Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 101 South Webster Street, Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707
Estimates of the total pre-European settlement wetland area from original government land surveys in the early 1800's and from modern soil surveys show that a minimum of 4 million ha of wetlands once existed in Wisconsin. Over the past 200 years, approximately one-half of this wetland area has been destroyed. Recent inventories indicate that the destruction of wetlands by filling, draining, ditching, agriculture, highway construction, and other land development continues at an accelerated rate.
Wisconsin's most recent attempt to protect the remaining wetland area was the creation of a new chapter in Wisconsin's Administrative Code. This rule establishes water quality standards, requires an evaluation of whether the proposed activity is wetland dependent or would significantly affect the wetland, and identifies areas of special natural resource interest where wetland protection is especially critical. The impacts of this rule include allowing the Department of Natural Resources to deny certification of Corps of Engineers permits for projects where a reasonable alternative is available, or if the project would harm a wetland based on water-quality standards.
In addition to protection, there is an increased effort to acquire, restore, and enhance wetlands in Wisconsin. This activity is, at least in part, due to Wisconsin's commitment to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, and more specifically the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture. The goal is to annually secure in perpetuity 374 ha of wetland, and restore or enhance 1,198 ha of wetland on public and private lands using creative partnership incentives.