Pheasant Branch Conservancy set to grow by 160 acres
On Thursday, May 16th, Dane County announced plans to purchase 160 acres of property for conservation. The property acquisition will be the largest conservation preservation investment in the county’s history, costing nearly 10 million dollars.
The property is located just north of Middleton in the Town of Springfield and will become part of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. Currently, the property is made up of a farmhouse and outbuildings, along with farmland and pasture. Restoration of the property is intended to reduce sediment and phosphorus runoff within the Pheasant Branch Watershed. Reducing runoff will positively impact Lake Mendota and other downstream areas of the Yahara Watershed.
The parcel of land is located at the northern edge of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. It is bordered by Pheasant Branch Road to the west and Balzer Road to the north. Pheasant Branch Conservancy is a natural area owned by the Dane County Parks Department, the City of Middleton, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It is a natural area made up of many types of habitats, including wetlands, prairies, and forests. The conservancy is home to a wide variety of animals and plants.
Pheasant Branch Conservancy is currently 550 acres, but will increase to more than 700 acres with the addition. The land contains the headwaters of a stream which flows into Pheasant Branch Creek before it reaches Lake Mendota.
In a statement to Clean Lakes Alliance, Co-Presidents of the Friends of Peasant Branch Conservancy Board, Lloyd Eagan and Pam Shannon, wrote about the benefits of the land addition. “This addition to Pheasant Branch Conservancy will bring so many benefits including more natural habitat, reduced stormwater runoff, greater infiltration and groundwater recharge, flood prevention, and water quality improvement. In addition, there will be additional opportunities for environmental education, recreation, and the positive health benefits associated with spending time in nature.”
Full Statement from the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy Board
“The Mission of The Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy is: To restore, protect, and promote the Pheasant Branch Conservancy and watershed for today and tomorrow.Lloyd Eagan and Pam Shannon
This addition to Pheasant Branch Conservancy will bring so many benefits including more natural habitat, reduced stormwater runoff, greater infiltration and groundwater recharge, flood prevention, and water quality improvement. In addition, there will be additional opportunities for environmental education, recreation, and the positive health benefits associated with spending time in nature.
In 2020, the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy will celebrate its 25th anniversary. We can think of no better tribute to our cause than this expansion to the Conservancy. Thanks to all who have helped make this happen. We look forward to working with Dane County and other partners in developing and implementing a plan towards restoring this property.”
Co-Presidents, Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy Board
Upstream actions impact downstream waters
Actions in the upstream regions of our watershed directly impact water quality downstream. Water quality of Lake Mendota impacts other lakes of the Yahara Watershed, including Lakes Monona, Waubesa, and Kegonsa. Through the restoration of the land, less phosphorus and fewer pesticides will enter our waterways.
Approximately one pound of phosphorus can produce up to 500 pounds of wet algae. Dane County estimates restoration of the property will keep more than 550 pounds of phosphorus from entering our waterways each year. This means that annually, 275,000 pounds of algae will be kept from growing in our Yahara lakes!
Increasing infiltration and decreasing runoff
Restoring the property to natural prairie will help to improve infiltration of rainwater into the ground. Prairie plants often have better root systems than crops, allowing prairies to absorb the rainwater where it falls instead of running off into the nearest waterway. The deep root systems also hold soil in place, which reduces the amount of sediment lost with runoff. Dane County expects to prevent more than 2.6 million gallons of runoff each year through increased infiltration into the natural landscape. That’s enough water to fill four Olympic-size swimming pools!
“Not only does this acquisition provide unparalleled recreational and conservation opportunities, but it is also exactly the type of action we need to take to be resilient to flooding,” said Dane County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan. “Protection of this property will buffer Pheasant Branch Creek from storm flashes and erosion during big and small rain storms.”
Flooding impacts Pheasant Branch Conservancy in August 2018
In August of 2018, heavy rains caused significant flooding in Pheasant Branch Conservancy. The nearby rain gage on Pheasant Branch at Parmenter Street in Middleton recorded 10.63 inches of rain from August 20-21st. Large parts of the conservancy were destroyed by the heavy volumes of rain.
In the 2018 State of the Lakes Annual Report, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi wrote about flooding and the county’s stormwater improvement plans. “In 2018, we experienced unprecedented rainfall which not only delivers phosphorus to our waters but causes flooding, showing that climate change is happening,” wrote Parisi. Dane County is working on other projects that address water quality, such as “Suck the Muck,” in addition to the Pheasant Branch Conservancy expansion.
Clean Lakes Alliance supports land purchase
Clean Lakes Alliance supports Dane County’s plan to purchase the land for preservation. The Yahara CLEAN Strategic Action Plan for Phosphorus Reduction (published in 2012 by Clean Lakes Alliance and partners) outlines 14 urban and rural actions to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering our lakes. The county’s land purchase is in line with three of the actions.
- Relocate or cover livestock facilities
- Promote the restoration of wetlands
- Improve cropping, tillage, and in-field practices
Clean Lakes Alliance continues to educate the community about the importance of increasing infiltration to reduce runoff to our lakes. We support community actions to help better manage runoff and improve lake health.