Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Phyllis Lorenzo

Wool-sower gall caused by a parasitic wasp.

October 2013

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What is this? I found it on a small oak. Is it something that should be destroyed?

Phyllis Lorenzo

We checked with biologist Thomas A. Meyer who identified it as a wool-sower gall caused by a parasitic wasp. According to Henderson State University’s "Fungi Look Alikes", “Wool-sower galls appear on twigs of oaks and may be 1.5 to 2 inches long, but, unlike the oak-apple galls, they have no hardened outer covering. The woolly mass is a shade of white, speckled with reddish seed–like grains. Similar in form but not in color, woolly oak leaf galls form a dense wad of light brown ‘wool’ attached usually to the midvein on the underside of an oak leaf (although occasionally they may be found on the lateral veins of the leaf). They are seen very commonly on oak leaves shed in the fall season, but usually are under an inch in length. Both wool-sower and woolly oak leaf galls are caused by parasitic gall wasps belonging to the genus Callirhytis.”


A couple of times a year, Nick Apps and his family return to Wisconsin to vacation. Nick, who is 13 years old, captured these critters during one of those visits. He is a budding photographer and all around outdoors lover. During a recent visit to Rhinelander he could be found pulling in bluegill from the pier one minute and tubing on Lake George the next.

Rabbit in leaves found in Rhinelander. © Nick Apps

Squirrel up a tree found in Rheinlander. © Nick Apps

Nick Apps
Vail, Colo.


The June 2013 issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine features the article “Transformation on the Prairie.” It describes the special opportunity that has come to Sauk County and to the people of Wisconsin with the decommissioning and deconstruction of the 7,350–acre Badger Army Ammunition Plant, and the transfer of the land to its future owners. As citizens of Sauk Prairie and Sauk County, and as long–time stakeholders in the Badger reuse process, we look forward to working with all the new landowners and others to make the most of the opportunity. This remarkable landscape holds many values that reflect its unique geology, ecology, and natural and cultural history. We are thrilled that restoration of the land’s life, beauty, and health will be moving forward at Badger, and that we will soon be able to welcome the people of Wisconsin and the nation to our backyard. We are concerned, however that the article leaves out critical parts of the Badger story.

How did the Wisconsin DNR acquire land at Badger? The article fails to mention how the State of Wisconsin came to acquire land at Badger (and additional lands that it may yet gain). When the U.S. Department of Defense announced the decommissioning of the Badger Plant in 1997, it unleashed a free–for–all among those looking to reap short–term profits from its closing. Over the next several years, local citizens, businesses, organizations, and local, county, state, federal and tribal governments engaged in an intense conversation about Badger’s long-term future. In 2001 that effort resulted in the formal adoption of the consensus Badger Reuse Plan (BRP). The reuse plan, in turn, made it possible for deconstruction, environmental clean-up and land transfers to proceed in a coordinated manner at Badger.

What about the Badger Reuse Plan (BRP)? The article fails to reference the Badger Reuse Plan. Overcoming decades of discord on the prairie, the plan provided a path forward for all. And it provided the basis for the State of Wisconsin to request in 2004 that the federal government transfer to it a portion of the Badger lands. The land transfer was officially agreed to in 2010. Wisconsin now holds this land, and this opportunity, because of the Badger Reuse Plan. It is stated in the article that “Transfer of a property of this size to the public at no cost for the land is practically unheard of.” It is certainly true that a land acquisition of this sort is extraordinarily rare. However, it did not happen by accident or without cost. The cost was paid for in the thousands of hours of hard volunteer work, over many years, by dozens of organizations and hundreds of citizens who shared a vision for this property, for our community, and for the future of Wisconsin.

What about the other partners at Badger? The BRP (available online at co.sauk.wi.us/cpz/badger-reuse-plan) calls for the landowners and stakeholders at Badger to manage the entire property collaboratively. The BRP makes it clear this is the only way to realize the full opportunity at Badger and to maximize the benefits for all the partners. The DNR may eventually acquire up to 3,380 of the property’s 7,350 acres. The USDA Dairy Forage Research Center has acquired about 2,100 acres, and the Ho-Chunk Nation may acquire 1,550 acres. (The small remainder is divided among three other entities.) The DNR is thus not planning and managing its lands just for itself. The other landowners are not just neighbors, as the article states. They are full partners in the management of Badger as a whole.

