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Western Coulee and Ridges Ecological Landscape

Download the Western Coulee and Ridges chapter [PDF] of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin. This chapter provides a detailed assessment of the ecological and socioeconomic conditions for the Western Coulee and Ridges. It also identifies important planning and management considerations and suggests management opportunities that are compatible with the ecology of the landscape. The tabs below provide additional information.

Landscape at a Glance

Physical & Biotic Environment


9,642 square miles (6,170,674 acres), over 17% of the state, making it the largest of Wisconsin's 16 Ecological Landscapes.


Typical of southern Wisconsin; mean growing season of 145 days, mean annual temperature is 43.7 deg. F, mean annual precipitation is 32.6, and mean annual snowfall is 43 inches. Because it extends over a considerable latitudinal area, the climate varies from north to south. The climate is favorable for agriculture, but steep slopes limit intensive agricultural uses to broad ridgetops and parts of valleys above floodplains. The climate variability, along with the rugged ridge and coulee (valley) topography, numerous microhabitats, and large rivers with broad, complex floodplains, allows for a high diversity of plants and animals.  Learn more from the chapter [PDF]


Mostly Paleozoic sandstones and dolomites of Cambrian and Ordovician age. Precambrian quartzite occurs in the Baraboo Hills, near the eastern edge of the Ecological Landscape. Thin beds of shale occur with other sedimentary rocks in some areas. Bedrock is exposed as cliffs and, more locally, as talus slopes.  Learn more from the chapter [PDF]

Geology & Landforms

Characterized by its highly eroded, unglaciated topography with steep sided valleys and ridges, high gradient headwaters streams, and large rivers with extensive, complex floodplains and terraces. Ancient sand dunes occur on some of the broader terraces along the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers.  Learn more from the chapter [PDF]


Windblown loess of varying thickness; alluvium in the floodplains. Organic soils, especially peats, are rare.  Learn more from the chapter [PDF]


Dendritic drainage patterns are well-developed in this mostly unglaciated Ecological Landscape. Natural lakes are restricted to the floodplains of large rivers. Large warmwater rivers are especially important here, and include the Wisconsin, Chippewa, and Black. The Mississippi River forms the Ecological Landscape's western boundary. Numerous spring-fed (coldwater) headwaters streams occur here. Coolwater streams are also common.  Learn more from the chapter [PDF]

Current Landcover

Current vegetation is a mix of forest (41%), agriculture (36%), and grassland (14%) with wetlands (5%) mostly in the river valleys. Primary forest cover is oak-hickory (51%). Maple-basswood forests (28%), dominated by sugar maple, basswood and red maple, are common in areas that were not burned frequently. Bottomland hardwoods (10%) dominated by silver maple, swamp white oak, river birch, ashes, elms, and cottonwood are common within the floodplains of the larger rivers. Relict "northern" mesic conifer forests composed of hemlock, white pine and associated hardwoods such as yellow birch are rare but do occur in areas with cool, moist microclimates. Dry rocky bluffs may support xeric stands of native white pine, sometimes mixed with red or even jack pine. Prairies are now restricted to steep south- or west-facing bluffs, unplowed outwash terraces along the large rivers, and a few other sites. They occupy far less than 1% of the current landscape. Mesic tallgrass prairies are now virtually nonexistent except as very small remnants along rights-of-way or in cemeteries.  Learn more from the chapter [PDF]

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Socioeconomic Conditions
(based on data from Buffalo, Crawford, Dunn, Eau Claire, Grant, Iowa, Jackson, La Crosse, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, Richland, Sauk, Trempeleau, and Vernon counties)


614,553, 10.8% of the state total

Population Density

54 persons/sq. mile

Per Capita Income


Important Economic Sectors

Important economic sectors include government, tourism-related, health care and social services, and retail trade in 2007 reflecting high government and tourism-related dependence. Agriculture, forestry, and rural residential development affect the natural resources in the Ecological Landscape most extensively.

Public Ownership

Public ownership in this Ecolgical Landscape is limited (only about 3%) and much of it is associated with the large rivers (i.e. Mississippi, Wisconsin, Chippewa and Black rivers). The state owns and manages several parks (Wyalusing, Wildcat Mountain, Perrot, Devils Lake), scattered Wildlife and Fishery Areas, one Experimental Forest (Coulee), one Demonstration Forest (Douglas Hallock) and some State Natural Areas (Rush Creek Bluffs, Morgan Coulee, Nelson-Trevino Bottoms, Mount Pisgah Hemlock-Hardwoods). The Department of Tourism owns the Kickapoo Reserve in eastern Vernon County. Federal ownership includes Fort McCoy Military Reservation, and two National Wildlife Refuges; Upper Mississippi and Trempealeau. A map showing public land ownership (county, state, and federal) and private lands enrolled in the Forest Tax Programs can be found in the maps appendix at the end of this chapter.

