Doug and I are so glad to be members of the Blue Mounds Area Project (BMAP).

Fueled by the efforts of a part-time professional ecologist and a lot of volunteer energy, this local environmental group really gets it done! Doug and I are adding our energy this winter by covering BMAP’s Winter Conservation Conversations lecture series for their newsletter, some local newspapers and of course for our blog, Digging in the Driftless.

BMAP’s Winter Conservation Conversations are a great way to learn more about the ecology of the driftless area from some exceptionally dedicated and qualified speakers.

BMAP wetlands lecture photo credit Julie Raasch

BMAP’S first 2016 Conservation Conversation (photo credit: Julie Raasch)

Here’s the lineup:

Wetlands in the Driftless Area by Patricia Trochlell, Wisconsin DNR, January 28 (see our report below)

Dwindling Numbers for an Iconic Insect: The Biology and Conservation of Monarch Butterflies by Dr. Karen Oberhauser, University of Minnesota, February 4 (look for our report in the next week)

Reptile Denizens of the Driftless Area by Dr. Rebecca Christoffer, former Iowa State University Extension wildlife specialist, February 18

60 Years of Change in Wisconsin Prairie Remnants: Revisiting the Curtis Data Set by BMAP’s ecologist Amy Alstad.

These talks are free and open to the public at 7 p.m. in the Mount Horeb Branch of the State Bank of Cross Plains meeting room, 1740 East Main St., in Mount Horeb.

If you decide to come, expect to find an enthusiastic and friendly crowd. Hope to see you there!

Here is our report on last week’s Conservation Conversation on wetlands in the Driftless Area as it appeared in the Dodgeville Chronicle.

Wetlands throughout the state play a vital role in keeping our water clean and providing habitat for native plants and animals, but the wetlands of the Driftless Area have their own distinct characteristics and challenges.

Pat Trochlell, Wetland Ecologist for the Wisconsin DNR detailed what makes wetlands in the southwestern part of the state so unusual last Thursday in the first of four Winter Conservation Conversations sponsored by the Blue Mounds Area Project.

When the glaciers that have covered Wisconsin in the the past melted away, they left behind sand, silt, clay, gravel and rocks that are called glacial drift, but the last three glaciers missed the southwestern part of state, leaving a landscape of steep ridges and deep valleys untouched and uncovered by the glaciers’ drift.

Even though the last few glaciers didn’t touch the Driftless Area, they still affected its wetlands. Trochlell explained how glaciers blocked rivers coming out of the area and turned the river valleys into lakes where sediment collected. 

“Tremendous amounts of water flowed down these waterways when the glaciers retreated,” Trochlell says. “They formed wide valleys with steep sides that now have streams running through them.  You can actually see the broad valleys that were formed then when you bike along the Military Ridge Trail.”

Another interesting Driftless wetlands type, and one of Trochlell’s favorites is the floodplain forest such as the Tiffany Bottoms State Natural Area, in the Chippewa River system. 

Tiffany Wetlands photo credit Denise Thornton

Tiffany Bottom State Natural Area

Trochlell described many rare native plants that need wetlands to survive like Nodding Rattlesnake Root and Prairie Indian Plantain.  She said the wetlands along the stream system of the Wisconsin River provide a travel corridor from the north for animals like bears and bobcats. The wetlands also provide important habitat for rare wetland birds and migrating flocks.

She urged the audience to visit some of our state wetlands, but warned them to make sure they know what poison ivy and poison sumac look like before they do.

A good way to find wetlands to visit is to go to the website of the Wisconsin Wetland Association.  Check out their section on Wisconsin Wetland Gems, which detail what are where some of the best preserved wetlands in the state can be found. 


Typical Driftless wetlands at sunset. (photo credit: WDNR Dan Braun)


Though people usually think of broad marshy areas when they think of wetlands, in the Driftless Area, most of the wetlands are found around the streams in the bottom of winding valleys.

Read the rest of the article here.


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