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Central Sand Plains Ecological Landscape

Download the Central Sand Plains chapter [PDF] of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin. This chapter provides a detailed assessment of the ecological and socioeconomic conditions for the Central Sand Plains. It also identifies important planning and management considerations and suggests management opportunities that are compatible with the ecology of the landscape. The tabs below provide additional information.

Landscape at a Glance

Physical & Biotic Environment


3,420 square miles (2,188,861 acres), representing 6.1% of the land area of the State of Wisconsin.


Typical of southern Wisconsin, mean annual temperature is 43.8 deg. F, mean annual precipitation is 32.8 inches, and mean annual snowfall is 45.0 inches. However, the mean growing season (135 days) is almost 19 days less than other southern Wisconsin ecological landscapes. Summer temperatures can drop below freezing at night in low-lying areas, restricting the distribution of some native plants. The short growing season and summer frosts limit agriculture, especially west of the Wisconsin River where commercially-grown cranberries are an important crop. East of the Wisconsin River the growing season is somewhat longer (by approximately 11 days), with fewer nights of potential summer frost. In this area agriculture is focused primarily on cool season crops such as potatoes, vegetables, and early maturing corn. Center pivot irrigation is widely used to water crops in this region of sandy soils. Grazing is a common land use practice in some areas.  Learn more from the chapter [PDF]


Late Cambrian sandstone that contains strata of dolomite and shale. Most exposures are of Cambrian sandstones. Precambrian igneous (granite) and metamorphic (gneiss) rocks lie beneath the sandstone and are exposed in a few places (e.g., in rapids on the Black River and East Fork of the Black River).  Learn more from the chapter [PDF]

Geology & Landforms

An extensive, nearly level expanse of lacustrine and outwash sand that originated from a huge glacial lake characterizes much of the Central Sand Plains. Sand was deposited in Glacial Lake Wisconsin by outwash derived from melting glaciers to the north. Exposures of eroded sandstone bedrock remnants as buttes, mounds and pinnacles are unique to this Ecological Landscape. Sandstone is also exposed as cliffs along the Black River and some of its tributaries.  Learn more from the chapter [PDF]


Most soils formed from deep sand deposits of glacial lacustrine or outwash origin or in materials eroded from sandstone hillslopes and sometimes with a surface of wind-deposited (aeolian) sand. These soils are excessively drained, with very rapid permeability, very low available water capacity, and low nutrient status. In lower-lying terrain where silty lacustrine material impedes drainage, the water table is very close to the surface. Such areas are extensive in the western part of the Ecological Landscape, where soils may be poorly drained with surfaces of peat, muck or mucky peat. Thickness of peat deposits ranges from a few inches to more than 15 feet.  Learn more from the chapter [PDF]


Large areas of wetlands and a number of generally low-gradient streams that range from small coldwater streams to large warmwater rivers. Major rivers include the Wisconsin, Black, East Fork of the Black, Yellow, and Lemonweir. A number of headwaters streams originate in the extensive peatlands west of the Wisconsin River. Natural lakes are rare, and are limited to riverine floodplains and a few scattered ponds within the bed of extinct Glacial Lake Wisconsin. The hydrology of this Ecological Landscape has been greatly disrupted by past drainage, channelization, impoundment construction, and groundwater withdrawal.  Learn more from the chapter [PDF]

Current Landcover

The eastern portion of the Central Sand Plains is a mosaic of cropland, managed grasslands and scattered woodlots of pine, oak, and aspen. Many of the historic wetlands in the east were drained early in the 1900s and are now used for agricultural purposes. The western portion of this Ecological Landscape is mostly forest or wetland. Oak, pine, and aspen are the most abundant forest cover types. Plantations of red pine are common in some areas. On wet sites the forests are of two major types: tamarack and black spruce in the peatlands, and bottomland hardwoods in the floodplains of the larger rivers. Many attempts to practice agriculture west of the Wisconsin River failed due to poor soils, poor drainage, and growing season frosts.  Learn more from the chapter [PDF]

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Socioeconomic Conditions
(based on data from Adams, Clark, Jackson, Juneau, Monroe, Portage, and Wood counties)


292,119, 5.1% of the state total

Population Density

46 persons/ sq. mile

Per Capita Income


Important Economic Sectors

The largest employment sectors in 2007 were: health care and social services (13.5%); government (13.4%); tourism-related (10.8%), and retail trade (8.9%). Although forestry and agriculture (potato and cranberry production are important here) do not have as large an impact on the number of jobs they produce compared to other economic sectors, they are the sectors that have the largest impact on the natural resources within the Ecological Landscape due to their effects on land and water.

