it to the Department of Natural Resources for public hunting, hiking, and other activities as part of the Avon Bottoms Wildlife Area in Rock County. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
This 199-acre property will be restored through the NRCS Wetland Reserve Program. Groundswell transferred it to the Department of Natural Resources for public hunting, hiking, and other activities as part of the Avon Bottoms Wildlife Area in Rock County. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
This streambank easement provides permanent public access to roughly 4,128 feet of Vermont Creek - a picturesque trout stream and important tributary of Black Earth Creek. In partnership with Dane County Groundswell acquired the conservation easement and transferred it to Dane County. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
This streambank easement provides permanent public access to roughly 3,000 feet of Vermont Creek - a picturesque trout stream and important tributary of Black Earth Creek. In partnership with Dane County, Groundswell acquired the conservation easement and transferred it to Dane County, ensuring the property is permanently protected. This property is open to the public.
The Land Trust purchased and, in partnership with the NRCS Wetland Reserve Program, restored 62 acres of wetlands along Garfoot Creek, a major tributary of Black Earth Creek. The property was transferred to the Department of Natural Resources and is permanently protected. This property is open to the public for hunting and other activities.
This 10-acre easement makes it possible to both restore a stretch of Halfway Prairie Creek and extend the Wolf Run Trail north. The property under the easement is open to the public but the trail has not been built yet. This easement is co-held with Dane County.
The Streambank and Public Recreational Trail Easement protects and provides public access to roughly 6,300 feet of Black Earth Creek, a high-quality water resource in Dane County popular with trout anglers. A proposed public trail connecting the Village of Mazomanie to the Wisconsin Heights School would be constructed within the easement. This property is open to the public.
This ~238-acre addition to the City of Madison Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park permanently protects the large expanse of wetland on the east of North Sherman Avenue along the approach to the main entrance to the popular city conservation park. This property is open to the public.
The Land Trust purchased this 21-acre wetland parcel and transferred it to the City of Madison as an addition to the City's Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
This 2018 acquisition added 95.5 acres to Cherokee Marsh. This property is open to the public. Hunting is allowed, except that because the property is within the Village of Deforest, the discharge of guns in not allowed on the property.
Groundswell acquired 139 acres of important upland and wetland habitat at French Creek Wildlife Area. The property is adjacent to state-owned land and was donated to the DNR as an addition to the wildlife area. Funding to purchase the property came from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, National Wild Turkey Federation, and supporters of Groundswell. This property is open to the public for hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, and cross-country skiing per government regulations.
Permanently protects the landscape around the Historic Indian Agency House in Portage and is part of a larger landscape of several hundred acres of wetland conservation easements. This property is open to the public.
This acquisition of 198 acres includes 38 acres of the original 320-acre farm settled by Daniel Muir in 1849. About 60 acres of the Muir farm is already permanently protected at the adjacent John Muir Memorial Park/Muir Park State Natural Area surrounding Ennis Lake (called Fountain Lake by the Muirs). The property is part of a 1,400-acre protected landscape, which includes the John Muir Memorial Park/Muir Park State Natural Area and the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. The property will be open to the public for hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, fishing, trapping, and bird-watching. Groundswell transferred 120 acres west of County Highway F to the US Fish and Wildlife Service as an addition to the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. Groundswell transferred the eastern 78 acres to the Ice Age Trail Alliance. A segment of the Ice Age Trail circles Ennis Lake and may continue north across the property we acquired. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
In partnership with the Village of Belleville, this acquisition adds 36 acres and nearly 2,000 feet of forested shoreline on the Sugar River to the Village's Lake Belle View park. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
Groundswell acquired 25.6 acres of wetland at Lodi Marsh state wildlife and natural area on Hwy Y in northern Dane County southwest of Lodi. The property is adjacent to state land and will be donated to the DNR as an addition to the wildlife area. Funding to purchase the property came from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, Dane County Conservation Fund, and supporters of Groundswell. This property is open to the public.
This 59-acre acquisition fills a hole in public ownership at Lodi Marsh Wildlife Area in northern Dane County. This property is open to the public.
This ~69-acre acquisition protects wetlands within Dane County's Lower Mud Lake Natural Resource Area. The property is open to the public for hunting, fishing, trapping, cross country skiing, and hiking per government regulations.
Thanks to the generosity of the landowner, this donated 13-acre conservation easement protects wetland, savanna, and agricultural land adjacent to Lower Mud Lake on the Yahara River. There is no public access.
This 40.2 acre parcel of land fills a hole in the 3,500-acre block of conservation land (the largest in Dane County) that stretches 3.5 miles along the Wisconsin River and encompasses state and county land open to the public for hiking, hunting, and other nature-based recreation opportunities. It is adjacent to the 7-A Farms acquisition at Walking Iron Natural Resource Area that Groundswell helped Dane County protect in 2008. The permanently protected property was transferred to the DNR in January 2011. This property is open to the public.
This nearly 40-acre property boasts over a mile of frontage on the Yahara River. It was transferred to the City of Stoughton for use as a conservancy park and to build a bike trail that will connect through Viking County Park to the city's trail system. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
This easement was assigned to Groundswell from Riverland Conservancy. The easement protects wetland and other wildlife habitat at Gallus Slough on land owned by Wisconsin Power and Light inside the Merrimac Preserve adjacent to Devil's Lake State Park.
This 35-acre property protects wetland and savanna habitat on the south side of Patrick Marsh. This property is open the public.
We acquired this 84 acre wetland property along to Six Mile Creek in on NE side of Waunakee in 2019 and transferred it in 2021 to the Village of Waunakee as a conservation park to protect wetlands and reduce flooding.
Thanks to the generosity of landowners Julie Hayward and Donn D'Alessio, this 77-acre diverse property, including oak savanna, wetland, prairie, and a portion of German Valley Creek, is protected by a conservation easement. There is no public access.
This 49-acre conservation easement protects the headwaters of Story Creek which flows through Tipperary Marsh and the Brooklyn Wildlife Area to the south. The easement was generously donated by landowner Charles Cell to protect his "Storybrook Farm" which features several large springs and the oldest brick structure in the town of Oregon. There is no public access.
This 19-acre property permanently protects a large spring that is an important water source for Token Creek. The Land Trust transferred the property to Dane County Parks to ensure proper management of the property. This property is open to the public.
This three-acre streambank easement protects a spring, pond, and 200-foot stretch of Token Creek. There is no public access.
This two-acre streambank easement protects a portion of a tributary of Token Creek. There is no public access.
Groundswell assisted the Town of Windsor in purchasing 17.3 acres as an addition to the Town's Token Creek Conservancy by obtaining state and county grants for matching funds. We never held any interest in the property. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
This property was purchased and later transferred to Dane County to permanently protect undeveloped shoreline at Waubesa Wetlands. This property is open to the public.
This 20.5 acre conservation easement prohibits residential development on the shore of Hook Lake, a state natural area and wildlife area. There is no public access.
Groundswell assisted Dane County in the acquisition of 382 acres of land along 2-1/2 miles of the Sugar River between Verona and Paoli. The property is permanently protected. The property is open to the public for hiking, fishing, hunting, trapping, and cross-county skiing.
The Pasley's Swan Creek Farm Property is roughly 36 acres of wetland and agricultural fields along with a stretch of Swan Creek - a major tributary to Waubesa Wetlands and Lake Waubesa.
This easement protects roughly 92 acres along the shore of Lake Wisconsin. This easement was transferred to Groundswell by Gathering Waters which originally protected the property. There is no public access.
31 acres of wetland surrounded by state land on the Yahara River north of Stoughton, donated by the landowners. This property is open to the public.