Mending the Earth

A new book featuring Lorrie Otto quite prominently has hit the shelves. Mending the Earth in Milwaukee, written and published by Ney Tait Fraser, is a how-to guide about natural landscaping in southeastern Wisconsin, but is written in such lyrical fashion it’s like reading about an urban adventure. The stories are about Lorrie Otto and 15 friends and acquaintances, some of who took the plunge as early as the 1970s and 1980s, who began converting their yards to natural landscaping using native plants. Their stories are about a love affair with native flora that continues through to today, and the many photos included in the book only add to the adventure.

Lorrie Otto who led the battle to ban DDT in Wisconsin in the 1960s, went on to promote the use of native plants and natural landscaping as a way to heal the Earth one yard at a time. The not-for-profit national organization Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes is a reflection of her passion and her efforts.

Lorrie was inducted into the WCHF in 1999.

For more information about Ney Tait Fraser’s book, see Journal Sentinel.


WCHF Receives Notice of Besadny Grant

WCHF was recently notified by the Natural Resources Foundation (NWF) that they will be receiving a C.D. Besadny Conservation grant for $1,000 to be used to develop a Touchscreen Computer Exhibit for Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame Gallery. The actual award will be delivered in person to the WCHF Board on November 3, 2018. Congratulations to WCHF.

Thank you to the Natural Resources Foundation.

List of other grant recipients.

2019 Wisconsin AWRA Annual Meeting Scheduled – Call for Papers

The annual meeting of the Wisconsin Section of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA) will be held at the Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, WI on February 28 and March 1, 2019. Please note the earlier meeting dates!

The theme this year is Clearing the Waters: Effective Science and Communication. There will be plenary, oral and poster sessions, plus lightning talks, addressing both surface water and groundwater issues in Wisconsin. Read more

Lorrie Otto in the News

The Godmother of the modern day Natural Landscaping Movement, Lorrie Otto was inducted into the WCHF in 1991. Photo by Ney Tait Frasier.

Bill Berry is a WCHF Governor and he is also a columnist for the Madison Capital Times. He recently wrote a column featuring Lorrie Otto entitled “Will we survive the current batch of ‘environmental terrorist’?” He talks about the heroes of the environmental movement started in the 1960s like Lorrie Otto and the Citizens Natural Resources Association (CNRA), and about the terrorists who are today dismantling Nixon’s EPA.

It’s a good read. I especially liked the final para which reads “Will we survive the current batch of “environmental terrorists”? Maybe. Personally, I wish Lorrie Otto was still alive so I could watch her tear Pruitt apart.” I would, too!

August is National Water Quality Month

Summer view of the WILD Center’s backyard made up of three rain gardens which filter the runoff before it gets to the Guckenberg Marsh which is part of Little Lake Butte des Morts which is part of the Fox River Waterway which is part of the Lake Michigan Watershed.

August is National Water Quality Month. The end of the summer is a good time to reflect upon this valuable resource and how important it is to our daily lives. Indeed, there are some who are concerned World War III will be fought over water.

Our bodies are 60% water, so we need non-contaminated water to stay healthy and to be vital residents of this Earth. Unfortunately, maintaining water quality is not an easy undertaking because of the huge amount of pollution which occurs from its use by manufacturing and the oil industry, and from the collateral damage often caused by farming. Non-Point source pollution is one of the largest water quality problems in the USA.

What can we do?

Although we can have little impact as one household, as a group of households we can have a big impact. Here is a list of things we can do to make a difference; some of them surprising:

  • Plant native trees, shrubs, forbs and grasses*
  • Replace non-porous paving with porous paving where appropriate
  • Avoid using antibacterial soaps and cleaning products; use non-toxic household products
  • Repair leaky faucets
  • Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth and in between rinsing dishes and fruits and vegetables
  • Do not hose down; sweep driveways, sidewalks, gutters and patios
  • Do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides on lawns and gardens unless absolutely necessary
  • Install cisterns and rain barrels to collect water for use on your lawn and gardening
  • Install cisterns, rain barrels and rain gardens to collect water to keep it from overflowing into sewers**
  • Reduce lawn area
  • Mow grassy areas responsibly and only as necessary***
  • Irrigate and water responsibly****
  • Make certain all hoses have shut-off nozzles to prevent leaks and unnecessary water use
  • Mulch traditional non-native plantings
  • Group plants according to their water needs; use drought-tolerant plants
  • If you wash your own car, do so over grass or gravel to prevent contaminated water from going directly into sewers
  • Do not pour anything other than water down storm sewers;
  • Do not flush unused and outdated medications down the toilet; take to a disposal center
  • If you change your own car’s oil, do not drain on the ground; dispose at the local landfill
  • Scoop up and discard into garbage receptacles your pet’s poop
  • Do volunteer to help your community keep the streets, rivers, wetlands and beaches clean of debris
  • Do spread the word about the importance of clean water. Water is life!
  • Remember — water that enters storm sewers goes into our waterways before the treatment plants!
  • Remember — the more contaminated water goes into the treatment plant, the more it costs to make it potable again!

*Native plants evolved with the environment in which they are native. Hence they require no additional water, no fertilizers, no pesticides. But remember! A native plant out of place is no longer a native plant.

**Cisterns, rain barrels and rain gardens help collect excess runoff from roofs, driveways and sloped yards. That water can then be used to irrigate lawns and gardens; even wash cars. There are countless ways this saved rain water can be used instead of using potable drinking water.

***The taller the grass is allowed to grow, the deeper the roots. The deeper the roots, the more efficient the nutrient and water intake. Tall fescue, bluegrass, ryegrass and some of the warm season grasses will endure heat, drought and other environmental stresses easier if they are maintained at 3″ or 4″ all year. Never cut off more than 30% off the grass blade. More than 30% will reduce its photosynthesizing surface area too much and it will direct nutrients and energy toward rebuilding its leaf blades instead of growing its root system. Mow only when your lawn needs mowing and with a sharp blade, so grass leaves stay healthy. Most of the nutrients in the grass blades are concentrated in the tips; mow so you’re recycling the clippings as fertilizer instead of bagging them to prevent thatch.

****If using spray irrigation, do not water lawn except in the cool morning to avoid evaporation. Do not water pavement. Use drip irrigation so water goes directly to the roots of the plants.

EPA Water Topics

Clean Water Act