Natural Resource Profile

(last updated 9/17/13)

Columbia County Natural Resources Profile

This is Columbia County Land & Water Conservation Department’s Land and Water Resource Management Plan.  Their assistance is greatly appreciated in updating this information.  Below are highlights of this plan.  The entire Resource Management Plan can be found at:   http://www.co.columbia.wi.us/columbiacounty/Portals/16/2011%20LWRM%20Plan%20Final.pdf.

County Overview:

Columbia County is located in the south central part of Wisconsin.  It covers about 774 square miles and has a total land area of about 495,300 acres. It has a county population of 54,802 (2003). There are 56 lakes totaling 11,982 acres, of which Lake Wisconsin is the largest with a total acreage of 9,000 acres.  It also has 50 miles of trout streams and includes 35 miles of the Wisconsin River.  Portage is the County seat and largest city with a population estimated at 9,800. There are 4 cities, 10 villages and 21 civil townships are within Columbia County.  Agriculture encompasses 296,236 acres or 60% of the county, making it the main land use.

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Development and Land Use Trends:

Columbia County continues to be dominated by a mixture of agricultural land, forests and wetlands. Residential development has been primarily located in and around smaller cities and villages. However, the counties relatively close proximity to the Madison metropolitan area and the increasing growth of the area’s commuting shed is beginning to put increasing development pressures on the southern portion of Columbia County. This southern area is within easy commuting distance to Madison. Communities such as Lodi and Poynette will continue to see Madison growth pressure. Townships such as West Point, Lodi, Arlington and Leeds, which lie in the southern portion of the County, contain many of our most productive prime soils. Balancing the emerging development values for these areas with their value in agricultural production will continue to be a tough challenge. The LWCD is working closely within the Smart Growth planning process to try and develop an approach that will value all the needs of future growth and agricultural preservation. Columbia County is experiencing rapid population growth. We have experienced a 16% increase since 1990. This compared to the statewide average of 9.6%. Proper land use planning and implementation of that planning will be very important for the future of Columbia County and for sound resource management and conservation. The Working Lands Initiative will provide some tools to work towards continued preservation of agricultural areas.

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Agricultural Trends:

Farm numbers within Columbia County are on the decline and remaining farms are shrinking in land base each year. Animal numbers related to dairy farms are on the decline opening the door for more cash grain operations. The face of agriculture is changing in Columbia County. Pressures related to low milk prices, tight profit margins, competition for land (agricultural, residential and recreational) and off-farm labor opportunities are all part of the mix.

Columbia County has 1,526 farms with an average size of 228 Acres. There are 211 dairy farms, over 500 beef, sheep and hog farms plus everything from large cash grain operations of 500-1000 acres to 5-10 acre fresh market vegetable producers. Collectively farmers own and manage 348,396 acres of land. Field crops, dairy, cattle and calves, poultry products and vegetables are primary commodities in Columbia County. Horticulture is growing in Columbia County. Sand and muck soils found in the Wisconsin and Fox River systems support commercial vegetable and mint production. High quality prairie soils in the southern and northeastern parts of the County put the area in the top 10 for corn and soybean production. Evidence of this, perhaps, is the efforts of local farmers who organized the United Wisconsin Grain Producers, Inc., to build Wisconsin’s fourth ethanol plant near Friesland in the northeast corner of the county. Columbia County currently has 3 livestock operations that exceed 1000 animal units and are permitted under a WDNR WPDES permit. They include Blue Star Dairy projected 3089 a.u., Pulfus Poultry projected 1096 a.u and UW Arlington Research Station projected 1880 a.u.  *Information provided by Columbia County UWEX and WDNR.

Agriculture is big business in Columbia County. It has an overall $672 million dollar annual impact. Agriculture provides 5,312 jobs in Columbia County, which is 18% of the workforce. For every new dollar of agricultural income, an additional $1.07 of county income is generated. Dairy is the largest part of Columbia County agriculture. Providing for a strong dairy future in Columbia County is not only financially important but also is important for the utilization of forages in crop rotations and resulting soil erosion implications. *Information provided by Columbia County UWEX.

Wind Farm interest has grown in Columbia County over the last several years. One wind farm is under construction in the NE portion of the County with interest growing in other portions of the County. Balancing the role wind power generation will play in the rural landscape will be an important issue over the next decade in Columbia County.

The future of dairy and livestock production in Columbia County will depend on our ability to manage demand for agricultural land and our ability to provide adequate land base to address phosphorous-based nutrient management into the future.

