Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Natural Heritage Conservation

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  • ##Over 40 Years of Conservation
    Since its creation in the early 1970s, DNR’s Endangered Resources Program has succeeded in restoring iconic bird species to our skies, including trumpeter swans, bald eagles and osprey. Trumpeter swan populations have soared from zero to nearly 4,700 a generation after recovery efforts began and the species was removed from the state endangered species list in 2009. Trumpeters swans remain protected under federal migratory bird laws and DNR continues to monitor its populations. Trumpeter swan, photo © Brian Collins.
  • ##A Broader Mission
    A name change hatched in 2013 turned the Endangered Resources Program into the Natural Heritage Conservation Program to more accurately reflect its broader mission of conserving all native species and state natural areas, not just those that are endangered. Wisconsin’s rich biological diversity – more than 400 bird species that nest or stop over, 70 mammals, 56 reptiles and amphibians, 148 fish, 1,800 native plants, tens of thousands of invertebrates and more than 100 distinct natural communities – reflects our location at the biological crossroads of eastern hardwood forests, western prairies and northern evergreen forests. We’re privileged to work with you to help care for our common home and rare treasures. Great blue heron, photo © Brian Collins.
  • ##Bats
    With white-nose syndrome spreading across the eastern United States in the late 2000s and wiping out cave bat populations, NHC worked to prepare for the disease’s arrival in Wisconsin. Four bat species were added to the state threatened species list, providing special protections. Natural Heritage Conservation staff worked with private landowners to encourage voluntary steps to keep the disease out of caves and mines, required cave-users to decontaminate their gear between caves and enlisted volunteers to help us understand bat population numbers and locations. The disease, found in Wisconsin in 2014, has spread rapidly and is starting to take a toll on bat populations. But the previous precautions have allowed more time for research into possible treatments for the disease that, if successful, will help Wisconsin work to restore bat populations. Learn how to become a volunteer for the Wisconsin Bat Program. Little brown bats, photo by Heather Kaarakka, Wisconsin DNR.
  • ##Working With Landowners
    NHC conservation biologists work with private landowners like Lee Swanson to help them manage and maintain Wisconsin's unique plants and animals and special landscapes. NHC conservation biologists work with private landowners like Lee Swanson to help them manage and maintain Wisconsin's unique plants and animals and special landscapes because 85 percent of Wisconsin land is privately owned. Swanson and his partners in the privately-owned Swamplovers Nature Preserve have been part of NHC’s Landowner Incentive Program, which provides technical and financial help to landowners in the Driftless Area who manage their land to benefit rare species. Photo by Michael Kienitz, Wisconsin DNR.
  • ##Landowner Conservation Report
    To help private landowners learn more about their property and opportunities to manage habitat on their land for native plants and animals, NHC has been providing up to 100 landowners per year a free Landowner Conservation Report that lets them know what rare species may be found on their land. Report recipients also learn what government and other financial and technical programs may be able to help them boost habitat for those rare species. Read an article about Landowner Conservation Reports from the June 2016 issue of the Natural Resources Magazine. Karner blue butterfly, photo by Gregor Schuurman, Wisconsin DNR.
  • ##Plants
    Wisconsin has more than 1,800 native plant species and more than 330 are listed as endangered, threatened or special concern. Some plants are rare because they require a type of habitat that has always been rare in Wisconsin while others have declined recently due to threats such as habitat loss or degradation, disease or poaching. DNR works to locate and catalog these rare plants on public lands and take management action to help restore declining populations. Lesser fringed gentian, photo © Josh Mayer.
  • ##State Natural Areas Program
    Fearful in the 1940s that Wisconsin was losing its native prairies, wetlands and forests, Aldo Leopold, John Curtis and other Wisconsin conservation giants helped plant the seeds for what’s grown into the nation’s largest natural areas system. These sites – about two–thirds owned by the state and the rest by more than 50 partners ranging from the U.S. Forest Service to The Nature Conservancy – protect some of the best remaining examples of the native plant communities present before European settlement, as well as unique geological and archaeological features. Nearly all sites are open to the public to explore and hunt and fish. The State Natural Areas Volunteer Program is enlisting more citizens in helping care for these special sites. Muir Lake State Natural Area, photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.
  • ##Mussels
    More than half of Wisconsin’s 51 native mussel species are either listed as species of greatest conservation need, or we lack comprehensive information on where they currently occur in the state. To fill in gaps and monitor populations, NHC is conducting the first statewide mussel survey in over 40 years and continues to recruit and train volunteers to update existing records and send in new observations. Such information, for example, allows staff to work with state transportation officials to help avoid or move mussel populations when road and bridge projects could potentially impact them. Learn more about Wisconsin's rare mussels and clams. Photo by Paul White, Wisconsin DNR.
  • ##Natural Heritage Inventory
    NHC conservation biologists locate and catalog rare plants and animals and high quality natural areas for the Natural Heritage Inventory, a statutorily required system of collection, storage and management of rare species information that uses the same standard methodology used in all 50 states and several other nations across the western hemisphere. DNR uses inventory information when developing master plans for state properties and conservation strategies for species and communities and when reviewing proposed projects to ensure they avoid impacts to rare species and in conducting research. Got data? Share your species observations with us and help strengthen our knowledge of Wisconsin's natural heritage through our online species reporting form. Wetland monitoring, photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.
  • ##Turtles
    DNR research to learn more about wood turtles and their habitats is helping focus conservation efforts to help protect and restore this and other rare or declining turtle populations in Wisconsin. Helping protect turtle nests from predators and flooding is helping boost hatching rates in some areas, while enlisting citizen help in identifying road crossings where turtles are getting run over by cars is aiding protection of the mature female turtles that are the key to healthy turtle populations. Learn more about the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program and how you can submit a turtle sighting. An adult male wood turtle (recently eating raspberries) carries a transmitter and a GPS unit, photo by Drew Feldkirchner, Wisconsin DNR.
  • ##Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II
    Getting current information about the bird species that nest in Wisconsin and their population trends is crucial for conserving birds, and nearly 1,000 volunteers are already helping DNR and partners carry out a 5-year survey known as the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas to collect that information. The results will help guide bird conservation in Wisconsin for the next generation. American redstart, photo © Brian Collins.
  • ##Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Program
    Wisconsin is recognized nationally as a leader in enlisting citizen scientists to help collect information about the status of wildlife, plants, water quality and other resources. The Natural Heritage Conservation Program provides up to $100,000 annually to help organizations train volunteers to collect data on priority species and topics and employs a coordinator to help build the capacity of organizations to engage in citizen-based monitoring. Learn how to get involved in the Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Network. Volunteer with acoustic bat detector, photo © Jon Pearce.
  • ##Invasive Species
    Invasive species are one of the biggest threats to public and private lands in southern Wisconsin. NHC’s invasive terrestrial plant expert has played a key role in creating and updating a classification system that regulates invasive plants, and in helping inform people and businesses about the regulations. NHC crews work to control garlic mustard, buckthorn and honeysuckle on state natural areas. Garlic mustard, photo by Tyler Brandt, Wisconsin DNR.
  • ##Be a Volunteer or Donor
    Join the community of caretakers for Wisconsin’s native wildlife, plants and state natural areas. There are many ways to volunteer, donate or show your support. Purchase an eagle license plate or a wolf license plate and your $25 annual donation goes to the Endangered Resources Fund to help pay for conservation biologists to protect and restore Wisconsin’s native wildlife, plants and state natural areas. Learn how to order the eagle plate or donate. View from the top of Observatory Hill State Natural Area, photo by Tyler Brandt, Wisconsin DNR.

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Last Revised: Monday June 13 2016

© Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources