Friends of the Upper Mississippi

Our Vision Statement

To work to protect, enhance and restore our Upper Mississippi River resources by serving as volunteers and partners with conservation organizations to provide education about these resources for our citizens, to advocate for government policies that will support these resources and to increase awareness of threats to the health of the Upper Mississippi River.

Genoa Fish Clinic

Genoa Fish Clinic – Genoa, WI

Mission of the Friends of the Upper Mississippi

  • Provide volunteer services to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other Conservation organizations for native species restoration and population monitoring.
  • Provide education programs for members and the general public on conservation issues and benefits
  • Provide grants for educational activities
  • Provide outdoor activities for children
  • Be a primary point of contact with local and national public officials in support of Mississippi River resources
  • Provide fundraising activities to support local conservation programs
  • Inform local groups and provide education on conservation issues

A Spring Cleaning

pills                                                                                                                  healthy people

On April 26, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will coordinate a collaborative effort with participating state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide to safely remove potentially dangerous pharmaceutical controlled substances and other medications from our nation’s medicine cabinets.
This initiative compliments the Service’s continuing SMARXT DISPOSAL campaign program, a collaborative effort with the American Pharmacist’s Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, to educate consumers how to dispose of unwanted medications in a responsible manner that safeguards lives and protects the environment.

The public is encouraged to take their expired, unused, and unwanted medications to one of the hundreds of sites around the country where they will be collected for destruction, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. local time, on Saturday, April 26.
A continuously updated list of collection sites in or near your community can be found on the Internet by visiting drug_disposal/takeback
More than 1,733 tons of unwanted meds were collected nationwide during seven earlier DEA-sponsored disposal  events, protecting both human and environmental safety.

RX meds



Elastomer Tags to Be Tested For Use in Identifying Broodlines


In the wild, genetic variability between parents over multiple years of reproduction makes sure that  red tagpopulations stay healthy and are able to adapt to environmental changes. This is a criteria that we strive to meet with our fish production at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery. To do this, we collect wild fish every three to four years and integrate them with fish from our production lots. A problem arises when trying to distinguish hatchery fish and wild fish or the various year classes that these broodlines are made up of. This is where marking the fish can be helpful. Traditionally, fin clipping was done as our marking technique. This is a technique where combinations of the fish’s fins are clipped off. Based on these clips the origin and age of a specific fish can be identified. Fin clipping is not harmful or painful to the fish; it is similar to us clipping our fingernails. However, there are problems that arise with fin clipping; one of those is the possibility that the fin regenerates without leaving any trace of the clip. This basically puts us back where we started. There is also the risk of infection or fungal growth stemming from the clip site. For these reasons we are looking for new marking techniques that could be used in maintaining our broodlines. One alternative method is the use of elastomer tags. This is essentially injecting a very colorful plastic into the fish’s skin. Based on the elastomer color and location the fish can be identified. The hatchery is planning to test both green and pink elastomer colors in both the fishes jaw and along the dorsal fin. This test will allow us to determine which color and location persist in the fish the longest as well as determine if it is a viable option for marking our broodlines.

green tag

Sportfishing and Conservation Groups Hail Introduction of National Fish Habitat Conservation Act in Senate

March 6, 2014 – Washington, D.C. – Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced S. 2080 the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (NFHCA) on March 5, 2014. The bipartisan legislation authorizes the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP) – an unprecedented national partnership effort aimed squarely at protecting, restoring and enhancing the nation’s aquatic resources and fish habitat.

Both Senators Cardin and Crapo sit on the Environment and Public Works Committee – Senator Cardin is the Chair of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee. Previous versions of NFHCA have enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress, including bipartisan approval by the Environment and Public Works Committee in two different Congresses. The language in the bill introduced today includes modifications to language in earlier versions of NFHCA that were made in consultation with several Senators and their staffs from both sides of the aisle.

“Choosing to protect our natural resources is good for our environment and our economy. Right now we need deliberate and targeted action to stem the loss of our precious aquatic habitats,” said Senator Cardin. “Our bill takes a comprehensive approach to stopping the single greatest cause of declining fish populations, by stemming the decline of healthy aquatic ecosystems that are critical to all fish species. We need to encourage healthier habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife as well as safer recreational waters for Americans to swim, boat and fish.”

“The legislation we’ve introduced stems from Senator Cardin’s and my shared goals of protecting, maintaining and improving our fish habitats,” said Senator Crapo. “Instead of creating new regulations and mandates, our bill fosters partnerships between federal, regional and local stakeholders to work together to promote healthy and sustainable fish populations for our communities.”

A wide range of sportsmen’s and conservation groups has endorsed this legislation over the years. It is the hope of these groups and others supporting this historic piece of legislation that it be adopted as an amendment to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 (S. 1996) – a package of legislation introduced by Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

“We truly appreciate the leadership of Senators Cardin and Crapo in the introduction of this Act,” said Gordon Robertson, Vice President of the American Sportfishing Association. “The National Fish Habitat Conservation Act would be a great addition to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 as it does not have a fishery habitat conservation piece of any kind and we believe the Fish Habitat Act would not only round out the package of bills but solidify the benefits for the sportsmen and women’s communities. The Fish Habitat Conservation Act will be a great compliment to the existing and long standing Sport Fish Restoration Act.”

“The National Fish Habitat Conservation Act is a critical piece of locally driven, common-sense legislation that will benefit local communities, and fish and fish habitat,” said Jen Mock Schaeffer, Government Affairs Director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “Designed to replicate the continent’s preeminent and successful plan for conserving waterfowl, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act can provide the same kind of conservation benefits for fish and fish habitat across the country.

“The Nature Conservancy joins our partner organizations in supporting the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act introduced by Senators Cardin and Crapo,” said Kameran Onley, Director of U.S. Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy. “After many months of negotiations, we are pleased with this version of the legislation which reinforces the importance of the role of states and better addresses concerns raised by ranching and agriculture communities. This legislation is a model for the way conservation should occur – through voluntary, community-based, and from the-ground-up efforts.”

“The National Fish Habitat Action Plan is already working on the ground to make sport fishing better, from helping farmers manage livestock to protecting brook trout streams in West Virginia, to enhancing growth of native vegetation, improving water quality on Lake Conroe, Texas, to improving stream flows for coho salmon through a partnership with vintners on the Russian River, California” said Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited. “The new bill will ensure that farmers, ranchers and other landowners have a seat at the decision-making table and will ensure the long term sustainability of the program.”

In 2013 alone, National Fish Habitat Partnership projects opened nearly 200 miles of waterways to fish passage. Efforts like this implemented by grassroots-led habitat partnerships are one of only a few ways the National Fish Habitat Partnership is making a difference in conserving fish habitats across the country.

About the National Fish Habitat Partnership:
Since 2006, The National Fish Habitat Partnership has been a partner in 417 projects in 46 states benefiting fish habitat. The National Fish Habitat Partnership works to conserve fish habitat nationwide, leveraging federal, state, and private funding sources to achieve the greatest impact on fish populations through priority conservation projects. The national partnership implements the National Fish Habitat Action Plan and supports 18 regional grassroots partner organizations. For more information visit:

The Asian Carp Chronicle – Upper Mississippi Update

By Kyle Mosel

The past year has been a sensational one for me, professionally speaking, given the opportunity I have had to lead an ongoing project at the La Crosse FWCO to monitor Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi River (UMR). The objectives of this work are to assess the environmental history, movement, habitat selection, reproductive success, and population dynamics (e.g., age structure, growth rates) of Asian carp in the UMR.

We began our work in May by assisting the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) collect Asian carp in Pool 20 near Keokuk (IA). Some have asked, “Why Pool 20?” Well, Lock and Dam 19 currently serves as a major bottleneck (i.e., presumed passable only through the lock chamber) for fish passage on the UMR which has slowed the invasion of Asian carp upstream. I was really excited for this trip because Pool 20 contains a high density of Asian carp and we were surgically implanting acoustic transmitters into bighead carp and silver carp to monitor their movements. Sara Tripp, who works for MDC and has completed hundreds of these surgeries, was an outstanding mentor who taught me proper anesthesia and surgical techniques. The MDC now has fifteen bighead carp and ten silver carp implanted with acoustic transmitters in Pool 20 which will be monitored to determine the proportion and rate at which they emigrate upstream. This trip provided us with new techniques and skills that were used the rest of the year.

