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Friends group release birding guide

The cover of the new Auto Tour Birding Guide.1 / 2
A swallow is pictured resting on a branch. Local birders now have a guide to use to direct them to the places where bird watching is best.2 / 2

In early 2012, a consortium of environmental organizations published an Auto Tour Birding Guide featuring 16 federal Waterfowl Production Areas and state wildlife areas located in St. Croix, southern Polk and portions of Dunn counties.

The consortium consisting of the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the St. Croix Valley Bird Club, the Prairie Enthusiasts, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources spent the better part of a year evaluating more than 50 wetland and grassland sites to arrive at 16 unique sites to include in the guide.

"We considered all of the WPA's within the region and eliminated those that had similar features or that were located too close to one of the unique properties we had decided to include," said Chris Trosen, a wildlife biologist with the St. Croix WMD.

The boundary for the tour ended up following roughly the boundaries of the Western Prairie Habitat Restoration Area with the addition of a few unique properties located in Dunn County. The WPHRA area incorporates about a 350,000-acre mix of WDNR, USFW and private sector properties spread throughout 15 townships within St. Croix and Polk counties.

According to Mike Reiter, a member of the Friends of the St. Croix WMD, the idea for the guide originated from an auto tour pamphlet created many years earlier on behalf of the WPHRA.

"In order to raise awareness of the WPHRA in the eyes of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, one of the things we did, along with the Prairie Enthusiasts, was to organize an auto tour in the form of a pamphlet that guided people through areas of different kinds of interesting vegetation," he said.

The consortium embraced the idea of an auto tour with the initial goal of publicizing and promoting birding sites within the region. The guide was made possible by a $5,000 grant provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

As the guide was developed, it became apparent that it could work successfully on several levels to reach an even wider audience than just birding enthusiasts. In addition to the initial goal, the guide introduces users to the unique geography of the WPHRA known as the Prairie Pothole region of Wisconsin and it supplements the geographical discussion with a narrative about the local history of the region. The easy-to-use brochure includes maps of each county identifying the location of the various sites, specific directions, a list of birds of interest at each site, a hiking trail difficulty key for each site, descriptions of the St. Croix Wetland Management District, Friends of the SCWMD, the Western Prairie Habitat Restoration Area, the Federal Duck stamp program and an explanation of Management practices.

The consortium mirrors a trend gaining popularity among both private and governmental environmental organizations. Distinct environmental interests located across a common geographical region unite over issues and opportunities they share in common. By working together they are able to expand their individual constituencies, share manpower and volunteers, collaborate on parallel projects, identify areas of mutual concern and consolidate efforts to raise funds.

For more information about the guide visit the St. Croix WMD on Facebook at: /StCroixWMD.

Copies of the guide are available to members of the Friends of the St. Croix WMD and can be picked up at the District office located at 1764 - 95th St., New Richmond, Monday through Friday between the hours of 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.