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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

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© U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
© U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

December 2006

Wolf River Bottoms

Wetlands management benefits osprey, egrets and swans.

Natasha Kassulke

The Wolf River Bottoms Wildlife Area project, located in Outagamie County in the towns of Deer Creek and Maine, has restored 850 acres of habitat for migratory waterfowl and threatened species such as osprey and great egrets. About 10 percent of the world's tundra swans also migrate through the Lower Wolf River Bottomlands Natural Resource Area in the spring.

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To accomplish these goals, existing dikes have been improved and a new splinter dike was built, increasing the ability to manipulate water levels to benefit wildlife.

When this property was purchased by DNR in the early 1990s, nearly the entire dike system needed improvement. In the past few years, DNR staff reconstructed about three miles of dike and placed almost 1,000 acres of wetland under active management. Several miles of dike improvements were still needed to be restored in order to effectively manage the entire wetland complex on this property.

The restoration of the Wolf River Bottoms Wildlife Area was supported financially with $200,000 of NRDAR settlement funds. With this funding, woody vegetation has been removed from all dikes to provide access to water control structures in order to manipulate water levels. Filling in breaches and repairing muskrat damage on dikes, resetting or repairing water control structures, and recapping or rebuilding portions of dike were also completed. Pumping water into and releasing of water from wildlife areas was hampered by an unstable dike system.

Dike renovation allows more water on the property in dry periods, increasing the success of nesting waterfowl, allowing control of invading vegetation, and providing protected areas during the fall and spring migrations.

More recently, the Department of Natural Resources was able to purchase another 346.5 acres of land for $1.126 million in the Lower Wolf River Bottomlands Natural Resources Area that will be managed for wildlife and habitat, and provide public recreation and natural resources education. Funding for this land purchase was also provided by the NRDAR program.