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Citizen Science

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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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.

Last Revised: Monday June 13 2016