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Geology and Topography:

The entire county is underlain with Precambrian bedrock of which is igneous or metamorphic.  Some bedrock outcrop through the Cambrian layer of sandstone, siltstone, shale and dolomite can also be found.  (See Appendix B)

Preglacial, glacial and postglacial erosion formed the bedrock topography surface.  Most of the bedrock valleys were part of a preglacial drainage system.

The bedrock surface ranges from about 500 feet above sea level in some valleys, to about 1,400 feet above sea level, west of the Wisconsin River.  Bedrock valleys that underlay and control present surface drainage are filled with drift that form important aquifers.

The drift is largely glacial sediment laid down by the Green Bay lobe during Wisconsin Glaciation, but they also include some alluvium and marsh deposits.  Distinctive landforms (end moraine, ground moraine, outwash and lake plains) resulting from glaciation are composed of sediment types determined by their mode of deposition.  (See Appendix C)

The topography of Columbia County generally consists of a ground moraine with gentle slopes. (See Appendix D)  The valleys of Neenah Creek and the Fox River occupy an area of glacial lake deposits characteristically broad and flat.  Land surface elevations vary from the Baraboo area west of the Wisconsin River (elev. 1200-1400 feet) to the Wisconsin River at Prairie du Sac (elev. 740 feet).  The divide that separates the Wisconsin River and Rock River Watershed is 1,000 feet to 1,150 feet above sea level. *Information taken from 1978 Soil Survey of Columbia County.

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Fishery Resources:

The waters of Columbia County provide a diverse fishery resource.  There are eight named trout streams (50 miles), which represent the highest level of water quality.  Stocking maintains about 80% of these waters, as they lack habitat conditions necessary for natural reproduction.  Presently, wild strain trout stocking provides 3 times higher survival rates than previous domestic strain stock.  Trout requires a high standard of water quality.  Thus, it is extremely important that good land use practices are conducted in these watersheds. Increasing impervious surface areas from urban development in Lodi and Poynette areas have the potential to increase water temperatures and will push the water temperature tolerance levels to the limit. Proper storm water management is of the utmost performance.

Agricultural impacts of livestock, soil erosion and chemicals continue to require best management practices.  Many watersheds of the county contain some trout water.  They include the Jennings/Roelke Creek system and the receiving portion of the north branch of Duck Creek.  Upper Prentice Creek above Highway 78 supports a native brook trout fishery up into its headwaters in Sauk County.  Lodi Creek, which arises from a large spring complex in Dane County, supports trout throughout, however, because of natural reproduction within the City of Lodi, contains its best trout population on its lower reach.  The Rowan Creek drainage and a tributary, Hinkson Creek, are the gems of the trout resource, not only in the county but the southern portion of the State.  Upper Rowan supports an excellent native brown trout resource and Hinkson, native brook trout.  Finally, eight miles of the middle portion of Rocky Run Creek maintains water quality that supports stocked browns and some native brook trout.  The Mud Lake Waterfowl Area impounds its headwaters and many miles of stream from there down to Highway 22 have been ditched.  Below Highway 22, increased spring flow and an unaltered creek corridor, reestablish water quality.  In addition to proper land-use practices, beaver activities have a significant impact on water quality. Therefore, trapping and dam removals are critical to preserving our trout waters.

There are nine waters, larger than 50 acres within Columbia County, which support warm water fisheries.  They include Lake Columbia, Dates Millpond, Lazy Lake, Long Lake, Park Lake, Silver Lake, Swan Lake, Lake Wyona, 9,000-acre Lake Wisconsin and the 35 miles of Wisconsin River upstream to the Kilbourn Dam in Wisconsin Dells.  Significant smaller waters that contain significant fisheries are West Lake, Tarrant Lake, Spring Lake, Lake George, Curtis Lake and Crystal Lake (east of Pardeeville).  Warm water streams in the county with sport fish importance include the lower Baraboo River, Big Slough/Neenah Creek, Crawfish River and tributaries, Duck Creek system and the Fox River. Dominant sport fish species in most of these waters include largemouth bass, northern pike, bluegill and crappie. Swan Lake supports an excellent stocked walleye and musky fishery and Silver Lake also has stocked musky.  In addition, two waters support other significant fisheries.  They are Lake Columbia with hybrid striped bass, catfish, smallmouth and largemouth bass and the Lake Wisconsin/Wisconsin River fishery of walleye, sauger, white bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, musky and lake sturgeon.

