Dane County awards grant to Westport Conservancy Project

Dane County awards $1.6 million to town of Westport, Madison Area Food Pantry

· Feb 8, 2023 Tweet

Aaron Hathaway/The Badger Herald

Feb. 2, County Executive Joe Parisi announced Dane County will grant $1.6 million to local projects that are striving to improve food production and water quality, according to a press release issued by the Dane County Executive’s Office.

The money is from the Wisconsin Conservation Fund, which has saved over 113,562 acres of land and water, according to the Conservation Fund.

“The Conservation Fund is one of many ways Dane County works to preserve land with clear quality of life, conservation and recreational benefits in our rapidly developing community,” Parisi said in the press release. 

The Conservation Fund is one way the county attempts to protect the land.

The town of Westport will acquire a little over 105 acres of wetlands, grasslands and woods that surround the north side of Lake Mendota. Protection of this land will enhance Lake Mendota’s water quality, as well as protect the land, according to the press release

“This grant will protect the property from any potential development, and provide wildlife and pollinator habitat, and opportunities for public enjoyment,” Dane County land and water resources coordinator Sharene Smith said in an email statement to The Badger Herald. 

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According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Lake Mendota has a poor water quality rating due to the number of algae in the water. There are many organizations working to improve that rating, such as the Yahara CLEAN plan, which attempts to reduce phosphorus runoff from urban and rural areas, according to the Clean Lakes Alliance. 

“Clean water needs to be a priority in all of our decision-making,” Wisconsin State Sen. Kelda Roys said in an email statement to The Badger Herald. “Wisconsin was previously an environmental leader, and it’s past time for us to prioritize clean water.”

According to University of Wisconsin geoscience professor Michael Cardiff, protecting the wetlands that surround Lake Mendota will be highly beneficial to the surface water quality due to the nutrient processing that occurs in these regions. 

“Healthy wetlands provide a ‘buffer’ that helps to process and remove these nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) before they enter water bodies like Lake Mendota,” Cardiff said in an email. 

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The Madison Area Food Pantry and Gardens will also benefit from this project. With the help of the Dane County Conservation Fund, the MAFPG has the opportunity to purchase the land they have been leasing for the past three years, according to the press release

With this purchase, MAFPG can increase operations and educational opportunities surrounding sustainable agriculture. According to their website,  MAFPG has grown and donated more than two million pounds of produce to the Dane County emergency food system. 

Legislatures are in the process of approving the CLEAR ACT, which directs the DNR to establish and enforce stronger standards for PFAS in groundwater and drinking water, and establish air emission standards for certain PFAS among other regulations, Wisconsin Rep. Francesca Hong said in an email statement.

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This article was published Feb 8, 2023 at 8:56 pm and last updated Feb 13, 2023 at 8:23 pm

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