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Contact information
For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
Thomas Meyer
Natural areas conservation biologist

Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Belmont Prairie (No. 364)

Belmont Prairie

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer


Overview

Location

Lafayette County. T3N-R1E, Section 15. 36 acres.

Description

Description

Located along the Pecatonica State Trail, Belmont Prairie is a small mesic to dry prairie remnant with over 80 species of native plants. This stretch of prairie lies within a former railroad right-of-way, which is one reason for the prairie's preservation. While most mesic prairies have been nearly extirpated from the state due to human settlement and agriculture, Belmont Prairie was preserved, in part, by the unintentional fires sparked by the rails and stray cinders from passing locomotives. The fires encouraged the growth of native prairie grasses and forbs and kept the area free from woody species encroachment. Common grasses include big and little blue-stem, side-oats grama, Canada wild rye, prairie drop-seed, and June grass. Forbs include lyre-leaved rock cress, field wormwood, Canada milk-vetch, flowering spurge, Illinois tick-trefoil, prairie thistle, compass-plant, and New Jersey tea. This small remnant prairie also contains rare plants and animals including wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium), upland sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda), dickcissel (Spiza americana), grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), and bell's vireo (Vireo bellii). Belmont Prairie is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2002.

Access

Driving directions

From the junction of STH 126 and the Pecatonica State Trail in Belmont, walk or mountain bike (trail is not suited for road bikes) along the multi-use recreation trail 1.2 miles to the eastern boundary of the natural area. Note: The trail seemingly ends in a shallow, wooded ravine at about the 1 mile mark. Bear left at this point into the agricultural field, then immediately hook back right and return to the old railroad bed and continue another 0.2 miles to the natural area. The best portion of this overgrown prairie, albeit narrow and small, is at the far western end. Prairie is located only within the former railroad right-of-way. The areas north and south of the right-of-way are old field composed of non-native cool-season grasses.

Ownership

Belmont Prairie is owned by:

  • WDNR

Maps

The DNR's state natural areas program is comprised of lands owned by the state, private conservation organizations, municipalities, other governmental agencies, educational institutions and private individuals. While the majority of SNAs are open to the public, access may vary according to individual ownership policies. Public use restrictions may apply due to public safety, or to protect endangered or threatened species or unique natural features. Lands may be temporarily closed due to specific management activities. Users are encouraged to contact the landowner for more specific details.

The data shown on these maps have been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability, and resolution. The data may contain errors or omissions and should not be interpreted as a legal representation of legal ownership boundaries.

Objectives

Site objectives

Manage the site as a prairie reserve, a mesic prairie restoration site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the prairie. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native prairies.

Management approach

The native prairie species are managed actively through tree/shrub control using tree harvest, brushing and especially fire to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Occasional fire-tolerant oaks, hickories, and native shrubs such as hazelnut may be retained at low densities. The native dominant savanna tree species (primarily oaks) form the basis for an oak savanna restoration along with old field, which can be restored to mesic prairie. Some thinning of the canopy, understory manipulation and shrub control via harvest, brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Augmentation of the ground layer will only add species that historically would have been found on the site, using seeds or plugs from local genetic material; this usually occurs in the early stages of restoration. The ecological characteristics of the site will be primarily shaped by an intensive fire management program. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, augmentation of native prairie species after careful review, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress wildfires.

Site-specific considerations

  • Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near trails is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible.

Recreation

Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for a variety of recreational activities as indicated below. Generally, there are no picnic areas, restrooms, or other developments. Parking lots or designated parking areas are noted on individual SNA pages and maps. Trails, if present, are typically undesignated footpaths. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map and/or under the "Access" tab. A compass and topographic map or a GPS unit are useful tools for exploring larger, isolated SNAs.

Allowable activities

In general, the activities listed below are allowed on all DNR-owned SNA lands. Exceptions to this list of public uses, such as SNAs closed to hunting, are noted under the "Access" tab above and posted with signs on site.

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Hunting
  • Trapping

Prohibited activities

  • Camping and campfires
  • Collecting of animals (other than legally harvested species), non-edible fungi, rocks, minerals, fossils, archaeological artifacts, soil, downed wood, or any other natural material, alive or dead. Collecting for scientific research requires a permit issued by the DNR
  • Collecting of plants including seeds, roots or other non-edible parts of herbaceous plants such as wildflowers or grasses
  • Drone use, unless authorized by a SNA research permit
  • Geocaching
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use

For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR]

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Last revised: Thursday, October 19, 2017