Chronic detrimental factors affecting warm water resources are sedimentation, agricultural ditching (wetland loss), high levels of nutrients and development activities near riparian zones.  Acute influences from agricultural chemicals and manure occur infrequently, but are direct causes of catastrophic fish kills.  Loss of spawning areas and fish habitat, periodic low oxygen levels and over abundant aquatic plant growth are problems common to most waters.  In addition, fish passage at both dams on the Wisconsin River should be sought.  The dams act as barriers to natural fish movement on the river and allow for significant downstream movement out of Lake Wisconsin.  Several fish and mussel species occur downstream from the dam at Prairie du Sac and not above.  Most noteworthy are the paddlefish, shovelnose sturgeon and blue sucker.  Lake sturgeon inhabited the Wisconsin River upstream to Stevens Point, however, due to pollution from paper mills and several dams constructed during the early 1900’s, their distribution for practical purposes is now limited to waters downstream from the Wisconsin Dells dam.  Reintroduction efforts are underway to restore them to their original range.  Studies show significant downstream movement of walleye and sauger downstream from Lake Wisconsin and Bluegill are a dominant species in the tailrace fishery below Lake Wisconsin, which also occur there from downstream movement. The recent removal of the last three dams on the Baraboo River are allowing a segment of the Wisconsin River fishery (i.e. Smallmouth bass, walleye, sauger and catfish) to utilize areas of the Baraboo as summer habitat. In addition the 5 miles of riffles in Baraboo will allow for walleye, sucker, sturgeon and eventually paddlefish spawning. Both upstream and downstream fish passage at the Prairie du Sac dam has been recently ordered by the Federal government to re-establish natural fish and mussel movement.  Diurnal fluctuating discharge, from the dam at the Dells, for the tour boat operations during low water periods, cause two to four feet water level changes, which negatively impact aquatic life and downstream recreation use.  Invertebrates and forage fish species, though less documented, are critical as food sources for sport fish and indicators of detrimental environmental activity.  Reduced species diversity and loss of intolerant species occur where habitat and water quality have been reduced. *This information was gathered in collaboration with WDNR fisheries staff and Basin Coordinators. Including the State of the Basin Reports for Lower Wisconsin, Rock River and Upper Fox.

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Groundwater Resources:

Groundwater resources in Columbia County are, for the most part, of good quality but issues related to nitrates are on the increase.  There has been an increasing incident of private wells exceeding the recommended safe nitrate nitrogen level of 10 mg/L (milligrams/liter) for drinking water. The nitrate problem in Columbia County is considerable. At Highway 60 and the 90/94 Interstate drillers are installing as much as 400 feet of casing to reach safe water. Much of the usable aquifer is badly contaminated with Nitrate. Agriculture is the primary source of nitrates caused by the application of Nitrogen fertilizers. There may come a time when there are no drilling solutions to the nitrate problem. Some wells in the county have tested above the state standard for atrazine levels.  To help reduce the levels of atrazine in groundwater, Atrazine Prohibition Areas are identified in the county.   This means in these areas no atrazine may be applied to the land.  Columbia County has six Atrazine Prohibition Areas, equaling about 80,000 acres, in portions of Arlington, Leeds, Hampden, Marcellon, Caledonia, Courtland, Randolph, Lewiston, Fort Winnebago, Dekorra and Lowville Townships.  For more detailed maps of the prohibition areas, see the Columbia County Land Conservation Department or Chapter ATCP 30 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code.

Two aquifers supply potable groundwater.  The sand-and-gravel aquifer supplies the groundwater for industrial, irrigation and municipal uses.  The aquifer is composed of the permeable sediments within the saturated unconsolidated materials.  The second aquifer is the sandstone aquifer.  This aquifer is an important source of water throughout the county.  It is the principal source for most municipal, industrial and private domestic supplies.  To help protect groundwater resources, all municipal wells are required to delineate a source area protection.  This is a map of the groundwater recharge areas for that municipal well and this recharge area should be protected from possible contamination.

Much of the groundwater in the county originates from precipitation.  Between 1 and 10 inches of precipitation infiltrates and recharges the ground-water resources annually.  The greatest threat to groundwater pollution occurs in areas where highly permeable sand and gravel are exposed, fractured bedrock is exposed or thinly mantled with drift, or where depth to water is less than 10 feet.  Some potential sources of contamination are from old unregulated landfills, old wells, underground storage tanks, on-site waste disposal systems, livestock manure handling and storage – including barnyards and septic disposal. *Information provided by WDNR in consultation with Adam Hogan, WDNR Groundwater Specialist.

