If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit the Curtis Prairie or the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum (UW Arboretum), you might consider adding this to your bucket list. Father of Wildlife Management Aldo Leopold and Father of Wisconsin Plant Ecology John Curtis conceived of, (both inductees in the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame) and designed and planted, with the help of others, the first restored prairie in the world — Curtis Prairie. This planting showed it was possible to restore an ecosystem and to preserve endangered habitats. Because of that determination, the UW Arboretum has recently been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the birthplace of restoration ecology.
“The listing recognizes the Arboretum’s historic significance for pioneering developments in conservation science and ecological research led by influential conservationists like John Curtis and Aldo Leopold. In Wisconsin, the Arboretum is recognized because of its landscape architecture, education and research, architectural elements, and its hosting of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the 1930s.” (UW News)
UW Arboretum Natural History
The first 246 acres of the Arboretum were purchased in 1932. Today, it is made up of 1200 acres. Although its role is primarily ecological research, the Arboretum also is a place of respite and meditation for visitors from throughout the world.
Workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped build the the first restored habitats at the Arboretum. They also helped some of the build roads, buildings and trails around the Arboretum. Many of the original CCC buildings still stand on the property.
Madison architectural historian Elizabeth Miller wrote the Arboretum’s nomination for listing in the register. She is now working to nominate the Arboretum as a National Historic Landmark.
For more information about the Arboretum, go to A Living Legacy of Research at the UW Arboretum.
Also see Saving History: 6 Things you need to know about historic designation.