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Completed plans
establishing goals and objectives for DNR properties.
Public lands
parks, forests, wildlife, fisheries, natural areas, trails, wild rivers and flowages.
Common Elements
Standard practices for management of DNR lands

Contact information
For information on the Northeast Sands Ecological Landscape, contact:
Yoyi Steele

Regional Master Plan for: Northeast Sands Ecological Landscape

This planning effort covers the Northeast Sands Ecological Landscape and includes wild rivers, state natural areas, and wildlife and fishery areas. The Northeast Sands encompasses portions of Florence, Marinette, Oconto and Menominee counties and a very small portion of Shawano County. Wild rivers and high-quality coldwater streams, extensive forests and pine barrens are well-represented in this planning process. These areas and other department properties on the landscape provide a variety of quality recreation opportunities to the public year-round.

Explore an interactive map of the Northeast Sands


Northeast Sands Ecological Landscape

DNR properties in the Northeast Sands. Click the map above to see an interactive map of the Northeast Sands.

The map above shows the location of many properties in this planning process. The numbers on the map correspond to the properties listed in the side bar to the right, “Properties in this regional planning project”. Click on the map above or on the properties in the side bar to read about the properties and management considerations for each.

Planning Update

The initial public involvement period for the Northeast Sands Ecological Landscape Regional Master Plan was June 12 to July 11. Thank you for your participation! A summary of the comments received is now available.

Scoping meeting comment summary [PDF]

The department will consider these comments during the plan development phase. When the draft plan is complete, it will be released for public review and comment. To stay informed about the planning process, please sign up to receive updates by clicking on the link next to the red envelope icon on the right side of this page.

Please contact Yoyi Steele at or 608-266-3568 with questions.

About the Northeast Sands Ecological Landscape

Ecological characteristics and management opportunities

Ecological characteristics and management opportunities - Full document

This section summarizes the ecological characteristics and management opportunities of the Northeast Sands.

Precambrian bedrock underlies almost the entire Northeast Sands (NES). Waterfalls, most of which are associated with this ancient bedrock, are prominent in the northern part of the NES. Glacial outwash sand and gravel deposited as ice melted and retreated during the Wisconsin glaciation covers much of the NES, producing a nearly level to rolling topography. The dominant soil is a very dry loamy sand.

Water features in the NES include the Menominee, Peshtigo, Pike, Pine, Oconto, South Branch of the Oconto, and Wolf rivers. The Pine-Popple and Pike rivers are three of only five state-designated Wild Rivers in Wisconsin, and the Wolf River is a National Wild and Scenic River. There are many high-quality coldwater streams in the NES, prized by trout anglers, as well as scattered lakes and several large impoundments on rivers such as the Menominee and Peshtigo.

Historically, vegetation in the NES was a mix of northern hardwood forests, jack pine-northern pin (scrub) oak forest and barrens, and coniferous forested wetlands. Periodic fires were important in maintaining an open condition in barrens and dry forest types. Pines were the most dominant group of tree species historically, with white pine highest in importance, followed by red pine and jack pine. Hemlock also was a species of high importance. Forests are dominant in the current landcover of the NES, more so than historically, covering almost 77% of the landscape. The structure and species composition of these forests have changed significantly from what they were historically. Conifers and northern hardwood species such as beech have greatly declined in abundance. Aspen is now the most abundant cover type. Pine barrens is much reduced from its historic extent, having succeeded to dense forests of pine, oak, and aspen in the absence of fire or been replaced by red pine plantations. Northern hardwood forests are still common but are now dominated by sugar maple, with species like basswood and white ash as common associates. Many forest stands are young and even-aged, lacking structural complexity.

Outstanding ecological management opportunities in the Northeast Sands include:

  • Extensive forests
  • High-biodiversity-value forest communities
  • Barrens and bracken grasslands
  • River/stream corridors and other aquatic and wetland habitats
  • Bedrock features
Socioeconomic and cultural context

Socio-economic and cultural context - Full document

The socioeconomic and cultural contexts of a region must be considered in any planning process. While this plan focuses on resource and recreation management of the properties, these underlying contexts are important in understanding the needs of the public when planning the properties of the Northeast Sands Ecological Landscape (NES EL). The demographic and economic data reported here are for the four counties that make up the majority of the NES: Florence, Marinette, Menominee, and Oconto counties.

Recreational resources and opportunities

Recreational resources and opportunities - Full document

The Northeast Sands has over 375,000 acres, or 38% of all land and water, in public ownership, ranking fifth out of the 16 Ecological Landscapes s in Wisconsin. This gives the Northeast Sands an abundant land and water base for public recreation.

The public lands in the NES EL offer a wide variety of recreational activities, including hunting, fishing, trapping, motorized and non-motorized trail activities, paddling, camping, wildlife watching and nature appreciation, and scenic viewing. Water-based pursuits are a special draw here, with the many high-quality, scenic rivers and streams. The Menominee, Peshtigo, Pike, and Pine-Popple rivers are very popular for paddling and fishing, drawing thousands of visitors each year. The Roaring Rapids section of the Peshtigo is considered to be the finest whitewater paddling opportunity in the Midwest. Fishing on the numerous high-quality trout streams that flow into the major rivers is also very popular, and the larger rivers and flowages contain quality warmwater game fisheries. The many waterfalls and rapids that exist in the northern portion of the EL add to the scenic appeal. Hunting, particularly for deer and ruffed grouse, is another major draw. Hiking, bird watching, swimming, and bicycling are other popular activities.

Considerations for planning and management

Considerations for planning and management - Full document

This section summarizes ecological and recreational considerations for planning and management in the Northeast Sands. This section provides a summary of the types of information the department uses to inform master planning decisions.

The master planning process takes both ecological and recreation considerations into account. The two may seem distinct, but they are closely connected: outdoor recreation opportunities on a property are shaped by the property’s ecological characteristics. Thus, the ecological information presented here influences both resource management planning and recreation planning on DNR properties.

The Northeast Sands has significant public land holdings which provide abundant recreation opportunities, particularly in settings that are remote or wild. Extensive forests provide diverse forest habitats, support local economies, and offer varied management opportunities. Restoration and landscape-scale management opportunities exist for globally imperiled pine barrens.

Significance of properties within the landscape

Significance of the properties within the landscape – Full document [PDF]

This section summarizes how the department properties to be planned in the Northeast Sands fit in to the larger landscape and what opportunities they offer to manage and provide for the significant ecological and recreational resources of the landscape.

The properties to be planned within the Northeast Sands are major contributors to the ecological and recreational significance of the landscape. Collectively, the properties present opportunities to protect, manage, and restore all the major ecological features of the landscape: extensive forests, high-biodiversity-value forest communities; barrens and bracken grasslands; river/stream corridors and other aquatic and wetland habitats; and bedrock features. Similarly, the properties contain regionally significant recreational resources, offering opportunity for diverse recreational activities. Several properties have potential to meet recreational shortages and high-ranked recreational needs as identified in the Recreation Opportunities Analysis (ROA).

Public Involvement

Scoping meeting comment summary [PDF]

Public Involvement Plan [PDF]


Regional locator [PDF]

Contact Information
For information on the Northeast Sands Ecological Landscape, contact:
Yoyi Steele
Last revised: Thursday July 26 2018