Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Bird-Life in Pioneer Days (referring to
an area in Rock County in the 1850's)
Complete lists and discussion of species of management concern for each natural division are included in the natural divisions section of this guidebook.
Habitats, Landscapes, and Sites
We have identified 26 management priority landscapes, along with their current and potential size, dominant habitat types, and notes on their potential for development, expansion, or restoration (Appendix G). These priority landscapes vary from predominantly native to primarily surrogate grasslands. We selected these priority landscapes for one or more of the following reasons:
The priority landscapes in Figure 8 contain the best examples of highly ranked grassland habitats and capture some of the differences in bird, as well as habitat distribution statewide. They range from fairly small sites such as the Rush Creek/Battle Bluff Goat Prairies and Savannas (see G in Figure 8; 230 acres of dry prairie and old field and up to 500 acres of potential oak savanna restoration) to large areas such as the Yellowstone/Pecatonica River Valley Landscape (C; up to 200,000 acres, primarily surrogate grasslands) and the Namekagon/Douglas County Barrens (U; currently 9,700 acres composed mainly of native grassland and barrens habitats, with potential for expansion). Some sites are isolated within forests, such as Black Lake/Belden Swamp (Z), or fragmented landscapes, such as Bong Recreation Area (L), while others are embedded in large, relatively open landscapes, such as Yellowstone/Pecatonica River Grasslands and Savannas and Columbia/Dane County Prairie Wetlands (K). Many of these open landscapes are or will be managed with the cooperation of private landowners and other agencies.
If all 26 priority landscapes were developed and managed, they would incorporate over 1.1 million acres of landscape-scale grassland habitat for grassland birds in the state.
Figure 8 includes the location of these priority landscapes along with eight secondary landscapes of lesser priority, key sites within landscapes that serve either as focal points for management or as locations of important, existing managed grasslands, and many other smaller but important sites for grassland bird habitat management outside of the landscapes. Enlarged maps for each natural division, including names of sites and secondary landscapes, are presented along with suggested management priorities in the following sections.
Seventeen of the 26 priority landscapes are suited for large-scale areas, which is the most important scale for grassland bird management. The Buena Vista Prairie-Chicken Management Area (in landscape P) is an important example of a currently functioning large-scale grassland area (approximately 50,000 acres) that fits our criteria and in fact serves as the model for our concept of an area consisting of a combination of public and private land (Hamerstrom et al. 1957). The Crex Meadows/Fish Lake Complex (T) also qualifies as a current large-scale management area because it already includes well over 20,000 acres of publicly owned grassland habitat, mostly at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area.
In addition to these two areas, three othersMoquah Barrens (W), Namekagon/Douglas County Barrens (U), and Fort McCoy Barrens (B)are approaching the size required for large-scale areas and currently exceed the required 2,000 acre core of permanent grassland. Grassland and barrens habitat at Moquah Barrens is planned to exceed 11,000 acres, the Namekagon/Douglas County Landscape currently has around 9,700 acres of open, diverse, and brush prairie barrens, and Fort McCoy Barrens has around 8,800 acres of sand prairie and barrens habitats, although not all of it is open enough for high grassland bird use. In addition to these five landscapes, we will probably need at least five new large-scale grassland landscapes, bringing the total number to at least ten in the state.
Most of the five current large-scale areas consist primarily of large public ownerships, and thus differ from our model of large-scale management areas. Opportunities for future large-scale acquisitions such as the five discussed here are very limited; this is one reason why our recommendations for large-scale areas do not rely entirely on land acquisition but rather incorporate significant amounts of private land.
