Great Lakes at Great Risk

A view of Lake Superior from Madeline Island, Wisconsin

A view of Lake Superior from Madeline Island, Wisconsin

As Wisconsinites, the Great Lakes hold a special place in our lives. We're fortunate to live in a state which borders two of them, with a third within a few hours' drive. As a result, we are attuned to the importance, power, and fragility of the system. And the value of the Lakes for birds - resident and migratory both - is indescribable!

Like many times in the past, the Great Lakes system is again at risk, this time from severe budget cuts to one of the leading initiatives that fosters protection and restoration of the lakes. The federal administration has proposed to cut the Environmental Protection Agency 's funding by 40% and within those cuts, a 97% cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Learn more about the situation and what you can do by clicking here.

DNR public hearings: Crane hunting season, milkweeds, and more

Sandhill crane colt,  photo by Arlene Kozio

Sandhill crane colt, photo by Arlene Kozio

What do you think about opening a hunting season for sandhill cranes in Wisconsin? How about statewide encouragement of planting milkweeds to support monarch butterflies? Or maintaining funding for the Stewardship Fund, which provides grants for land acquisition and conservation?

You have a chance to tell the DNR just how you feel!

On April 10, the Wisconsin DNR and Wisconsin Conservation Congress are hosting public hearings in every county in Wisconsin to get your feedback on these and 85 other topics relating to natural resources conservation in the state.

This is an important opportunity for us as Wisconsin citizens and the DNR’s primary stakeholders, to weigh in on the agency’s actions and priorities – particularly now, when the DNR faces many organizational changes and the future of our state’s environment is uncertain.

This document contains all 88 topics on the DNR’s questionnaire, but three topics directly related to Madison Audubon’s work are listed below. If you care about these and/or other issues listed in the questionnaire, plan to attend your local meeting on April 10, 7:00 pm.

> DNR’s webpage describing the meetings, includes links to questionnaire and locations


From the questionnaire:

Monarch caterpillar munching on a commonmilkweed leaf,  MAS photo

Monarch caterpillar munching on a commonmilkweed leaf, MAS photo

QUESTION 64: Support increased planting/maintenance of milkweed (540116)

Monarch butterflies are important pollinators in Wisconsin. Population levels have declined in the U.S. by 90% over the last 20 years. The U.S. Dept. of the Interior is considering placing the monarch butterfly on the Endangered Species List, and the Wisconsin DNR is actively encouraging efforts to preserve this species. Milkweed plays a critical role in the habitat needs of the monarch (female monarchs only lay their eggs in/on milkweed plants), and it is believed that much of the population decline is due to the disappearance of milkweed. Several city, towns, and villages in Wisconsin identify milkweed as a noxious weed by ordinance and take aggressive actions to remove or prevent the planting of it within their communities.

64. Do you support having the DNR encourage local governments to remove milkweed from local noxious weed ordinances and encourage the planting and maintenance of quality milkweed plots? 64. YES____ NO_____

From MAS: Wisconsin is home to at least 10 native milkweed species (Common – Asclepias syriaca, Butterflyweed – A. tuberosa, Swamp – A. incarnata, Purple – A. purpurascens, Showy – A. speciosa, and Whorled – A. verticillata, Tall Green – A. hirtella, Prairie – A. sullivantii, Sidecluster or Wooly – A. lanuginosa, Oval-leaf – A. ovalifolia)(1,2), all of which support caterpillars of monarch butterflies by providing the one and only plant material the monarch caterpillars will eat: milkweed leaves! In addition, the flowers provide nectar for a myriad of pollinators, including but not limited to monarch adults. These plants have evolved to live in Wisconsin and are a historical piece of the biotic community here.

As part of our outreach efforts, Madison Audubon provides common milkweed seeds to community members to increase the planting and awareness of the importance of this species, particularly as a way to support monarch butterfly populations.


Prairie landscape at Faville Grove Sanctuary,  photo by Roger Packard

Prairie landscape at Faville Grove Sanctuary, photo by Roger Packard

QUESTION 78: Maintain Stewardship Fund (450316)

In 1989, funding for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program was funded at $25 million per year and in 2010 reached a high of $86 million. Currently the Stewardship Fund is budgeted at $33.2 million dollars per year. Stewardship funds are used to purchase and develop lands for hunting, fishing, trapping and recreating, lake and stream access and easements, partnerships with local governments, and protection of unique parcels of land. Other benefits include timber harvest, tourism, many different kinds of outdoor recreation and increased water quality.

78. Do you support the Legislature continuing to fund the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund at adequate levels with wise use of the funds by the NRB and the DNR? 78. YES____ NO_____

From MAS: The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is an extremely important tool for organizations like Madison Audubon to achieve their mission-work around land acquisition, restoration, and protection. As described in an earlier post, we encourage individuals to write to the program manager to request reconsideration of changes to the program that would reduce its efficacy. Funding for this program is fundamental for its continuation and success.


Sandhill crane landing on April ice,  photo by Arlene Koziol

Sandhill crane landing on April ice, photo by Arlene Koziol

QUESTION 80: Sandhill crane hunting season (540616) (requires legislation)

There are 700,000 sandhill cranes in North America and 17 states have hunting season including two states in our flyway: Kentucky and Tennessee. A management plan approved by 31 states and Canadian provinces in eastern North America established that the Eastern Population of sandhill cranes was large enough to be hunted and established a process for a state to apply for a limited quota based hunting season. In Wisconsin, the state legislature must approve a quota-based hunting season on sandhill cranes before the DNR can develop a season.

80. Do you support legislation which would give the DNR authority to begin the process to develop a hunting season for sandhill cranes? 80. YES____ NO_____

From MAS: Along with the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology (read their position post here) and other organizations, Madison Audubon is firmly against opening a crane hunting season. This is largely because of the decimation the species experienced in the early 1900’s, and their slow but steady recovery as a result of strong conservation efforts. An open hunt has potential to impact local populations by reducing overall numbers and dividing breeding pairs, as well as regional populations by reducing the potential for the species to expand from Wisconsin into other locations in its native regional range (Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, etc.). In addition, there is very strong evidence that sandhill crane hunting results in accidental take of the much more endangered whooping crane due to their similarities in appearance. The impact on these species can be significant.


Please make your opinions known at the April 10 meetings!


Good News: DOT Shuts Down Interstate Options Through Goose Pond!

Monarch on goldenrod;  Photo by Arlene Koziol

Monarch on goldenrod; Photo by Arlene Koziol

Good news from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation today: The study looking into how the DOT might expand Interstate-39/90/94 outside of Madison has ended, with the elimination of the "East Reliever" interstate options. That means Goose Pond will remain unaffected and safe from this threat!

Thank you for all of our members who voiced your concerns to the DOT and made our priorities known!


Read more about what the threat was here.

Tell DOT: No Interstate Through Goose Pond Sanctuary

>> Read Madison Audubon's letter to Robert Knorr, DOT project manager <<

Scroll down to learn how you can help!

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is currently studying ways to relieve congestion in the I-39/90/94 corridor east and north of Madison. Three of the five options under
consideration would severely affect Goose Pond Sanctuary.

A shooting star at Goose Pond Sanctuary

A shooting star at Goose Pond Sanctuary

The most destructive options involve construction of a new section of interstate highway running east of DeForest and Arlington, through Goose Pond Sanctuary at Ankenbrandt Prairie, and rejoining the existing interstate corridor near the Wisconsin River. In addition to destroying and fragmenting prairie habitat, including habitat for the endangered silphium borer moth and other threatened grassland species, the new highway would bring noise, light,  air, and water pollution to the sanctuary, and would severely detract from public enjoyment of one of our area’s premier birding hotspots.

While construction won’t begin until 2025 or later, a decision on a preferred option is expected by this summer. We are hopeful, for a variety of economic, social, and environmental reasons,  that DOT will elect to confine any capacity expansion to the existing interstate corridor rather than create a new roadway.  Nonetheless, to assure this outcome, it is crucial that everyone who loves Goose Pond let DOT know that any new route through or near Goose Pond Sanctuary will pass through a minefield of public opposition.


UPDATE (Feb. 28, 2017): Good news! The Department of Transportation has eliminated the "East Reliever" interstate options, thereby removing the threat to Goose Pond Sanctuary! Thank you for your great help in making these concerns heard!

MAS reviews Badger Army Ammo Plant master plan

A view of the Badger Army Ammunition Plant grounds from the southeast. Photo from WI DNR webpage.

A view of the Badger Army Ammunition Plant grounds from the southeast. Photo from WI DNR webpage.

The Badger Army Ammunition Plant, located just south of Devil's Lake State Park in south central Wisconsin, was the largest munitions plant in the world during World War II. It was decommissioned in 1997, the buildings since then demolished and the land remediated for its new owners. Much of the land is now restored prairie.

The 7,000+ acres is now part of the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, and will be maintained by three owners: the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Ho-Chunk Nation, and Dairy Forage Research Center. A master plan for DNR-designated land has been drafted, revised, and is now available for public review.

Madison Audubon Society's Advocacy Committee is reviewing the draft master plan and will provide the DNR with feedback on best management practices for protecting grassland birds and the opportunities and challenges facing a restoration of critical habitats (oak openings and prairies). The DNR Board meets on December 14, 2016 in Madison to discuss the plan and gather feedback - public participation is welcome.

Access the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area Master Plan and Environmental Impact Statement here.