August is National Water Quality Month. How to celebrate? Embrace the wetland.

Despite residing in Green Lake for nearly 3 years, I’d never been to the Norwegian Bay Wetlands on Big Green Lake. So this year, when Water Quality Month rolled around, I decided enough is enough. Tuesday at 1:14pm is as good a time as any. I packed the kids, the snacks, and a water bottle and headed out to this Green Lake Conservancy Land, which includes the largest area of contiguous wetlands on Green Lake.

So, what’s a wetland?

Unlike the peanut – neither a pea nor a nut – somebody had their thinking hat on when they named this land type.

Wetlands are found at the intersection of land and water.

According to Wisconsin Wetlands Association, wetlands can be found all across our beautiful state between places that are always wet (like lakes and rivers) and always dry (like uplands).

Although wetlands come in various shapes and sizes, they all share three characteristics:

  • Water above or below ground for at least part of the year
  • Special soils that formed under wet conditions
  • Plants that are adapted to growing in water or wet soil

Furthermore:

  • 15% of Wisconsin is currently wetlands.
  • 3/4 of Wisconsin’s wildlife species depend on wetlands.
  • 50% of Wisconsin’s wetlands have been lost since the late 1800s.
And why are we embracing them?

Three reasons:

  1. Water quality impacts everyone
  2. Everyone is a water quality steward
  3. Wetlands are an amazing ally for cleaning water

Check out this picture from Norwegian Bay:

For me, it’s crystal clear to see how this wall of wetland along the shoreline would filter pollutants and keep water entering Big Green clean.

Allowing wetlands to stay put, plus restoring those that we’ve converted to other land uses, means cleaner water for drinking and recreation, plus a whole bunch of other benefits.

What Can i do about it?

It doesn’t need to be a large, Norwegian Bay-style wetland to be worthy of conservation (although, if you know of any, contact Green Lake Conservancy or Green Lake Sanitary District to learn how to protect it. For folks outside the Big Green watershed, FoxRAP can also help preserve wetlands or other land types). You can do your part for wetlands wherever you live.

Wetlands are great for farmers. Instead of trying to plant crops or graze livestock in those wet spots on your land, consider that wetlands:

  • Buffer waterways from field runoff
  • Create habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators
  • Attract birds and other wildlife which feed on crop pests
  • Qualify for federal conservation funds

Green Lake Sanitary District and Green Lake County Land Conservation Department are both available to help with these kinds of land and water conservation projects.

You don’t need large acreages to start a wetland. Turn any wet area on your land into a wetland. Or create a mini-wetland by building a rain garden where your roof downspout empties.

So, help FoxRAP celebrate our wonderful wetlands this National Water Quality Month. Get out there with the kids, the dog, or your camera, and enjoy our area’s wetlands. Also, think about making one of your very own. You’d be doing your land and your community a great favor.

And to our community members who have preserved, restored, or created a wetland on your land: THANK YOU for providing ecosystem services that benefit us all.

Where is your favorite wetland? Do you have one where you live? Tell us about it in the comments!

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