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Contact information
For information on the Southwest Wisconsin Grassland & Stream Conservation Area, contact:
Nate Fayram
3911 Fish Hatchery Road
Fitchburg WI 53711

Southwest Wisconsin Grassland & Stream Conservation Area

Southwestern Wisconsin has been recognized for many years as one of the best grassland conservation opportunities in the Upper Midwest. The area stands out for its distinct combination of resources: exceptional populations of grassland birds, which are in serious decline across their range; many scattered remnants of the area's original prairie and savanna that once covered the region; concentrations of rare plants and animals, and spring-fed streams, all set within this expansive rural farming region of open fields, croplands, oak groves, and pastures.

Springdale Township

Springdale Township

The view from this mound surpasses description! An ocean of prairie surrounds the gazer...interspersed with delightfully varying undulations...and every here and there, sinking in the hollows or cresting the swells, appear spots of wood, large groves...small groups of trees, as if planted by the hand of art

William Rudolph Smith, 1837, describing his view from the top of Belmont Mound, Lafayette County

Project boundaries

The project boundary for the SW Grasslands project was selected from four alternative project boundaries taken to the public for input in August 2008. It expands upon an existing grassland boundary for the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), a voluntary set-aside program aimed at buffering area streams. This "Modified CREP" boundary alternative was slightly adjusted following public input, so that the northern boundary from Dodgeville eastward is the Military Ridge State Bike Trail, rather than USH 18/151.

DNR proposes to protect 12,000 acres (through fee title and easement) across the 473,900-acre project area. The overall success of this project will depend upon working in coordination with our many partners and landowners, who have been protecting and managing grasslands, farmlands, streams, and prairies in this area for many years. We aim to keep working farms on areas of prime agricultural land.

Project Boundaries Map

Project Boundary Map
click on image for larger map

Bird Conservation Areas

DNR has designated the 2,400 acre BCA core in the easternmost Focus area, located in the Townships of Perry and Primrose in Dane County (see map above). This area is rich in biological diversity and provides many aspects of the projects goals. Currently, DNR staff are pursuing acquisition of available parcels and meeting with landowners to assist with conservation practices. Two more BCA cores are under development in each of the remaining Focus Areas.

Landowner assistance programs conducted by DNR staff and various cooperating partners will be the back-bone of this BCA building effort. Management agreements (e.g., for haying, grazing), and helping to enroll farmers in appropriate conservation programs such as CRP or SAFE would be important conservation tools for these surrounding buffer lands.

What is a Bird Conservation Area?

Bird Conservation Model
Bird Conservation Model
click on image for larger map

The Bird Conservation Area (BCA) concept was first proposed by the Midwest Working Group of Partners in Flight to maintain populations of breeding grassland birds. The BCA concept is backed by recent research that suggests viable bird populations require conservation efforts at a large, landscape level.

The present model grassland BCA encompasses a block of at least 10,000 acres of public and/or private lands in an open landscape. A large "core" area of protected high-quality habitat, targeted at a minimum of 2,000 acres (20%), serves to anchor each BCA.

Around this core is a matrix of primarily private agricultural lands, preferably managed for good bird habitat or at least maintained to be "neutral" in how they affect bird life. The open landscape surrounding the core would also include scattered parcels of permanent grass cover, totaling about 10% of the BCA. Another portion of the landscape outside of the core would be in long-term grass cover (e.g., Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), pasture, old field), totaling 10-20% of the BCA. The balance of the total acreage (50-60%) would remain in cropland and whatever minimal wooded lands are present.

Davis Unit

Davis unit
Davis unit. Photo by Travis Anderson

Davis Unit - Iowa County [PDF]

Sherven and Gnewuch Unit

Davis unit
Gnewuch East unit

Sherven and Gnewuch Units - Dane County [PDF]

Interactive map

Public Access Lands interactive map

Allowable activities on DNR-owned lands:
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Trapping
  • Wildlife viewing
Contacts and partners

For information on the Southwest Wisconsin Grassland & Stream Conservation Area, contact:

Nate Fayram
3911 Fish Hatchery Road
Fitchburg WI 53711

  • The Prairie Enthusiasts
  • Driftless Area Land Conservancy
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Groundswell Land Conservancy
  • U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
    • Natural Resources Conservation Service
    • Farm Services Agency
    • Farm and Ranchland Protection Program
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection
  • Green County Land Conservation Department
  • Iowa County Planning and Zoning Department
  • Dane County
  • Lafayette County Land Conservation Department
  • Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
  • Pheasants Forever
  • Trout Unlimited
  • Blue Mounds Area Project
Last revised: Wednesday May 08 2019