Listen to Darcy Kind, DNR prairie and savanna biologist for the Landowner Incentive Program, and Steve Swenson, ecologist for the Aldo Leopold Foundation, on The Larry Meiller Show live from 11-11:45 Nov. 28 on these WPR Ideas Network stations or online. If you miss the show, you can still listen to the archives
The Swamplovers Foundation Inc. of Cross Plains turned a large block of unproductive land into a model of restoration ecology now home to more than 1,000 species, 68 of which have an at-risk status.
The group began in 1986 when friends Lee Swanson, Gerry Goth and Joe, Tom and Jim Kuehn pooled their resources to buy land immediately west of Cross Plains for hunting. Early on they sought opportunities to work with state and federal programs that encourage and reward private landowners for conservation efforts, including the Endangered Resources’ Landowner Incentive Program. Swamplovers also empower and inspire others, and share their successes and challenges. In 2009, they began working with the Operation Fresh Start program, providing hands-on job training for at-risk youth. They also partner with researchers to monitor and investigate changes in geology, wildlife and plant populations.
In 2005, they permanently protected 433 acres of their property through a conservation easement with the Ice Age Trail Alliance and they set up a foundation so that their ecological goals can continue to be pursued into the future.
There are many opportunities for citizens to support conservation of Wisconsin’s oak savannas, prairies and oak woodlands.
- Make a tax deductible donation online to the Wisconsin Endangered Resources Fund to help support conservation work.
Tap other government and nonprofit programs to help restore habitat on your land for declining species.
Making Aldo Leopold proud
“What more delightful avocation than to take a piece of land and by cautious experimentation to prove how it works. What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one’s own land?”- Aldo Leopold
Hunting buddies, a working farm with a bed and breakfast, and a couple working side-by-side restoring their land for the next generation. These landowners are exemplars of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic -- and the key to preserving Wisconsin's natural heritage in a state where 85 percent of the land is privately owned.
They’re part of the state’s Landowner Incentive Program, LIP for short, which helps them restore prairies, savannas and oak woodlands on their land for rare or declining plant and wildlife species. It's expensive and labor-intensive work. So the landowners get one-on-one technical advice and are reimbursed for practices that maintain or improve habitat, like mowing, brush control, controlling invasive plants, prescribed burning and native plantings. The landowners cover the remaining 25 percent of the cost, whether in in-kind labor, matching funds or equipment.
A win-win for wildlife and landowners
Since the first grants were awarded to private landowners in 2006, the Landowner Incentive Program has helped improve 4,700 acres of habitat for more than 240 at-risk species, ranging from blue-winged warblers, bullsnakes and pickerel frogs to Hill’s thistle, Indian paint brush and the federally endangered Eastern Prairie Fringed orchid. Landowners have benefitted in ways that have helped them achieve other goals for their land; a cattle rancher gets help clearing away brush that hamper cattle while increasing habitat for declining grassland birds.
Success grows but funding withers
Since 2008, no state or federal funding has been dedicated to Wisconsin’s Landowner Incentive program. So the program continues to explore other sources of financial support and has received financial help from Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, Turkey Stamp funds, and State Wildlife Grants awards.
Meet an LIP landowner
By the numbers:
By the numbers: 85 percent of Wisconsin’s 35 million acres are privately owned. Habitat loss and degradation is the biggest threats to plants and animals worldwide. About 1,800 native plants species and 657 native vertebrates species have been identified in Wisconsin and many are at risk.
Revenues collected from Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas royalties are deposited into the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and appropriated by Congress for the Landowner Incentive Program, and awarded to state fish and wildlife agencies. No federal funds have been appropriated since 2008.
Focus on declining species:
Federal Landowner Incentive Program funds provided to the states must be used to benefit species identified in the state's Wildlife Action Plan or classified as Special Concern.
Driftless Area focus:
DNR, with partners Iowa and Minnesota, is focusing LIP funds on the Driftless Area. In Wisconsin, these lands, which were not scoured by the glaciers, contain some of the highest quality remaining oak savannas, prairies, forests and streams and 97 percent of land in this area is privately owned.
Results on the ground:
Restoration of habitat is expensive and very labor intensive, with the average landowner able to restore 5 to 10 acres a year. Since 2006, Wisconsin’s Landowner Incentive Program has:
- funded 130 total projects ranging from 2 to 140 acres and totaling more than 4,700 acres
- awarded $800,000 for private land restoration and management
- Cleared invasives from more than 1,200 acres
- Conducted prescribed burns on 570 acres
- Benefitted more than 240 at-risk species