environmental history  


introduction geography geology cultures ecosystem conservation  
Project goal:  Help sustain the natural resources and protect cultural resources of the Driftless Area.  
Driftless Area


The Driftless Area contains environmental evidence that can be used to illustrate ecological change, human prehistory and history over the past 14,000 years. The last advances of the continental ice sheets that covered upper North America during the Pleistocene Epoch flowed mostly around the Driftless Area preserving this plateau of rocky bluffs with steep stream valleys in the otherwise flat landscape of the Midwest. The Driftless Area supported tundra habitats during the many  advances of the continental glacial lobes during the Pleistocene epoch. 

The Driftless Area now supports forest habitats that serve as refugia for cold climate species after the ice sheets retreated to their current position in the polar region. The cold climate species include disjunct boreal plant populations and glacial relcit land snails. There may be more yet undiscovered disjunct or other relict species in the Driftless Area.

The geology and forest resources of the Driftless Area influenced human settlement patterns and cultures, and in turn the human occupants affected the environment. The cultures included PaleoIndians, Woodland Societies, lead miners (badgers), and dairy farmers. The interactions between Society and the environment with changes to the environment and to culture continue today with modern activities such as outdoor recreation, habitat restoration, and species conservation.

The rich and diverse natural resources and cultural history of the Driftless Area may actually qualify for inscription under the World Heritage Convention. Read more on the various topics that help describe and interpret the Driftless Area heritage by selecting from the menu choices above. 





Top left: Early dairy farmstead.

Top right: Decorative fence post for a settlement era cemetery.

Middle: Forest floor flower and close up of land snail shell.

Bottom left: Large pieces of fallen rocks known as talus at the base of an algific talus slope that are now covered with lichens, mosses, liverworts, and ferns and other plants that do not require much soil. 

Far bottom:   Large yellow birch with Canda yew near cold air vent on an algific talus slope.


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