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Surface Water Resources:

Columbia County has numerous lakes, rivers and streams.  The various lake types represented in the county are glacial, impoundments, excavations and oxbows.  There are 56 lakes covering a total of 11,982 acres, Lake Wisconsin being the largest.  The Fox, Baraboo, Wisconsin and Crawfish are the rivers that flow through Columbia County.  There are also fifty miles of trout streams with ten miles being Class I trout streams (Prentice Creek, Roelke Creek and Rowan Creek).  Many other streams, springs and ponds enhance Columbia County’s water resources.

Exceptional Water Resources

The County has four exceptional resource waters, as defined by the WDNR.  There are 3 exceptional Class I trout streams and Crystal Lake in the central portion of the county, Township of Wyocena, sections 1 and 12.  Public hunting land surrounds the lake managed by the Department of Natural Resources.

Three exceptional streams in the county include the 5 miles of Prentice Creek (Durward’s Glen Creek) above Highway 78, Roelke Creek, Section 30, T12N, R11E, to mid Duck Creek (1.0 miles) and Rowan Creek above County Highway J, above the Poynette Wastewater Treatment Plant (4.0 miles).  *Information gathered from WDNR website.

Impaired Water Resources

Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires the State to prepare a list of impaired water bodies that will remain so even after the application of technology-based standards typically applied to point sources of pollution.  The State is to identify the pollutants causing the problem, identify the sources of that pollution and develop a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of that pollution that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards.  The State is then required to set priorities for implementing strategies to meet the TMDL.

Wisconsin’s 2010-303(d) list includes water bodies in Columbia County. The Fox River from Swan Lake downstream to Portage and the Fox River north of Portage not including Buffalo Lake, the Crawfish River at the Columbus Mill pond and the Wisconsin River listed as impaired. These water bodies are listed as impaired in regards to the presence of PCB’s and/or mercury.

Lake Wisconsin and Park Lake were added to the list recently. They were added to the list related to impairments associated with eutrophication and recreational restrictions.

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Wetland Resources:

A Wisconsin Wetland Inventory has been conducted for Columbia County based on 1978 to 1979 aerial photography and a minimum size of 5 acres.  This inventory identifies 74,921 acres of wetland distributed throughout the county.  Acreage is not available for wetlands less than 5 acres in size. The wetland areas documented in the late 1970’s are probably less than half the total wetland acreage that existed in the county prior to the late 1800’s.

Three wetland habitat types are found in Columbia County; the Emergent Wetland, the Scrub-shrub Wetland and the Forested Wetland.  Each of these represents a unique ecosystem based on hydrologic conditions, vegetation and location in relationship to other wetlands, drier upland sites, or adjacent water bodies.

Many large wetland complexes are associated with the stream and river systems.  These include the Wisconsin River, Fox River, Baraboo River, Crawfish River, Neenah Creek, French Spring Creek, Duck Creek, Rowan Creek, Rocky Run Creek, Hinkson Creek, Lodi Spring Creek, Prentice Creek, Rowley Creek and Beaver Creek.  Several large wooded tamarack type wetlands include the Lewiston Marsh, Big Slough and Hampden Marsh.  There are numerous large, shallow to deep self-contained wetlands that include Mud Lake, Grassy Lake, Schoeneberg Marsh, Goose Pond, Swan Lake, Weeting Lake and Corning Lake.  Several other large, shallow to deep wetlands that are impounded include French Creek, Park Lake, Wyona Lake and Lazy Lake.

Much of the wetland drainage in the county has been a result of attempts to increase acreage suitable for agricultural production and filling for urban development.  This has resulted in degraded water quality; loss of natural filtration and storage areas, increased localized flooding and loss of important fish and wildlife habitats.  Deep, organic soil wetlands of significant acreage were drained for organic or “muck” farming operations.  However, the trend seems to be turning.

In recent years, some areas have been removed from cropland production and entered into the “Wetland Reserve Program.”  This is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their property. Since 1992 the “WRP” program has worked with over 75 Columbia County landowners to restore over 7300 acres of wetland habitat.

