Kicking off Conversations About Conservation on February 1 at Wisconsin Brewing Company

The “Conversations About Conservation” series provides a forum where the public engages experts in an informal, two-way conversation about important issues of the day relating specifically to the Upper Sugar River Watershed in southwest Dane County. Speakers provide 15 or 20-minutes of opening remarks, then the floor is opened for questions, letting the audience join the conversation. The result is a dynamic, engaging community gathering.

In February, learn about new and exciting citizen science research on dragonflies, water quality and habitat in the Upper Sugar River Watershed (USRW) with implications for protection, conservation and restoration of habitat critical for dragonflies. We will share results of a five year study on stormwater ponds in the northeastern portion of the USRW in Verona and West Madison. We will also discuss future directions for research throughout the watershed, highlighting a couple of new citizen science opportunities in 2017.

This is a free and family friendly event! Learn more about the event here.

“History of the Sugar River” Highlights Annual Meeting & Open House on March 19, 2017

Everyone is invited to attend the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association’s Annual Meeting on Sunday March 19, 2017 beginning at 12:30 pm.  The event will be hosted on the campus of Epic Systems in Verona in the Delphi Room, with parking located in the Tent Lot across from the Delphi Room.  Map of Epic Systems campus

2017’s annual meeting will feature a presentation of the history of the Sugar River by archaeologist Paul Reckner from the Wisconsin Historical Society-Museum Archaeology Program.

Learn more about the event on the Annual Meeting & Open House Event Page.


USRWA Receives Wisconsin Citizen-Based Monitoring Grant

Upper Sugar River Watershed Association was recently the recipient of a Wisconsin Citizen-Based Monitoring grant to monitor dragonflies in the watershed and create internet-based content to help future citizen-scientists interpret the data they collect.

USRWA Executive Director Wade Moder and Board Member Robert Bohanan will be managing the grant activities. Bohanan, a scientist and educator at UW-Madison, has spent the entirety of his professional career doing research and outreach on dragonflies, lakes, ponds, streams and rivers. Over the past ten years, Bohanan has been active in citizen-science opportunities and providing an outlet for the high-quality data collected by volunteers.

Beginning in 2017, USRWA will be looking for volunteers to help collect dragonfly data around the watershed on a monthly basis. It only requires about an hour per month, and is a great activity to do with children. If you’re interested in learning more, please email or call 608-437-7707.

Project Timeline:
Oct-Dec 2016: Materials development and training session organization
Jan-March 2017: Participant recruitment/volunteer training
April-Sept 2017: Monitoring and data collection


2nd Annual Rob’s Sugar River Ramble Draws 164 on Sunday June 5

RobsSugarRiverRambleFINAL2016-BLUEAnother successful Rob’s Sugar River Ramble is in the books thanks to 164 participants on Sunday June 5 at Grundahl Park in Mt. Horeb. Check out all the event pictures capturing the fun and excitement of the day.

Thank you to all participants, volunteers, and sponsors that made this day possible. Overall, Upper Sugar River Watershed Association netted over $5,000 towards projects to benefit healthy land and water.



USRWA Secures Grant to Begin a Farmer-Led Coalition in the Watershed

In partnership with seven local producers in the watershed, USRWA has received funding from the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection to kick start a farmer-led coalition in the Upper Sugar River Watershed. USRWA and it’s founding producers who helped write the grant application are one of 14 groups around the state that will benefit from Wisconsin’s first Producer Led Watershed Protection Grants issued.

Receiving this grant is a culmination of nearly two years worth of effort. “Two years ago we made it a priority to understand the issues facing both the watershed and the farmers when it came to ag runoff,” said Wade Moder, Executive Director of USRWA.

“As a conservation group, things really started coming together and making sense when we brought farmers into the conversation. We learned from each other quickly, and it became clear a farmer-led coalition would be a great asset for everyone.”

The Upper Sugar River Producer Coalition is targeting the Headwaters Sugar River and West Branch Sugar River watersheds, which are both impaired due to excess phosphorus loading. USRWA, who is partnering with the farmers on the coalition, has already established baseline water quality data to help prioritize the coalition’s efforts. The overarching goal of the group is to bring together like minded farmers, strengthen water quality improvement efforts, and leverage educational and financial resources in the future.

As a newly formed producer led group, the grant funding will be used to develop a mission statement, goals, and work plan for the watershed, in addition to recruiting more producers into the coalition.  Farmer education will also be a primary focus. In its first year, the group will host a field day and a “Lunch and Learn” educational workshop in partnership with Dane County UW-Extension’s Crop and Soils Educator, Heidi Johnson for all of the producers in the Sugar River Watershed. To further engage producers in the watershed, the group will also develop an incentive program to fund the installation of various conservation practices.