Public Ownership

Approximately one-quarter of the Ecological Landscape is publicly owned, very high for an Ecological Landscape this far south. The public lands are mostly in federal, state, or county ownership, and include Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, Black River State Forest, Buena Vista, Sandhill, Meadow Valley, and Wood County Wildlife Areas, Buckhorn State Park, and Clark, Jackson, Juneau, Monroe and Wood county forests. A map showing public land ownership (county, state, and federal) and private lands enrolled in the Forest Tax Programs in this Ecological Landscape can be found at the end of this chapter.

Other Notable Ownerships

The Nature Conservancy has partnered with WDNR and others to develop a large conservation project at Quincy Bluff in southern Adams County. Members of the Ho-Chunk Nation have significant holdings near Black River Falls. Some of the private holdings in the Central Sand Plains are very large, especially when compared with other ecological landscapes in southern Wisconsin.

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Considerations for Planning & Management

The extensive acreage of public lands, and the large amount of forest cover and wetlands in the western part of the Central Sand Plains, present unique opportunities for management at large scales. A small number of large private ownerships, rather than numerous small private ownerships, is a characteristic ownership pattern in some areas, and this may also facilitate management at large scales and potentially make the coordination of management on public and private lands more feasible. Integration of forest and barrens management is possible and highly desirable in some areas because of the type, suitability, and condition of the habitats present, the extensive acreage of public lands, and the relatively low levels of development. Partial restoration of some streams is possible by restoring meanders, removing dams, plugging ditches, and improving management on other lands within the watersheds. Groundwater withdrawals and contamination are concerns due to the sandy soils and high water table. Center pivot irrigation is common east of the Wisconsin River and has been increasing to the west of the Wisconsin. Use of prescribed fire as a management tool may be more feasible at large scales here than elsewhere in southern WI, and is appropriate for many forest, savanna, grassland, and wetland communities. Burn plans should incorporate refugia where needed to protect fire-sensitive species. The spread of invasive plants threatens natural communities and other habitats and is a growing management concern. Commercial cranberry farming has been expanding in recent years; sometimes into upland sites rather than wetlands.  Learn more about management opportunities from the chapter [PDF]

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Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Species of Greatest Conservation Need

The following species are listed according to their probability of occurring in the Central Sand Plains Ecological Landscape, based on the findings in Wisconsin's 2015 Wildlife Action Plan.

See the key to association scores [PDF] for complete definitions.

Four-toed SalamanderHemidactylium scutatum3
Pickerel FrogLithobates palustris2
Blanchard's Cricket FrogAcris blanchardi1

Ants, wasps, and beesScore
A Cuckoo BeeEpeolus ainsliei1
American Bumble BeeBombus pensylvanicus1
An Anthophorid BeeNeolarra vigilans1
Confusing Bumble BeeBombus perplexus1
Yellow Bumble BeeBombus fervidus1
Yellowbanded Bumble BeeBombus terricola1

Aquatic and terrestrial snailsScore
Brilliant GranuleGuppya sterkii1

A Crawling Water BeetleHaliplus apostolicus3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleThermonectus basilaris3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleColymbetes exaratus3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleIlybius angustior3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleLioporeus triangularis3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleHydrocolus rubyae3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleHydrocolus persimilis3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleAgabus leptapsis3
A Predaceous Diving BeetleHygrotus farctus3
A Riffle BeetleStenelmis antennalis3
A Water Scavenger BeetleHelophorus latipenis3
Ghost Tiger BeetleEllipsoptera lepida3
Hairy-necked Tiger BeetleCicindela hirticollis hirticollis3
Sandy Stream Tiger BeetleEllipsoptera macra3
A Leaf BeetlePachybrachis luridus2
A Leaf BeetleDistigmoptera impennata2
A Water Scavenger BeetleAgabetes acuductus2
Robust Dubiraphian Riffle BeetleDubiraphia robusta2
A Leaf BeetlePachybrachis peccans1
A Leaf BeetleCryptocephalus cuneatus1
A Leaf BeetleCryptocephalus venustus1
A Leaf BeetleGlyptina leptosoma1
A Leaf BeetleBassareus mammifer1
A Pear-shaped WeevilTrichapion perforicolle1
A Pear-shaped WeevilFallapion impeditum1
A Pear-shaped WeevilSayapion segnipes1
A Straight-snouted WeevilEutrichapion huron1
A Water Scavenger BeetleCymbiodyta toddi1
Virginia Big-headed Tiger BeetleTetracha virginica1