Other Notable Ownerships

The Nature Conservancy owns and manages significant properties in the Baraboo Hills and at several other locations (e.g., Spring Green). Several other non-governmental conservation organizations (NGOs) are active here, including the Mississippi Valley Conservancy, The Prairie Enthusiasts, and the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. The Ho-Chunk Nation owns ecologically valuable lands, such as those along the Kickapoo River in Vernon County, between Wildcat Mountain State Park and the Kickapoo Reserve.

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Considerations for Planning & Management

These include: developing public-private partnerships and creating additional conservation lands in the Ecological Landscape's interior; developing reliable and practical methods of regenerating and maintaining the Ecological Landscape's oak ecosystems (including forests, woodlands, and savannas); broadening the incentives available to private landowners to promote the maintenance and restoration of rare communities such as oak savannas and oak woodlands, as well as underrepresented forest patch sizes and shapes and developmental stages (these include large patches, connecting corridors, and older forests); better land management and land use planning for floodplains, watersheds, and headwaters areas; clarifying successional patterns of forest communities affected by dams and the suppression of fire, and restore functional dynamics where possible; seeking opportunities to reduce habitat fragmentation and isolation, and increase ecological connectivity; incorporating major environmental gradients into conservation projects where possible; earlier detection and better control of invasive species (many are now established in parts of the Western Coulees and Ridges and they must be addressed in survey, management, monitoring and protection plans. Some of the most heavily visited areas in this Ecological Landscape are badly overrun by invasive plants, and control or eradication efforts should be priorities here and be a component of ALL land and water management activities. Such infestations are likely to be spread by tourists and resource professionals alike). Educating the public about the harmful effects of non-native earthworms and other invasive plants and animals is an outreach priority.

Major dams have been constructed on the Mississippi River, significantly altering and fragmenting aquatic habitats there, but long free-flowing stretches of the Wisconsin, Chippewa and Black rivers still exist in this Ecological Landscape.

In many parts of this Ecological Landscape significant developments occur on the relatively level terraces between the floodplains of large rivers and steeply sloping adjacent bluffs. The terraces are intensively used for agriculture and residential development, and as sites for railroad, highway, and utility corridors. Cities and villages now occupy many of the broader terraces, especially where tributaries join the Mississippi River, and residential areas continue to expand on such lands. Opportunities to keep uplands and floodplains connected are relatively scarce and should be regarded as conservation priorities. The sand terraces support rare species and imperiled habitats and therefore have high intrinsic values; they also serve as ecologically important connectors across ecosystems and environmental gradients.

Sand mining has increased greatly in recent years (mostly for use in "fracking" elsewhere in North America). Impacts are currently under review but they could be widespread as Wisconsin has high potential to provide raw materials for this purpose  Learn more about management opportunities from the chapter [PDF]

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Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Species of Greatest Conservation Need

The following species are listed according to their probability of occurring in the Western Coulee and Ridges Ecological Landscape, based on the findings in Wisconsin's 2015 Wildlife Action Plan.

See the key to association scores [PDF] for complete definitions.

Blanchard's Cricket FrogAcris blanchardi3
Four-toed SalamanderHemidactylium scutatum3
Pickerel FrogLithobates palustris3

Ants, wasps, and beesScore
Rusty-patched Bumble BeeBombus affinis3
A Cuckoo BeeEpeolus ainsliei2
American Bumble BeeBombus pensylvanicus2
An Anthophorid BeeNeolarra vigilans2
Silphium Terminal Gall WaspAntistrophus silphii2
Yellow Bumble BeeBombus fervidus1

Aquatic and terrestrial snailsScore
Brilliant GranuleGuppya sterkii3
Broad-banded ForestsnailAllogona profunda3
Cherrystone DropHendersonia occulta3
Dull GlossZonitoides limatulus3
Ribbed StriateStriatura exigua3
Smooth CoilHelicodiscus singleyanus3
Trumpet ValloniaVallonia parvula3
Wing SnaggletoothGastrocopta procera3
Bronze PineconeStrobilops aeneus2
Deep-throated VertigoVertigo nylanderi2
Hubricht's VertigoVertigo hubrichti2
Black StriateStriatura ferrea1
Bright GlyphGlyphyalinia wheatleyi1

A Colaspis Leaf BeetleColaspis suggona3
A Hydroporus Diving BeetleHeterosternuta wickhami3
A Leaf BeetleSaxinis omogera3
A Leaf BeetleBassareus lituratus3
A Minute Moss BeetleOchthebius lineatus3
A Pear-shaped WeevilTrichapion perforicolle3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleCybister fimbriolatus3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleColymbetes exaratus3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleCopelatus chevrolati3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleLioporeus triangularis3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleDytiscus alaskanus3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleLaccophilus undatus3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleLiodessus obscurellus3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleHydrocolus rubyae3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleHydrocolus persimilis3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleNeoporus hybridus3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleIlybius gagates3
A Predaceous Diving BeetlePlatambus confusus3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleHygrotus marklini3
A Riffle BeetleStenelmis fuscata3
A Riffle BeetleStenelmis antennalis3
A Water Scavenger BeetleHelophorus orchymonti3
A Water Scavenger BeetleAgabetes acuductus3
A Water Scavenger BeetleCymbiodyta toddi3
Cantrall's Bog BeetleLiodessus cantralli3
Douglas Stenelmis Riffle BeetleStenelmis douglasensis3
Knobel's Riffle BeetleStenelmis knobeli3
Virginia Big-headed Tiger BeetleTetracha virginica3
A Case-bearing Leaf BeetleTriachus vacuus2
A Leaf BeetlePachybrachis peccans2
A Leaf BeetlePachybrachis luridus2
A Leaf BeetlePachybrachis atomarius2
A Leaf BeetleCryptocephalus cuneatus2
A Leaf BeetleGlyptina leptosoma2
A Leaf BeetleGlyptina brunnea2
A Leaf BeetleDistigmoptera impennata2
A Leaf BeetleBassareus mammifer2
A Leaf BeetleBrachypnoea convexa2
A Leaf BeetleAltica litigata2
A Pear-shaped WeevilFallapion bischoffi2
A Pear-shaped WeevilCoelocephalapion decoloratum2
A Pear-shaped WeevilFallapion impeditum2
A Pear-shaped WeevilSayapion segnipes2
A Predaceous Diving BeetleAgabus leptapsis2
Ghost Tiger BeetleEllipsoptera lepida2
Hairy-necked Tiger BeetleCicindela hirticollis hirticollis2
Northern Barrens Tiger BeetleCicindela patruela patruela2
Robust Dubiraphian Riffle BeetleDubiraphia robusta2
Sandy Stream Tiger BeetleEllipsoptera macra2
A Leaf BeetleCryptocephalus venustus1
A Straight-snouted WeevilEutrichapion huron1

Acadian FlycatcherEmpidonax virescens3
American WoodcockScolopax minor3
BobolinkDolichonyx oryzivorus3
Cerulean WarblerSetophaga cerulea3
DickcisselSpiza americana3
Eastern MeadowlarkSturnella magna3
Eastern Whip-poor-willAntrostomus vociferus3
Grasshopper SparrowAmmodramus savannarum3
Great EgretArdea alba3
Henslow's SparrowAmmodramus henslowii3
Hooded WarblerSetophaga citrina3
Kentucky WarblerGeothlypis formosa3
Lark SparrowChondestes grammacus3
Least FlycatcherEmpidonax minimus3
Northern BobwhiteColinus virginianus3
Peregrine FalconFalco peregrinus3
Prothonotary WarblerProtonotaria citrea3
Red-shouldered HawkButeo lineatus3
Rusty BlackbirdEuphagus carolinus3
Vesper SparrowPooecetes gramineus3
Western MeadowlarkSturnella neglecta3
Worm-eating WarblerHelmitheros vermivorum3
Bell's VireoVireo bellii2
Black TernChlidonias niger2
Common NighthawkChordeiles minor2
King RailRallus elegans2
Red-headed WoodpeckerMelanerpes erythrocephalus2
Short-eared OwlAsio flammeus2
Upland SandpiperBartramia longicauda2
Whooping CraneGrus americana2
Yellow-breasted ChatIcteria virens2
Yellow-crowned Night-HeronNyctanassa violacea2
Yellow-throated WarblerSetophaga dominica2
American BitternBotaurus lentiginosus1
Black-crowned Night-HeronNycticorax nycticorax1
Brewer's BlackbirdEuphagus cyanocephalus1
Forster's TernSterna forsteri1
Golden-winged WarblerVermivora chrysoptera1
Le Conte's SparrowAmmodramus leconteii1
Least BitternIxobrychus exilis1
Loggerhead ShrikeLanius ludovicianus1
Purple MartinProgne subis1
Yellow-headed BlackbirdXanthocephalus xanthocephalus1

Butterflies and mothsScore
A Noctuid MothDichagyris reliqua3
Abbreviated Underwing MothCatocala abbreviatella3
Byssus SkipperProblema byssus3
Cobweb SkipperHesperia metea3
Dusted SkipperAtrytonopsis hianna3
Leadplant Flower MothSchinia lucens3
Ottoe SkipperHesperia ottoe3
Phlox MothSchinia indiana3
Regal FritillarySpeyeria idalia3
A Noctuid MothBagisara gulnare2
Columbine Dusky WingErynnis lucilius2
Cross Line SkipperPolites origenes2
Frosted ElfinCallophrys irus2
Gorgone Checker SpotChlosyne gorgone2
Gray CopperLycaena dione2
Karner BlueLycaeides melissa samuelis2
Persius Dusky WingErynnis persius2
Phyllira Tiger MothGrammia phyllira2
Whitney's Underwing MothCatocala whitneyi2
Doll's MeroloncheAcronicta dolli1
Mottled Dusky WingErynnis martialis1
Owl-eyed Bird Dropping MothCerma cora1
Silphium Borer MothPapaipema silphii1
Sprague's PygarcticaPygarctia spraguei1

A CaddisflyPsilotreta indecisa3
A Lepidostomatid CaddisflyLepidostoma vernale3
A Fingernet CaddisflyWormaldia moesta2

Dragonflies and damselfliesScore
Clamp-tipped EmeraldSomatochlora tenebrosa3
Royal River CruiserMacromia taeniolata3
Sioux (Sand) SnaketailOphiogomphus smithi3
Spangled SkimmerLibellula cyanea3
Springwater DancerArgia plana3
Plains EmeraldSomatochlora ensigera1
Spatterdock DarnerRhionaeschna mutata1

Black BuffaloIctiobus niger3
Blue SuckerCycleptus elongatus3
Bluntnose DarterEtheostoma chlorosoma3
Crystal DarterCrystallaria asprella3
GoldeyeHiodon alosoides3
Lake SturgeonAcipenser fulvescens3
Mud DarterEtheostoma asprigene3
Ozark MinnowNotropis nubilus3
PaddlefishPolyodon spathula3
Pallid ShinerHybopsis amnis3
River RedhorseMoxostoma carinatum3
Shoal ChubMacrhybopsis hyostoma3
Starhead TopminnowFundulus dispar3
Gilt DarterPercina evides2
Lake ChubsuckerErimyzon sucetta2
American EelAnguilla rostrata1
Black RedhorseMoxostoma duquesnei1
Least DarterEtheostoma microperca1
Redfin ShinerLythrurus umbratilis1
Skipjack HerringAlosa chrysochloris1
Slender MadtomNoturus exilis1

Grasshoppers and alliesScore
A Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus foedus3
Ash-brown GrasshopperTrachyrhachys kiowa3
Blue-legged GrasshopperMelanoplus flavidus3
Club-horned GrasshopperAeropedellus clavatus3
Gladston's Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus gladstoni3
Green-streak GrasshopperHesperotettix viridis3
Grizzly Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus punctulatus3
Handsome GrasshopperSyrbula admirabilis3
Mermiria GrasshopperMermiria bivittata3
Obscure GrasshopperOpeia obscura3
Plains Yellow-winged GrasshopperArphia simplex3
Seaside GrasshopperTrimerotropis maritima3
Short-winged GrasshopperDichromorpha viridis3
Showy GrasshopperHesperotettix speciosus3
Speckled Rangeland GrasshopperArphia conspersa3
Spotted-winged GrasshopperOrphulella pelidna3
Velvet-striped GrasshopperEritettix simplex3
Bog ConeheadNeoconocephalus lyristes2
Clear-winged GrasshopperCamnula pellucida2
Forest LocustMelanoplus islandicus2
Huckleberry Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus fasciatus2
Scudder's Short-winged GrasshopperMelanoplus scudderi2
Black-striped KatydidScudderia fasciata1
Delicate Meadow KatydidOrchelimum delicatum1
Rocky Mountain Sprinkled LocustChloealtis abdominalis1
Stone's LocustMelanoplus stonei1

