Working for a New Future for the Sauk Prairie on the Badger Army Ammunition Plant Lands

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
The Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

The Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance's mission is to support conservation activities involving the Badger Army Ammunition Plant lands and the surrounding Sauk Prairie landscape, through education, research, ecological restoration, and community participation.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

In the rolling countryside of southern Wisconsin, a 7,354 acre industrial facility rests anonymously on the landscape. This is the Badger Army Ammunition Plant, one of many arms production facilities hastily built in the months following the United States’ entry into World War II. The Sauk Prairie, on which the Badger Plant was built, was once a mosaic of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna, and semi-open oak woodland stretching across 14,000 acres of southern Wisconsin; today, fewer than 5,000 acres of prairie remain in the entire state!

During the 1840s, settlers transformed these prairies, long held by the Ho-Chunk people, into productive farms; farming remained the predominant land use for 100 years. In 1941, 80 farm families were displaced from the Sauk Prairie, when the U.S. Army announced they would build an arms production facility there; since 1942, Badger has dominated the Sauk Prairie landscape.

No longer needed for national defense, the plant was decommissioned by the U.S. Army in 1998, and in a transfer of ownership, will be converted to conservation, restoration, recreational, and agricultural land uses. In 2000, the Sauk County Board of Supervisors acted to establish a locally driven reuse planning process for Badger; the Badger Reuse Plan was the outcome of this process, and seeks to ensure that the entire property is managed as one cohesive unit, a natural ecological continuum stretching from the foot of the Baraboo Hills to the shores of the Wisconsin River! By combining large-scale prairie and savanna restoration, with research and education, historical preservation, sustainable agriculture, and recreation, the Badger Reuse Plan seeks to integrate many components of land use in the same place at the same time.

The Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance’s mission is achieved with the Badger Reuse Plan in mind. The Alliance strives to foster environmental stewardship by involving people in active service learning experiences that include restoration, history, heritage, and life of the land. We are not only restoring prairies and savannas, but we are also building relationships and awareness!

Alliance volunteers actively assist in restoration of the prairie during Volunteer Restoration Work Parties, through the removal of invasive species; seed collection and seed planting are also essential tasks handled by volunteers. In 2007, volunteers contributed over 1,000 hours toward prairie restoration! Alliance volunteers devoted much of their spare time during the summer of 2008 to restoring and revitalizing the Kindschi Prairie along Highway 12, on the south end of Badger; over 100 hours was spent on this 18 acre prairie remnant, pulling hundreds of invasive plants before they went to seed. In addition, the Alliance has partnered with several area organizations to offer prairie restoration opportunities for their members; the Youth Environment Projects of Sauk County has worked with the Alliance for numerous seasons now, helping to fulfill the goals of both organizations!

Four years ago, the Alliance instituted an active volunteer Prescribed Burn Program to help eliminate invasive species and encourage the propagation of native prairie plants; 25 acres was burned in 2008, and over 300 acres was burned in 2009, with plans to continue to grow the program as resources allow!

The Alliance’s youth Education Through Restoration program firmly took root in January 2007, when our part time Education Coordinator came on board to help teach area school children about Badger’s natural and cultural history through volunteering and stewardship of the land. In 2008, over 800 students representing 7 school districts participated in this program, and the response continues to grow, making this one time seasonal restoration program a year-long service learning experience!

The Alliance was founded as a grassroots advocacy group; over the last 10 years, we have maintained a committed, core group of individuals who actively oversee our outreach programs in support of our mission. In addition we have the support of over 100 active members, countless volunteers, non-profit, local, and state organizations. However, the Alliance is at a pivotal point in our organizational growth, for as the Badger Reuse Plan moves forward, the need for our programs as a bridge to the local community is increasing: new schools are added to our education program each semester; as our prescribed burn program grows, so does our need for volunteers; as the community increasingly expresses an interest in Badger’s future, so are we compelled to expand our programs, our outreach, and our impact!

In 2008, the Alliance recognized the need to improve its organizational operations, administration, and management in order to move from a grassroots advocacy group to an established non-profit organization committed to seeing its vision to reality. With a growing membership, and active volunteers serving several different Alliance programs, the need for more efficient record keeping has become imperative.


With part time staff and limited financial resources, the Alliance sought out assistance from Tech Soup’s donated software program, and has since begun updating its record keeping capabilities utilizing Microsoft Access! Drawing on our volunteer’s expertise and stories has never been so easy!

The Alliance continues work to expand its current volunteer program by defining and advertising its opportunities, complete with job descriptions and recruitment procedures, resulting in increased participation and a better understanding of the work and planning that pertains to Badger and the greater Sauk Prairie. Microsoft Publisher has enabled the Alliance to create posters, flyers, newsletters, and other information essential to keeping our friends, members, and volunteers up to date!

There are those who look at Badger and see nothing but the buildings and roads and contamination left behind by 50 years of munitions production. It takes vision to see beneath the pavement and beyond the smokestacks. The fact that industry is in Badger’s past says nothing about what we might imagine for its future! Despite disturbances at Badger, remnants of natural communities still exist; nearly 600 species of plants have been identified, along with 25 species of butterfly, 15 mammals, 16 reptiles and amphibians, 137 aquatic insects, and 102 birds. Restoration of native prairie and savanna in Wisconsin has mostly been done on a very small scale. Badger is poised to be the first place in the state where we restore not just a sample of native vegetation, but an entire native landscape—complete with elk, bison, cranes, and prairie grass that sweeps to the horizon!

Without the support and assistance of our members and volunteers, this wonderful work wouldn’t be possible. Thank you, Microsoft, for making the administrative aspects of our work that much easier, so that we can concentrate our limited resources on growing a prairie, one blossom at a time!

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery