Weister Creek project highlighted on Driftless Area tour

Participants walk along the site of recent restoration on Weister Creek as Project Manager Paul Hayes briefs them on the project. (Photo by Gillian Pomplun, Crawford County Independent.)

One of the more notable projects in the Wisconsin part of Trout Unlimited’s Driftless Area Restoration Effort in recent years has been the Weister Creek project near La Farge.

The fourth year of the five-year project was completed in late July, and in 2019 it will wrap up with the final two-thirds of a mile of work.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources trout stamp revenues, donations from the Kickapoo Valley Reserve (KVR), local conservation and tribal donations, and more than $60,000 from Wisconsin TU and Illinois TU chapters and TUDARE have helped cover the costs. Total costs will be just over $600,000 when the fifth phase is completed in 2019.

Project Manager Paul Hayes has shepherded the project from its planning stages. During the recent TUDARE annual fall bus tour, he and DNR La Crosse Area Trout Habitat Team Leader Mike Leonard, along with KVR Property Manager Jason Leis, briefed tour participants on the many aspects of this project.

Its instream habitat work is innovative, incorporating many of the large trees removed from the river corridor and including many features aimed at nongame species such as snakes, frogs, turtles, shorebirds, songbirds and small mammals.

The corridor management will include regular controlled burns and establishment of native species.

Small side tributaries, spawning grounds for brook and brown trout, were protected, and spring flows are expected to continue to increase.

KVR director Marcy West spoke about the history of the Reserve, its local board of control and co-management with the Ho-Chunk Nation. It’s a tremendously popular area for recreationists and nature lovers.

Recent flooding in this area, with up to 23 inches of rain over a 10-day period, left little impact on this restored area. A couple of nearby residents stopped to inquire about the tour, and credited the project with reducing flooding impacts significantly compared to past events.

This was TUDARE’s 12th Annual Project tour, featuring projects across the entire Driftless Area. We’re looking for suggestions for the 2019 tour.

To learn more about TU’s Driftless Area Restoration Effort, including ways to get involved, visit the program’s Facebook page or email TUDARE program director Jeff Hastings at jeff.hastings@TU.org or outreach coordinator Duke Welter at duke.welter@tu.org.

By Mark Taylor. A native of rural southern Oregon, Mark Taylor has lived in Virginia since serving a stint as a ship-based naval officer in Norfolk. He joined the TU staff in 2014 after a 20-year run as a newspaper journalist, the final 16 as the outdoors editor of the Roanoke Times. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in Roanoke with his wife and, when they're home from college, his twin daughters.