                         A sonic receiver(inset) is deployedon a navigation buoy in the UMR           

During the 2013 sampling season, my crew implanted acoustic transmitters in a total of 27 Asian carp that ranged from 28 to 46 inches in total length and included twelve silver carp in Pool 17, five silver carp and five bighead carp in Pool 19, and five bighead carp in Pool 20. The movements of these fish were subsequently monitored using an array of acoustic receivers that were deployed at fixed sites over a 580 river-mile reach that extended from near Davenport (IA) downstream to Caruthersville (MO). Nearly 3,000 fish detections were logged in Pools 17 and 18. Meanwhile, acoustic data analysis is continuing for sites located further downstream. Roving telemetry was also conducted by mounting acoustic receivers on commodity barges to detect fish as towboats pushed cargoes up and down the Mississippi River, allowing us to track fish without deploying a crew. Fish were also located manually to determine habitat use and physiochemical conditions.

By year’s end, no fish were observed moving upstream, but a few of the fish tagged and released in Pool 17 were observed moving downstream to Pool 18. This year we plan to implant 123 more fish with transmitters to increase our sample size. We will also work further upstream with the Minnesota DNR to deploy additional receivers. This will help expand the receiver array to a total of 150 fixed sites, spanning 970 river miles, and include locations on several tributaries of the UMR that extend as far as upstream as St. Croix Falls (WI) on the St. Croix River. The telemetry study will conclude by 2017 when transmitter battery-life is due to expire.

Otoliths (ear bones) were collected from 14 bighead carp and 67 silver carp captured in Pools 7, 17, and 19 during 2013 to address age, growth, and environmental history concerns. We also assisted the MDC collect otoliths from several hundred Asian carp in Pool 20. Otoliths will be sectioned and mounted, then examined independently to estimate the age of each fish. With this information we will be able to estimate age structure, growth, and mortality rates and will use this information for future population models. Otolith samples will also be sent to Southern Illinois University (Carbondale, IL) and the University of Massachusetts (Boston, MA) for trace element and isotope analysis to assess environmental history. Data from these chemical analyses will be used to identify the river basin of origin (e.g., UMR, middle Mississippi River, Illinois River, Missouri River) as well as all the rivers (and perhaps the pools) inhabited by each fish throughout its life. This information should indicate where adults have successfully spawned and where larval/juvenile fish disperse after hatching. Additional otoliths will be collected in 2014 to increase the sample size in pools above Lock and Dam 19.

Successful spawning events were previously documented in Pools 18 and 19. We are therefore trying to determine whether successful spawning may be occurring further upstream. Monitoring for juvenile Asian carp was conducted at several possible nursery sites in Pools16 and 17 during 2013. A total of 1,194 fish representing 34 species were collected during 24 mini-fyke net-sets that cumulatively totaled 447 hours of fishing effort. Asian carp were not observed in any of the catches. However, gravid (mature) adults were collected at two sites in Pool 17 with gill nets. Reproduction monitoring will continue in 2014 and 2015 to determine if successful spawning events are occurring upstream of Pool 18.

This is by far the most thrilling research project I have led and I look forward to how much we can learn from this work. Asian carp can move great distances and are detrimental to native species. If we can understand movement patterns of these species, then we may have a chance to impede or slow the spread of these nuisance fish upstream. We will conduct a full year of sampling in 2014 and should be able to hit the water running this year … once the ice melts!

Kyle and crew are ready to hit the water running this spring!


Many thanks to our Friends, volunteers and Genoa and LaCrosse FWS staff that made the Kids Ice Fishing day possible!  We had roughly 450 people out on the ice on a fairly cold day for fishing.  Small numbers of fish were caught but most of the fish caught were 16+ inches long, making for a good trophy for many of our young anglers.  I am sure that all participants had a good memory of the day regardless of how many fish that they caught.  The strangest catch was a 12 inch coaster brook trout that someone reeled out from under the ice.   Thanks again to all who made this day special in the lives of our future generation of conservationists.


fish and girl.

boy fishinglittle girl and minnows

Egg-cellent Forage for Mussel Host Fish!

fish tails
Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) received its first batch of rainbow trout eggs from Ennis National Fish Hatchery for the new production season in December. The hatchery receives a total of 200,000 Arlee strain rainbow trout eggs each winter to be used as a disease free forage (food) source for the host fish in the mussel program. Channel catfish are infested each fall with winged mapleleaf mussel glochidia (baby mussels to be) and are held in tanks over the winter until they can go into mussel cages in the spring. The resulting mussel larvae will drop off their host fish and grow in the bottom of the cage for another year and a half until they are large enough to avoid predation and survive well in their stocking locations. In addition to the channel catfish, Genoa NFH holds over smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, freshwater drum and walleye to be used as mussel hosts for several species of mussels that brood in the spring. By obtaining the disease free eggs and hatching them on station, the hatchery can ensure a very nutritious and natural food source for the fish, as well as preventing any transmission of outside diseases.

