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Creating Habitat Near Rivers, Streams and Wetlands

Wisconsin riverbank

Riparian habitat zones

Creating wildlife habitat along rivers, streams and wetlands can quickly become a labor of love. Known as riparian habitat zones, these areas attract many species of wildlife, provide many recreational opportunities and protect valuable water environments.

However, moist, soft ground, flood plains, trees and overhanging branches, and narrow project sites make accessing these zones with large equipment challenging. Fortunately, smaller equipment and various conservation programs are available, and they make creating habitat near rivers, streams and wetlands easier.

Mary Mueller, a landowner near the south central Minnesota town of Winthrop, restored several riparian zones on her property. "Our first project 20 years ago included a one-acre pond; today we have more than 50 acres of restored wetlands," she said. "I love the habitat around water. In standing water we planted 15 species of rushes and sedges. In the saturated soils we planted 35 species of flowers -- cardinal flower, vervains, asters, lots of colors. With those come insects that attract feeding wildlife."

Like Mueller, you can plant a literal garden around your water habitats, as well. The first thing to do is meet with habitat specialist to plan your project. Pheasants Forever, a national habitat organization, provides habitat specialists through its Habitat Forever effort. Habitat Forever consists of teams of professionals who meet with landowners to discuss habitat development objectives, offer helpful suggestions, and help complete the work.

Habitat specialists also are knowledgeable about the many state and federal government conservation programs that may provide cost-share and other payments for habitat work. Programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, offer technical expertise and ongoing help in managing your habitat project. Habitat specialists also are knowledgeable about the many state and federal government conservation programs that may provide cost-share and other payments for habitat work. Programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, offer technical expertise and ongoing help in managing your habitat project.

Mueller has enrolled much of her land in conservation programs, which helped offset seed and management costs. And the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service provided her expertise and funding through its Partners Program.

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