American BitternBotaurus lentiginosus3
American WoodcockScolopax minor3
Black TernChlidonias niger3
BobolinkDolichonyx oryzivorus3
Common NighthawkChordeiles minor3
DickcisselSpiza americana3
Eastern MeadowlarkSturnella magna3
Eastern Whip-poor-willAntrostomus vociferus3
Golden-winged WarblerVermivora chrysoptera3
Grasshopper SparrowAmmodramus savannarum3
Greater Prairie-ChickenTympanuchus cupido3
Henslow's SparrowAmmodramus henslowii3
Least FlycatcherEmpidonax minimus3
Prothonotary WarblerProtonotaria citrea3
Red-shouldered HawkButeo lineatus3
Short-eared OwlAsio flammeus3
Upland SandpiperBartramia longicauda3
Vesper SparrowPooecetes gramineus3
Western MeadowlarkSturnella neglecta3
Whooping CraneGrus americana3
Brewer's BlackbirdEuphagus cyanocephalus2
Cerulean WarblerSetophaga cerulea2
Connecticut WarblerOporornis agilis2
King RailRallus elegans2
Lark SparrowChondestes grammacus2
Le Conte's SparrowAmmodramus leconteii2
Least BitternIxobrychus exilis2
Northern GoshawkAccipiter gentilis2
Red-headed WoodpeckerMelanerpes erythrocephalus2
Red-necked GrebePodiceps grisegena2
Rusty BlackbirdEuphagus carolinus2
Sharp-tailed GrouseTympanuchus phasianellus2
Wilson's PhalaropePhalaropus tricolor2
Yellow RailCoturnicops noveboracensis2
Acadian FlycatcherEmpidonax virescens1
Black-backed WoodpeckerPicoides arcticus1
Black-crowned Night-HeronNycticorax nycticorax1
Kirtland's WarblerSetophaga kirtlandii1
Loggerhead ShrikeLanius ludovicianus1
Northern BobwhiteColinus virginianus1
Olive-sided FlycatcherContopus cooperi1
Purple MartinProgne subis1
Yellow-breasted ChatIcteria virens1
Yellow-headed BlackbirdXanthocephalus xanthocephalus1

Butterflies and mothsScore
Karner BlueLycaeides melissa samuelis3
Persius Dusky WingErynnis persius3
Phlox MothSchinia indiana3
Sprague's PygarcticaPygarctia spraguei3
Doll's MeroloncheAcronicta dolli2
Dusted SkipperAtrytonopsis hianna2
Frosted ElfinCallophrys irus2
Gray CopperLycaena dione2
Midwestern Fen BuckmothHemileuca nevadensis ssp. 32
Phyllira Tiger MothGrammia phyllira2
Regal FritillarySpeyeria idalia2
Abbreviated Underwing MothCatocala abbreviatella1
Bina Flower MothSchinia bina1
Cobweb SkipperHesperia metea1
Columbine Dusky WingErynnis lucilius1
Cross Line SkipperPolites origenes1
Gorgone Checker SpotChlosyne gorgone1
Leadplant Flower MothSchinia lucens1
Liatris Borer MothPapaipema beeriana1
Mottled Dusky WingErynnis martialis1
Ottoe SkipperHesperia ottoe1
Owl-eyed Bird Dropping MothCerma cora1
Swamp MetalmarkCalephelis muticum1
Whitney's Underwing MothCatocala whitneyi1

