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Completed plans
establishing goals and objectives for DNR properties.
Plan reports
monitoring goals and objectives.
Feasibility studies
studying new properties.
Public lands
parks, forests, wildlife, fisheries, natural areas, trails, wild rivers and flowages.
Contact information
For information on the Northwest Barrens properties, contact:
Beth Kienbaum

Property Master PlansNorthwest Barrens properties

The Northwest Barrens properties include the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area, the Douglas County Wildlife Area and the Totogatic Wild River which are in Burnett, Douglas and Washburn counties, Wisconsin

NW Barrens Landscape

Northwest Barrens Landscape.

Planning update

We are scheduled to present the draft Master Plan to the Natural Resources Board (NRB) for their review and approval at the January 25, 2017 meeting. We updated the plan to reflect comments received during the public review period. The updated version (DNR PUB-LF-095 October 2016) is posted below. Please visit the NRB web page for additional information including the meeting agenda and public participation guidelines.

Thank you for your interest in these properties and their future management. We welcome your continued involvement as you enjoy the natural resources benefits these properties provide.

Vision and goals

Vision statement:

sharp-tailed grouse
Sharp-tailed grouse,
© Larry Dau, Friends of Namekagon Barrens.

The Northwest Barrens properties are a vital contributor to the preservation of oak/pine barrens, a rare and globally imperiled natural community, in the Northwest Sands Ecological Landscape. In addition, this landscape plays a major ecological role in enhancing and protecting unique water resources. These properties provide abundant hunting, trapping, gathering, wildlife watching and educational opportunities. The abundance and diversity of wildlife, including rare bird species that inhabit this landscape attracts visitors who appreciate not only the wildlife, but also the grand scale of oak/pine barrens and the rare "wild river" experience found here. The variety of nature-based uses and education, supported in part by The Friends of the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area, the Friends of the Bird Sanctuary, and the Wisconsin Sharp-tailed Grouse Society, enhance public appreciation and support for wildlife and wildlife management for current and future generations.

Goal statements:

  • Provide recreational opportunities for hunting, trapping, gathering, wildlife viewing, scenic enjoyment and other nature-based uses that are compatible with the property's capabilities and habitat management goals.
  • Restore, manage and perpetuate the oak/pine barren and wetland habitats to support property and ecological landscape habitat and ecological management goals.
  • Maintain and enhance ecological connectivity between terrestrial communities, especially barrens, and on a landscape scale, promote their sustainability in association with other nearby town, county, state, federal and tribal lands.
  • Provide habitat for wildlife that are dependent on oak/pine barrens, wetlands and rivers.
  • Manage the properties using principles of ecosystem management and sustainable forestry.
  • Contribute to the local and regional economies through management of wildlife recreational opportunities and sustainably produced forest products.
  • Collaborate with partners to provide a wildlife conservation education program that generates a land and wildlife ethic into perpetuity.
  • Protect the wild nature of the Totogatic River through bank protection and sound property and watershed management practices. Work with partners and the public to promote sustainable use and "leave no trace" river recreation.
  • Protect the regional groundwater and surface water quality and quantity for current and future uses. The Outstanding and Exceptional Resource Waters, wetlands, lakes, and the state and national Wild Rivers in this area (the Totogatic, Namekagon, and St. Croix Rivers) depend on clean and abundant groundwater recharge.
  • In consultation with tribal governments, provide for the availability and enhancement of treaty resources.
Planning documents

See the maps under the "maps" section.

Master Plan

Northwest Barrens Properties Master Plan [PDF]
DNR PUB-LF-095 October 2016

Regional and Property Analysis

Regional & Property Analysis [PDF]
DNR PUB-LF-090 2016


See the draft Master Plan and Regional and Property Analysis under the "planning documents" section.

Master Plan

Northwest Barrens Properties Master Plan (draft)
DNR PUB-LF-095 October 2016

Regional and Property Analysis

Regional and Property Analysis
DNR PUB-LF-090 2016


The Northwest Barrens (NWB) properties included in this project are: Namekagon Barrens and Douglas County state wildlife areas, and Totogatic Wild River, located in northwest Wisconsin (Burnett, Washburn and Douglas counties; Map A). A state natural area lies embedded within Douglas County Wildlife Area. Regionally connected to other grasslands and oak/pine barrens, this area is a premiere open landscape in the state for birds.

The oak/pine barrens community extends from northern Polk County to southern Bayfield County and covers 1,900 square miles (Map B). This represents a rare, geographically restricted and globally imperiled habitat. In North America, Pine Barrens exist primarily in the upper Midwest, especially in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. Pine Barrens with similar vegetation in the northeastern United States are also globally rare, but are composed of a different assemblage of species and completely lack the prairie flower and grass component present in Wisconsin barrens communities. Wisconsin has the most significant (and possibly the best) opportunity in North America to preserve, restore and manage large-scale barrens communities. This fire-adapted savanna system typically occurs on sandy, glacial outwash soil, dominated by grasses, low-growing shrubs and trees, and scattered large trees (Curtis 1959, DNR 2015). The importance of this landscape for preserving species biodiversity cannot be overstated.

The Northwest Barrens properties are within the ceded territory of the Ojibwe Tribes and are located near the St. Croix and Lac Courte Oreilles Bands of the Lake Superior Ojibwe, also known as the Chippewa. Prior to European settlement, Fox, Dakota and Chippewa Tribes used the area extensively for hunting and gathering (Appendix E). Sedge marshes, jack pine-scrub oak and prairie savanna were maintained by wildfires. During the middle 1800s, European settlers began draining wetlands and logging, which led to large-scale commercial drainage, fire control and large scale disappearance of wildlife, including waterfowl and cranes.

Many sites were over-logged, farming was attempted, abandoned and lands became tax delinquent. By the 1940s the sandy soils were depleted of resources, and nearly two thirds of the land in the region was tax delinquent. The state (with help from federal financing) began purchasing tax delinquent lands to restore the original uplands and wetlands as public wildlife areas. Some tax delinquent lands were given to the respective counties in a cooperative state-county program that established the county forest system.

The Totogatic Wild River flows approximately 70 miles through portions of five counties and eventually empties into the Namekagon River in Burnett County. It is a major tributary to the Namekagon and the St. Croix National Wild and Scenic Riverway. The shoreline is relatively wild for much of the river's length. The name "Totogatic" comes from the Ojibwe word "Totogan" meaning "place of floating bogs" or "boggy river" (Romance of Wisconsin Place Names, 1988). Plat books, maps and tour books show two spellings for the river and its flowages. "Totogatic" and "Totagatic" are used interchangeably in these reference materials. Pronunciation is varied between "Tuh-TO-ga-tec," "To-TA-ga-tec," "To-to-GAT-ic," "To-BA-tec," and just "TO-ga-tec" according to long-time local residents. Each spelling and pronunciation has a strongly defended local following, and devotees of one consider use of the others incorrect.

Abundant hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities exist. Collectively, these properties have similar attributes, are located entirely within the Northwest Sands Ecological Landscape, and comprise nearly 13,000 acres of state protected and managed land. Property locations are identified among regional landmarks on Maps A, B and F. Property infrastructure and vegetation details are represented on additional maps (Map Series C-E).


Your comments are important so please consider attending public meetings, mailing in comments or calling us. We welcome your feedback on property management goals and master planning issues throughout the process. Please send comments or questions to:

Beth Kienbaum, planner
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
101 S Webster St.
Madison WI 53703

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Last revised: Wednesday January 31 2018