Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

June 2011

Signature success stories

Carroll Schaal, Paul Cunningham, Pamela Toshner, The Nature Conservancy, Cheryl Clemens and Alex Smith

Photo of 'Fish Sticks' © Pam Toshner
Fish Sticks are downed trees added to the water's edge to create habitat.
© Pam Toshner

Fish Sticks even a fish can love

The Eau Claire Chain of Lakes in Bayfield and Douglas counties are high quality headwaters of the National Wild and Scenic St. Croix River. Historic logging followed by a slow progression of shoreland development eliminated much of the natural woody habitat in the lake system. Since 2006, local citizens and conservation groups, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Bayfield County Land and Water Conservation Department have placed hundreds of downed trees ("Fish Sticks") in the water's edge and anchored them to shore where they benefit fish, bugs, birds, turtles, frogs, and other critters, and of course people. Now, interest in Fish Sticks projects is growing throughout the region.

Photo of river shoreline © Pam Toshner
The Upper St. Croix River is critical habitat in need of protection.
© Pam Toshner

Identifying and protecting habitats

The DNR completed Critical Habitat Designations to protect important habitats and natural scenic beauty on 14 lakes and the St. Croix River in northwestern Wisconsin. DNR staff mapped the critical habitat, including native aquatic plant beds, spawning substrates, wetlands and fallen trees; wrote reports; and invited citizens to provide feedback, which was overwhelmingly positive. Local government and conservation planning efforts had identified habitat protection as a need and these groups will use the designations in local decision making.

Photo of lake shoreline © Jim Schumacker
Lake Wabikon is one of the most significant undeveloped lakes in Wisconsin.
© Jim Schumacker

Wild lakes preservation

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the State of Wisconsin and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest closed a multi-faceted deal with Connor Timber Associates that will protect more than 19,000 acres of industrial forestland in northeast Wisconsin for forest jobs and timber products, recreation and wildlife habitat. The property includes 55 river miles and 15 lakes, including land next to two of the most significant undeveloped lakes left in Wisconsin, Wabikon and Riley lakes. TNC will eventually transfer the land to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest for long-term stewardship.

Photo of rain garden © Photo supplied by Harmony Environmental Project
Rain gardens help control runoff pollution to Deer Lake.
© Photo supplied by Harmony Environmental Project

Watershed management works

After nearly 15 years of state, county and especially local citizen efforts to control runoff pollution, phosphorus runoff into Polk County’s 807-acre Deer Lake was reduced by more than 50 percent, resulting in an increase in water clarity of nearly five feet; an almost unprecedented lake response to watershed improvements. Many of the improvements were spearheaded by the Deer Lake Conservancy, which acquired and restored 168 acres of land, much of which was degraded.

Photo of Patrick and Sue Dugan © Northwoods Land Trust
Patrick and Sue Dugan donated 5.6 acres in Oneida County to the Northwoods Land Trust which became the Dugan Squash Nature Preserve.
© Northwoods Land Trust


The Northwoods Land Trust, led by Executive Director Bryan Pierce, promoted education, not acquisition, as their strategy for preserving valuable shallow water fish habitat on a shoestring budget. The group used DNR Lake Protection grants to identify landowners with more than 500 feet of lakeshore property, meet with them about various conservation options, and provide onsite technical assistance and management options for long-term protection and conservation. To date, the projects have made 1,775 landowner contacts resulting in 38 permanent conservation easements protecting 4,049 acres of land and nearly 21 miles of lake frontage on over 40 lakes and two miles of river frontage in Vilas, Oneida, Forest, Florence, Iron, Price and northern Langlade counties.