Wisconsin wetlands are wonderlands. From the calcareous fens near Waukesha to the sedge meadows in Cherokee Marsh, to the tamarack forests of northwestern Wisconsin, wetlands cover a dazzling array of landscapes. They share in common the ability to support aquatic or "water loving" plants and wet soils, and provide habitat for more species of plants and animals than any other type of landscape. Great blue herons, muskrats, tiger salamanders, waterfowl, and fish are among the 75 percent of Wisconsin wildlife species that use wetlands during some stage of their life cycle.
Wetlands store water to prevent flooding, they protect water quality, and they provide wildlife watchers, anglers, hunters, and boaters with the memories of a lifetime. But Wisconsin wetlands are in peril. Laws have slowed their destruction, but wetlands continue to be destroyed and degraded as they are drained and filled for agriculture, development, and roads. Wisconsin now has about half of the 10 million acres present in 1848. Changing land use, non-native species, such as purple loosestrife, polluted runoff, and overuse of groundwater supplies also are endangering Wisconsin wetlands.
Every one of us can help protect, preserve, and restore these wonderlands. We can start by enjoying the wetlands on our own land, or on nearby public land. Take a walk at dusk or early in in the morning to learn what plants and animals call your wetland home, and to locate the water source that feeds it. If you're a property owner, learn whether you have a wetland on your land and familiarize yourself with laws protecting the wetland. Or consider restoring wetlands that may have been drained on your property. If you're a concerned citizen who sees a nearby wetland suffering from development, polluted runoff, or invasive species, check with local government officials about what you can do to protect or restore it.
We all can help reverse the decline in Wisconsin wetland acreage and quality. Take a walk in the marsh. And don't forget your boots!