In addition to providing habitat for fish, waterfowl and other wildlife species, the remaining wetlands are very important for recharging of aquifers and the protection of groundwater quality.  Wetlands are extremely efficient at trapping and filtering out nutrients and sediments contained in runoff and they provide highly effective flood storage areas.  It is critical the remaining wetland resources in Columbia County are protected from further destruction.  Restoration of previously drained wetlands should be encouraged.  Existing county, state and federal regulatory protection mechanisms need to be integrated and enforced to a greater extent than they are now.  In addition, technical and financial resources for stream bank and shoreline erosion control measures need to be expanded to ensure the protection of wetlands adjacent to lakes and rivers.

Purple loosestrife is an invasive exotic plant species, which currently threatens the quality of our wetlands.  Purple loosestrife invades wetlands and shades out most native vegetation.   It drives marsh wrens and least bitterns completely from the wetland and the numbers of muskrats and waterfowl decrease dramatically. This results in elimination of our diverse wetland vegetation and any endangered or threatened plant species that may exist there.  One way to protect wetland is to stop the encroachment by invasive species. *Information gathered from multiple sources including: State of Basin Reports for Lower Wisconsin, Upper Fox and Rock River, 1978 Soil Survey of Columbia County and Priority Watershed Plans for Columbia County.

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Wildlife Resources:

Columbia County has a very diverse landscape that entails excellent farmland, numerous lakes, streams, wetlands and significant woodlands.  The total acreage of the county is 495,300 acres, of which cropland comprises 275,000 (55%), woodlands 98,000 (19%) and wetlands (i.e. farmed and unfarmed) 76,000 (15%).  Such a composite mixture means significant habitats exist for numerous wildlife species. Wildlife populations include, waterfowl, deer, turkey and many small game species (squirrel, rabbit, pheasant, grouse, etc.) and fur-bearing animals (fox, coyote, muskrat, beaver, otter, etc.).

The lakes, wetlands, rivers and stream tributaries of Columbia County have provided a prime waterfowl habitat for centuries.  The Department of Natural Resources has established several large wetland areas and stream tributary systems as state-owned wildlife area projects.  Also, under the Waterfowl Production Area Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has protected some smaller wetlands through land acquisition.  These areas and private lands, provide very good duck hunting opportunities during the fall season for primarily mallards, blue-winged teal and wood ducks.  Significant numbers of migrating Canada geese use private farm lands for feeding and resting during the fall and spring migrations.

The diverse landscape with its mixture of wildlife habitats has allowed for excellent deer population to develop.  The county has regularly been among the Wisconsin top ten counties for annual deer harvest during the past ten years, with the harvest range being 6,000 to 12,000 animals.  In the past few years, many landowners and hunters have become more selective when taking antlered deer.  Yearling bucks are being bypassed with the intent for those animals to become two or three-year-old animals and thus allow for greater antler development as “trophy sized” animals.

With this plenty comes problems. The whitetail deer population in Columbia County has remained  high in many areas, meaning 25% to 50% above over winter population goals.  Agricultural crop loss claims and deer shooting permits (25 to 35 per year) are issued annually.  Coincidentally, in 2002 a fatal deer disease “Chronic Wasting Disease” (CWD) was found in the deer population of southern Wisconsin. This included a CWD positive deer in southwest Columbia County. Much of Columbia County, specifically deer management units 70B, 70E and 70G, are included in the CWD deer management zone.

The rich woodland resources of the county also provide excellent habitat for the reintroduced wild turkey. Wild turkeys have been restored to the county and are common throughout. Spring and fall turkey hunting seasons provide considerable hunting opportunities.

The eastern and southern parts of Columbia County were historically part of a prairie grassland environment that covered much of southern and eastern Wisconsin. In an effort to maintain and restore this historic landscape, the Department of Natural Resources initiated the Glacial Habitat Restoration Area Project that includes the townships of Fountain Prairie and Courtland in eastern Columbia County. This project is designed to restore wetlands and grasslands on private lands and public lands for the benefit of mallards, blue-winged teal, pheasants and grassland songbirds.

The county also has many special “concern resources” that require protection and recognition in planning and implementing land and water resource management.  Many natural communities exist around the county associated with private and public lands and the waters of the county.  These include various wetlands, prairie and forest and oak-savannah communities.  There are 3 species of endangered plants, 10 species of threatened plants, 3 endangered bird species and 4 threatened bird species have occurred in Columbia County.  Other species of concern include 8 threatened fish species, 3 endangered reptile species, 2 threatened reptile species, 3 endangered mussel species, 3 threatened mussel species and 1 threatened butterfly insect species documented in the county.

