Skip Navigation
Main Menu
A monarch butterfly on goldenrod at Patrick Marsh. Their numbers have dropped by 80 percent over the past two decades. We're working to protect their habitat. Photo credit: Ben Jones

Conserve Wildlife Habitat

Saving Habitat Means Saving Wildlife

Animals, plants and people—we’re all part of the same ecosystem. And the key to sustaining this system is by preserving the wide variety of species in it. One of Groundswell’s top priorities is to preserve native wildlife species by protecting the habitat they need to survive.

Every species requires a minimum amount of space to feed, reproduce, form social and family groups, and travel during seasonal migrations. Crowding wildlife into smaller areas can result in population decline, aggressive interactions with each other and humans, and potentially extinction. Of the original 64,000-acre Empire Prairie that covered much of Dane and Columbia Counties, there are only 202 acres left that are protected. This huge loss of prairie habitat has led to dwindling populations of grassland birds, like the bobolink.

Westport Prairie, another Groundswell conservation success, is part of the Empire Prairie State Natural Area that preserves approximately 100 native plant species—some endangered—and many types of grassland birds. Click the Story tab to learn more about this special prairie.

A Special Place You Don’t Want to See Disappear

On a mild and sunny February day, Groundswell volunteers walked slowly through the snow and stubble of a Town of Westport corn field. They sprinkled something precious onto the frozen ground.

Tiny seeds from goldenrod, coneflowers and other native prairie plants slipped from the fingers of the volunteers and drifted toward the earth.

“This is exciting,” said Mark Thomas, one of the volunteers. “We have this little time capsule here and we’re working on expanding it.”

Westport Prairie is something of a last stand. It contains 227 protected acres that were in the heart of the Empire Prairie, a vast tallgrass prairie estimated to have once stretched for 150,000 acres across Columbia and Dane Counties. The Empire Prairie has largely disappeared, but in this place the land still buzzes with insects and bristles with wildflowers. It flourishes in defiance of nearby development.

Groundswell Conservancy protects and manages this important place. We conserve and expand wildlife habitat with the help of conservation partners, conservation-minded landowners, and dedicated volunteers.

Conservation work began here in 1984 when the state Department of Natural Resources created a state natural area on a 14-acre drumlin. A sliver of the Empire Prairie had survived on the drumlin, thanks in part to terrain created by the Wisconsin glacier. The land was simply too steep and rocky to cultivate. With the help of landowners who sold or donated land to the preserve, Groundswell extended the area of protected land to fields around the drumlin. Groundswell now restores more of the property to prairie. The restored buffer helps protect the original prairie remnant.

Groundswell’s staff works through the seasons to care for the land. We also hire young Operation Fresh Start participants and Prairie Partners interns to work on the prairie. We engage community volunteers and hold monthly work parties on the property.

A lot is at stake. The land holds more than 100 species of native plants, including the federally-threatened prairie bush clover. Grassland birds like the bobolink are dwindling in population and have little of this habitat left. The DNR estimates there’s less than 100 acres of remnant tallgrass prairie left in Wisconsin. The property also includes two oak savannas, a type of vegetation that’s more imperiled than tropical rainforest.

Groundswell is committed to protecting this habitat and preserving public access to the land. Our conservation efforts at Westport Prairie continue.

In the summer, staff and volunteers remove invasive plants like buckthorn and honeysuckle. In the fall, they carefully hand-gather prairie seeds. In winter, they return to plant the seeds on adjacent fields.

Thomas has volunteered numerous times on the Westport property and he intends to continue.

“When a place survives a really overwhelming shift in how land was treated and used, and it comes from a 10,000-plus year history, it’s worth some respect,” he said. “You don’t want to see it disappear.”

Our Wildlife Habitat Projects

Open to the Public Hunting is Allowed
67 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.
This property was the last 10 acres of privately owned shoreland at the Amey Pond Wildlife Refuge on Highway 23 east of the Wisconsin Dells. Ownership was transferred to Wisconsin DNR, ensuring it is permanently protected. Amey Pond is a 225-acre DNR wildlife property that provides habitat for a wide variety of waterfowl, including wood ducks, coots, and mallards; every spring white pelicans spend a few days on Amey Pond on their way north. This property is open to the public.
This 20 acres of wetland and woods is part of the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Anderson Waterfowl Production Area. The property is open to the public for hiking, hunting, and bird-watching.
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 acquisition adds 5.2 acre property to Black Earth Creek Fishery Area.
Thanks to the generosity of three landowners, the Land Trust purchased this 53-acre property at a bargain price and then gave the property to the Village of Cross Plains as an addition to the Village's system of conservancy parks. The Land Trust retained a conservation easement on the property, ensuring that it would always remain open to the public in a natural state. This 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.
A collaborative project of Dane County, the Town of Middleton, and the Land Trust, this project brought 294 acres of land into Dane County ownership as part of the Black Earth Creek Natural Resource Area. The permanently protected property includes more than a half-mile of Black Earth Creek and extensive uplands with views of Blue Mounds. This property is open to the public.
A collaborative project of Dane County, the Town of Middleton, and the Land Trust, this project brought 294 acres of land into Dane County ownership as part of the Black Earth Creek Natural Resource Area. The permanently protected property includes more than a half-mile of Black Earth Creek and extensive uplands with views of Blue Mounds. This property is open to the public.
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 75-acre acquisition holds the hydrological key to restoring 800 acres of adjacent wildlife habitat owned by the state, which will benefit trout, shorebirds, and grassland birds like the bobolink. It has been transferred to the DNR and is now permanently protected as part of the Brooklyn Wildlife Area. 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.
This ~23-acre addition to the City of Madison Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park separates planned residential development on the north side of the golf course at Cherokee Country Club from the popular city conservation park. It permanently protects 660 feet of shoreline on the Yahara River and will eventually include a biking/hiking trail linking Burning Wood Way with North Sherman Avenue. This property is open to the public.
This ~23-acre acquisition is the last piece of undeveloped land between the main entrance to the City of Madison Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park and the Cherokee golf course and residential area. Groundswell purchased the property on behalf of the city and immediately transferred it to the city as an addition to the conservation park. Eventually, the city plans to put a bike/hike path across the property, part of a link in a trail system that will improve access to the park. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
This 5.8 acre acquisition was the last opportunity to permanently protect wetland and upland habitat in the South Unit of the City of Madison's Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park. The property is now part of the city's park. This property is open to the public.
Naomi Whiteside generously donated a conservation easement on 17 acres to preserve woods and fields adjacent to county-owned land at Cherokee Marsh. There is no public access.
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.
This 133-acre conservation easement preserves a Dells landmark, Louis' Bluff, and more than one mile of undeveloped shoreline on the Wisconsin River. There is no public access.
This purchase added 31.42 acres to Ferry Bluff State Natural Area. The acquisition was made in partnership with Ferry Bluff Eagle Council. Groundswell transferred the permanently protected property to the DNR.
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.
Thanks to the generosity of the landowner, this 79-acre conservation easement permanently protects an agricultural and forested landscape just outside of Governor Dodge State Park. This conservation easement was transferred to Driftless Area Land Conservancy in December 2012. There is no public access.
A conservation easement permanently protects a 5,000 foot stretch of Hefty Creek and a 252 acre landscape of pasture, prairie, and savanna in Green County. Under the easement, the farm is not open to the public but contributes to the health of Hefty Creek through good management of the surrounding uplands. There is no public access.
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.
This 17 acre property adds an additional buffer of protection to the impressive Ho-Chunk cultural site at the Kingsley Bend Mound Group on the Wisconsin River just south of the Wisconsin Dells. In partnership with the Ho-Chunk Nation, Groundswell acquired the property and transferred it to the Ho-Chunk Nation. The property is permanently protected. This property is open to the public.
