Protecting Water Resources
One of the major threats to the Basin’s waterways is polluted runoff from nonpoint sources such as homes and farms. Rain water carrying soil particles and nutrients can run into storm sewers or water bodies, increasing turbidity and causing algae blooms. These blooms are algal population explosions, generally caused by an excess of phosphorous from polluted runoff. At the least, these algae blooms make the waters unsightly and smelly; at the worst, they deplete enough oxygen in the water to kill fish and other aquatic life. Certain species of blue-green algae produce toxins that affect humans and wildlife alike.
Things we all can do
- Minimize fertilizer use—having your soil tested can tell you exactly what your lawn or garden needs (applying only what is needed also saves you money).
- When you must use fertilizer, choose a low-phosphorous type.
- Switch to phosphorous-free laundry and dish detergents.
- Things rural landowners can do
- Keep septic systems in good repair to prevent clogging, leaking or overflow.
- If you have shoreline property, install or maintain a buffer zone of native vegetation along the river or lake to prevent bank erosion and minimize nutrient flow into the waters.
Things urban dwellers can do
- Slow runoff from your roof, lawn and driveway with landscaping; rain gardens absorb and filter runoff, which replenishes the groundwater and helps prevent erosion and flooding. View the video of a Minneapolis rain garden being planted (goes to an external site).
- Install barrels to collect rain for use in watering plants and gardens.
Things farmers can do
- Create and follow a nutrient management plan to reduce soil phosphorous, optimize fertilizer use, and minimize phosphorous in runoff.
- Follow safe practices for manure storage and use, especially for winter manure applications when the frozen ground increases the danger of runoff.
- Use best management practices such as crop rotation and cover crops to replenish the soil and prevent erosion.
- Work with local agencies (Land Conservation Departments, WDNR or Wisconsin NRCS) to develop pollution control strategies for your operation. Grants can be obtained to help with the cost of new practices and facilities.
Protecting Wildlife, Habitat and Biodiversity
Wisconsin is home to many rare and endangered species. Many species of plants, insects and birds are endangered in Wisconsin. These living things all have a part in maintaining the health of the ecosystem and the survival of other species. This includes humans, since we too are dependent upon many of these creatures. For example, insects and birds not only pollinate native plants, many also pollinate food crops.
Threats to these species and their habitats are often in the form of pollution and/or habitat loss. Here are some ways to help protect these and other plants and animals:
- Minimize the use of pesticides around the home and farm. Chemicals that kill pests may also kill beneficial species.
- Minimize the use of fertilizers and other lawn & garden chemicals.
- Protect and preserve wetlands and other sensitive areas from encroachment by development or agriculture.
Many parts of Wisconsin, including the Lower Chippewa River Basin, are being invaded by exotic species from places outside the state and North America. Some of these species don’t cause any undue harm.
Others, however, have no natural predators or means of population control in their new surroundings, and they often grow and reproduce almost limitlessly.
When an exotic species becomes a nuisance or a danger to our native habitat and biodiversity, we call it an invasive species.
Some invasive species compete with native plants or animals for space and resources, driving them to local or regional extinction. Others may feed heavily on particular native species, thus devastating those populations. Still others may bring with them new diseases to which our native species have no resistance. Examples of the notorious invasive species include the zebra mussel, purple loosestrife, and most recently, the emerald ash borer. There are many others affecting both aquatic and terrestrial environments in Wisconsin. It’s up to all of us to try our best to prevent the spread of these invasive species.
These are just a few ways you can help:
- Make sure your boat or watercraft is free of any aquatic plants before and after you launch into a lake or river.
- Learn to identify invasive plants species and remove them from your property.
- Don’t transport firewood from one area to another. Purchase and use wood from local sources.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has more information about many of the invasive species in Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin-Extension also has publications available online containing information on how to identify and prevent the spread of invasive species.
Protecting Forest Resources
The emerald ash borer larva tunnels through the tree’s inner bark, disrupting its supply of water and nutrients. This highly destructive beetle was first found in southeastern Wisconsin in 2008.
There are many threats to the Basin’s forest resources. Please follow the links to read about these issues of concern and how you can help protect our precious woodlands.