How will recreational uses fit into Badger? The article fails to address the need to integrate all the future uses at Badger in a coherent way. The BRP calls for combining four primary future uses at Badger:1) ecological restoration of the Sauk Prairie landscape; 2) agricultural activities that demonstrate how conservation and agriculture can work together; 3)education and research programs involving the land’s natural and human history; and 4) compatible recreational activities. The designation of the DNR portion of Badger as the “Sauk Prairie Recreation Area” was a bureaucratic land classification choice that does not capture the full spirit of the BRP’s vision. On the plus side, it does reflect that recreation is one of the important uses envisioned for the Badger lands. On the minus side, it implies that the area will be devoted exclusively to just one of those uses.

What kinds of recreation are appropriate at Badger? Badger has space for a wide array of recreational activities, but not all. Through extensive public meetings, the committee that produced the BRP (which included the DNR) reviewed and ranked dozens of proposals. Many of these involved recreational activities. The BRP is clear in its intent and language. Recreational activities are to be low-impact in nature, so as to minimize interference among the landowners and to maximize the potential for reuse of the property as a whole. When DNR applied to receive land from the National Park Service, its application stated that only low-impact recreational uses would be allowed on the property (consistent with the BRP). The National Park Service accepted the application and transferred the property to the DNR, but limited the allowed uses to those described in the DNR’s application. As such, DNR cannot currently allow high-impact recreational uses at Badger without prior National Park Service approval. The magazine article does not mention these facts. Badger is unique. It is unlikely that we will ever have in southern Wisconsin so large a landscape in which to reclaim a vital piece of our natural and cultural history: the tallgrass prairie. We can demonstrate, at Badger, how prairie restoration can work together with other activities and land uses. We can provide important opportunities for citizens of all ages to participate actively in the re-creation of the Badger lands. We look for support of these common goals. As the DNR moves forward in its planning process, we respectfully ask that it provide the full story of the BRP in its public outreach efforts. The BRP represents the shared commitment of and between local governments, the State of Wisconsin, the Ho-Chunk Nation, federal agencies and the public. The many partners at Badger have come a long way down a difficult and complicated trail. We have made progress together through the trust that we have built together. It takes hard work to keep those relationships strong. But as land stewards, we know that it is the most important work we do. The future of Badger depends on it.

David Tremble
President of The Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp responds:

Thank you for writing to me about the recent "Transformation on the Prairie" article in the June 2013 issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. I appreciate your interest in the future of the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area. Our magazine has a subscription base of 84,000 spread out across the length and breadth of Wisconsin. Articles are selected for this diverse audience with the goal of sharing things that make Wisconsin such a unique and wonderful place to live. Stories may be about people, places, things and events. Our magazine staff works with authors to create lively stories with wide audience appeal. The DNR is dedicated to developing and managing the former Badger grounds for public recreation, restoration, education and interpretation. The article stresses our ongoing commitment to listen and consider the comments of all prospective users of Badger as it is transformed into the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area. My staff has released for public comment several draft conceptual alternatives describing the property's future resource management and use. The alternatives incorporate details from supporting documents, including the Badger Reuse Plan, as well as the nearly 400 public comments we've received from potential SPRA users. The public comment period will be one of several opportunities to comment as DNR staff develop a draft master plan. In addition, the Natural Resources Board will hear public comment before making a decision on the draft master plan, which I anticipate will be in 2014.Thank you again for your continued interest and support of Wisconsin’s natural resources.


I am confused. In your article,“King of the forest", by Birney Dibble in the June issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources, it is stated that the grouse makes its drumming sounds by a flapping of the wings, somewhat similar to thunder in that it creates a vacuum which results in an air disturbance. But on a historical marker located on the Buena Vista Marsh in Central Wisconsin, it states that the booming sounds are created by a stamping of the feet by the grouse. Which explanation is correct?

J. Marsahll Buehler
Port Edwards

That’s a great observation! Actually, Mr. Dibble’s article described the drumming of the ruffed grouse while the historical marker you saw described the “booming” of the greater prairie chicken, a relative from the same family also known as the pinneated grouse. Prairie chickens perform a breeding dance in the early spring which consists of a combination of foot–stomping, tail–clicking and the vocalized booming produced by air sacs in the throats of males. Find out more about prairie chickens at EEK! The Greater Prairie Chicken , and read more about them in our February 2006 story, The drummer of love


My daughter and I were taking a walk and found these two silk moths. With a little research, I found out we came across quite a rare sight. According to the website A Prairie Haven , "Polyphemus moths hatch from their cocoons in late May or June. They mate and lay eggs in the next day or two — adult moths don't eat, so they only live for a few days. The caterpillars hatch a week or two from when they were laid. The caterpillars eat and grow all summer, and make their cocoons in August or September. They over winter as cocoons, and the adults emerge the following June to start the cycle over again."

Sam Vils with his 25–bird © Tom and Amy Vils

Jamie Wenzel