US Long-Term Ecological Research Network

Lake Wingra (Madison, Wisconsin) is an urban lake that is used by the public in many ways. The lake adds to the natural beauty of surrounding lands that contain Edgewood College, the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Vilas Zoo, and public parks. Diverse users enjoy boating, fishing and swimming in the lake. The lake receives runoff waters from an urban watershed. These carry sediments and pollutants, such as nutrients and road salt. Lake Wingra is eutrophic due to excessive phosphorus inputs. The lake harbors some harmful exotic species, including common carp and Eurasian water milfoil.

There is widespread interest in improving and sustaining the amenities provided by Lake Wingra and its shorelands. Friends of Lake Wingra (FOLW), a non-profit organization of citizens concerned about the lake, has organized input from many diverse people and groups to develop an evolving set of goals for the lake and its watershed.
We developed scenarios to evaluate plausible changes during the next generation (to 2035) that could affect the implementation of goals for Lake Wingra. This report presents a short introduction to the scenario process, the goals for Lake Wingra that have emerged from the FOLW process so far, a description of the current state of the system that we considered, and the draft scenarios. The four scenarios are:

  • Garden State: Propelled by expanding concern for the global environment, enormous investments are made in green technology. Environmental groups in Madison are gradually assimilated by powerful global environmental organizations. This shift of influence to larger scales affects Madison's approaches to local environmental issues such as Lake Wingra.
  • Big Green Brother: Grassroots organizations like FOLW transform government. Stronger steps are taken to address local environmental needs, including restoration of Lake Wingra. The new institutions gradually become more narrowly focused and less responsive to evolving needs. This rigidity meets a severe challenge when a deep, persistent drought strikes the Madison area.
  • C-Clear: Local organizations develop increasingly successful innovations for managing Lake Wingra. Use of the lake expands and the institutions become more diverse reflecting the expanding user community. But intensifying use brings greater conflict among different interest groups. A spiraling cycle of emerging issues continually challenges those who wish to conserve Lake Wingra.
  • Exotic Exchange: Success in removing exotic invaders creates an ecological vacuum and also exposes unexpected conflicts among user groups. A new harmful invader fills the ecological vacuum. This catalyzes change and refocuses management efforts.

The scenarios are a work in progress. We do not yet consider them to be in final form. The report closes with information on how readers can participate in the ongoing process of creating a better future for Lake Wingra and its watershed.

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