Stream Restoration Projects

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Stream restoration not only creates healthy trout populations, but has many other benefits as well. (Photo courtesy of TUDARE)


TUDARE to help restore streams in 

Crawford County, organization works toward making 

Driftless Area a showcase of what restoration can be

By Ted Pennekamp


An organization named Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort (TUDARE) has several projects scheduled for 2017 and subsequent seasons including some in Crawford and Vernon County streams, says TUDARE representative John “Duke” Welter.

Each year, for the past 12 years, TUDARE has helped volunteers and agencies plan and fund projects across the Driftless Area. This year, there were about 30 projects scheduled but TUDARE got to about 20 of them because of the spate of flooding incidents. In its 12 years, TUDARE helped with more than 200 projects, raised more than $40 million, and worked to help obtain about 425 miles of new public access across the region, said Welter.

“We have been talking with landowners and agencies and are doing groundwork for some good projects,” said Welter. “If all goes well, we’d like to get projects underway on Citron Creek and Tainter Creek next year.”

“There’s a lot of interest in projects. Each one has to be developed separately with a localized partnership, each seeking funding,” Welter said. “Even though a lot of it comes from bigger pots of money TUDARE has secured from agencies like the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the USDA. Funding for some projects has been applied for with NRCS and other sources, and will be decided upon in the next couple of months. In the meantime, our partners are also working on designs and permits.” 

Welter said that TUDARE, headquartered in Westby, Wis., helps to increase access points and to restore stream banks for the benefit of trout populations, wildlife, trout anglers, and landowners.

“It helps the farmers not to have streams migrating all over the place,” he said. “It’s good for agriculture and to help stop erosion of stream banks. It’s also good for the safety of cattle and other livestock who are at risk of collapsing steep, eroded banks. Stream bank restoration makes for narrower, deeper streams and keeps the banks in place.”

One method TUDARE employs is to have 60-foot-wide grass strips for hay as buffers next to streams. “Where streams are restored, there’s no washing out and the banks hold well,” said Welter. “The landowners really like it.” Welter said that TUDARE also clears trees that have fallen into streams.

Restored streams improve water quality and improve not only trout habitat and help promote naturally reproducing, self sustaining trout populations, they help to heal the uplands and improve habitat for other wildlife as well, said Welter.

“Restored streams benefit crops such as corn and beans and also benefit species such as frogs, snakes, turtles, shore birds, minnows and many others,” Welter said. “We like to benefit as many species as we can.”

Welter noted that TUDARE works with agencies such as the Wisconsin DNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NRCS, along with local organizations such as rod and gun clubs.

“Area schools also get a kind of lab before and after a project,” he said. “Students become our next stewards.”

In the past, lunker structures which make undercut banks where trout can hide, were popular in restoration efforts. There are probably 10,000 lunker structures in the Driftless Area, said Welter. Now, however, lunker structures aren’t constructed much anymore. Welter said that other types of structures using native materials and log weirs have been used much more. “We’re trying different techniques,” he said. “We employ what works best in that stream.”

Tours each year of restoration efforts show how well each restoration has held up. The vast majority have held up quite well, said Welter, who noted that it’s a continual learning experience.

Welter said that TUDARE holds workshops each spring for organizations and volunteers involving project planning and grant writing.

Along with farming and habitat benefits, Welter pointed out that stream restoration has helped to create jobs and has a positive economic impact because recreational angling brings in about $1.1 billion to the Driftless Area.

Welter said that TUDARE has acquired $5.3 million and will be working with the NRCS, the DNR and sportsmen’s groups to do restoration work on 10 tributaries of the Kickapoo River within the next three years. 

For all of its work, TUDARE was recently informed that the organization will be inducted during a ceremony in 2017 into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame headquartered in Hayward, Wis.

“We’re really tickled to join that group,” said Welter. “We’re proud and humbled. We are working towards having the Driftless Area become a showcase for the whole country of what restoration can be.”

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