Learn more about the Coalition at


New EVAAL Model, Look Ahead to 2016 Highlights USRWA Annual Meeting


Thanks to all 50 people that came to Epic in Verona for the Annual Meeting on Sunday March 13, 2016. Attendees were given an overview of what USRWA accomplished in 2015, as well as a look ahead to 2016. In case you missed it, that presentation can be accessed here: 2016 Annual Meeting Presentation

Previous USRWA Executive Director Megan Phillips was also given the annual Candle on the Water award for her four years of service to the watershed from 2010 to 2014.

UW-Whitewater students Tyler Gardinier and Sean Palmer provided the keynote presentation with an overview of the Erosion Vulnerability Assessment for Agricultural Lands (EVAAL) model of the Upper Sugar River Watershed. Geography students from UW-Whitewater worked on the model during the Fall 2015 semester, and USRWA is currently working on the next steps towards completing the model.

Big thank yous go out to Epic for donating our beautiful meeting space, and Tuvalu Coffeehouse & Gallery for donating the delicious cookies and drinks.


Sugar River Wetlands Restoration dates announced

Winter & spring events around the watershed are shaping up, and we hope to see new and familiar faces at all of them.

SNALogoUSRWA is partnering with the Wisconsin DNR to restore the Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area during our series of “4th Saturdays” winter volunteer work days. We need your help! Volunteers will be cutting invasive species like buckthorn, honeysuckle and more to promote the growth of native plant species. It promises to be rewarding, fun, and a great way to experience the outdoors during the winter. Workdays are scheduled for the 4th Saturdays of the month on January 23, February 27, March 26, and June  25 with workdays going from 9 am to noon. Go to for details and how to RSVP.



 Partnership with UW-Whitewater to bring Watershed Modeling to the Upper Sugar River


In an exciting new partnership with Upper Sugar River Watershed Association and UW-Whitewater, geography students from Professor Dale Splinter’s class will be working to create an Erosion Vulnerability Assessment for Agricultural Lands (EVAAL) model for the watershed. The EVAAL model allows USRWA to better assist farmers who are looking to limit runoff from their fields, including phosphorus.

Developed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the EVAAL model evaluates locations of relative vulnerability to sheet, rill and gully erosion using information about topography, soils, rainfall and land cover. This tool enables watershed managers to prioritize and focus field-scale data collection efforts, thus saving time and money while increasing the probability of locating fields with high sediment and nutrient export for implementation of best management practices.

UW-Whitewater students will be working on this project during the Fall 2015 semester and will present their findings in December 2015. USRWA thanks Professor Splinter for this beneficial collaboration.

To find out more on EVAAL, check out the EVAAL Fact Sheet provided by the Wisconsin DNR.


USRWA Receives Wisconsin Volunteer Stream Monitoring Award

USRWA is proud to accept the 2015 Wisconsin Volunteer Stream Monitoring Award, thanks to the tireless efforts of our committed volunteers. Since 2002, UW-Extension and Wisconsin DNR recognize exemplary work done by groups, individuals, employees, teachers and students who perform stream monitoring around Wisconsin.  Individuals and groups are recognized for their efforts leading to increased participation in stream monitoring, collecting stream data, and sharing their knowledge of stream monitoring.

To date, USRWA manages 10 volunteers and 25 stream monitoring sites in the Upper Sugar River Watershed. All data collected from our monitoring is given to the Wisconsin DNR to assess the health of our steams and make resources available should a problem arise.


USRWA Fights the Invasive Purple Loosestrife in Belleville

USRWA is working hard to stop the spread of the highly invasive Purple Loosestrife around the Sugar River and Lake Belle View in Belleville.  Watch to find out how, and go to to learn more about our efforts against invasive species around the watershed.



The Upper Sugar River Watershed Association’s mission is to provide leadership for continuous resource improvement through strategic partnerships that benefit the watershed’s land, water and people.  We are a grassroots, self-sustaining, 501c3 non-profit conservation organization that serves all of those who live, work or play in the watershed. We have a board of directors, a paid membership and are able to complete many beneficial conservation projects with our own funds. We are considered to be a hands-on, project group that continues to rely on the outstanding dedication of our volunteers.

The Upper Sugar River Watershed, with a drainage area of approximately 170 square miles (109,404 acres) and 115 stream miles, is located in Dane County in southern Wisconsin. It is rich in resources, including fisheries, wildlife habitat (including rare and endangered species), native plant communities (many in decline), and recreational opportunities

We are always looking for volunteers to help us with our exciting projects. We frequently have canoe outings, clear waterways, help restore habitat and perform field studies. We have lots of hands-on projects which are always fun and always benefit the communities. Give us a call to see how you can help!