Contact(s): Owen Boyle, DNR species management section chief, 608-266-5244 or Lindsay Mayer, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin communications director, 608-264-6267
MADISON - Two of Wisconsin's rarest natural resources - a tiny songbird fighting off extinction and prairies - will benefit from a recent $25,889 donation from the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin to the Department of Natural Resources.
The donation will fund activities by DNR Natural Heritage Conservation staff to recover Kirtland's warbler, a songbird on the federal endangered list that nests only in Wisconsin and a few other places, and other migratory birds that stopover in Wisconsin. It also will benefit state natural areas including two large remnant prairies. Prairies are among Wisconsin's most rare landscapes; at statehood, Wisconsin had over 7.7 million acres of native prairie but today only about 8,000 acres remain.
Ruth Oppedahl, executive director of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, said the donation represented "an investment in our state's conservation legacy. We are thrilled to be able to help provide the ongoing support necessary to care for these precious public lands and to help continue the progress in restoring Kirtland's warblers."
The state Natural Resources Board accepted the donations at its Feb. 24, 2016, meeting in Madison.
The Foundation donation to state natural areas will help pay for DNR crews to conduct prescribed burns, control invasive species and take other measures to preserve Cedarburg Bog, Lower Chippewa River, Spread Eagle Barrens and Young Prairie state natural areas.
An anonymous couple with a special interest in Wisconsin prairies gave the Foundation the money for two of the natural areas.
"In this time of funding shortfalls for natural resource protection, DNR scientists have stressed the importance of protecting large blocks of land to maximize the effect of limited funds," said the couple in a statement sent to DNR. "We feel that contributions from private citizens can make a difference toward that end."
The couple's donation will benefit Young Prairie State Natural Area, near where they spent time hunting and hiking while growing up, and the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area, where they have more recently explored by canoeing, biking, hunting, and helping with prairie restoration projects.
"Both of these areas provide large expanses that are reminiscent of pre-European settlement conditions," the couple said. "This not only benefits plant communities and wildlife that need large spaces, but also give us a "wilder" experience on our visits."
The $9,000 donation toward Kirtland's warblers will help DNR staff and partners continue work to listen and look for the birds, monitor nests where breeding sites have been found, set traps to keep cowbirds, birds that lay their eggs in the nest of other birds, away from the warblers' nests and maintain and expand the 5- to 20-year-old jack pine habitats required for nesting.
Last year was a banner year for such efforts in Wisconsin as the birds recorded their highest fledging success in the state, the lowest predation and cowbird parasitism rates recorded in the state, and located a new breeding site in Adams County. Wisconsin is important to recovery of the bird; until 1995 the bird was found almost exclusively in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan and was struggling to recover from a steep decline in populations in the 1960s.
The$4,200 donation to the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative will allow continuing efforts to work with private and public landowners to manage their lands to benefit migratory birds that stop over in Wisconsin to rest and refuel.
"These donations from the Bird Protection Fund are critical for the recovery of Kirtland's warblers and to reach more landowners with information about how they can make their properties more hospitable to migratory birds," says Owen Boyle, who leads nongame species management for DNR. "Birds are an essential part of Wisconsin and we're grateful for the continuing support from the Bird Protection Fund and the Foundation to keep them on our landscape and in our skies."