Contact(s): Mark Witecha, Upland Wildlife Ecologist, 608-267-7861; Lesa Kardash, Wildlife Biologist, 715-421-7813
MADISON - The public is invited to provide input regarding revisions to the Department of Natural Resources' 10-year greater prairie-chicken management plan.
A public meeting Feb. 22 at the Fine Arts Center in the McMillan Memorial Library, 490 East Grand Ave., Wisconsin Rapids from 5-7 p.m. will give attendees an opportunity to receive information regarding the plan revision process, current prairie-chicken population, draft conceptual alternatives and share feedback with DNR staff.
"This public meeting is a great opportunity for stakeholders and the interested public to give early input as DNR staff and partners begin the process of revising the prairie-chicken management plan," said Mark Witecha, Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist.
Informational displays will be available at the public meeting and DNR staff will be present for one-on-one discussion and questions. People can submit comments at the public meeting or via an online comment form (which will be posted following the public meeting) through Friday, March 10. Additional public input opportunities will be available after a draft plan is developed and again when the final plan is presented to the Natural Resources Board for approval.
"We look forward to hearing the public's thoughts on managing this iconic native bird and how to keep grassland habitats healthy into the future to benefit both people and wildlife," said Lesa Kardash, Wildlife Biologist for Portage County.
The greater prairie-chicken is a native grouse species that lives in open grassland habitats. In Wisconsin, this species resides in four nearly-isolated sub-populations centered within four DNR Wildlife Areas - Leola Marsh, Buena Vista, Paul J. Olson and George W. Mead - located in Adams, Portage, Wood, and Marathon counties.
Population declines over the past several decades have led to an increased emphasis on grassland habitat management on these four core properties and neighboring private lands through land use agreements, and continued declines raised concerns that Wisconsin population was losing genetic diversity.
Following recommendations from a nationwide panel of experts, prairie-chicken hens from Minnesota were trapped and translocated to Wisconsin between 2006 and 2009. While this effort did provide positive genetic results, further action is needed to ensure the long-term success of this gamebird. Ongoing research has highlighted additional potential avenues to stabilize Wisconsin's population.
The previous greater prairie-chicken management plan was completed in 2004 and covered the period 2004-2014. Department staff are hopeful that an updated management plan and strengthened ties with local communities, stakeholders and interested citizens will allow the greater prairie-chicken to once again thrive in Wisconsin.