Published November 14, 2012, 09:46 AM

Developers and farmers urged to call DNR before projects or cropland expansion affecting wetlands

With much of Wisconsin still experiencing drought conditions, some wetlands are less obvious than ever so state wetland officials are encouraging developers and municipalities to check first before proceeding with their projects, and farmers before expanding their cropland, to avoid harming protected wetlands.

MADISON – With much of Wisconsin still experiencing drought conditions, some wetlands are less obvious than ever so state wetland officials are encouraging developers and municipalities to check first before proceeding with their projects, and farmers before expanding their cropland, to avoid harming protected wetlands.

“Because the drought makes it even more difficult to recognize some wetlands, we encourage developers, farmers and others pursuing projects to take some easy steps to make sure they are not accidentally encroaching into wetlands protected by state and federal law,” says Cami Peterson, wetland policy coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources.

“Getting in touch with us before starting a project or expanding cropland can help protect wetlands and save folks trouble and cost down the line.”

Wetlands can be found in wooded areas and pastures but may appear drier in the fall, particularly because of this year’s extreme drought, Peterson says. With such wetlands being less obvious, they are more vulnerable, Peterson says.

“All wetlands are protected by law because they provide habitat, clean water, flood storage and recreation,” she says. “We want to work early on with people so we try to get their project done in a way that avoids impacting wetlands.”

Filling, ditching, subsurface tiling, land leveling, clearing woody vegetation or diverting run-off water from a wetland may be regulated under state and federal wetland regulations. Conducting these activities improperly or without necessary permits may result in the property owner paying to restore wetlands, a potentially costly endeavor.

In addition to proactively calling the DNR water management specialist for the county (Douglas County contact is Steve LaValley, Steven.LaValley@Wisconsin.gov), people are encouraged to review DNR’s interactive maps that show potential wetlands, watch a video showing physical clues that wetlands may be present on land when it isn’t obvious, and complete a short checklist with those same physical clues. These materials are available on the DNR website by searching for "Locating Wetlands."

Wisconsin has more than a dozen different types of wetlands, some of which may be dry for most or all of the year. These drier wetland types – like seasonal or “ephemeral” wetlands that appear usually in spring or fall during heavy rains or after snowmelt – are crucial as nurseries for frogs, salamanders and insects and as rest and feeding areas for waterfowl, Peterson says.

Information on the value and importance of wetlands can be found by searching the DNR website for keyword "wetland."

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