More Mussels Headed Out the Door
Late this fall Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) began delivery of mussels for a new research project with the US Geological Survey in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The project seeks to determine the toxicity of a lampricide to native mussels. We were given a list of 13 potential species from across the Great Lakes Region to test and were asked to provide a small number of both the adult and sub-adult life stages for up to six species. We decided to focus on species that are currently being propagated, or could be readily collected. Through our partners in other states we were able to acquire three species of adults and four species of sub-adults. Annual production at Genoa NFH added another sub-adult species, and three additional species were collected from wild locations in the Upper Mississippi River Watershed by Genoa NFH divers. In total, six species of adults and five species of sub-adults were provided. This delivery would not have been possible without our partners who were willing to send small numbers of animals they already had on-hand. Results of the research will determine if the chemical in question is safe for native freshwater mussels and that information will be used to shape future management of streams in the Great Lakes Basin.

FDA: Anti-Bacterial Soaps May Not Curb Bacteria



WASHINGTON (AP) After more than 40 years of study, the U.S. government says it has found no evidence that common anti-bacterial soaps prevent the spread of germs, and regulators want the makers of Dawn, Dial and other household staples to prove that their products do not pose health risks to consumers. Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Monday that they are revisiting the safety of triclosan and other sanitizing agents found in soap in countless kitchens and bathrooms. Recent studies suggest triclosan and similar substances can interfere with hormone levels in lab animals and spur the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. The government’s preliminary ruling lends new support to outside researchers who have long argued that the chemicals are, at best, ineffective and at worst, a threat to public health.


“The FDA is finally making a judgment call here and asking industry to show us that these products are better than soap and water, and the data don’t substantiate that,” said Stuart Levy of the Tufts University School of Medicine. While the rule only applies to personal hygiene products, it has implications for a broader $1 billion industry that includes thousands of anti-bacterial products, including kitchen knives, toys, pacifiers and toothpaste. Over the last 20 years, companies have added triclosan and other cleaners to thousands of household products, touting their germ-killing benefits. Under a proposed rule released Monday, the agency will require manufacturers to prove that anti-bacterial soaps are safe and more effective than plain soap and water. Products that are not shown to be safe and effective by late 2016 would have to be reformulated, relabeled or removed from the market.”I suspect there are a lot of consumers who assume that by using an anti-bacterial soap product, they are protecting themselves from illness, protecting their families,” said Sandra Kweder, deputy director in the FDA’s drug center. “But we don’t have any evidence that that is really the case over simple soap and water.”A spokesman for the cleaning product industry said the FDA already has “a wealth of data” showing the benefits of anti-bacterial products. Monday’s action affects virtually all soap products labeled anti-bacterial, including popular brands from CVS, Bath and Body Works, Ajax and many other companies. The rule does not apply to hand sanitizers, most of which use alcohol rather than anti-bacterial chemicals. An FDA analysis estimates it will cost companies $112.2 million to $368.8 million to comply with the new regulations, including reformulating some products and removing marketing claims from others. The agency will accept data from companies and researchers for one year before beginning to finalize the rule. The proposal comes more than four decades after the FDA began evaluating triclosan, triclocarban and similar ingredients. The government only agreed to publish its findings after a three-year legal battle with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that accused the FDA of delaying action on potentially dangerous chemicals.

What Others Say …Triclosan is found in an estimated 75% of anti-bacterial liquid soaps and body washes in the U.S. More than 93% of anti-bacterial bar soaps also contain triclosan or triclocarban, according to the FDA. Some consumers said the FDA ruling would have little effect on their buying habits, since they already avoid anti-bacterial soaps and scrubs. “The regular soap works fine for me. And if I was to think about it, I would guess that those anti-bacterial soaps probably have more toxins,” said Marco Cegarra, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Diane McLean, of Washington, D.C., thought the soaps always “seemed like a bad idea” because of concerns about creating drug-resistant bacteria.

 The FDA was asked to investigate anti-bacterial chemicals in 1972 as part of a law designed to set guidelines for dozens of common cleaners. But the guidelines got bogged down in years of regulatory delays and missed deadlines. The agency published a preliminary draft of its findings in 1978, but never finalized the results until Monday. Most of the research surrounding triclosan’s safety involves laboratory animals, including studies in rats that showed changes in testosterone, estrogen and thyroid hormones.  Some scientists worry that such changes in humans could raise the risk of infertility, early puberty and even cancer. FDA scientists stressed Monday that such studies are not necessarily applicable to humans, but the agency is reviewing their implications.

 On a conference call with journalists, Kweder noted that the government’s National Toxicology Program is already studying whether daily skin exposure to hormone-altering chemicals could lead to cancer. Other experts are concerned that routine use of anti-bacterial chemicals such as triclosan contributes to the emergence of drug-resistant germs, or superbugs, that render antibiotics ineffective. In March2010, the European Union banned the chemical from all products that come into contact with food, such as containers and silverware. A spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute, a soap cleaning product trade organization, said the group will submit new data to regulators, including studies showing that company products do not lead to antibiotic resistance. “We are perplexed that the agency would suggest there is no evidence that anti-bacterial soaps are beneficial,” said Brian Sansoni.”Our industry sent the FDA in-depth data in 2008 showing that anti-bacterial soaps are more effective in killing germs when compared with non-anti-bacterial soaps.” The group represents manufacturers including Henkel, Unilever and Dow Chemical Co.


Editor’s note:

This news article was originally published Tuesday, December 17, 2013, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; It is reprinted here with permission of the Associated Press 2014.


The La Crosse FWCO – Conserving Our Past for Our Future




Thanks to successful restoration efforts, the endangered Higgins’ Eye (shown here) is now among a growing number of mussel species that once again inhabit Midwestern Rivers like the Wapsipinicon in Iowa. Credit: USFWS

The La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) works actively with many partners to conserve native aquatic fauna, as well as the diverse habitats required for the survival and well-being of these creatures, in landscapes scattered across the upper Midwest.  Established in 1981 to help protect, restore, and enhance native fishes and the aquatic communities which support them, most work at the La Crosse FWCO is strategically focused in portions of the 190,000 square-mile Upper Mississippi River (UMR) basin.  Natural resource development, dating from European settlement to the present, has drastically altered landscapes here and in surrounding watersheds.   Frequently left in the wake of these actions were unforeseen environmental consequences that coalesced beneath the water.  Coupled with other ecological manipulations and perturbations, these cumulative impacts have taken a serious toll on the functional stability of aquatic ecosystems, as well as the viability of fragmented or isolated populations of endemic aquatic fauna.  The La Crosse FWCO fulfills many key roles in meeting federal obligations to conserve, protect, and enhance aquatic resources here that are held in trust for generations of Americans to come.


Hickson Dam located on the Red River of the North near Moorehead, Minnesota, had long been a barrier to the migration of lake sturgeon, channel catfish, walleye, and other native fish species.

The La Crosse FWCO worked with local partners to recently install a rock-arch rapids below this structure that now allows fish unimpeded access to 68 miles of upstream afterriver habitat and has improved recreational safety at the dam.

The La Crosse FWCO coordinates actions of the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee, an organization of resource managers from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin who work to promote the preservation and wise utilization of the river’s natural resources.  La Crosse FWCO biologists have been teaming with counterparts from these states and other river managers in recent years to successfully plan and execute dozens of large-scale habitat rehabilitation and enhancement projects, many of which are designed to benefit populations of native fish and recreational fisheries.

Likewise, the La Crosse FWCO supports multiagency efforts to recover several federally endangered species, including the facilitated propagation and reintroduction of Higgins’eye pearlymussels and winged mapleleaf mussels to essential habitat areas in the UMR and St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, respectively.  Meanwhile, in the case of the endangered Topeka shiner, the La Crosse FWCO coordinates actions of the Fishers and Farmers Partnership (  This nationally recognized Fish Habitat Partnership has leveraged resources for some landowners to restore ox-bow habitats that are required by this species in temperate streams, while decreasing soil and nutrient runoff from surrounding farmlands as well.  Many of these restoration actions can simultaneously lower crop production costs for participating landowners while reducing the long range transport of nutrients that contribute to hypoxic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico.


A flotilla of electrofishing boats conduct surveillance for Asian carp near a water pumping station in the North Shore Channel, part of the Chicago Area Waterway System, near Wilmette, Illinois. Credit: USFWS

The Driftless Area Restoration Effort ( is a second nationally recognized Fish Habitat Partnership coordinated by the La Crosse FWCO.  This program aims to reverse a history of poor and inconsistent land and water management practices in the Driftless Area, a unique 24,000 square-mile landscape within the UMR basin that encompasses portions of southeast Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin, northeast Iowa, and northwest Illinois which were bypassed by the last continental glacier.  Many cold water streams and temperate rivers that drain this region store and transport excessive sediment and nutrient loads that have led to broad declines in fish populations and the overall diversity of aquatic life.


Tribal youths release hatchery-reared lake sturgeon fingerlings into White Earth Lake on the White Earth Indian Reservation in western Minnesota. Credit: USFWS

Upon request, the La Crosse FWCO also provides fishery management assistance to the National Wildlife Refuge System, other federal agencies, and recognized Native American tribes in the upper Midwest.  For example, tribal work typically occurs on reservations in Minnesota and Wisconsin (i.e., beyond the UMR basin) and is largely dedicated to the re-establishment of self-sustaining lake sturgeon populations here through a combination of stocking activities and enhanced opportunities for critical fish passage. Efforts like this support what was, until recently, a widely held conviction that artificial barriers which impede fish passage and isolate vulnerable populations should be removed to help restore freshwater ecosystems. 

But continuing introductions of aquatic nuisance species (ANS), particularly movements into UMR tributaries, have forced many river managers to consider whether new or existing barriers can effectively protect native aquatic fauna upstream.  To help support key management decisions like these, the La Crosse FWCO conducts ongoing surveillance with partners to detect and estimate the relative abundance of ANS at key locations in the Chicago Area Waterways and UMR (Asian carp), the Illinois River (round goby), and the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (zebra mussels).

Among all of the methods used by the La Crosse FWCO to conserve our aquatic resources, perhaps the most efficient and popular are its many public outreach activities.  Geared particularly towards youth, events like the annual Youth Outdoor Fest in La Crosse introduce hundreds of families to new outdoor recreational opportunities that promote increased environmental awareness and continued stewardship of our common aquatic resource legacy in the UMR basin … and at the very least, may spark some excitement for the whole family to go out and do it again!

Students Learn to Plant the Seeds of Conservation




La Crosse Garden Club Members working in the pollinator garden on the grounds of Genoa NFH. Credit: USFWS 


The Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) has renewed a partnership with the La Crosse Garden Club in an effort to connect children with nature and beautify the hatchery grounds. From asters to zinnias this group provides an unmatched knowledge base about plant types, planting conditions, and what simply looks good. The only thing that this group is lacking is able bodied youngsters to share their knowledge with.
To address that problem we turned to the Summit Environmental Elementary School in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Together we have laid out the framework for a multi-year planting exercise that will enlist the fifth graders from the classes of Erica Rasmussen and Marty Maus. The plan is to have each spirited student plant and nurture seeds from two vegetables and two native prairie plants in their classroom. Then on Earth Day, April 22nd, they will come to the hatchery and cultivate their plants in either a vegetable garden or native prairie garden on the hatchery grounds. Following cultivation, maintenance and upkeep will be done by hatchery staff until fall harvest. Any production in the vegetable garden will be distributed to the new incoming fifth grade class at Summit. This year we have decided to try our hand at planting tomatoes and peppers in the vegetable garden, and sunflowers and coneflowers in the native prairie garden.

Hopefully, the native prairie gardens will reseed themselves and continue to grow from year-to-year resulting in beautiful prairie gardens around the hatchery, and the vegetable gardens will show the importance of planning something for the future. Just as students enjoyed the fresh vegetables when they started school, they can leave the same gift for the next 5th grade class. From there the lesson can expand and teach the students to protect and preserve nature and wild