The Dane County Park System has over 12,000 acres of land that staff, volunteers and partner organizations work to protect, improve and restore. Some of these restoration efforts are described below.
Each year volunteers, staff, partners, and Operation Fresh Start participants collect and process native plant seed from prairie, savanna, wetland, and woodland ecosystems. In 2019 the seed collected had an estimated worth of approximately $600,000 and will be used to help restore over 170 acres of land. Without seed collection efforts, this level of restoration would not be financially possible.
Natural habitats rely upon regular and reoccurring fire to remain diverse, resilient, and capable of providing an array of ecological functions that we depend on. Staff and volunteers conduct prescribed burns on over 650 acres of county-owned land every year to help combat brush, manage invasive species, and maintain healthy native habitats.
Staff work to maintain county-owned forests and trees, clean up fallen trees, and diversify the species of trees planted.
Species diversity is very important to maintaining a healthy urban forest as it creates a buffer from future diseases and pests. Prior to the arrival of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer, ash trees accounted for approximately 20% of the landscape trees on county-owned lands. Staff have been working remove to Ash trees that could pose a risk to the public and, with the help of local partners, replace them with a diverse variety of new trees (70 species so far). The goal moving forward is that no single species represents more than five percent of the total canopy cover in Dane County.
Traditionally, the limiting factor for tree planting is the number of tree seedlings that can be watered and maintained until they are large enough to plant. To increase the number of trees grown and also decrease costs, the county created a gravel bed tree nursery program. The gravel bed allows the trees to grow an extensive root structure in a very short amount of time so that they are ready to be planted sooner. The tree nursery along with tree donations has allowed us to be able to plant over 4,000 trees a year at a cost of only $2 per tree.
If you are interested in volunteering to help with land restoration efforts, contact the Dane County Parks Volunteer Coordinator.