Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Land & Water Resources Department


Dane County plants thousands of trees and native shrubs each year on county lands with the help of volunteers and partner groups. Learn more about our forestry efforts on this page.


Gravel Bed Tree Nursery

Traditionally, the limiting factor for tree planting has been 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 in 2012. 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 gravel bed program has reduce planting costs dramatically. A balled and burlaped tree costs around $200, whereas bare root trees grown in the gravel bed normally costs between $20-40 to grow. The county receives tree donations from DNR, Rock River Coalition, and Sustainable Wildlife, a local nursery, which further reduced our costs down to around $2 per tree. The bare root trees are also much lighter and easier to transport and plant.

The gravel bed supports 2,000 to 4,000 trees per year depending on the size and species. We have been able to plant around 10 times as many trees using the gravel bed as we would have using traditional methods.


Oak Savanna and Oak Woodland Restoration

Staff and volunteers are working at several properties to restore oak savanna and oak woodland habitat. Oak savanna was once one of the most common vegetation types in the Upper Midwest but today is highly endangered with only a fraction of one percent remaining. Intact oak savannas are now one of the rarest natural communities on earth. We purchase containerized oak trees because they do not grow well in the gravel bed.

A list of current oak restoration projects can be found on our projects page.

Staff also run a treatment program to protect large Bur Oak trees oak blight and oak wilt.


Youth Education

Our forestry staff partner with the Henry Vilas zoo once per year and adaptive climbing events so youth of all abilities can learn about and climb trees. They also participate in a Dream Night program for terminally and critically ill children and their families that gives them a fun outdoor experience and a day away from the hospital.