A Win for Wisconsin’s Wetlands: SB 222 Passes, Empowers Local Governments to Restore Wetlands

Audubon members helped secure bipartisan victory for birds & communities

Across Wisconsin, birds need wetlands to thrive. Last week, the Wisconsin legislature unanimously passed SB 222, a big bipartisan victory for Wisconsin’s wetlands and the birds that depend on them! It’s now headed to Governor Evers’ desk for his signature.  

As the first state program of its kind, SB 222 will provide funding to encourage local governments to restore and conserve wetlands and undertake other proactive strategies before flooding events occur. Why is this a big deal? Wetland restoration is one of the best ways to tackle flooding. And flooding is becoming a bigger problem in Wisconsin as climate change intensifies.  

Wetlands Protect Communities and Wildlife from Flooding  

In the last 10 years, Wisconsin reported roughly $365 million in property damage from flooding. Flooding isn’t just bad for our roads, homes and farms. Increased precipitation and rising Great Lakes coastal waters can overwhelm marsh bird and shorebird nests, wash out eggs and kill chicks. Healthy and abundant wetlands can reduce this flood risk, while providing important habitat for birds and other wildlife.    

Wetlands are a natural solution to flooding. They can store an incredible amount of water. Just one acre think roughly the size of a football field of wetlands can store up to 1 million gallons of floodwater. That’s enough water to fill your average water tower. Like a sponge, wetlands suck in floodwater, and slowly release it back into the environment when conditions have improved. And as an added bonus, while they’re busy storing water, they’re also cleaning it. The plants and soil in wetlands help filter out pollutants to keep our drinking water clean. 

Birds Need Wetlands to Thrive  

Like communities across the region, Wisconsin has lost a lot of its historic wetlands as much as 50 percent. Our remaining wetlands are nature’s powerhouses, supporting a breadth of birds and other wildlife.  

Large wetlands like Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area in southeast Wisconsin, which boasts 33,000 acres of marsh habitat, provide food and sanctuary for hundreds of migrating species, waterfowl, and more. But wetlands don’t have to look like much to be valuable. Small wetlands, sometimes as small as the footprint of a house, have found to be especially beneficial to vulnerable marsh birds like the Virginia Rail and Sora.  

Audubon Members Advocate for Wetlands Restoration 

This bill is on its way to becoming law thanks to Audubon members who voiced their support. In April, more than 30 Audubon members and policy experts joined us for Advocacy Day at the Wisconsin State Capitol to meet with 28 elected officials to share the importance of wetlands, and advocate for policies like SB 222. As the bill made its way through the legislature, Audubon members sent more than 930 letters to their legislators in support of its passage. Thanks to this important advocacy, more birds will have habitat to thrive in Wisconsin in the years to come.  
We'd also like to acknowledge and thank the Wisconsin Wetlands Association for their hard work to get this bill through the Legislature. Their coalition-building work has shown that protecting and restoring wetlands as solutions to our water problems is something we can all agree on.

Help us keep the momentum going. Thank your lawmakers for working across the aisle to support policies that support wetlands. Send a letter to your legislators.  

How you can help, right now