Goose Pond is a prairie pothole, one of the most threatened types of wetlands in the world and a mecca for wildlife. These potholes were formed by chunks of glaciers breaking off and compressing the ground underneath while very slowly melting. Now, thousands of years later, these ponds are filled and refilled each year by rain, snowmelt, and run-off from surrounding land. These shallow wetlands provide abundant nourishment for many levels of the food chain, from plants to insects, small mammals and amphibians to waterfowl (migratory and resident). They’re biodiversity hotspots.
They’re also in danger of destruction in Wisconsin. These shallow ponds with fluctuating water levels fall under the "non-federal" or “isolated" wetlands category. Current proposed legislation seeks to eliminate any permitting or oversight by agencies like the WDNR and would allow developers to destroy and build over these wildlife havens.
They say Wisconsin is only one of a handful of states that protects isolated wetlands. But 20% (!!) of Wisconsin’s wetlands, including Goose Pond, fall into this category. That is A LOT of wetlands! They say this legislation will be good for business. But at what expense, and on what timeframe? Destroying the resources that support the natural environment for short-term gain is beyond short-sighted; it’s selfish. They say this will actually be good for the environment by allowing taxpayer dollars to be redirected to protecting higher quality wetlands. But you only need five minutes at a place like Goose Pond to know that this place has extraordinary value to biodiversity, as well as the people who appreciate it.
Fortunately, because of over 6 decades of Madison Audubon’s members’ and donors’ efforts and generosity, Goose Pond is safe. It is under MAS ownership, under a conservation easement, and under the protective wing of every nature nut who has laid eyes on it.
But not every isolated wetland is so lucky. You can make a difference. Contact your legislators. Post about your favorite isolated wetland in Wisconsin, and ask your friends to get involved. Reject the spin that makes it all sound fine. Take a stand for the long-view.
Written by Brenna Marsicek, Madison Audubon communications director