Community partners are gathering to help Dane County complete a 160-acre addition and restoration to the popular Pheasant Branch Guardianship, County Executive Joe Parisi announced.
The organizations have already raised $ 70,000 in donations for the project, which will be added to the popular hiking and walking destination. The county acquired the land near Pheasant Branch Conservancy in 2019 and, thanks to funds from The Nature Conservancy of Wisconsin, The Meringoff Family Foundation, The Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy and The Clean Lakes Alliance, the work of restoring expanded guardianship is moving forward .
This work will help the property maintain its rural character, reduce the flow of floods in Lake Mendota during heavy rains and help in capturing sediment and phosphorus, improving the water quality in the Pheasant Branch River Basin and in the Yahara Lakes.
The package provides a variety of ecosystem services and expanded recreational access to a popular but sensitive area of natural resources. By preventing this property from developing and restoring it on the prairie, Dane County will be able to prevent the flow of nearly five million gallons of water from entering the Yahara Lake Chain each year and reduce more than 550 pounds of water. phosphorus annually. Approximately one kilogram of phosphorus can produce up to 500 kilograms of algae in the lakes in the area.
“Our restoration project to expand the Pheasant Branch Conservancy increases our efforts to mitigate floods, improve water quality and preserve this precious outdoor space for many years,” said Dane County executive Joe Parisi. “This effort would not be possible without the support of the Dane County community, both through financial contributions and by the many volunteers who donate their time year after year. We thank everyone for their support and look forward to partnering with these organizations as we work to preserve the Pheasant Branch Conservation. “
The main aspects of the restoration project include 1) demolishing all structures and using concrete from the building’s foundations for future access / parking, 2) converting all agricultural land to native grassland over a 4-year period, 3) implement a large wetland project for the restoration and management of rainwater; 4) establishment of perimeter hiking trails that would also serve as fire breaks and connect to the existing trail system at Pheasant Branch Conservancy.
The following partners will support the restoration with financial contributions:
-The Nature Conservancy of Wisconsin, in partnership with the Meringoff Family Foundation, will provide $ 20,000 to support the restoration of historic wetlands.
-Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy will provide $ 25,000 to support the prairie and has pledged to continue to raise funds for the project with the goal of contributing $ 100,000 to the project.
-The Clean Lakes Alliance will provide $ 25,000 to support the prairie and has pledged an additional $ 25,000 per year for three years for a total contribution of $ 100,000.
“Clean Lakes Alliance volunteers have been removing invasive plants to help control runoff and improve wildlife habitat at Pheasant Branch Conservancy for the past 10 years,” said Clean Lakes Alliance founder and executive director James Tye. “Recently, our donors and business partners, such as Alliant Energy, have been excited to contribute to our Protection, Restoration and Preservation Fund, which we will use to support land improvement on newly acquired land alongside TNC.”
In June 2019, Dane County purchased 160 acres of land from the Acker family, who ran a dairy farm there. Costing nearly $ 10 million, it was the largest conservation investment for land acquisition in the history of the county.
The plot is within the watersheds of the Pheasant and Yahara River and contains the headwaters of an intermittent stream that flows into Pheasant Branch Creek. The site is also located in the Frederick Springs recharge area, located south of the plot, making it important for the protection of groundwater.
“Protecting and restoring nature offers benefits to all of us, such as flood reduction and water purification, and helps solve the water challenges that come with climate change,” said Nick Miller, Director of Science and Strategy at The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin. “Thanks to Dane County and the Meringoff Family Foundation, these restored habitats will benefit people and nature at Pheasant Branch Conservancy and across the Yahara River watershed.”
Last year, Dane County signed a $ 429,800 contract with Speedway Sand & Gravel, Inc., of Middleton, for the removal and leveling of concrete on site. Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy also donated $ 16,500 to support the financing of a limited-term (LTE) employee dedicated to working with groups of volunteers at the Pheasant Branch Conservancy.
“Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy is pleased to contribute funds for the sowing of the first 40-acre prairie quadrant on the former Acker estate,” said Pam Shannon, co-chair of the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy Board. “We are grateful to our partners in this effort – Dane County Parks, the Clean Lakes Alliance and Nature Conservancy – and to all the generous donors in our Seed the Need campaign who recognize the aesthetic and environmental value of planting a“ Platinum Prairie ”on the side latest from the Pheasant Branch Conservancy. ”
As restoration work progresses, recreational access to the property will also increase. Dane County parks saw an increase in visitor numbers to all properties during the pandemic, including the incredibly popular Pheasant Branch Conservancy. In addition to ecosystem services, the property offers a great opportunity for residents to go hiking and enjoy the many benefits to the physical and mental health of their time away.
A county resolution to approve the organization’s donations will be approved in the coming weeks.