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NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 454 days

Weekly News Published July 23, 2019


Milwaukee County Parks System to be designated an "Important Bird Area" in Wisconsin

Contact(s): Craig Thompson, DNR, 608-785-1277,; Karen Etter Hale, WBCI chair, 920-245-1395,; Brian Russart, Milwaukee County Parks System Natural Areas Coordinator, 414-378-5521,

Its 15,000 acres are 75% of remaining green space in Milwaukee County, host over 250 bird species annually; live raptor show from Schlitz Audubon Nature Center a part of designation ceremony

MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee County Park System will soon have another feather in its cap: its 15,000 acres are being recognized for their "immense" value to migratory birds and will be designated Wisconsin's 93rd "Important Bird Area" in a July 25 ceremony at Lake Park.

Officials from the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, a collaboration of more than 180 groups working to conserve native Wisconsin birds, will confer the designation in a ceremony set for 10 a.m. at Lake Park, 3233 E. Kenwood Blvd. The event includes a live raptor show featuring Lindsay Obermeier, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center's raptor program director, and Nicco, a broad-winged hawk and Tskili, a great horned owl.

Nicco, a migratory broad-winged hawk and education bird, will be part of the July 25 ceremony designating the park system an Important Bird Area. - Photo credit: Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
Nicco, a migratory broad-winged hawk and education bird, will be part of the July 25 ceremony designating the park system an Important Bird Area.Photo credit: Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

The site is a fitting venue because 265 species of birds have been documented using Lake Park during their annual migration, and the event occurs as hundreds of birders from across the nation flock to Milwaukee to attend the National Audubon Society annual conference July 26-29 at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center.

"We're delighted to designate the Milwaukee County Park System as an Important Bird Area with so many bird lovers coming to Milwaukee to enjoy field trips, education, and conservation," says Craig Thompson, a Department of Natural Resources section chief and bird expert leading DNR involvement in the collaboration.

"It's nothing short of remarkable that Wisconsin's most populous county still has high-quality habitat for a variety of birds, and that speaks volumes about the Milwaukee County Park System and their commitment to bird conservation. This designation is good for the birds and the citizens of Milwaukee County."

"The value of these 15,000 acres to migrating birds is immense," says Karen Etter Hale, WBCI chair and Wisconsin Audubon Council's community relations director. "Seventy-five percent of the remaining green space in Milwaukee is found within Milwaukee County Parks."

Milwaukee County Parks provide valuable habitat for migrating birds including cerulean warblers, a bird listed as threatened in Wisconsin. - Photo credit: Tom Prestby
Milwaukee County Parks provide valuable habitat for migrating birds including cerulean warblers, a bird listed as threatened in Wisconsin.Photo credit: Tom Prestby

Fifty-seven bird species listed in DNR's Wildlife Action Plan as Species of Greatest Conservation Need because of low or declining populations have been found using the natural areas within the Milwaukee County Park System.

Other factors helping land the Important Bird Area designation for the park system are its active natural areas management program, its "rigorous, long-term bird monitoring program, and its engaging accessible bird education programs" that each year reach up to 4,000 people, Etter Hale says.

Brian Russart, Milwaukee County Parks System Natural Areas Coordinator, said the designation is very significant for the parks system, and beyond that, for urban natural areas across Wisconsin.

"We are certainly honored to be designated an Important Bird Area. Too often urban natural areas are not perceived as being essential for wildlife conservation; however, if they are protected and properly managed these urban natural areas can maintain surprisingly diverse bird populations.

"The Milwaukee County Park System's location within a major bird migration corridor allows us to play a small, yet important role, in the larger international bird conservation efforts and Parks takes that stewardship responsibility very seriously."

Russart, who serves as WBCI's vice chair, nominated the park system for consideration as an Important Bird Area. The application was evaluated by a WBCI technical committee of ornithological experts including Thompson, Matt Reetz of Madison Audubon Society, Bill Mueller, director of the Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory, Michael John Jaeger of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Stephanie Beilke of the National Audubon Society, and Ryan Brady, a DNR conservation biologist who serves as the bird monitoring coordinator for WBCI.

Joining 2,832 other sites nationally, and 12,000 globally, as Important Bird Areas

With its Important Bird Area designation, the park system joins 92 sites in Wisconsin, 2,832 in the U.S. and 12,000 worldwide as Important Bird Areas. The IBA program was launched by Birdlife International in 1985 to identify, protect and monitor sites essential to the conservation of bird populations globally, Thompson says.

The designation is voluntary and conveys no legal status or regulatory requirements but highlights the importance of the Milwaukee County Parks System for bird conservation and will catalyze using IBAs as a springboard to advance active site conservation at Wisconsin's other Important Bird Areas, he says.

The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative's five-year strategic plan, issued in 2018, places a new emphasis on putting Wisconsin's 93 IBA designations to work for bird conservation. These include activities ranging from developing tools to further assess the existing condition of sites, to collaborating to enhance habitat on the site, to fostering efforts to identify and seek partner funding to improve sites, to identifying threats to IBAs and helping coalesce and catalyze partner efforts to reduce or eliminate those threats, Thompson says.



Public open house meetings set for Northeast Sands Ecological Landscape draft regional plan

Contact(s): Yoyi Steele, Planner, Madison, 608-266-3568

[EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release was previously issued to media in the Northeast Sands Ecological Landscape region.]

FLORENCE, Wis. - A regional master plan covering the Northeast Sands planning region is now available for public review and comment through August 21, 2019. This region encompasses portions of Florence, Marinette, Oconto, Menominee, and Shawano counties.

The Northeast Sands draft regional plan includes a variety of properties that provide important recreational opportunities. Wildlife and Fishery Areas and State Natural Areas, such as Amberg Wildlife Area, South Branch Oconto River Fishery Area, and Dunbar Barrens State Natural Area offer hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife viewing opportunities and the Pine-Popple and Pike Wild Rivers provide high-quality paddling and scenic enjoyment.

Big Bull Falls on the Popple River in the Pine-Popple Wild Rivers Area - Photo credit: Jeff Pennucci
Big Bull Falls on the Popple River in the Pine-Popple Wild Rivers AreaPhoto credit: Jeff Pennucci

The Northeast Sands draft regional plan also contains updates to properties with existing NR 44 plans, including Governor Thompson State Park and Peshtigo River State Forest. Chapter NR 44, Wisconsin Administrative Code, guides the master planning process. A master plan establishes the level and type of resource management and public use allowed on DNR managed properties.

The draft regional plan, including a plan overview, background materials, and maps, are available through the DNR property planning web page. Visit the DNR website,, and search keywords "property planning" then select "Northeast Sands" on the map. Highlights of the proposed regional plan include:

Two public open house meetings will be held in late July from 5-7 pm:

A presentation will take place from 5:30-5:45 at both meetings.

Attendees will have an opportunity to review a copy of the draft master plan, discuss the plan with department staff, and submit comments.

Comments may also be submitted online through a form found the DNR property planning web page -, search keywords "property planning" then select "Northeast Sands". Additionally, comments may be sent to Yoyi Steele by mail at Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, 101 S. Webster Street - FL/6, Madison, WI 53707 or via email at

Comments will be accepted through August 21, 2019. The draft plan will be revised as needed and submitted to the Natural Resources Board for approval at a future meeting.


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, July 23, 2019

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