• What is the Driftless Area
  • Driftless Area Initiatives
  • Watershed Projects, Plans, & Assessments
  • National Fish Habitat Action Plan Partnerships
  • Driftless Area Wild and Rare

The Driftless Area Restoration Effort (DARE) spearheaded by Trout Unlimited, is a geographically focused, locally driven, consensus based effort to protect, restore, and enhance rivers and streams for fish and other aquatic life throughout the Driftless Area. This is a broad partnership of federal, state, and local government, landowners, academic institutions, conservation organizations, sportsments' groups, and other interested parties. This coalition of partners is working together to prioritize watershed focus areas and projects, implement actions with measurable successes, build new partnerships and strengthen existing ones, leverage additional funds, and raise public awareness about Driftless Area natural resources through outreach and education.



The DARE fish habitat partnership was formed in late fall of 2005 to jointly address the issues of habitat degradation, loss, and alteration of coldwater streams and coolwater/warmwater rivers.  

Healthy streams, diverse aquatic life, happy people.



Mission: Working together to protect, restore, and enhance cold, cool, and warmwater streams for fish and other aquatic communities in the Driftless Area region for future generations.

There are a host of initiatives in the Upper Mississippi River basin that target water quality, forests, birds, wetlands, fish, land conservation, freshwater biodiversity, etc. within the Driftless Area.

Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota (BALMM)
BALMM is a locally-led alliance of land and water resource agencies formed to coordinate efforts to protect and improve water quality in the Lower Mississippi River Basin in Minnesota. Learn More

Driftless Area Partnership
A coalition of partners working to protect the natural beauty of northwest Illinois.

The Yellow River Initiative
The Yellow River Initiative is a partnership for resource sustainability with increasing human needs in the Yellow River watershed the purpose of the initiative is to promote natural resource stewardship and ecosystem function.  The project offers an interactive internet-based "toolbox" to help the public understand natural resources within the watershed and voluntarily implement the sustainable resource stewardship approaches outlined.

Upper Mississippi Forest Partnership
This is a six state effort led by USDA Forest Service. The partnership has a watershed-wide approach to forestry
efforts addressing key forestry issues.

Upper Sugar River Watershed Association
Serves as a forum to preserve and enhance watershed resources through an impartial partnership among diverse community interests.

Driftless Area Initiative (DAI)
Strengthening productive partnerships in the Driftless region by implementing projects of regional significance in support of natural resource conservation, sustainable rural economic development, and strengthening community identity and vitality.  DAI also serves as a catalyst, providing leadership on projects and issues with cross-boundary implications.

Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort
Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Home Rivers Initiative.

Whitewater River Watershed Project
Mission: The Whitewater River Watershed Project exists to continue to nurture a land stewardship ethic amongst those that live, work, and recreate in the watershed. The project focuses on improving water quality, reducing sedimentation and flooding, and improving habitat for all plants and animals.

Zumbro Watershed Partnership, Inc.
The partnership is a nonprofit organization that serves as a catalyst between technical and community activities. They are working with citizens of the community and professionals to protect and restore the natural resources and social benefits of a healthy watershed.

Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area
The Nature Conservancy

Watershed Projects and Plans

Northeast Iowa Karst plan 2009
The Nature Conservancy
Upper Iowa River Watershed Assessment and Management
Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation Development Council

Lower Mississippi River 2001 Basin Plan Scoping Document
Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota
Root River Watershed plan
The Nature Conservancy
South Branch Root River Watershed project
Mower and Fillmore counties
Strategic Plan for Coldwater Resources Management SE MN
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Vermillion Watershed Plan
Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization
Zumbro River Watershed Management Plan
Zumbro Watershed partnership, Inc.

Bad Axe La Crosse Basin plan
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Kickapoo Watershed Conservation Plan
Trout Unlimited  1999
Lower Chippewa State of the Basin Report
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Lower Wisconsin State of the Basin Report
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Pecatonica Basin Plan
The Nature Conservancy
Site Conservation Plan for the Upper Sugar Watershed
Natural Heritage Land Trust
Upper Sugar River Headwaters Protection and River Management Plan
Upper Sugar River Watershed Association

State of the Black Buffalo-Trempealeau River Basin Plan
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Rapid Watershed Assessments for the Driftless Area

Rapid Watershed Assessment (RWA) is a relatively new NRCS initiative. A RWA provides initial information to help determine where conservation investments would best address the concerns of landowners, counties, watershed groups, and other stakeholders. These assessments help landowners and local leaders set priorities and determine the best actions to achieve their goals. Rapid watershed assessments provide a foundation for watershed or area planning. These assessments are valuable for Farm Bill program delivery and provide useful information for county, watershed, and regional planners.




Coon-Yellow                                    07060001
Lower Chippewa                                07050005
La Crosse Pine                                 07040006
Kickapoo                                       07070006
Lower Wisconsin                               07070005
Apple Plum                                    07060005
Grant-Little Maquoketa                       07060003
Pecatonica                                    07090003

The National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP) is modeled after the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP), a highly successful program established in the 1980's. Today Millions of acres of wetland habitat have been protected and restored for waterfowl and the program continues today with great success.

NFHAP uses the "joint venture" approach and is centered on the establishment of partnerships and the implementation of restoration efforts at multiple geographic scales. Proposed under the Action Plan, Fish Habitat Partnerships can be formed based on geographic areas, 'keystone' fish species, or aquatic system types. There are currently seventeen recognized partnerships operating in support of the national NFHAP program. View a map of all NFHAP parterships listed below:

Goals of the NFHAP

Protect and maintain intact and healthy aquatic systems.

Prevent further degradation of fish habitats that have been adversely affected.

Reverse declines in the quality and quantity of aquatic habitats to improve the overall health of fish and other aquatic organisms.

Increase the quality and quantity of fish habitats that support a broad natural diversity of fish and other aquatic species.

A Wild and Rare Committee was organized by the DARE to bring together professionals to formulate ideas on how to incorporate habitat for amphibians and reptiles in conjunction with stream restoration projects. The group meets twice a year to talk about projects and issues. Representatives of the Wild and Rare team includes Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Trout Unlimited, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy, Driftless Area Initiative, University Wisconsin-La Crosse, and a private herpetologist. 

This team worked together to develop a stream guide for professionals and landowners that includes standard designs for non- game species and discussions of appropriate use and monitoring.







The image above on left shows an escape log placed in a stream for use by snakes and turtles to bask themselves in the sun. Shown on right is the construction of a snake hibernaculum.