USRWA is currently focusing on maintaining the native oak savannah and prairie landscapes that once dominated our watershed. Most of our work is done on public lands or private lands with fishing, hunting, or conservation easements in place. Each year, we work with Upper Sugar River land owners, conservation organizations, Dane County and Wisconsin DNR to prioritize which areas need attention.
Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area
Upper Sugar River Watershed Association began a partnership in January 2016 with Wisconsin DNR to help restore Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area in Verona. Portions of Sugar River Wetlands located along Military Ridge State Trail are loaded with invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle, and a clone of aspen trees has begun to thrive in a historically open prairie setting. Invasive reed canary grass is also abundant as the property gets more into a wetland environment. Not only does this promote the spread of invasive species being next to a recreational trail, but it also causes significant erosion from soil exposure due to deep-rooted plants being driven out of the area.
Solution: Cut and treat buckthorn and honeysuckle in the winter and spring, and burn the brush piles in winter when snow is on the ground. Foliar spray any re-growths in the summer and fall. Girdle aspen trees in the summer and cut them down gradually so not to disturb the landscape all at once. Collect prairie seeds from the adjacent remnant prairie from August to October, and spread the seeds in December. Foliar spray reed canary grass as needed.
Lots of progress has been made since beginning this project in January 2016, but lots of work remains. Go to usrwa.org/events for upcoming workdays and how to get involved. Each workday is a great opportunity for all ages and skill levels to become involved.
River clean-up volunteer opportunities
Capitol Water Trails organizes river clean-up days to make paddling more enjoyable on rivers and streams all around Dane County, including the Sugar River. In 2017, Capitol Water Trails is planning Sugar River clean-up days for May 13, May 27, and June 10. Go to the Capitol Water Trails website for more information on how to get involved.