Prescribed burn at Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie, an outstanding prairie that is owned by The Prairie Enthusiasts.
The Empire-Sauk Chapter manages and restores 39 prairie and oak savanna sites with over 1000 acres in southcentral Wisconsin. Our main focus is on the conservation and protection of these cherished sites. Currently we manage sites in Dane, Sauk, and eastern Iowa counties.
Our work is carried out principally by volunteers, who participate in all parts of the restoration process. Activities include control of invasive weeds and brush, seed collecting and planting, controlled burns, monitoring and data collection, trail maintenance, plant and animal surveys and inventories, landowner contact and outreach, guiding public tours, presentations to public groups, land protection, development of educational materials and displays, equipment maintenance, and facilities improvement (barn renovation, bridge construction, fencing, posting, etc.).
Volunteering provides unparalled opportunities to learn about and participate in prairie, savanna, and oak woodland ecology, restoration, and management. We work year around. In the fall of the year seed collecting is a major activity.
|Burning a black line at a prescribed burn at Schurch-Thomson Prairie.|
|Cutting honeysuckle, prickly ash, and other invasive shrubs on the Steege-Euclide property.|
|All cut stems are treated with herbicide to prevent resprout. (The red dye helps to ensure that all cut stems are treated.)|
We work cooperatively with other environmental groups, including The Nature Conservancy, the Ice Age Trail, the Blue Mounds Area Project, the Driftless Area Land Conservancy, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. One of our principal projects involves management and restoration of preserves that are part of the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area.
The "Empire" in our name comes from the vast Empire (or Arlington) Prairie that once occupied major parts of Dane and Columbia Counties, centered on the crossroads community of Leeds, Wisconsin. This prairie was often called "twenty mile prairie", reflecting the distance required to cross it.
With over 250 members in the greater Madison area, we offer numerous opportunities for working and learning about prairie and oak savanna restoration.Throughout the year, the Empire Sauk Chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts sponsors many different volunteer activities. These activities include:
- Seed Collecting late summer and fall
- Brush cutting late fall and winter
- Field Trips in spring/summer/fall
- Prescribed Prairie and Savanna Burns in spring
- Educational Activities (especially the Annual Conference, held in March
- Volunteer work days in Fall, Winter, and Spring