Driftless Area Restoration Effort
The Driftless Area is a 24,000 square-mile area that encompasses portions of southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin and northwest Illinois bypassed by the last continental glacier. The region has a high concentration of spring-fed coldwater streams and is recognized for its high diversity of plants, animals, and habitats. The Driftless Area Restoration Effort (DARE) partnership formed to address habitat degradation, loss, and alteration that are the primary factors contributing to the decline of fish populations in this unique region.
Poor land and water management practices including intensive row crops, fertilizer use, channelization, water withdrawals, loss of perennial vegetation, and invasive species have caused excessive streambank erosion, sedimentation, and poor water quality that impact waters all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, where such practices have helped contribute to hypoxic waters. DARE is employing a collaborative approach to plan and implement cost effective projects to improve aquatic habitat for fish and other aquatic species by developing a regional strategy that links upland health and fish habitat with fish populations in targeted watersheds.
DARE is coordinating upland best management conservation practices with streambank stabilization, restoration of riparian vegetation and instream habitat, and reconnection of streams to their floodplains in targeted watersheds. Trout, smallmouth bass, and other target fish species will benefit from increased availability of cover, spawning, rearing, and overwintering habitat. Access to, and the quality and diversity of, angling and other recreational opportunities will increase as a result of increased protection and habitat enhancement efforts in the Driftless Area. Among its other accomplishments, DARE has already held stream restoration project planning training for over 180 volunteers and developed stream restoration materials for conservation professionals.