Explore Nature in the St. Croix Wetland Management District

Thank you for joining us on this exciting adventure! Before proceeding into the natural areas, please review the hiking difficulty ratings. The majority of the areas do not have walking trails and several locations have thick patches of plants and steep slopes. The chosen stops are quite large and landscape topography varies within a location. Watch for animal burrows and fallen logs. Prairies have a tendency to hold moisture so please dress appropriately. All locations are beautiful and provide spectacular birding opportunities. Please use your best judgment before continuing on your journey!

 

The purpose of this website is to help guide you in enjoying the local prairies, wetlands, and other ecosystems of the St. Croix Wetland Management District, specifically bird enthusiasts. The pages for the individual areas have descriptions, lists of birds that make their homes there, a map provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and pictures provided by people who frequent these areas.

Hiking Trail Difficulty Key

A: Some trails, shorter, thinner grasses, easy maneuverability

B: Grasses and plants are easy to maneuver, gentle slopes

C: Thick grasses require slower movement

D: Uneven terrain, steep slopes, thick patches of grass and plants

Below are links to the individual public locations.

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At the bottom of each page is a Home button that will bring you back to the main page.

St. Croix Wetland Management District

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The St. Croix Wetland Management District (SCWMD) was established by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 1993. Located on the edge of the tallgrass prairie and forest transition zone, the SCWMD manages a diverse segment of Wisconsin's landscape. Today the district oversees 43 Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) and 15 habitat easements in eight counties. WPAs are managed primarily for waterfowl but provide habitat for a variety of other wetland and grassland dependent wildlife species.

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Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District

The FSCWMD is a “hands on organization” that partners and works closely with all groups to provide educational and physical help to accomplish specific projects and activities which include:

  • Waterfowl pair and brood counts on area wetlands

  • Ducks on a Stick – (donations for mounting and specimens for use by all groups for waterfowl ID and other education activities)

  • Native seed collection and propagation on area prairies

  • Collaboration with the New Richmond High School for prairie plant seed plug collection, propagation and plantings

  • Auto tour guide of prairie and birding places to visit

  • Friends and Neighbors Night Out –educational night for neighbors to ask questions and learn about WPAs

  • Bird counts on Bird Conservation Areas (BCA)

  • Seasonal educational walks on area WPA’s

  • Invasive species control (presently working with area Scout troops)

  • Grant opportunities and partnerships with National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF)

  • Website

  • CRP Promotion – promotion of conservation reserve program, a USDA program that provides wildlife habitat within the District

  • Presentations to area conservation clubs and organizations

  • Public Land Maps (Joint Effort)

  • Promote Duck Stamp Sales – federal duck stamp proceeds are used to purchase WPAs.

  • Water Quality Monitoring

  • Biological Inventory of WPAs and adjacent lands

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Western Prairie Habitat Restoration Area

The Western Prairie Habitat Restoration Area (WPHRA)was established in 1999 by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the private sector to permanently protect and restore 20,000 acres of grassland, wetlands and oak savannahs. The WPHRA encompasses 350,000 acres within fifteen townships in St. Croix and Polk counties.

 

Restoration of viable grasslands and wetlands to provide habitat for waterfowl, pheasants and grassland birds is the primary objective of the WPHRA project. Additional management objectives include the preservation of public open space and recreational opportunities.

 

Historically, Polk and St. Croix counties had a combined total of 200,000 acres of grasslands that were dotted with rich wetlands and diverse wildlife. An additional 140,000 acres were composed of savannas which are sensitive ecosystems that depend on periodic disturbances, such as wildfires to remove invasivevegetation. Depending on the distribution, frequency, and intensity of wildfires, the acreage of prairies and savannas fluctuated. Today, grassland and savannah management practices include prescribed burning, mowing, herbicide application, grazing and haying.

 

The intent is to widely scatter suitable habitat throughout the area in a checkerboard pattern, combining working farms with prairie, savanna and wetlands.

 

Multiple species of western Wisconsin birds are listedonWisconsin’sendangered species list. Nineteen more have been listed as special concern. The WPHRA provides habitat for fifty-four rare, threatened, or endangered plant species.

 

The WPHRA enhances the quality of life for humans as restoration practices within the area improve water quality, biodiversity, and the understanding of ecosystem management practices in prairies and oak savannas.

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Management Practices

Answers to frequently asked questions regarding WPAs and WMAs:

Why do you burn? Burning is a tool used to mimic the natural process of wildfire that stunts and repels tree growth to prevent them from invading prairies. Controlled burns set back encroachment by trees and brush and stimulate the growth of grasses and forbs. Fire is an essential tool for maintaining prairie and oak savanna.

Why do you remove trees? We remove trees from the prairie and oak savanna to restore the open landscape historically found in the St. Croix Wetland Management District. This landscape was maintained by wildfires and natural grazing. Due to the loss of these natural processes, many of these areas have become dominated by trees, both native species and non-native species like Siberian elm and buckthorn.

Why do you have cows on some units? We use grazing as a management tool to simulate natural grazing by bison. Grazing plays an important role in maintaining prairie and preventing the invasion of shrubs and trees into the grassland units.

How can I get more detailed maps of the WPAs? To get an aerial photo of any of the WPAs, check out the St. Croix Wetland Management District website at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/St_Croix_WMD and choose MAPS. Scroll down to Waterfowl Production Area Maps and select the individual WPA you are interested in by name.

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Federal Duck Stamp Program

In 1934, Congress passed the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act. J.N. "Ding" Darling, a nationally known conservationist and political cartoonist was instrumental in the creation of the stamp, to be purchased by all waterfowl hunters, that would generate funds to pay for the acquisition of waterfowl habitat.

Federal Duck Stamps are one of the best investments you can make to help conserve the nation’s wetlands. For every dollar spent on Duck Stamps, 98 cents go toward the purchase or lease of habitat to add to the National Wildlife Refuge System as Waterfowl Production Areas. To date, the USFWS has obtained over 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat providing a home for numerous species of waterfowl as well as other birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians, including an estimated one-third of threatened and endangered species. The WPAs also provide areas for the public to enjoy hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation