Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Parks

Natural Areas Program

Screenshot of Story MapThe Dane County Park System contains over 9,000 acres of natural areas including prairies, wetlands, oak woodlands, and forests. The Natural Areas Program aims to restore and sustain natural communities in these lands while fostering a deeper connection to our natural resources. Some properties have active restoration Projects and/or detailed Vegetation and Restoration Management Plans.

To learn more about this program and ongoing restoration projects, please view the interactive online map linked below.  The map includes the following information:

  • Current & Original Vegetation shows how landcover has changed dramatically since European settlement began in the 1830s.
  • Restoration Projects provides a visual summary of many ongoing restoration projects in the Dane County Park System.
  • Methods describes the tools and techniques used to manage invasive species, restore native vegetation, and maintain healthy and resilient natural communities.
  • Natural Communities showcases textbook examples of a variety of nearby natural communities which you can visit.
  • Partner Opportunities highlights volunteer opportunities to do natural areas work with our partners.


More information about natural communities:

  • Prairies are incredibly diverse and important ecosystems. They can soak up as much as seven inches of rain, support hundreds of pollinator species, and absorb and store carbon emissions, among many other benefits.  
  • Oak Savanna/Openings were once one of the most common vegetation types in the Upper Midwest but today are highly endangered with only a fraction of one percent remaining. Intact oak savannas are now one of the rarest natural communities on earth. Savannas are characterized by scattered oak trees covering 10-50% of the site and an understory of prairie mixed with shade tolerant plants.
  • Oak Woodlands have a higher and denser canopy cover (50-95%) than an Oak Savanna/Opening.