A Giant Casemaker CaddisflyBanksiola dossuaria3

Dragonflies and damselfliesScore
Clamp-tipped EmeraldSomatochlora tenebrosa3
Incurvate EmeraldSomatochlora incurvata3
Ringed BoghaunterWilliamsonia lintneri3
Royal River CruiserMacromia taeniolata3
Sioux (Sand) SnaketailOphiogomphus smithi3
Spangled SkimmerLibellula cyanea3
Spatterdock DarnerRhionaeschna mutata2
Forcipate EmeraldSomatochlora forcipata1
Lilypad ForktailIschnura kellicotti1
Mottled DarnerAeshna clepsydra1
Plains EmeraldSomatochlora ensigera1
Pronghorn ClubtailGomphus graslinellus1
Sphagnum SpriteNehalennia gracilis1
Swamp DarnerEpiaeschna heros1

Blue SuckerCycleptus elongatus3
Lake SturgeonAcipenser fulvescens3
Gilt DarterPercina evides2
Least DarterEtheostoma microperca2
River RedhorseMoxostoma carinatum2
American EelAnguilla rostrata1
Black BuffaloIctiobus niger1
Longear SunfishLepomis megalotis1
Mud DarterEtheostoma asprigene1
PaddlefishPolyodon spathula1
Redfin ShinerLythrurus umbratilis1
Shoal ChubMacrhybopsis hyostoma1

Grasshoppers and alliesScore
Ash-brown GrasshopperTrachyrhachys kiowa3
Blue-legged GrasshopperMelanoplus flavidus3
Club-horned GrasshopperAeropedellus clavatus3
Huckleberry Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus fasciatus3
Speckled Rangeland GrasshopperArphia conspersa3
Spotted-winged GrasshopperOrphulella pelidna3
Stone's LocustMelanoplus stonei3
Clear-winged GrasshopperCamnula pellucida2
Gladston's Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus gladstoni2
Rocky Mountain Sprinkled LocustChloealtis abdominalis2
Seaside GrasshopperTrimerotropis maritima2
A Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus foedus1
Black-striped KatydidScudderia fasciata1
Bog ConeheadNeoconocephalus lyristes1
Delicate Meadow KatydidOrchelimum delicatum1
Forest LocustMelanoplus islandicus1
Green-streak GrasshopperHesperotettix viridis1
Grizzly Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus punctulatus1
Handsome GrasshopperSyrbula admirabilis1
Mermiria GrasshopperMermiria bivittata1
Obscure GrasshopperOpeia obscura1
Scudder's Short-winged GrasshopperMelanoplus scudderi1
Short-winged GrasshopperDichromorpha viridis1
Showy GrasshopperHesperotettix speciosus1
Velvet-striped GrasshopperEritettix simplex1

Leafhoppers and true bugsScore
A LeafhopperLimotettix pseudosphagneticus3
A LeafhopperDriotura robusta2
A LeafhopperParaphlepsius altus2
A LeafhopperParaphlepsius maculosus2
Prairie LeafhopperPolyamia dilata2
Red-tailed Prairie LeafhopperAflexia rubranura2
A LeafhopperMemnonia panzeri1
A LeafhopperCuerna sayi1
A LeafhopperLaevicephalus vannus1
A LeafhopperPrairiana angustens1
A LeafhopperPrairiana cinerea1
A LeafhopperPrairiana kansana1
A LeafhopperLimotettix elegans1
A PlanthopperMyndus ovatus1
A Seed BugSlaterobius quadristriata1
An Issid PlanthopperBruchomorpha extensa1
Piglet BugAphelonema simplex1
Yellow Loosestrife LeafhopperErythroneura carbonata1

Big Brown BatEptesicus fuscus3
Franklin's Ground SquirrelPoliocitellus franklinii3
Little Brown BatMyotis lucifugus3
Prairie Deer MousePeromyscus maniculatus bairdii3
Northern Long-eared BatMyotis septentrionalis2
Prairie VoleMicrotus ochrogaster2
Silver-haired BatLasionycteris noctivagans2
Water ShrewSorex palustris2
Northern Flying SquirrelGlaucomys sabrinus1
Woodland Jumping MouseNapaeozapus insignis1
Woodland VoleMicrotus pinetorum1

A Small Minnow MayflyParacloeodes minutus2
Fox Small Square-gilled MayflyCercobrachys fox2
A Brush-legged MayflyHomoeoneuria ammophila1
A Cleft-footed Minnow MayflyMetretopus borealis1
A MayflyAmeletus lineatus1
Pecatonica River MayflyAcanthametropus pecatonica1
Winnebago Small Square-gilled MayflyCercobrachys winnebago1

Mussels and clamsScore
BuckhornTritogonia verrucosa2
Salamander MusselSimpsonaias ambigua2
EbonyshellFusconaia ebena1
Elephant EarElliptio crassidens1
ElktoeAlasmidonta marginata1
MonkeyfaceTheliderma metanevra1
SheepnosePlethobasus cyphyus1
Winged MapleleafQuadrula fragosa1
Yellow & Slough SandshellsLampsilis teres1

Blanding's TurtleEmydoidea blandingii3
Eastern MassasaugaSistrurus catenatus3
Slender Glass LizardOphisaurus attenuatus3
Wood TurtleGlyptemys insculpta3
GophersnakePituophis catenifer2
North American RacerColuber constrictor2
Smooth SoftshellApalone mutica2
Ornate Box TurtleTerrapene ornata1
Prairie SkinkPlestiodon septentrionalis1
Western RibbonsnakeThamnophis proximus1

Rare plants

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

Scores: 3 = "significantly associated," 2 = "moderately associated," and 1 = "minimally associated."

Scientific Name Common Name Score
Anemone multifida var. multifida Cut-leaved Anemone 3
Asclepias hirtella Green Milkweed 3
Asclepias ovalifolia Dwarf Milkweed 3
Bartonia paniculata Twining Screwstem 3
Carex cumulata Clustered Sedge 3
Carex merritt-fernaldii Fernald's Sedge 3
Carex straminea Straw Sedge 3
Cuscuta polygonorum Knotweed Dodder 3
Didiplis diandra Water-purslane 3
Juncus marginatus Grassleaf Rush 3
Lycopodiella margueritae Northern Prostrate Clubmoss 3
Potamogeton oakesianus Oakes' Pondweed 3
Pseudognaphalium micradenium Catfoot 3
Pseudognaphalium saxicola Cliff Cudweed 3
Rhexia virginica Virginia Meadow-beauty 3
Rotala ramosior Toothcup 3
Scleria reticularis Netted Nutrush 3
Scleria triglomerata Whip Nutrush 3
Symphyotrichum dumosum var. strictior Bushy Aster 3
Viola sagittata var. ovata Sand Violet 3
Asplenium trichomanes Maidenhair Spleenwort 2
Carex backii Rocky Mountain Sedge 2
Carex festucacea Fescue Sedge 2
Carex gracilescens Slender Sedge 2
Crotalaria sagittalis Arrow-headed Rattle-box 2
Cuscuta coryli Hazel Dodder 2
Cuscuta pentagona Field Dodder 2
Elatine triandra Longstem Water-wort 2
Eleocharis engelmannii Engelmann's Spike-rush 2
Eleocharis flavescens var. olivacea Capitate Spike-rush 2
Eleocharis quadrangulata Square-stem Spike-rush 2
Eleocharis wolfii Wolf Spike-rush 2
Houstonia caerulea Azure Bluets 2
Huperzia porophila Rock Clubmoss 2
Hypericum prolificum Shrubby St. John's-wort 2
Juglans cinerea Butternut 2
Najas gracillima Thread-like Naiad 2
Opuntia fragilis Brittle Prickly-pear 2
Penstemon hirsutus Hairy Beardtongue 2
Phemeranthus rugospermus Prairie Fame-flower 2
Piptatheropsis canadensis Canada Mountain Ricegrass 2
Platanthera flava var. herbiola Pale Green Orchid 2
Poa paludigena Bog Bluegrass 2
Potamogeton bicupulatus Snail-seed Pondweed 2
Potamogeton diversifolius Water-thread Pondweed 2
Primula mistassinica Bird's-eye Primrose 2
Rhododendron lapponicum Lapland Azalea 2
Salix sericea Silky Willow 2
Schoenoplectus torreyi Torrey's Bulrush 2
Scirpus georgianus Georgia Bulrush 2
Strophostyles leiosperma Small-flowered Woolly Bean 2
Symphyotrichum robynsianum Robyns' Aster 2
Agalinis gattingeri Roundstem Foxglove 1
Carex livida Livid Sedge 1
Carex lupuliformis False Hop Sedge 1
Diarrhena obovata Ovate Beak Grass 1
Galium brevipes Swamp Bedstraw 1
Hypericum mutilum Slender St. John's-wort 1
Juncus vaseyi Vasey's Rush 1
Malaxis monophyllos var. brachypoda White Adder's-mouth 1
Paronychia canadensis Smooth Forked Nail-wort 1
Penstemon pallidus Pale Beardtongue 1
Polytaenia nuttallii Prairie Parsley 1
Potamogeton confervoides Algae-leaved Pondweed 1
Sisyrinchium albidum White Blue-eyed-grass 1
Sullivantia sullivantii Sullivant's Cool-wort 1
Vaccinium cespitosum Dwarf Bilberry 1
Valeriana edulis var. ciliata Hairy Valerian 1

