Auto touring bird guide offeredFormed back in 2010, the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District has become a viable part of the conservation landscape.
By: By Mike Reiter, New Richmond News
Formed back in 2010, the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District has become a viable part of the conservation landscape.
Their mission is to ensure plant and animal diversity through sound habitat resource management allowing recreational activities and educational opportunities to promote an understanding and appreciation of natural resource issues and values. Over the last couple of years this group has been extremely active in initiating a wide variety of “hands on” projects.
Through a grant provided by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, their most recent endeavor has become reality with the publication of an Auto Tour Birding Guide. This tour guide highlights a number of local Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA) and DNR lands which have unique properties that provide birders, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts a chance to explore nature in their own backyard and on their own time schedule.
While most of the sites are located in St. Croix and southern Polk counties, a few are positioned to the east in Dunn County. The Western Prairie Habitat Restoration Area forms a rough boundary of the sites included in the guide.
Parking areas are identified and driving directions are clearly delineated. Hiking difficulty from “A” (easy) to “D” (uneven terrain) is listed for each of the properties to aid in choosing which ones are suitable depending on conditions. Major bird species that inhabit the area are listed for potential sightings and a history of the location is also provided to give a historic perspective of each property. Geological highlights are stressed to provide an additional focus at each stop. An area map of birds by county is also included to keep everything in perspective.
Properties included in the auto tour guide are: Dunnville Wildlife Area/Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area, Muddy Creek Wildlife Area – Shutts Property, Sedge Meadow and Old Elk Lake, Rock Creek WPA, Rock Falls Wildlife Area, Spring Meadows Wildlife Management Area and WPA, Amschler WPA, Bettlerly WPA, Bierbrauer WPA, Casey Lake Wildlife Management Area, Hanten WPA, Nagel Wildlife Management Area, Oak Ridge WPA, Star Prairie WPA, Ten Mile WPA and Three Lakes WPA.
Copies of the Auto Tour Birding Guide are available free of charge at the USF&WS Office located at 1764 95th St., just off Highway 64 between Somerset and New Richmond. Copies are also available from any Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District member.
To join the non-profit citizen’s group “Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District” check out the Friend’s website at http://fscwmd.org. Annual membership is $10 which includes an area Nature Guide along with the Auto Tour Birding Guide. A $15 federal duck stamp will also be included with a $20 membership. The FSCWMD is looking for a few good folks to become physically involved with local conservation projects.
Spring Controlled Burns
By Tom Kerr
As our warm winter is rapidly giving way to spring, the Fish and Wildlife Service is gearing up for our spring controlled burn season on local Waterfowl Production Areas.
The careful use of controlled burns is a very effective technique for managing and improving grasslands. Controlled burns rejuvenate prairies by consuming accumulated dead vegetation, stimulating new growth and controlling non-native plants.
Over time, the thick layer of accumulated dead vegetation will stunt the growth of prairie plants. Fires return the nutrients locked up in the dead vegetation to the soil resulting in more vigorous growth. Over the next several years after a burn, the grasslands will provide better nesting and wintering habitat for a variety of birds including bobolinks, pheasants, blue winged teal, mallards and many, many more. Although there is a temporary change in the habitat in early spring, the long-term habitat benefits far outweigh any negative impact.
Perhaps most importantly, controlled burns help prevent the forest from overtaking the grasslands. Historically, wildfires ignited by lightning or other natural causes helped maintain large portions of St. Croix and southern Polk County as open prairie.
With European settlement, wildfires were suppressed, towns and agricultural fields became more common and trees began to overtake the remaining prairie. We safely use controlled burns to simulate some the positive benefits of naturally occurring fire. Controlled burns are just one of several management techniques that we use to restore the prairie, wetlands and oak savanna historically found in the St. Croix Wetland Management District.
Our priority this year will be to complete follow-up management on many of the tree removal sites on local WPAs. The trees, many of which are invasive species such as buckthorn and Siberian elm, detract from the value of these areas for grassland dependent birds such as meadowlarks, blue winged teal, short eared owls and many others.
Controlled burns are an effective way to set back the brush and trees and continue the process of letting the native prairie seeds germinate and take root. Eventually, these areas will enter a maintenance phase in which they will only need to be burned every four or five years.
If you would like to stay informed about the controlled burns on area WPAs, check us out on Facebook by searching for St. Croix Wetland Management District.
For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check out our website at www.fws.gov/midwest/stcroix/.
Warden Paul’s Corner
Deadlines for ice fishing shelter removal
For inland Wisconsin waters, ice fishing shelters must be removed daily and when not occupied after the first Sunday following March 1 for waters south of Highway 64 and after the first Sunday following March 12 for waters north of Highway 64. For 2012, those dates are: Sunday, March 4, for waters south of Highway 64 and Sunday, March 18, for waters north of Highway 64.
At this point in the season, ice conditions start to deteriorate and make removal unsafe and difficult. A shanty that breaks through the ice can create a safety hazard for boaters and anglers during open water season.
Failure to remove a shanty or ice fishing shelter by these deadlines could result in a forfeiture of $263.10. Additional costs may be incurred if the DNR must arrange to have the shanty removed or if the shanty or ice fishing shelter breaks through the ice and must be recovered and disposed of.
After these dates for removing ice fishing shelters from a frozen lake or river, an angler may continue to use a portable shelter but must remove it daily and when it is not occupied or actively being used.
For any questions or to report a violation, call Warden Paul Sickman at 715-684-2914, ext. 120.