This 2.75 acre property protects four Native American burial mounds at the Kingsley Bend Mound Group on the Wisconsin River just south of the Wisconsin Dells. In partnership with the Ho-Chunk Nation, Groundswell acquired the property and transferred it to the Ho-Chunk Nation. The property is permanently protected. This 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 small property on the Wisconsin River was donated to Groundswell for the purposes of adding it to the public conservation lands in the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway.
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 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 23-acre property protects part of the upland landscape on the south side of Patrick Marsh. This property is open to the public.
These tracts were originally purchased by Dane County and subsequently transferred to Groundswell for more efficient land management at Patrick Marsh.
This 25-acre acquisition of upland property permanently protects views of Patrick Marsh and provides additional nesting and foraging habitat for waterfowl. Groundswell transferred the property to the City of Sun Prairie.
This 22.5-acre property protects part of the upland landscape on the south side of Patrick Marsh. This property is open to the public.
This 35-acre property protects wetland and savanna habitat on the south side of Patrick Marsh. This property is open the public.
This conservation easement protects significant upland habitat above the Rowan Creek State Fishery Area. It was also the site of the Sound Storm concert festival of April 1970 at which the Grateful Dead played. There is no public access.
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 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 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.
This 59 acre conservation easement sets aside a hill top as a future public park.
Thanks to the generosity of the Evenson family, this seven-acre beautifully wooded hillside (called "Trillium Hill") was protected through the donation of land. The Land Trust sold the property to raise funds for additional conservation work but retained a conservation easement on the property, ensuring that it will be permanently protected.
Thanks to the generosity of the landowners, this 290-acre conservation easement permanently protects a forested ridge and valley landscape along Sneed Creek. This conservation easement was transferred to Driftless Area Land Conservancy in 2012. There is no public access.
This 169-acre conservation easement, generously donated by the landowner, preserves productive farmland, savanna and prairie remnants, and important grassland bird habitat north of Dodgeville. 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.
This 869.7 acre acquisition was made in partnership with Dane County, to permanently protect and restore wildlife habitat linking Walking Iron County Park with Mazomanie Wildlife Area. Transferred to Dane County 2009. This property is open to the public.
This 30-acre property protects the northern flank of Westport Drumlin, a very high-quality dry prairie and oak savanna remnant that is home to the state's largest population of the federally-threatened and state-endangered prairie bush clover and other rare species. This property is open to the public.
This 73.3 acre property protects the eastern flank of the Westport Drumlin, a very high quality dry prairie and oak savanna remnant that is home to the state's largest population of the federally-threatened and state-endangered prairie bush-clover (Lespedeza leptostachya) and other rare species. This property is open to the public.
This addition to the Westport Drumlin State Natural Area protects four prairie remnants and buffers the main prairie and savanna at Westport Drumlin. This property is open to the public.
This 9.7 acre property fills a gap in the Westport Drumlin landscape and puts another prairie remnant under permanent protection. This property is open to the public.
Thanks to the generosity of landowner Hazel Knudson, this 40-acre nature preserve, including prairie, wetland, and a tributary of Six Mile Creek, is open to the public north of the Village of Waunakee. Groundswell transferred this property to Dane County. It remains permanently protected. This property is open to the public.
Thanks to the generosity of landowner Hazel Knudson, this 40-acre nature preserve, including prairie, wetland, and a tributary of Six Mile Creek, is open to the public north of the Village of Waunakee. Groundswell transferred this property to Dane County. It remains permanently protected. This property is open to the public.
This conservation easement permanently protects from development a beautiful bluff rising above Okee Bay on the Wisconsin River. The 47-acre bluff has two prairie remnants, and a biological inventory turned up about 40 native plant species on the main remnant. There is no public access.
This donated conservation easement protects 42.5 acres of upland forest overlooking Lake Wisconsin. Located between two other conservation easements, it is part of a 182 acre corridor of upland woods, prairie remnants, wetlands, and 3000' of mostly undeveloped shoreline on Lake Wisconsin. There is no public access.
In family hands for 80 years, this 19.5 acre bluff rises 160 feet above a heavily-used section of the Wisconsin River. Development on "Wildcat Bluff" is permanently restricted to protect its beauty. The landowners sold the conservation easement at a generous discount. There is no public access.
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.
This 21-acre conservation easement protects approximately 4000 feet of undeveloped shoreline, including important fish habitat, on Lake Wisconsin in Columbia County. 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.