Community opportunities

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community management opportunities

The Central Sand Plains Ecological Landscape contains opportunities to manage for the following natural communities, based on the findings in the 2015 Wildlife Action Plan (originally presented by the Ecosystem Management Team).

See the key to association scores [PDF] for complete definitions.

Natural Community Type Opportunity
Alder ThicketMajor
Caves and Subterranean CulturalMajor
Central Poor FenMajor
Central Sands Pine - Oak ForestMajor
Conifer PlantationMajor
Dry CliffMajor
Floating-leaved MarshMajor
Floodplain ForestMajor
Northern Sedge MeadowMajor
Northern Tamarack SwampMajor
Northern Wet ForestMajor
Oak BarrensMajor
Open BogMajor
Pine BarrensMajor
Poor FenMajor
Riverine Impoundment - ReservoirsMajor
Riverine Lake - PondMajor
Sand PrairieMajor
Shrub CarrMajor
Southern Dry-mesic ForestMajor
Surrogate GrasslandsMajor
White Pine - Red Maple SwampMajor
Black Spruce SwampImportant
Coastal Plain MarshImportant
Coldwater streamsImportant
Coolwater streamsImportant
Dry PrairieImportant
Dry-mesic PrairieImportant
Emergent MarshImportant
Moist CliffImportant
Moist Sandy MeadowImportant
Northern Dry Forest--late seralImportant
Northern Dry Mesic--late seralImportant
Northern Hardwood SwampImportant
Northern Mesic Forest--late seralImportant
Sand BarrensImportant
Southern Dry ForestImportant
Southern Mesic ForestImportant
Southern Sedge MeadowImportant
Submergent MarshImportant
Warmwater riversImportant
Warmwater streamsImportant
Bedrock GladePresent
Calcareous FenPresent
Eastern Red-cedar ThicketPresent
Forested SeepPresent
Hemlock RelictPresent
Lacustrine Mud FlatPresent
Large Lake--deep, hard, drainagePresent
Large Lake--deep, hard, seepagePresent
Large Lake--deep, soft, drainagePresent
Large Lake--deep, soft+, seepagePresent
Large Lake--shallow, hard, seepagePresent
Large Lake--shallow, soft, drainagePresent
Large Lake--shallow, soft, seepagePresent
Mesic PrairiePresent
Oak WoodlandPresent
Pine RelictPresent
Riverine Mud FlatPresent
Small Lake--hard, bogPresent
Small Lake--otherPresent
Small Lake--soft, bogPresent
Southern Tamarack Swamp (rich)Present
Spring Pond, Lake--SpringPresent
Springs and Spring Runs (Hard)Present
Springs and Spring Runs (Soft)Present
Wet PrairiePresent
Wet-mesic PrairiePresent
Wild Rice MarshPresent

General opportunities

General management opportunities 1

The Central Sand Plains surrounds a large acreage of publicly-owned lands and contains extensive blocks of a wide variety of habitats. It provides many landscape-scale management opportunities absent from other parts of Wisconsin, especially the southern half of the state where habitats are often highly fragmented and public ownership is limited.

Large forest blocks provide habitat for area-sensitive species and protect water quality. Extensive oak and pine forests are common and can be managed at all scales and age classes. Opportunities to develop and maintain old-growth characteristics are good for Northern Dry-mesic Forest, Southern Dry-mesic Forest, the mixed Central Sands Pine-Oak Forest, White Pine-Red Maple Swamp, Floodplain Forest, as well as some of the drier oak and pine types at certain locations. Floristically rich mesic hardwood forests on terraces just above the floodplains of several of the major rivers offer fewer, but important, opportunities. Early successional forest management opportunities are also good here, for jack pine, "scrub" oak and, locally, aspen.

