Environmental stewardship in the Kettle Moraine State Forest

Kettle Moraine State Forest“We took a walk along the bluffs over the river. Not only was the water blissfully free of flood debris, but it also was transparent enough that the bottom was clearly visible anywhere the water was less than 6 feet deep. That is highly unusual for the Kickapoo since the coulees usually direct a lot of dirt into the river valley. The beautiful afternoon light, clear running water, rocky bluffs and icicles hanging from the rocks made for a lovely excursion.”

Now that’s what it’s all about.

This excerpt is from a thank-you note I received for the 70 odd man hours Mead & Hunt employees have donated to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve (KVR) clean-up efforts since 2018. In it, the message is clear: our natural resources are precious and we, as advocates and stewards, should grow and protect these resources to ensure their availability for public use in perpetuity.

As architecture and engineering professionals, we often perform the technical and procedural tasks to complete the process. This may be an oversimplification, but we often aren’t vested in the long-range outcomes of our projects, specifically as they relate to potential impacts on our land and water resources.

At Mead & Hunt, we are technical experts, yes, but we are more. We are advocates for the environment from the start of a project to way beyond the finish. As an advocate, I have personally hiked the 1,200 Ice Age National Scenic Trail (IAT), spent springs hunting for morels in State Forests, and have designed local community parks. Our team at Mead & Hunt completes context sensitive design engineering and environmental services, including the recent rehabilitation of Wisconsin Highway  67 (WIS 67) through the Kettle Moraine State Forest (KMSF)

Being advocates and protectors of the environment is what the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is all about.

Established by an Act of Congress in 1965, the LWCF provides Federal funds – that is, taxpayer investment – to States for planning, acquisition, and development of land and water areas and facilities. LWCF also protects parks and recreation lands by discouraging their conversion to other uses. In Wisconsin alone, there have been more than 1,800 LWCF grants administered totaling over $80 million in outdoor recreation investment. Along with the KVR, one of the most popular of these is the KMSF.

The KMSF- Northern Unit covers nearly 30,000 and is a high-quality public recreation and conservation area that contains thirteen State Natural Areas, a 31-mile segment of the IAT, over 45 miles of other named hiking trails and many prime examples of glacial topography and geology. It includes all or portions of 14 lakes and many miles of creeks and rivers. This is a special place that has amassed 800,000 to 950,000 visitor days per year.

The LWCF was used in development of the KMSF. Therefore, any conversion of the forest’s lands to uses other than public outdoor recreation must be replaced with lands having equal recreational or ecological value. That is where Mead & Hunt’s technical expertise and stewardship comes in.

When designing the rehabilitation of WIS 67 through the KMSF, a total of one acre of parkland was proposed for conversion to transportation use. Having familiarity with the Forest, Mead & Hunt identified contiguous replacement land of superior ecological benefit and went to work designing the highway.

As advocates, we used the environmental process to advocate for the Forest, educate the public, and execute a win-win solution for the local community and the environment. Because of Mead & Hunt’s advocacy and environmental stewardship, WIS 67 is a better highway for the traveling public and the KMSF is preserved for the use and enjoyment of future generations.

Mark Sauer, AICP

About the Author

Mark Sauer is a Planner/Designer located in Mead & Hunt’s Middleton, WI office.  He provides environmental services for transportation projects and municipal planning and design for clients and communities across the country. Outside of work, Mark is an advocate for the outdoors, and is the 200th person to ever hike the entire 1,200-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin.

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