Bald eagles are once again using Columbia County as nesting grounds. There are now 4 active nesting bald eagle pairs confirmed within the Wisconsin River and the Fox River areas. This likely has occurred due to the expanding population of eagles on a statewide basis. The increasing population of Wisconsin eagles are now seeking additional suitable habitat for nesting and can now be found further south in Columbia County.

Osprey have now reestablished their presence in Columbia County with 2 active breeding pairs and established nests along the Wisconsin River. The ospreys are primarily fish eating birds and like the eagles they are now establishing more territories in riverine habitats of southern Wisconsin.

Along with some of these large birds of prey establishing breeding territories in southern Wisconsin, in the past 5 years there have been more frequent sightings of black bear and timber wolves here in Columbia County. There were 2 or 3 black bear sightings per year and 1 to 2 timber wolf sightings have occurred. Most of these sightings occur in late spring or early summer seasons. In most cases these animals are 1 to 2 years old and most often males that have been forced from the maternal family group. Mostly they appear to be searching for new territories in these nomadic movements and generally return to the northern parts of Wisconsin. However, if those populations continue to increase these sightings will likely occur on a more continuous basis in southern Wisconsin. *Information provided by Pat Kaiser, WDNR Wildlife Biologist for Columbia County.

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Forestry Resources:

Forested land comprises about 98,000 acres or approximately 19% of the land area of Columbia County. The acreage by forest types is as follows:

Pine 13,400
Oak & Hickory 66,300
Elm, Ash, Maple 4,000
Maple & Basswood 9,800
Aspen 4,500

 

 

 

 

County growing stock is estimated at 131,400,000 cubic feet and saw-timber at 315,699,000 board feet. Quality of woodlands, like the soils of the county, vary from excellent to poor.

The demands on county woodlands are increasing on many fronts.  Development for housing, recreation and strong markets for forest products have all increased dramatically during the past few years resulting in a rise in value of wooded acreage.  The traditional woodland values of aesthetics, soil and water conservation, clean air and wildlife habitats are frequently being degraded.  The fragmentation of wooded areas is especially destructive of woodland values.  While clearing for cropland and grazing of livestock were the main threats to woodlands in the past, the development of wooded areas for housing is currently the major threat to county woodlands.  If the values of Columbia County woodlands are to be maintained, new programs and zoning ordinances are needed, along with the expanded use of current programs.

Insect pests also threaten county woodlands. Columbia County is now under gypsy moth quarantine for all lumber products. In recent years, Columbia County has participated in the WDNR Gypsy Moth Suppression program and treated just less than 1,130 acres with heavy Gypsy moth infestation.

The Managed Forest Law Program is widely used and accepted within the county as a means to gain valuable long-term forestland management. The use of Aspen clear cuts has been on the increase in Columbia County. These cuts are providing valuable wood resources and providing for new growth aspen regeneration and the cumulative wildlife resources that come along with it.

The forestry resource in Columbia County as well as statewide has forest succession occurring. The forests are heading from an oak/hickory cover type to a maple climax forest. This in turn, will cause a shift in wildlife species. Wildlife managers agree maple tree species offer very little wildlife value. Exotics such as buckthorn, black locust, honey suckle, garlic mustard and over browsing by deer is hindering all facets of the forest resource throughout Wisconsin. *Information provided by Jim Bernett, WDNR Forester Columbia County.

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Mineral Resources:

Mineral resources are abundant and contributed substantially to the development of Columbia County. Large deposits of dolomitic limestone are available and are used for agricultural lime, road paving and riprap. The glacier deposited large volumes of sand and gravel utilized for road construction and building construction.  Southeast of Portage, silicone sand is mined and shipped to foundries for casting molds. There are approximately 40 active mines within Columbia County and another 16 inactive mines. There is growing concern for increasing the oversight and management of these active and inactive mines. Utilization of a sound process to assure long term compliance and rehabilitation will be very important for Columbia County.

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Soils:

Individual soil types, with specific and unique characteristics, directly influence land uses.  There are 69 different soil types are found throughout Columbia County.  These are grouped into 11 major soil associations that have distinctive soil patterns, relief and drainage features.  The Columbia County Soil Survey contains detailed descriptions for each soil type, including information of suitability and limitations for various types of land use and land management.  The Columbia County Land and Water Conservation Department extensively uses the soils information. The availability and utilization of the Digital Soils Survey through our GIS system has made access to this information more useful.

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