Involving Local Citizens in Protecting Wisconsin's Waterways

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					Community, Natural Resource and Economic Development Impact Report

Involving Local Citizens in Protecting Wisconsin’s Waterways
                                        Situation                                    Response
                                        With more than 86,000 miles of               To improve stream monitoring efforts
                                        streams and 15,000 lakes, monitoring         and make better use of the informa-
                                        the quality of Wisconsin’s water             tion gathered by citizens, the
                                        resources is an enormous task.               University of Wisconsin-Extension
                                        Protecting streams and lakes is essen-       enlisted a team of professionals repre-
                                        tial to maintaining the state’s quality      senting schools, municipalities, coun-
                                        of life, and to supporting the natural       ties, universities and interest groups to
“If people can understand the
                                        resource-based tourism that plays a          develop uniform monitoring methods
effects on the lake, then they          major role in Wisconsin’s economy.           for citizen volunteers.
                                        Travelers spent nearly $9 billion in         The resulting methods were cost-
will start to care about the            2007, with $1.2 billion of that attrib-      effective and simple enough to be
                                        uted to anglers who came to fish on          performed by a broad spectrum of cit-
streams in their backyard and           Wisconsin’s lakes and streams.               izens. Beyond introducing citizens to
                                        One way to help protect Wisconsin’s          uniform water monitoring techniques,
water quality in general.”              water resources is by engaging local         UW-Extension worked to improve
         —Georgia Jannsen,              citizens in understanding how water          information-sharing among interest
Eau Claire area citizen water monitor   ecosystems work and how people’s             groups, and to build relationships
                                        activities on the land affect the state’s    between biologists and citizens.
“I have really replaced my fish-        waterways.                                   Through a partnership of the UW-
                                        Involving citizens in monitoring the         Extension, the Wisconsin Department
ing with water monitoring.”             water quality of local streams is a          of Natural Resources (DNR), and the
         —Jim Hlaban, 31-year           strategy that has achieved positive          River Alliance of Wisconsin, the
member of Fox Valley Chapter of         results in Wisconsin. In the mid-1990s,      statewide monitoring program cur-
Trout Unlimited                         many citizens’ groups conducted              rently provides over 350 adults and
                                        stream monitoring, but because the           1,600 students with opportunities to
                                        monitoring methods varied from               learn about and help improve the
                                        group to group, the results often            quality of Wisconsin’s streams and
                                        weren’t comparable. In addition, there       rivers every year. In addition, citizen
                                                                was no central       monitor programs now help build col-
                                                                location for the     laborative relationships between citi-
                                                                information          zens and water resources mangers.
                                                                once it was col-     One group that has experienced great
                                                                lected, making       success with citizen monitoring is the
                                                                it hard for biolo-   Central Wisconsin Chapter of Trout
                                                                gists and others     Unlimited (CWTU). Starting with 25
                                                                to access. In        participants in 2005, the group’s par-
                                                                general, a           ticipation has now doubled, with citi-
                                                                disconnect           zens monitoring 30 sites in a five-
                                                                seemed to exist      county area. The CWTU has partnered
                                                                between natu-        with local Land Conservation
                                                                ral resource         Departments and DNR biologists on a
                                                                managers and         variety of projects, such as monitoring
                                                                citizens.            a stream to document conservation
efforts that could remove the stream       Some citizen-generated data, such as    Beyond the state’s borders, Wisconsin’s
from the state’s impaired waters list.     that collected by the CWTU group, are   Cooperative Extension, in partnership
The group also uses the data it collects   input directly to the DNR’s online      with the University of Rhode Island-
to support restoration efforts.            database for use in assessments by      Cooperative Extension, provides
“We now have a reason and a ration-        state biologists.                       national leadership for building coop-
ale for picking which stream to          Citizen monitors have also assisted       eration, communication and collabora-
restore,” says chapter member Bob        with research projects that have made tion among Extension volunteer water
Hasse.“The most viable factor for our    an impact in Wisconsin and beyond.        monitoring programs across the
restoration purposes is temperature. If For example, citizen monitors part-        nation. The network has grown from
we have too high of a temperature in     nered with researchers at the UW-         28 statewide programs with sponsor-
a stream, it won't support a trout       Madison Center for Limnology to iden- ship or support from Extension in
population.”                             tify the types of crayfish found in vari- 2001 to more than 50 today—many,
                                         ous state waterbodies. The citizens’      like Wisconsin, with multiple local
Another group that has developed a
trusted working relationship with the    data were used together with informa- chapters.
local DNR biologist is based in the Eau tion gathered by DNR and university        This combined effort has spawned a
Claire area. Georgia Janssen, one of the staff to develop maps showing the         series of learning modules to help
group’s volunteers, reports that the     locations of various types of crayfish    local volunteer monitoring programs
local biologist asked her to collect     across the state.                         develop and grow. The modules are
water samples as part of a long-term                                               available at
statewide trend study being conduct-
ed by the DNR. The data that she and
                                           Outcomes                                More information about the Citizen-
                                         Since 2006, DNR staff have used citi-
her monitoring partners collect will be                                            based Stream Monitoring program
                                         zen-collected stream monitoring data
used to develop criteria for phospho-                                              can be found at:
                                         to assess both long-term trends and
rus concentrations in surface water                                      
                                         the potential for streams to support
and may also help determine effluent                                               news/MonitoringLevelsFactSheet2009Feb.pdf
                                         trout populations. The data are also
limits for point source dischargers. Her                                           and at
                                         used to focus broader monitoring
group continues to monitor local                                         
                                         efforts in areas where volunteer moni-
streams to help with resource restora-
                                         toring unearthed information needing
tion and protection efforts.
                                         further analysis.                         For more information, contact:
“We see evidence of concerns about
                                         With leadership from UW-Extension,        Kristine Stepenuck
the water quality in our local lake,”
                                         the volunteer stream monitoring pro-         Volunteer stream monitoring
Janssen says.“If people can under-
                                         gram has grown to support 62 citi-           coordinator
stand the effects on the lake, then
                                         zens’ groups that monitor to collect         Environmental Resources Center
they will start to care about the
                                         locally used baseline data, to support       608-265-3887
streams in their backyard and water
                                         DNR biologists in collecting informa-
quality in general.”
                                         tion to make management decisions
Volunteer stream monitors who col-       about the state’s stream resources, and
lect data enter their findings in an     to support ongoing research projects.
online database. The information is
                                         In 2008 alone, citizens monitored 340
checked by coordinators before it is
                                         stream sites across the state and have
made available to the public. The data-
                                         logged more than 8,700 site visits
base includes automated graphing
                                         since 1997, when the program began.
capabilities which allow users to com-
pare a site’s results over time or to
compare results between sites.

                                                                                              Photo by Kris Stepenuck

                   University of Wisconsin, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Wisconsin counties cooperating.
       UW-Extension provides equal opportunities in employment and programming, including Title IX and ADA requirements.
                                                          July 2009

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