Abundant wetlands provide excellent large-scale management opportunities, especially in and around the bed of the former Glacial Lake Wisconsin. Large acid peatland complexes support many species (plants and animals) known mostly from northern Wisconsin, along with species that are rare in the north. These wetlands can be managed in ways that are compatible with surrounding forest and/or open habitats, to maximize their utility for sensitive species.

Rare communities such as Oak and Pine Barrens, Coastal Plain Marsh, White Pine-Red Maple Swamp, are well-represented in the Central Sand Plains and support many rare species. Remnant barrens warrant additional recognition, protection, restoration and expansion, and in many areas could be managed compatibly with dry forests of jack pine and oak. East of the Wisconsin River extensive "surrogate grasslands" are managed for rare and declining grassland animals, including Wisconsin's best populations of the Greater Prairie-chicken and regal fritillary. In general, there are numerous opportunities to connect high-quality remnants of barrens, dry forest, sand prairie and other habitats and manage at multiple scales.

Major rivers such as the Wisconsin, Black, Yellow, Lemonweir and Eau Claire and their floodplains, provide extensive, contiguous habitats (especially floodplain forest) for many species of management concern. The river corridors can provide connectivity between habitats in this landscape and other ecological landscapes to the north, south and west. Headwaters streams originating in Central Sand Plains extensive peatlands could be restored, protected and managed as parts of entire riparian systems - a rare opportunity for the southern half of the state.

Sandstone bedrock exposures in the Central Sand Plains include unusual features such as buttes, mesas, mounds and pinnacles. These types of geological features are not found elsewhere in the state and some of them support rare and specialized plants and animals.

The Central Sand Plains is a major concentration area, of rare species, including several that are globally imperiled. A number of disjunct species, sometimes far from their primary ranges, are present. In addition, the landscape's location and its wide variety of habitats allow many plants and animals to occur near their southern or northern range limits.

1. The text presented here is a summarized version of a longer section developed for the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.


Central Sand Plains Landtype Associations

Landtype Associations (LTAs) are units of the National Hierarchical Framework of Ecological Units (NHFEU), a hierarchical ecological land classification system. LTAs are much smaller than Ecological Landscapes, ranging in size from 10,000 and 300,000 acres. In Wisconsin, they are usually based on glacial features like individual moraines or outwash plains. LTAs can be very useful for planning at finer scales within an Ecological Landscape.

The following are the LTAs associated with the Central Sand Plains Ecological Landscape. The Central Sand Plains LTA map [PDF] can be used to locate these LTAs. Clicking on an LTA in the list below will open a data table for that LTA in PDF format. Descriptions are included, where available.

  • 222Rb01. Farichild Uplands
  • 222Ra05. Glacial Lake Wisconsin Bogs
  • 222Ra12. West Point Plains
  • 222Rb03. Pittsbille Uplands
  • 222Rb04. Arbutus Uplands
  • 222Rb02. Spaulding Uplands
  • 222Ra01. Wisconsin River Alluvial Plain and Flowages and Terraces
  • 222Ra07. Wisconsin River Outwash Terraces
  • 222Ra20. Black-Robinson-Harrison Terraces and Floodplains
  • 222Ra04. Northwest Outlet Cranberry Bogs
  • 222Ra14. Glacical Lake Wisconsin Siliceous Sand Plain
  • 222Ra19. Jackson Siliceous Sand Plain
  • 222Ra16. Jackson-Juneau Sandstone Knolls and Terraces
  • 222Ra11. Yellow River Floodplain and Terraces
  • 222Ra13. Yellow River Siliceous Terrace
  • 222Ra09. Tomah-Mauston Terraces
  • 222Ra15. Lemonweir Floodplain and Terraces
  • 222Ra10. Adams County Bluffs
  • 222Ra08. Plover-Hankock Outwash Plain
  • 222Ra03. Glacial Lake Wisconsin Sand Plain
  • 222Ra06. Glacial Lake Wisconsin Sand Dunes
  • 222Ra17. Castle Rock Bluffs and Terraces
  • 222Ra02. Wisconsin Dells
  • 222Ra18. Baraboo-Dells Terrace and Outwash Plain
Last Revised: July 16, 2020

Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition