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For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
State Natural Areas Program

State Natural Areas Program

SNA Program logo

State natural areas (SNAs) protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin's native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites. Encompassing 406,000 acres on lands owned by the state and its many partners, including land trusts, local and county governments, and private citizens, Wisconsin's natural areas are valuable for research and educational use, the preservation of genetic and biological diversity and for providing benchmarks for determining the impact of use on managed lands. They also provide some of the last refuges for rare plants and animals.

Red Cedar Lake

Red Cedar Lake in Jefferson County is a 370-acre shallow lake hosting a diversity of submerged and emergent aquatic plants such as these yellow pond-lilies. Photo by Thomas Meyer.

New State Natural Area strategic plan now available

Plan cover

After a multi-year effort, the State Natural Area Strategy is complete, replacing the program’s old long-range plan published in 1983. Since then, environmental challenges have increased markedly, including the spread of invasive species, demand for recreation on public lands, ecosystem loss and fragmentation, and impacts attributable to climate change. The plan identifies six guiding principles for setting SNA Program conservation priorities, and lists major objectives and actionable strategies to guide the protection, management and use of SNAs for the next ten years.

Two versions are available: a low-resolution document for viewing [PDF] and a high-resolution version suitable for printing [PDF].

DNR biologist finds "holy grail" of rare plants in State Natural Area

Green violet

Biologist Ryan O'Connor showing off the green violet.

Conservation biologist, Ryan O'Connor, found the “holy grail” of a rare plant in Wisconsin: A green violet long thought gone from the state, but growing by the hundreds in a State Natural Area (SNA) in west central Wisconsin. The species (Hybanthus concolor) was last documented in Wisconsin in 1958 when it was collected from a site in Grant County. That site was severely impacted by grazing and the species was thought to no longer grow in the state. Read the story.

70 years of State Natural Areas

Beulah Bog SNA

Beulah Bog SNA. Photo by Thomas Meyer.

The SNA Program celebrates 70 years in 2021, making it the nation’s oldest statewide system of natural areas. It also is the largest — nearly 700 jewels sparkling across Wisconsin with the sole statutory purpose of saving for now and future generations a living record of diverse prairies, forests wetlands and other natural communities in the state. The summer issue of DNR's Natural Resources magazine examines the system 70 years after its creation by the state legislature and as climate change, invasive species, development and other threats challenge the sites. Read the entire article.


New PBS Wisconsin Program Spotlights State Natural Areas and State Parks

PBS spotlight

Photo credit: Wisconsin PBS

“Wisconsin’s Scenic Treasures: Southern Vistas", a new hour-long documentary featuring several beautiful and fascinating State Natural Areas is now available to stream on-demand.

Filmed by PBS Wisconsin last summer from the air, land and water, the program showcases SNAs, state parks, wildlife areas, state forests and other natural places in southern Wisconsin. After premiering on PBS stations in March 2021, the program can now be viewed on the free PBS app on phones, tablets, Roku and other streaming devices. Go to the PBS Wisconsin website to watch the program, view a map of the locations featured in the film, and see a gallery of behind-the-scenes photos. You can watch a short trailer here.



Last revised: Monday, July 26, 2021