Coon Creek Community Watershed Council Inc.
Wisconsin’s Driftless Area has long been prone to flooding, but severe flooding has increased over the last 15 years because of the increasing frequency of heavy rainfall prompted by climate change. The Coon Creek Watershed experienced major floods in 2007, ’08, ’16, ’17, the flood of record in ’18, and another in ’21, prompting community members to work together to re-imagine ways to live with worsening floods. At the heart of that effort is the new all-volunteer, non-profit Coon Creek Community Watershed Council (CCCWC), whose members include landowners, farmers, business owners, educators, conservation professionals, and more.
The challenge is daunting: to bring together diverse members of the watershed community to change land management perspectives and practices to address flooding and water impairment. But CCCWC knows watershed residents have dealt with an overwhelming challenge before; Coon Creek was home to the nation’s first watershed project in the 1930s, which became a national model for addressing catastrophic soil erosion.
The project relied on community-university collaboration, building from long-term, emplaced knowledge and cross-sector experimentation. That work sets the stage for this work: a collaboration between CCCWC, Extension’s Natural Resources Institute, Extension’s Organizational and Leadership Development (OLD) Program, Extension Lakes, and UW-Madison faculty in English and Planning & Landscape Architecture. This cross-disciplinary, cross- institutional group will partner on tailored organizational and leadership support that strengthens the growing CCCWC, building capacity to draft a watershed plan, grow the organization, and serve as a regional leader.