Buffer Strips

Harvestable Buffers

Eric Krueger, Conservation Specialist from the Dane County Land Conservation Division, looks over a harvestable buffer. Door Creek, part of the Yahara River Watershed. Photo by Wisconsin Land & Water Conservation Association.

Conservation buffer strips

Conservation buffer strips are a protective zone of permanent vegetation between a farm field and waterway that protects water quality. Buffer strips slow and filter storm runoff while helping to hold soil in place. As a result, the amount of harmful phosphorus that reaches our lakes may be reduced.

A buffer strip begins at the water’s edge and typically extends a minimum of 30 feet inland, providing natural scenic beauty and wildlife habitat. Buffers limit the loss of topsoil and may serve as an additional location for growing plants that can be later harvested and used for animal forage.

Types of buffers

  • Harvestable buffer strip – buffers that may also serve as a forage harvest opportunity for farmers. Learn more about the Yahara River Watershed Harvestable Buffer Program.
  • Contour buffer strip – used in sloped agricultural fields to prevent erosion and slow the velocity of rainwater as it moves downhill.
  • Shoreline gardens – buffer between a lake and a manicured residential lawn.
Contour Buffer Strip

Benefits of buffers

  • Soil erosion – help hold soil in place
  • Wildlife habitat – provide food and cover for wildlife
  • Protect and extend stream health – prevents the filling of drainage ditches and streams with loose sediment
  • Stream bank integrity – added vegetation stabilizes the stream bank
  • Aesthetically pleasing

We support buffers

Since 2016, Clean Lakes Alliance has contributed more than $60,000 to purchase conservation buffer strip easements in Dane County. Along with Yahara Watershed Improvement Network (Yahara WINS) and Dane County, we have supported 3.4 streambank miles (or 15.9 acres) of buffer strips on agricultural fields near waterways within the Yahara Watershed. These efforts have diverted more than 1,000 pounds of phosphorus from our lakes. That’s enough phosphorus to produce more than 500,000 pounds of algae!

One location likely to receive buffer strips in 2019
Location in southern Columbia County, Wisconsin that will become a grassed waterway or buffer zone in 2019
Map of Potential Buffer Strip Work Zone
Potential buffer strip work zone area in southern Columbia County, Wisconsin

Get involved

Clean Lakes Alliance is raising $50,000 in 2019 to purchase conservation buffer strip easements on farms north of Lake Mendota, in Columbia County. The buffer strips will run along waterways in agricultural fields in the northern tip of the Yahara Watershed. The protective easement will be included in the farm property deed and must be honored if ownership of the land is transferred.

Grant Fund

You can donate directly to this cause through our Protect, Restore, Preserve Fund.

Learn more about how you can help our lakes and streams.