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NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 573 days

Volunteers help keep State Natural Areas pristine

Contact(s): Jared Urban, DNR SNA volunteer program coordinator, 608-228-4349
March 26, 2019

MADISON- Volunteers combined prairie exploration and art, grew tens of thousands of violet seeds to help an endangered butterfly in Crawford County, and spent hundreds of hours removing invasive species threatening remnant prairies, oak savannas and barrens.

These are just a few highlights from the annual accounting of how volunteers help care for State Natural Areas and introduce these special places to other Wisconsinites. Thirty-six volunteer groups had a direct impact on 3,296 acres at 43 State Natural Areas in 2018, representing $126,949 in value, according to the recently released State Natural Areas Volunteers 2018 Annual Report [PDF].

Their work helps preserve some of Wisconsin's best remaining prairies, oak savannas, forests and wetlands for future generations to enjoy. State Natural Areas provide important refuge for rare wildlife and plants: 75 percent of animal species and 90 percent of plant species listed as threatened or endangered in Wisconsin are found in these natural areas.

"Once again volunteers helped us make a lot of positive changes on our valuable State Natural Areas," says Jared Urban, the conservation biologist who coordinates the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program.

"In 2018 we saw several new sites where volunteers made an impact around the state. We are also seeing volunteers finding innovative ways to help people fall in love with State Natural Areas and get tasks done more efficiently. We can't thank our volunteers enough for their hard work to care for these special places!"

Urban started the State Natural Area Volunteer program in 2011, and new groups have been forming since then to help supplement work done by state work crews. Volunteers' work ranges from addressing threats to natural areas by controlling invasive species through pulling or spraying garlic mustard, to cutting down and burning buckthorn and honeysuckle, to spraying Phragmites. As well, volunteers help establish new plants in prairies and oak openings by collecting and planting seeds.

Volunteers scatter milkweed seeds at Rocky Run Oak Savanna in Columbia County.   - Photo credit: Jared Urban
Volunteers scatter milkweed seeds at Rocky Run Oak Savanna in Columbia County. Photo credit: Jared Urban

The 2018 annual report highlights examples of work being done at the different sites, features photographs and testimonials from volunteers on what they do and why. It salutes Ron DeGraff, the Beloit man who received the 2018 SNA Steward of the Year award and highlights volunteers who are growing violet seeds in their backyard gardens to provide habitat for endangered regal fritillary butterflies.

It also showcases how volunteers are helping others fall in love with the prairie through art in partnership with field trips to State Natural Areas through the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, Urban says.

Sign up to get notices of volunteer workdays at State Natural Areas

Volunteers participating in State Natural Area workdays need no training beforehand but are provided equipment and training on site to do the work. Typical workdays run three hours long and allow for breaks, and snacks are often provided.

Additional volunteer help makes a large impact, particularly at several of the newer active volunteer sites at Centennial Bedrock Glade, East Bluff, Haskell Noyes Woods, Hogback Prairie, and Maiden Rock Bluff state natural areas, Urban says.

Find a list of workdays and flyers on each event on DNR website,, by searching for "SNA Volunteers." From that web page, people also may sign up to receive email notices for workdays at State Natural Areas in different parts of the state.

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 26, 2019

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