Southwest Badger Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council, Inc.
July 2013

Southwest Badger's NEW Look

If you "clicked to download pictures," you may have noticed the new look of our newsletter.  As mentioned in our last newsletter, Kristin Mitchell Design chose Southwest Badger as a 2013 recipient of the Design for the Greater Good program. Non-profit organizations were invited to apply for free design services during the 2013 calendar year.


We are very pleased with the work of Kristin Mitchell Design. We're working to update our Facebook and webpages to include our new look.  


Kristin and her talented staff are also assisting with a redesign of our brochures and annual report.  Keep an eye out for Southwest Badger's new look.



Engaging the Unengaged
Cara Carper, Executive Director

Notice the theme running through Southwest Badger's work outlined in this newsletter?  We're all working together with our many partners to make change.  Generally our goal is to get folks who aren't doing something to do something.  I've learned the term is "engaging the unengaged."  And no, we're not talking about a dating service.


How do you get someone who hasn't thought very much about their woods, water resources or grasslands to do something active to:  

  • manage their woods
  • ensure they don't spread invasive species
  • allow grazing on their land

It's a question we grapple with every day.  A couple weeks ago I attended a workshop on "Broad Based Community Organizing" taught by Tom Mosgaller.  Tom outlined that the essential tool of organizing change is meeting one-on-one with individuals and having a conversation.


Wow!  Sounds easy, right?  But it takes time.  We do it every day at Southwest Badger, but it also takes YOU!  When was the last time you explained what you were doing on your land (and why) to a neighbor?  Change happens one person at a time.  Tom challenged us to commit to meeting one-on-one with 3-4 people over two months and have those conversations.  I throw that challenge out to you.  Commit to having a conversation with three people about natural resources and conservation over the next few months.  See what happens.


We're not running a dating service here at Southwest Badger, but we are building relationships.  One person at a time.  Please help us expand our impact.  All it takes is a conversation.


About Us
Southwest Badger is a community development organization serving Crawford, Grant, Green, Iowa, LaCrosse, Lafayette, Richland, Sauk and Vernon counties. Our mission is to implement natural resource conservation, managed growth, and sustainable rural economic development in our area. We are a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization based out of Platteville, Wisconsin.
In This Issue
Southwest Badger's NEW Look
From the Executive Director
Forest Stewardship with Patrick Dayton
Aquatic Invasive Species with Don Barrette
Fond Farewell to Zak Neitzel
Welcome to Sam Blake!
Grazing with Dennis Rooney

Protect Your Trees
Don't let deer, rodents, or severe weather ruin your reforestation efforts. Use tree shelters to give your trees a fighting chance.
Protect Your Trees, Leave a Legacy
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Forest Stewardship
Patrick Dayton, Forester/Project Coordinator

It's been hard to find dry field days this year with the constant rain, but the woods are green and growing taking advantage of all the moisture they can hold. These days I am set to complete the final

report for the emerald ash borer project, which came to an end in May; begin the Hixon Forest inventory work for the City of La Crosse; and get focused on marking more timber stand improvement work for landowners. 


Timber stand improvement (TSI) work is a catch-all phrase that includes a lot of different types of work that can be done in our local forests which does not produce revenue for the landowner.  TSI could include cutting vines out of trees, cutting ironwood or other mid-level trees to allow sunlight to the ground, cutting lesser trees to release better trees (often called crop trees) from competition for sunlight, and other improvement practices. 


In our bluffed woodlands, TSI is often needed because proper silviculture is hard to accomplish during a commercial timber harvest. (Silviculture is the practice of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests to meet diverse needs and values.) In Northern Wisconsin, where the terrain is flat and markets for small woody material are more available, forest management can take care of a lot of the material during a harvest that we cannot in Southern Wisconsin.  Forestry removes the worst trees first - that is the guiding principle that makes the science sustainable.  When foresters conduct timber harvests we either leave the forest in better shape than before we entered, or we prepare the forest for the next generation of trees.  Without a market for small material and less desirable species in our bluff country, we must rely on TSI to complete the forestry management appropriately and keep the woods in a sustainable state.  And that is why Southwest Badger has always pressed the practice of TSI and small-diameter wood utilization (biomass project) to not only promote current resource use but generate future resource growth and improvement.


On that note, Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center has begun burning wood chips in a boiler at its La Crosse campus to generate heat and energy  This is very exciting progress for sustainable wood resource use in our region and could possibly be a future tour destination for our organization.


Southwest Wisconsin Aquatic Invasive Species Planning Initiative
Don Barrette, Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator

Summer is here which means many of you have begun to plan vacations around the state and at home.  I would like to take this time to remind you that aquatic invasive species do not take a vacation.  The best method of prevention is awareness and education. 


Keep in mind as you enjoy some of Wisconsin's incredible natural resources that you also have an immense responsibility to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species to our lakes, rivers and streams.  Smokey the Bear says, "Only you can prevent forest fires." The same holds true for aquatic invasive species. "Only you can prevent aquatic invasive species." You have to make a decision.  Will your actions be part of the growing list of individuals who spread aquatic invasive species? Or will you be on the list of people who take the necessary prevention steps to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species? It is truly up to you and the legacy you would like to leave as a natural resources user.

So heed the message of prevention:

  • Inspect - boats/trailers/equipment
  • Remove - attached aquatic plant/animals
  • Drain - water from boats/live well/equipment
  • Never Move - plants/live fish away from any waterbody

Enjoy the use of our lakes, rivers and streams during your vacations. You will sleep very well at night knowing your actions helped prevent new aquatic invasive species from invading a lake, river or stream. 


Richland County Rapid Response

Japanese Knotweed on Willow Creek

Southwest Badger has been assisting Richland County and County

 Conservationist Cathy Cooper in securing a rapid response aquatic invasive species grant for the removal and control of Japanese Knotweed on Willow Creek.


Success!  The grant was awarded in March. The grant will cover the cost of the herbicide and herbicide application, some labor and equipment.  Unfortunately, the grant will not cover all labor needs. This is where you can help. We can always use volunteers. There is a continuous need for volunteers to assist in the cutting and removal of the Japanese Knotweed on Willow Creek and around the region.  Cathy and I would be very appreciative if you could volunteer some time to the project.  More information is available on the project at the DNR Forestry Health Newsletter for the southern region. The project is highlighted in the February 2013 issue and the link is


Strategic Plan

The Southwest Wisconsin Aquatic Invasive Species Strategic Plan is one of the most important documents as we consider next steps in dealing with aquatic invasive species in our area. The process of writing the plan has encompassed many travel miles to meet with stakeholders and to survey the large nine county area affected by the plan. It has taken the better part of two years to complete, and I look forward to offering it for review in the early part of August 2013.


The main goal of writing the strategic plan was to have a working document that would fulfill the needs of all natural resources users in the region (public and private). The document will include:

  • An introduction describing the delicate balance of the region ecosystem
  • A list of contributing partners
  • Fact sheets on aquatic invasive species of concern specifically for the driftless area
  • Strategies and actions for awareness, outreach, education and prevention in the region
  • A brief description about specific target groups (ex. shoreline anglers) and specific prevention steps for each group
  • Current and future recommendations for the region

The document is for regional partners to use as a guide in aquatic invasive species prevention activities.  For more information on the regional strategic plan or other aquatic invasive species concerns please contact Don Barrette at or by telephone at 608-348-7114.

Driftless Forest Network/My Wisconsin Woods
Zak Neitzel, Field Forester

Cara's Note:  Zak Neitzel recently left Southwest Badger to further his career as the Boscobel Ranger for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.   Zak did an exceptional job supporting the efforts of the Driftless Forest Network Project by working with private woodland owners who requested assistance.  He was a wonderful advocate for promoting, protecting and sustainably managing the forests of the "Driftless Area" of Wisconsin.   We will certainly miss him.


A few words from Zak about his new position:  A large portion of my new job will be working wildland fire in Crawford, northern Grant, and a small portion of Iowa and Richland Counties. I will also be doing a fair amount of private forestry work in those areas, primarily working with Managed Forest Law (MFL) and different private landowner grant programs. The remainder of my time will be spent working on state lands such as the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. This position will also allow me to still be somewhat involved in the Driftless Forest Network/My Wisconsin Woods project which I have been working on for the last year with SW Badger.


I truly enjoyed my time with SW Badger. It is an excellent organization with outstanding staff, and I am proud to have been a part of it. 


Driftless Forest Network/My Wisconsin Woods
Sam Blake, Field Forester

Welcome to our NEW Driftless Forest Network Forester Sam Blake!


A few words from Sam:  I grew up in the small city of Merrill, Wisconsin. Exploring the abundance of forests in the area first sparked my interest in the outdoors.  After high school, I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Forest Science. While attending school and on summer breaks, I conducted field and lab work for a university research project in Northern Wisconsin as well as the Indiana DNR.


Once I graduated college, I moved to Utah and took a job with the US Forest Service. I worked on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, mainly managing forests affected by Mountain Pine Beetle. I lived in this area for about two years where I spent the majority of my free time hiking and skiing.


For the last year and a half, I have been working as a forester with the Wisconsin DNR on state and private lands throughout Southwest Wisconsin.  Living and working in this part of the state has definitely had it perks for me while spending time outdoors. 


Grazing Initiative
Dennis Rooney, Grazing Specialist

Managed Dairy Grazing Aids Trout Stream Health

By Ted Pennekamp of Courier Press, Prairie du Chien

(printed with permission)


On May 17 on the Dennis Rooney Farm near Steuben, about 40 people took part in a pasture-stream walk which showed, contrary to many opinions, that managed dairy cow grazing and a healthy trout stream can go hand in hand.  In fact, managed grazing is good for the cows, good for the stream and its trout, and good for the farmer's bottom line.


"All around it's just better for everything," said Dave Vetrano, a retired Wisconsin DNR fisheries biologist with more than 33 years of cold water stream management in the Driftless Region.


"Managed grazing systems have the potential to fundamentally rebuild dairy farming again," said Vetrano, who led the pasture-stream walk.  "It's less expensive, it's healthier for the animals, and it's better for the stream."


Vetrano explained that with managed grazing, the paddock is part of the stream and the cows are only grazing in a given area for a short time, (sometimes just for one day), before being rotated to a different area.


He said that the cows are only eating the top part of the grass, which is the highest in protein.  The grass then has a chance for a recovery period.  "It's not stressing out the plant," said Vetrano, who noted that cows are evolved in order to eat grasses rather than corn or soybeans.  When eating grass, the cows' stomach bacteria does not need to change as it does when they are fed grain.  In addition, the farmer does not need to plant corn or soybeans, thereby eliminating that time and expense.  Also, cows have less hoof problems in a managed grazing system.


Vetrano said that managed grazing stops boxelder or willow trees from becoming established.  Willow trees attract beaver, which can be detrimental to a stream.  Streams also depend upon sunlight for invertebrate production.  The stream side plants are not overgrazed and pounded down, and thereby are the home for more insects, which in turn are a good food source for trout and other species such as frogs.


Vetrano said that managed grazing allows the stream to remain an open corridor.  The taller stream side plants also greatly reduce nutrient runoff, sediment transfer and erosion, while promoting greater ground water percolation.  "Perennial grass cover and vegetation is good," said Vetrano, who noted that such a stream will remain unchanged for a very long time.


Vetrano said that managed grazing is very adaptable to any given farm and that the cows can graze on what grows.


Vetrano said that managed grazing can only help the already excellent trout population on streams throughout the Driftless Region.  "Trout fishing is a $1.1 billion industry in the Driftless Region and growing," he said.


Vetrano noted that it is not unusual to find streams in La Crosse, Vernon, Monroe and Crawford counties with 2,000-3,000 trout per mile.  Most streams in these counties have become self-sustaining, naturally reproducing trout streams in which general stocking has not been needed in the last several years.


This pasture-stream walk was offered by The Kickapoo Grazing Initiative, a collaboration between the Valley Stewardship Network and Trout Unlimited, with support from the Wallace Center of Winrock International.

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