Dane, Sauk, and Columbia Counties

Empire-Sauk Chapter


There are lots of opportunities to turn your prairie enthusiasm into action! The Empire-Sauk's 2015-16 Late Fall/Winter Work Party Schedule is now available. Please note that additional work parties may be scheduled as necessary. Be sure to contact Diane Hills at volunteers@theprairieenthusiasts.org to add your name to the chapter's email list.

The Blue Mounds Area Project is offering a series of talks that may be of interest

The Empire Sauk Chapter celebrated the Parrish Oak Savanna with a site dedication recently!
In the 1960’s, this site was recognized as an ecologically significant by Orie Loucks of UW Madison Botany Dept and friend of the property owners, Roland and Avis Parrish. They called the site Talinum Ridge after the fame flower (Talinum regospurmum) which Dr. Loucks identified on site. Beginning in 2003, Ken Wade developed burn breaks and conducted prescribed burns with The Prairie Enthusiasts on the property, and worked on invasive plant removal. In Dec of 2013, The Prairie Enthusiasts purchased the site with funds provided by the owners - Kurt Stiemke, Don Stiemke, and Kristin Hardesty, by Ken Wade and Patricia Troechel, the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Fund, and the Dane County Conservation Fund. A fund for management of the site was established by Ken Wade and Patricia Troechel, who will continue to serve as site stewards.

Contact Diane Hills at volunteers@ThePrairieEnthusiasts.org or (608) 239-4699 to receive work parties notices.

Newly acquired Thomas property will be under the care of Empire Sauk Chapter.
See more about the project.


In 2013 The Prairie Enthusiasts acquired title to a new site, Smith-Reiner Drumlin Prairie, near Cambridge, WI. See this link for details.

Typical wildflower view of the Smith-Reiner Drumlin Prairie. (Rich Henderson photo)

For information on other volunteer opportunities with the Empire-Sauk Chapter, send an email to the Volunteer Coordinator. (volunteers@theprairieenthusiasts.org)

Download new brochure (1.3 MB) on grassland birding at Empire-Sauk properties.

Who We Are

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. One of our sites, the Mounds View Grassland, is part of the Southwest Wisconsin Grassland and Stream Conservation Area SWGSCA).

Click here for an overview of our sites.

Interns Although our work is carried out principally by volunteers, the Empire-Sauk Chapter also has a summer intern program open to college and university students.

Volunteers 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 Southwest Wisconsin Grassland and Stream Conservation Area (SWGSCA).

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.


Susan Collecting SeedsThroughout 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


Hunting on Prairie Enthusiasts properties

For hunting policies and a list of properties where hunting is permitted, go to this link.

Site design by Carol Hassler ~ Banner photo by Frank Hassler