Dane County Wetland Resources Management Guide
The Dane County Wetlands Resource Management Guide is intended to support and encourage landowner and community-based wetland improvement projects See Full Report. The information, strategies, and activities presented in this guide provide the overall framework and various options for land acquisition, conservation easements, cooperative agreements, and management projects by individuals and groups in the community. Everyone brings their own set of skills, resources, and support base. The guide is meant to reflect how you or your organization can participate and cooperate in the efforts needed to reverse the loss of wetlands in Dane County, promote water quality improvements in its surface waters, and reduce damages and costs associated with flooding, erosion, and loss of habitat and wildlife.
Wetland Management Strategy and Tool Development
It is important to understand that each wetland is unique and, depending on the physical setting and characteristics, some wetland functions may be more important than others. How high a wetland is rated for certain functions and the number of functional categories in which it rates can help determine the best wetland management strategy to be taken as well as the appropriate tools to be used.
A wetland resource management process is presented in this guide which involves:
Wetland Resource Management Projects
Improving a wetland can be seen as lying along a continuum or spectrum, from the simplest and least costly projects on the one end to the most complicated and expensive on the other. It is generally easier to conserve or improve a wetland than it is to restore one. The project selected will largely depend on the resources available. Simple conservation projects can significantly improve a wetland’s health. It may simply be a matter of removing the factors causing the impact in the first place. Examples include fencing out livestock, preserving a buffer area, controlling sources of pollution and excess runoff, controlling invasive plants, planting native species, etc.
Restoration projects, on the other hand, usually require considerable planning, financing, and may also need federal, state, and local permits. Outside sources of funding may be available to help finance a project. There are also various government agencies and private organizations available to provide technical advice and support.
Tackling a Project
Good planning is a critical, but often overlooked stage of the restoration process. Inadequate planning is often cited as a major reason projects fail. Each plan should have a goal or “vision map” of what the site could look like, supporting objectives to reach that goal, and target criteria to measure progress and success. The Wetlands Resources Management Guide can help in determining where the best opportunities exist.
Wetland Resource Management Opportunities
Wetland resource management opportunities exist throughout Dane County. It is largely an issue of priority and finding the necessary resources to tackle a project.
As part of the natural resource inventory for the Dane County Water Quality Plan, a study of wetlands in Dane County was conducted by Bedford and Zimmerman in 1974. The purpose of the study was to provide the basis for planning and decision-making, and to explore strategies for managing wetland resources in the county. While the Bedford and Zimmerman study may be dated, it is the only systematic qualitative evaluation of the wetlands of Dane County currently available. The wetlands covered in the study included all of those known or suspected at the time to be of particular value. The most valuable of these were studied in detail. This is a particularly useful reference for individuals in the early stages of designing their own wetland project.
The study grouped Dane County wetlands into five categories. Wetlands were grouped based on their present or potential biological condition, scientific value, public use, extent of degradation, and immediate or long-range threats see Map and Legend Description. While all wetlands have value, decisions must sometimes be made as to where specific approaches and efforts are best targeted
Efforts focused on Group I wetlands should be directed at protecting the existing wetland resources – keeping them from becoming degraded. This would rely heavily on regulation and resource conservation activities. On the other end of the spectrum, efforts focused on Group V wetlands should be directed at restoring former wetlands. This would rely more heavily on acquisition and resource restoration activities. Intermediate Group II, III, and IV wetlands will likely be the focus of combinations of strategies for preventing wetlands from becoming more degraded on the one hand, and improving them to generally higher quality on the other. Management activities should be generally focused on keeping wetlands from falling into a more impacted group, while restoring and improving wetlands that have been previously degraded. Usually, this can be accomplished by examining the communities of plants that live in these areas as indicators of their overall quality and health. In addition, landowner and community education is needed on all aspects of wetland resources management.
Wetland Resources Management Strategies and Tools for Various Wetland Groups.
Wetlands are among the most productive, complex, and least understood of natural community types. Most wetlands also serve multiple functions. One of the greatest threats to wetlands has been the incremental and piecemeal destruction often described as “death by a thousand cuts.” Efforts are needed at the local level to protect, restore, and enhance the wetlands that remain, as well as preserving the many benefits which they provide.
The selection and cost of specific management tools and targeted activities depend on a number of factors. These factors should be based on an assessment of site characteristics, an evaluation of the land use, policy and financial constraints, and focused on a desired management strategy. Each management opportunity (e.g., willingness of the landowner, availability of funding, etc.) should be considered on a site-specific basis, using the process outlined in this guide as an overall framework in cooperation with federal, state and local resource management agencies, resource conservation organizations, and private property owners.
In the end, the management strategy for each wetland will be as unique as the wetland itself. The most appropriate management efforts will be determined by considering all the natural resource elements along with the partnerships and cooperation that may be developed among the various interests. The Dane County Wetlands Resource Management Guide has been developed to provide an overall framework for forming these partnerships and taking the necessary actions for protecting, restoring and enhancing the wetlands of Dane County, as well as promoting water quality improvements in its ground and surface waters.