Walworth County volunteers take conservation in their own hands
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WALWORTH COUNTY Some cruise highways and back roads, looking for unwelcome plants. Others set out in the dark to listen for frogs or wake up before sunrise to count cranes and other birds.
No matter whether they don waders or binoculars, Wisconsin residents are playing an important role in natural resources management.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other organizations recruit residents to explore the state’s woods, waters and prairies to obtain information and gain a better understanding of how to manage these treasures.
In 2011, citizens donated more than 300,000 hours to such projects as the Midwest Crane Count, the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey, Western Great Lakes Owl Survey, Wisconsin Bat Monitoring Project and Wisconsin Ephemeral Ponds Project.
Owen Boyle coordinates the DNR’s citizen-based monitoring program and said volunteers form the backbone of such efforts, especially during a time of shrinking government resources and funding.
“The amount of citizen-based monitoring going on in Wisconsin is remarkable … ” said Boyle, a longtime DNR ecologist in southeastern Wisconsin. “It blows me away how many people are out there monitoring, mapping and providing other vital information.”
Some of those providing information include volunteers in Walworth and seven other southeastern Wisconsin counties, who set out with GIS maps to monitor pesky plants for the Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium. Last year they surveyed highways and byways for the presence and spread of four non-native species: Japanese knotweed, common and cut-leaved teasel and giant reed grass. They’ll add wild parsnip to this summer’s list.
“The idea is to find out what’s there in hopes of stopping them from spreading and preventing new infestations,” said Jill Hapner, who co-founded SEWISC in 2007. “We concentrate on roadways because those are the corridors where invasive species are most easily dispersed, because most of them are spread via vehicles. So we work closely with local highway and parks departments.
“The unexpected result was that people chose the areas they would survey and it sort of turned into an adopt-a-township type of program,” Hapner added.
Although the effort was a big success, Walworth County coordinator Jerry Ziegler said more volunteers are needed, especially in East Troy, Spring Prairie, Lafayette, Sugar Creek, Bloomfield and Walworth townships.
For the full story, see HERE.