Leafhoppers and true bugsScore
A LeafhopperMemnonia panzeri3
A LeafhopperDriotura robusta3
A LeafhopperCuerna sayi3
A LeafhopperLaevicephalus vannus3
A LeafhopperAttenuipyga vanduzeei3
A LeafhopperParaphlepsius altus3
A LeafhopperParaphlepsius maculosus3
A LeafhopperPrairiana angustens3
A LeafhopperPrairiana cinerea3
A PlanthopperRhynchomitra microrhina3
A PlanthopperMyndus ovatus3
A Seed BugSlaterobius quadristriata3
Acuminate Water BoatmanRamphocorixa acuminata3
An Issid PlanthopperFitchiella robertsonii3
An Issid PlanthopperBruchomorpha extensa3
Prairie LeafhopperPolyamia dilata3
Red-tailed Prairie LeafhopperAflexia rubranura3
Yellow Loosestrife LeafhopperErythroneura carbonata3
A LeafhopperKansendria kansiensis2
A LeafhopperParaphlepsius nebulosus2
A LeafhopperPrairiana kansana2
A LeafhopperFlexamia prairiana1
Piglet BugAphelonema simplex1

Big Brown BatEptesicus fuscus3
Eastern PipistrellePerimyotis subflavus3
Little Brown BatMyotis lucifugus3
Northern Long-eared BatMyotis septentrionalis3
Franklin's Ground SquirrelPoliocitellus franklinii2
Prairie Deer MousePeromyscus maniculatus bairdii2
Prairie VoleMicrotus ochrogaster2
Silver-haired BatLasionycteris noctivagans2
Woodland VoleMicrotus pinetorum2
Water ShrewSorex palustris1

A Brush-legged MayflyHomoeoneuria ammophila3
A Cleft-footed Minnow MayflyMetretopus borealis3
A Common Burrower MayflyPentagenia vittigera3
A Flat-headed MayflyMacdunnoa persimplex3
A Flat-headed MayflySpinadis simplex3
A MayflyAmeletus lineatus3
Fox Small Square-gilled MayflyCercobrachys fox3
Pecatonica River MayflyAcanthametropus pecatonica3
A Small Minnow MayflyPlauditus cestus2
A Small Minnow MayflyParacloeodes minutus2
A Spiny Crawler MayflyEurylophella aestiva2
Wisconsin Small Square-gilled MayflyCercobrachys lilliei2
Winnebago Small Square-gilled MayflyCercobrachys winnebago1

Mussels and clamsScore
BuckhornTritogonia verrucosa3
ButterflyEllipsaria lineolata3
Elephant EarElliptio crassidens3
ElktoeAlasmidonta marginata3
FawnsfootTruncilla donaciformis3
Flat FloaterAnodonta suborbiculata3
Higgins EyeLampsilis higginsii3
MapleleafQuadrula quadrula3
MonkeyfaceTheliderma metanevra3
Rock PocketbookArcidens confragosus3
Salamander MusselSimpsonaias ambigua3
SheepnosePlethobasus cyphyus3
WartybackQuadrula nodulata3
WashboardMegalonaias nervosa3
Yellow & Slough SandshellsLampsilis teres3
EbonyshellFusconaia ebena2
SpectaclecaseCumberlandia monodonta2

Blanding's TurtleEmydoidea blandingii3
Eastern MassasaugaSistrurus catenatus3
GophersnakePituophis catenifer3
Gray RatsnakePantherophis spiloides3
North American RacerColuber constrictor3
Ornate Box TurtleTerrapene ornata3
Prairie Ring-necked SnakeDiadophis punctatus arnyi3
Six-lined RacerunnerAspidoscelis sexlineata3
Slender Glass LizardOphisaurus attenuatus3
Smooth SoftshellApalone mutica3
Timber RattlesnakeCrotalus horridus3
Western WormsnakeCarphophis vermis3
Wood TurtleGlyptemys insculpta3
Plains GartersnakeThamnophis radix2
Prairie SkinkPlestiodon septentrionalis2
Lined SnakeTropidoclonion lineatum1
Western RibbonsnakeThamnophis proximus1

A Rolled-winged Winter StoneflyZealeuctra narfi3
A Common StoneflyAttaneuria ruralis1

Rare plants

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

Scores: 3 = "significantly associated," 2 = "moderately associated," and 1 = "minimally associated."

Scientific Name Common Name Score
Aconitum noveboracense Northern Monkshood 3
Adoxa moschatellina Muskroot 3
Agalinis gattingeri Roundstem Foxglove 3
Agalinis skinneriana Pale False Foxglove 3
Anemone caroliniana Carolina Anemone 3
Anemone multifida var. multifida Cut-leaved Anemone 3
Aplectrum hyemale Putty Root 3
Aristida dichotoma Shinners' Three-awned Grass 3
Arnoglossum plantagineum Prairie Indian-plantain 3
Arnoglossum reniforme Great Indian-plantain 3
Artemisia dracunculus Dragon Wormwood 3
Artemisia frigida Prairie Sagebrush 3
Asclepias lanuginosa Woolly Milkweed 3
Asclepias purpurascens Purple Milkweed 3
Asplenium pinnatifidum Pinnatifid Spleenwort 3
Boechera dentata Short's Rock-cress 3
Callirhoe triangulata Clustered Poppy-mallow 3
Carex backii Rocky Mountain Sedge 3
Carex careyana Carey's Sedge 3
Carex festucacea Fescue Sedge 3
Carex laevivaginata Smooth-sheathed Sedge 3
Carex media Intermediate Sedge 3
Carex prasina Drooping Sedge 3
Carex schweinitzii Schweinitz's Sedge 3
Chaerophyllum procumbens Spreading Chervil 3
Cirsium hillii Hill's Thistle 3
Commelina erecta var. deamiana Narrow-leaved Dayflower 3
Dasistoma macrophylla Mullein Foxglove 3
Desmodium canescens Hoary Tick-trefoil 3
Desmodium perplexum Perplexed Tick-trefoil 3
Diarrhena obovata Ovate Beak Grass 3
Dichanthelium wilcoxianum Wilcox's Panic Grass 3
Diodia teres Rough Buttonweed 3
Eclipta prostrata Yerba-de-tajo 3
Gymnocladus dioicus Kentucky Coffee-tree 3
Homalosorus pycnocarpos Glade Fern 3
Huperzia porophila Rock Clubmoss 3
Hydrastis canadensis Golden-seal 3
Hydrophyllum appendiculatum Great Water-leaf 3
Hypericum mutilum Slender St. John's-wort 3
Iodanthus pinnatifidus Purple Rocket 3
Jeffersonia diphylla Twinleaf 3
Juglans cinerea Butternut 3
Lespedeza violacea Violet Bush Clover 3
Lespedeza virginica Slender Bush Clover 3
Lesquerella ludoviciana Silver Bladderpod 3
Minuartia dawsonensis Rock Stitchwort 3
Myosotis laxa Small Forget-me-not 3
Napaea dioica Glade Mallow 3
Nothocalais cuspidata Prairie False-dandelion 3
Opuntia fragilis Brittle Prickly-pear 3
Packera plattensis Prairie Ragwort 3
Paronychia canadensis Smooth Forked Nail-wort 3
Pediomelum argophyllum Silvery Scurf Pea 3
Pediomelum esculentum Prairie Turnip 3
Pellaea atropurpurea Purple-stem Cliff-brake 3
Phegopteris hexagonoptera Broad Beech Fern 3
Phemeranthus rugospermus Prairie Fame-flower 3
Phlox bifida ssp. bifida Cleft Phlox 3
Platanthera flava var. herbiola Pale Green Orchid 3
Platanus occidentalis Sycamore 3
Poa paludigena Bog Bluegrass 3
Poa sylvestris Woodland Bluegrass 3
Polytaenia nuttallii Prairie Parsley 3
Prenanthes aspera Rough Rattlesnake-root 3
Primula fassettii Jeweled Shooting Star 3
Primula mistassinica Bird's-eye Primrose 3
Pseudognaphalium saxicola Cliff Cudweed 3
Quercus muehlenbergii Chinquapin Oak 3
Quercus palustris Pin Oak 3
Rhamnus lanceolata var. glabrata Lanced-leaved Buckthorn 3
Ruellia humilis Hairy Wild Petunia 3
Sagittaria montevidensis ssp. calycina Long-lobed Arrowhead 3
Scutellaria ovata ssp. ovata Heart-leaved Skullcap 3
Senna hebecarpa Northern Wild Senna 3
Silene nivea Snowy Campion 3
Sisyrinchium albidum White Blue-eyed-grass 3
Spiranthes magnicamporum Great Plains Lady's-tresses 3
Spiranthes ovalis var. erostellata October Lady's-tresses 3
Strophostyles leiosperma Small-flowered Woolly Bean 3
Sullivantia sullivantii Sullivant's Cool-wort 3
Thaspium chapmanii Hairy Meadow Parsnip 3
Trillium nivale Snow Trillium 3
Triphora trianthophora Nodding Pogonia 3
Anticlea elegans ssp. glaucus White Camas 2
Asclepias hirtella Green Milkweed 2
Asclepias ovalifolia Dwarf Milkweed 2
Asplenium trichomanes Maidenhair Spleenwort 2
Astragalus crassicarpus Ground-plum 2
Callitriche heterophylla Large Water-starwort 2
Carex albicans var. albicans Dry Woods Sedge 2
Carex straminea Straw Sedge 2
Carex torreyi Torrey's Sedge 2
Crotalaria sagittalis Arrow-headed Rattle-box 2
Cuscuta coryli Hazel Dodder 2
Cuscuta pentagona Field Dodder 2
Cuscuta polygonorum Knotweed Dodder 2
Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin Northern Yellow Lady's-slipper 2
Dalea villosa var. villosa Silky Prairie-clover 2
Didiplis diandra Water-purslane 2
Echinacea pallida Pale Purple Coneflower 2
Eleocharis engelmannii Engelmann's Spike-rush 2
Glycyrrhiza lepidota Wild Licorice 2
Gymnocarpium robertianum Limestone Oak Fern 2
Houstonia caerulea Azure Bluets 2
Hypericum prolificum Shrubby St. John's-wort 2
Lespedeza leptostachya Prairie Bush Clover 2
Liatris punctata var. nebraskana Dotted Blazing Star 2
Melica nitens Three-flowered Melic Grass 2
Oenothera serrulata Yellow Evening Primrose 2
Orobanche fasciculata Clustered Broomrape 2
Penstemon pallidus Pale Beardtongue 2
Platanthera hookeri Hooker's Orchid 2
Poa wolfii Wolf's Bluegrass 2
Polygala incarnata Pink Milkwort 2
Polystichum acrostichoides Christmas Fern 2
Prenanthes crepidinea Nodding Rattlesnake-root 2
Pseudognaphalium micradenium Catfoot 2
Ptelea trifoliata ssp. trifoliata var. trifoliata Wafer-ash 2
Rhododendron lapponicum Lapland Azalea 2
Rotala ramosior Toothcup 2
Salix sericea Silky Willow 2
Schoenoplectus heterochaetus Slender Bulrush 2
Scleria triglomerata Whip Nutrush 2
Scutellaria parvula var. parvula Small Skullcap 2
Senna marilandica Maryland Senna 2
Teloschistes chrysophthalmus Gold-eye Lichen 2
Valeriana edulis var. ciliata Hairy Valerian 2
Woodsia oregana ssp. cathcartiana Oregon Woodsia 2
Adlumia fungosa Climbing Fumitory 1
Asclepias sullivantii Prairie Milkweed 1
Camassia scilloides Wild Hyacinth 1
Cuscuta glomerata Rope Dodder 1
Cypripedium candidum White Lady's-slipper 1
Cystopteris laurentiana Laurentian Bladder Fern 1
Eleocharis robbinsii Robbins' Spike-rush 1
Equisetum palustre Marsh Horsetail 1
Hypericum sphaerocarpum Round-fruited St. John's Wort 1
Nuphar advena Yellow Water Lily 1
Rhexia virginica Virginia Meadow-beauty 1
Thaspium trifoliatum var. flavum Purple Meadow Parsnip 1
Verbena simplex Narrow-leaved Vervain 1
Viola sagittata var. ovata Sand Violet 1

Community opportunities

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community management opportunities

The Western Coulee and Ridges Ecological Landscape contains opportunities to manage for the following natural communities, based on the findings in the 2015 Wildlife Action Plan (originally presented by the Ecosystem Management Team).

See the key to association scores [PDF] for complete definitions.

General opportunities

General management opportunities 1

The Western Coulees and Ridges Ecological Landscape offers the best opportunities in the state to maintain many of southern Wisconsin's natural communities. Many rare species have been documented here due to the diversity, scale, types, condition and context of the natural communities present.

Forests can be managed and conserved here at virtually all scales, including areas up to hundreds, or even thousands, of acres. Oak forests are more abundant here then any other ecological landscape, mesic maple-basswood forests are also widespread, and some of the Upper Midwest's most extensive stands of Floodplain Forest occur here along major rivers. All of these forest types can provide critical breeding and/or migratory habitat for significant populations of native plants and animals. Maintaining large blocks of these forest types, including areas with combinations of these types, is a major opportunity. Since much of the forested acreage is privately owned, there are opportunities to work with private landowners, looking for places to combine efforts and plan on a much larger scale than an individual property.

Less common natural communities also provide excellent management opportunities here. Conifer relicts, by definition, are almost entirely restricted to the Western Coulees and Ridges, with lesser management opportunities present in the Southwest Savanna. Fire-dependent oak ecosystems are well-represented here include Oak Openings, Oak Barrens, Oak Woodland and dry to mesic oak forests. Bluff prairies and sand prairies are better represented in this Ecological Landscape than anywhere else in Wisconsin and probably better than anywhere else in the Upper Midwest. These fire-dependant communities could be managed in a continuum with savanna and forest communities, wherever possible.

Man-made habitats such as "surrogate grasslands" can be important for many species by increasing the effective size and reducing isolation of small remnant prairies or savannas. Large open habitats can be critical for area-sensitive grassland birds and others. Properly sited and managed dredge spoil islands can provide important habitat for herptiles and birds, especially along the Mississippi River, which has been heavily altered by dam construction, diminished water quality and the impacts of invasive species.

Large warmwater rivers are critical for fish, herptiles, birds and invertebrates, especially mussels and some groups of aquatic insects. The diverse habitats associated with the large river corridors include the main channels, running sloughs, oxbow lakes and ponds, various floodplain wetland communities, terraces with sand prairies and barrens and adjoining mesic to xeric forested bluffs. Managing this mosaic can protect ecotones and connectivity, representing opportunities that are unavailable or limited elsewhere in the state. Other important aquatic features include high concentrations of coldwater and coolwater streams, spring runs and spring seepages.

Bedrock features are important throughout the Western Coulees and Ridges and include cliffs, caves, talus slopes and Algific Talus Slopes. Some bats and reptiles are dependent on caves, tunnels and abandoned mines as roost sites and hibernacula.

1. The text presented here is a summarized version of a longer section developed for the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.


Western Coulee and Ridges Landtype Associations

Landtype Associations (LTAs) are units of the National Hierarchical Framework of Ecological Units (NHFEU), a hierarchical ecological land classification system. LTAs are much smaller than Ecological Landscapes, ranging in size from 10,000 and 300,000 acres. In Wisconsin, they are usually based on glacial features like individual moraines or outwash plains. LTAs can be very useful for planning at finer scales within an Ecological Landscape.

The following are the LTAs associated with the Western Coulee and Ridges Ecological Landscape. The Western Coulee and Ridges LTA map [PDF] can be used to locate these LTAs. Clicking on an LTA in the list below will open a data table for that LTA in PDF format. Descriptions are included, where available.

  • 222La01. Red Cedar/Chippewa Valley Trains
  • 222La03. Knapp Loess Hills
  • 222Lb02. Eau Claire Sandstone Hills
  • 222La02. Hay River Sandstone Hills
  • 222Lb03. Eau Claire/Lowes Valley Trains
  • 222Lc12. Eroded pre_Illinoian Ground Moraines
  • 222La04. Chippewa River Bottoms
  • 222Lc08. Mississippi River Valley Train-North
  • 222Lb05. Boone Valleys and Hills
  • 222Lc14. Trempealeau Silty Valleys
  • 222Lb07. Trempealeau Sandstone Hills
  • 222Lb04. Buffalo Hills
  • 222Lc13. Rountree Ridges, Tunnel City Hills, and Valleys-North
  • 222Lb06. Northfield Low Hills
  • 222Lc16. Rountree Ridges, Tunnel City Hills, and Valleys-South
  • 222Ld01. Richland Ridge
  • 222Lc15. Viroqua Ridge
  • 222Ld03. West Baraboo Ridge
  • 222Ld05. East Baraboo Ridge
  • 222Ld06. Baraboo Basin Moraines
  • 222Ld04. Baraboo Basin Floodplain and Terraces
  • 222Ld02. LeFarge Hills and Valleys
  • 222Lc18. Hills and Valleys - Wisconsin River Drainage
  • 222Lc17. Mississippi River Valley Train-South
Last Revised: July 16, 2020

Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition