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R.A. Smith National, Inc. Knowledge Blog

Top 8 Amazing Sights of Nature

by Tina Myers 29. June 2015 14:41

As part of our June 30x30 Nature Challenge Month, wetland ecologist and amateur photographer Tina Myers would like to encourage all of you to step away from your electronic devices this summer, get in touch with your natural heritage, and discover the amazing spectacles found in nature in your own backyard. You never know what you may come across! For example, take a look at these photos and learn something you may not have already known…

Photo 1:  There are 21 species of snakes in Wisconsin, four of which are endangered. This particular snake, the Butler’s garter snake, was listed as State Threatened for many years, but was removed from the list on January 1, 2014, and is now listed as Special Concern. 


Photo 2:  There are over 160 species of dragonflies and damselflies that can be found in Wisconsin. This particular species, found during a field visit in Franklin, Wis., is a female green darner. Like so many species, dragonflies depend on aquatic ecosystems to fulfill their lifecycles.  

Photo 3:  This beauty is known as the Dwarf Lake Iris and is a State–Threatened and Federally Threatened plant found near Lake Michigan. This small plant grows nowhere else in the world but in the Great Lakes Region. I was lucky enough to see it in bloom at a nature preserve near Bailey’s Harbor, Wis., just a couple of weeks ago.       

Photo 4:  You often see beautiful tropical orchids being sold at grocery stores and garden centers these days. But did you know there are approximately 50 different species of orchids in Wisconsin that are just as beautiful? Many are quite rare and are listed as Threatened or Endangered. This particular species, the large yellow lady’s slipper, is locally abundant in Door County where I took this photo. There are six species of lady slipper orchids alone in Wisconsin. 

Photo 5:  Native prairie ecosystems once covered a large portion of our landscape throughout the Midwest, but due to urban development and agriculture, these ecosystems have become quite rare. In fact, the native tallgrass prairie is thought to be the most endangered ecosystem in North America. This photo shows a rare low prairie found not more than an hour away from our Brookfield office in the Southern Kettle Moraine.

Photos 6 and 7:  Winter is no excuse for not getting out to enjoy the wonders that nature has to offer. These photos were taken up at the Lake Superior Bayfield Peninsula Ice Caves. These ice caves are not open every year to the public and sometimes the ice is only safe enough to walk on for a week or two, so seeing these up close is quite rare. People came out in droves to see them the last two winters. But even if you can’t get there in winter, that’s OK; just take a trip in summer and see the caves up close in person via kayak!

Photo 8:  Clean water is important to all of us. Wisconsin boasts some of the most beautiful lakes and rivers in the Midwest, like this one up near Crivitz. The USEPA recently came out with a new “Clean Water Rule,” which more precisely defines waters that are protected under the Clean Water Act. For more information about this rule, click here.

And a bonus Photo 9:  Did you know that the month of June is designated as Leave No Child Inside Month? More than ever, children are spending more time using electronic devices like TVs, cell phones and computers that are steering further away from their natural heritage. This summer, be sure to spend some quality time with your children in the great outdoors and teach them the importance of nature.          


What are your favorite nature sightings? Let us know in the comments.

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2015 Road Construction Safety Tips

by Benjie Hayek 12. June 2015 11:27

Another year has passed and this year’s construction season is
off to a busy start! The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
has published a brochure titled "Creating Safer Work Zones: Improving Operations on Both Sides of the Barrel." This brochure provides safety tips and useful information to navigate safely through road construction work zones. Print out a copy below to share with others.

Main topics covered:

  • Stay alert and minimize distractions
  • Keep your headlights on
  • Pay attention
  • Merge into the proper lane
  • Don’t tailgate
  • Obey posted speed limit signs
  • Change lanes safely
  • Follow instructions from flag persons
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Be patient!

2015 Road Construction Safety Tips.pdf (300.63 kb)

Construction Safety Tips

Courtesy Federal Highway Administration

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Construction Services

Don’t End Up All Wet. Take Time for Real Estate Due Diligence.

by Theran Stautz 17. March 2015 07:53

As a wetland delineator, the worst part of my job is giving bad news to someone who purchased property to build their dream home, only to find out that they can’t build because there are wetlands present.  It pays to do research in the beginning of your property search instead of getting stuck with a parcel that contains a significant amount of unbuildable wetland area. With just a little bit of work, wetland due diligence as part of a real estate transaction can save you time, money and bad news.

Below are a few great websites to check out for more information.

  • Visit the Wisconsin DNR’s Wetlands web page and explore the “Locating Wetlands” section.
  • Explore the WDNR Surface Water Data Viewer. 
    Pay particular attention to wetlands less than two acres, wetland indicator soils and inventoried wetlands, as these features could impact how you develop your site.
  • If you believe there may be wetlands on your property, have a wetland professional visit the site to determine if wetlands are present. Wetland determinations and delineations completed by WDNR Assured Delineators are pre-approved by the WDNR, due to the delineator’s high level of education, experience and proven quality. Read my blog for more information.
    Avoid Delays, Mitigate Risk by Hiring a Wisconsin DNR Assured Wetland Delineator
  • Check with local agencies (county/town/municipality) for specific zoning requirements such as shoreland zoning, ecologically sensitive areas and other setbacks. Learn more about WDNRs regulations.
  • Include a Real Estate Addendum with your real estate offer. This allows the buyer to verify the presence of wetlands and to negotiate the offer if wetlands are found on the property.

More Information
If you would like more information about R.A. Smith National’s ecological services, or are in need of wetland delineation services, please contact me in our Madison, Wis. office at 608-467-2685, ext. 3298 or or contact Heather Patti in our Brookfield, Wis. office at 262-317-3361 or




Wisconsin Roadway Fatalities Declined in 2014

by Laura Schroeder 3. March 2015 08:47

In early January, WisDOT’s changeable message signs displayed the total 2014 Wisconsin roadway fatalities at 491*. In 2014 Wisconsin’s roadway fatalities fell below 500 for the first time since 1943. This a pretty incredible feat considering the amount of cars on the road and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) have increased significantly over those seven decades.

The past decade shows a similar improvement. In 2014 roadway fatalities in Wisconsin decreased by 345 from 2003 – a 41% reduction compared to 2003’s 836 roadway fatalities. In comparison, Figure 1 shows the VMT has remained relatively constant from 2003 through 2014, at just around 60,000 MVMT (million vehicle miles traveled). Fatalities have dropped significantly while the amount of driving has remained almost constant. These figures seem to indicate that more drivers are slowing down, paying attention, buckling up and driving sober. In fact, Wisconsin’s seat belt compliance has increased from 70% in 2003 to 85% in 2014, and drunk driving fatalities have decreased 47% since 2003.

Although this is great progress, we can still do more to reduce the number of roadway fatalities in Wisconsin. It is important that we take the necessary steps to make our roads safer; such as educating the public, advancing the engineering of our vehicles and roadways, and providing enforcement to keep the roadways safe. R.A. Smith National’s transportation and traffic engineers work to increase roadway safety on our transportation projects, a few of which include modernizing the WIS 59 interchange along the I-39/90 corridor, implementing pedestrian and bicycle enhancements along WIS 20/83 in Waterford, incorporating cutting-edge traffic signal equipment along WIS 50 in Kenosha County, constructing five roundabouts on WIS 145 in Richfield, and implementing access management improvements along Bluemound Road in Waukesha County.

You can read more about this topic and find the most current statistics at:

*Note this number is still preliminary due to reporting delays and fatalities resulting from injuries due to crashes in late 2014.




Wisconsin Removes 50-Foot Highway Setback Restriction

by John Casucci 23. February 2015 08:53

From 1999 to 2009, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), acting under Administrative Rule Trans 233, reviewed land divisions for compliance with access, setback, noise and traffic visibility. By far, the most controversial item was the 50-foot highway setback, which prohibited improvements within the 50-foot corridor.

Trans 233 was eventually declared invalid by Dane County Circuit Court Case No. 06-CV-4294, Madison Area Builders Association, et al v. Wisconsin Department of Transportation; et al. From 2009 to present WisDOT has not been reviewing land divisions as a result of the court ruling. The court ordered that Trans 233 revert to the 1996 version, which only applies to subdivision plats, thereby taking away WisDOT’s powers to impose restrictions on other forms of land divisions.

As a result of this court order and upon request, WisDOT will release the setback line on land divisions other than subdivision plats.  As of February 2015 there is a two-step process. A letter of release must be obtained from WisDOT and a correction document prepared. Both documents will be recorded at the Register of Deeds’ office.

If you have a project that has been subjected to the setback restriction (other than by subdivision plat) please contact me at R.A. Smith National at 262-317-3249 or We will be happy to assist you in the removal of the setback restriction.



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