Of the five large-scale grassland areas mentioned above, only Fort McCoy is south of the tension zone (see sidebar), where we currently lack large landscapes of publicly owned and managed grasslands. This area of the state is particularly important for several reasons (Sample et al. 1994, Henderson and Krause 1995, Henderson and Sample 1995):
Nine of the 26 priority landscapes are identified as having the potential to be managed for medium-scale areas only (Appendix G). Seven of these areas currently have more than 1,000 acres of permanent grassland and therefore probably function as medium-scale landscapes: Lower Wisconsin River Prairies and Barrens (D), Bong Recreation Area (L), Pine Island Area Grasslands (O), Necedah Barrens (Q), Green Bay West Shore Sedge Meadows (S), Spread Eagle Barrens (Y), and Black Lake/Belden Swamp (Z). The Lower Wisconsin River and Green Bay West Shore landscapes are both in need of more connectivity between grassland sites, however.
In addition, the following ten sitesa majority of which are in the Northern Highlands/Lake Superior Lowland Natural Divisionare not included in the priority landscapes but already contain over 1,000 acres of permanent grassland (most in blocks > 100 acres) and thus may function as medium-scale landscapes.
An assessment of these sites is needed to see if they meet the criteria for medium-scale areas. There are additional sites outside of the priority landscapes that have less permanent grassland than the above ten sites but that may have the potential for management as medium-scale landscapes.
In addition to the above landscapes and sites, at least seven of the 17 potential large-scale areas identified above could instead be managed as medium-scale areas; these are potential large-scale landscapes that currently lack large blocks of permanent grassland or consist of areas of permanent grassland separated by currently unsuitable grassland habitat. Included in this list are Thomson Prairie Grasslands (A), Muralt/Monroe Grasslands (H), Columbia/Dane County Prairie Wetlands (K), Southern Kettle Moraine Complex (J), Rush Lake Grasslands and Sedge Meadows (M), Brillion/Killsnake Grasslands (N), and North Central Prairie Chicken Grasslands (V1 and V2).
Overall, there are currently at least 26 landscapes and sites that may qualify or have the potential to be managed as medium-scale grassland management areas. In addition to the large-scale areas, we recommend establishing or maintaining a total of at least 25 medium-scale grassland areas in the state.
An assessment of all landscapes that currently have enough permanent grassland to qualify as either large- or medium-scale grassland management areas is needed to determine how they can be improved for grassland birds. An assessment is also needed for most of the other landscapes and sites to determine in detail the current amount and configuration of grassland habitats, as well as the potential for further grassland management and expansion. In addition, for all priority landscapes, the importance of grassland conservation needs to be weighed along with the potential importance of conserving other communities, such as forest and wetland habitat types, (for example at the Southern Kettle Moraine Complex (J).
The 26 priority landscapes and sites, as well as the eight secondary landscapes (marked with double letters in Figure 8, are not the only places where grassland management should occur. Many other sites on both public and private lands can provide valuable grassland bird habitat if managed according to the guidelines in this publication.
As with bird species, the native habitat types and landscapes they occur in and most of the surrogate grasslands have varied distributions among the natural divisions. For example, open, diverse, and brush prairie barrens, northern sedge meadow, open bog, and grass hay occur primarily in the Northern Highland/Lake Superior Lowland and Lake Michigan Shoreland, while dry or sand prairie and oak or river barrens occur in the Southwestern Upland and the Central Plains. Upland pasture is most highly concentrated in the Southwestern Upland.
Differences in priority birds and priority habitats among and within natural divisions should be taken into account when planning and implementing management actions. In each natural division, we should manage for the habitats and landscapes preferred by the bird communities that include the priority species of that division. The following sections address management priorities for birds, habitats, landscapes, and sites within each natural division. For each of the natural division accounts that follows, bird communities typically associated with the habitat types discussed can be located in Table 1 and Appendix E. Habitat preferences of bird species are summarized in Table 5 and Appendix F.
26 priority landscapes represent unique opportunities for landscape-scale
grassland management that should not be missed. The top ten landscapes
are all of the highest management priority; taken together they represent
all the habitat types required by high priority grassland bird species
prairie areas have the topography and climatic conditions most conducive
to the maintenance of open grassland habitat with the least effort.