Farmers’ Fields Transformed to 

Help Wildlife and Water Retention

Restoring habitat on the site of former Wisconsin farmland has helped reduce runoff, created a home for wildlife and created outdoor recreation for people in the community.


Flooded farmland will cause manure, fertilizer, and sediment to flow off the land into nearby river systems. Increased nutrients in the watershed can cause algal blooms, and too much sediment can block up a river. The Big Muskego Lakes Wildlife Area has taken former agriculture fields that experienced flooding and returned them to a mix of prairie habitat, wetland areas, and forested land. A conservation easement on the property means that it will be permanently managed in a way that protects this environment. Returning the land to a mix of habitats not only helps prevent flooding and nutrient build-up downstream, but it also provides habitat for wildlife not often found in southern Wisconsin. With 25 acres of grassland prairie and 23 acres of wetlands, the Big Muskego Lakes Wildlife Area provides a habitat for wildlife, a buffer to absorb floodwaters, and a beautiful recreation area for people in the community.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Flooding
  • Nutrient pollution
  • Sediment build up
  • Lack of wetlands and grasslands in Wisconsin


A wetland landscape in Wisconsin

One of the wetland sites in the Big Muskego Lakes Wildlife Area, pictured in September 2012, that is helping to reduce flooding, while providing a home to wildlife. Photo credit: Conservation Fund.

Results and Accomplishments

The Big Muskego Lakes Wildlife Area has restored multiple habitat types, diversifying options for wildlife and reducing nutrient and sediment loading into nearby rivers. Wetlands on the 274-acre property, as well as Dumke Lake, mitigate the flood potential from storm events. In total, the Wildlife Area has the ability to absorb and hold about 18 million gallons of water on site thereby moderating flood risk and sequestering nutrients and sediments that could otherwise harm the Great Lakes.