When a colleague asked Sand County Foundation to become involved in the Baraboo River Restoration efforts in the late 1990s, I distinctly remember turning the offer down. At Sand County Foundation, we focus our efforts on projects that can be replicated. Dam removals are each unique and can rarely be “replicated” in the true sense of the word.
Over time, we began to realize that, although a project of this nature could not be duplicated, the general principles and lessons learned could certainly serve as a model for other river and floodplain improvement projects based on science, education, and partnerships. So in 1999, Sand County Foundation joined the numerous other partners to remove the dams and create a free-flowing Baraboo River. We saw an opportunity to focus our efforts on the removal of the LaValle Dam. With partnership funding from the Bradley Fund for the Environment and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, among others, Sand County Foundation was able to coordinate the successful removal of the LaValle Dam while at the same time creating leading-edge research opportunities. More importantly, this was done in such a way that dam owner rights were respected and the community was actively involved in the project.
As we have arrived at the ten year anniversary of our initial involvement, we are taking this opportunity to revisit the influential river restoration project. Sand County Foundation feels that it is important to document this story, because it illustrates what is possible when community members, government agencies, and non-government organizations work together to improve a waterway, leading to better fish and wildlife habitat, economic revitalization, and enhanced recreational opportunities. We sat down and spoke with many of the individuals who were involved and even canoed down stretches of the river’s free-flowing waters. What did we learn? What is still happening, in a conservation sense, along the river today? These are all questions that are addressed in the following restoration biography.
We hope this story proves to be both insightful and entertaining. We appreciate your interest and hope the evidence and the perspectives inspire you to become involved in the care of your local watershed or river.
Brent M. Haglund, Ph.D.
Sand County Foundation
Read the full report: Running Free: The Baraboo Restoration Story