Helping to Bring More Money to Wisconsin’s Wetlands

Project: Cherokee Marsh
County: Dane

By Peter Ziegler, Project Director –

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s May, 2024 Newsletter edition.

WWA has a long history of partnerships and restoration work throughout the state.  We know our programs would not be as successful without our partners – and that goes both ways.

WWA partnered with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) on a grant two years ago to tap into funding not previously utilized in Wisconsin  for wetland restoration via Natural Resources Conservation Service.  By partnering with WDNR on the grant, WWA helped to bring additional funding to the tune of $957,000, for which WDNR is the awardee.

Project site sign in Dane County acknowledges the project partners.

Last year, the first two projects’ construction phases were completed.  These two projects, one in Dane County and the other in Milwaukee County, resulted in 35 acres of habitat restored.  This consisted of 28 acres of wetland restoration and seven acres of adjacent upland prairie habitat.  Two more projects are in the planning stages for 2024 and into 2025, with a goal of an additional 40 acres of wetland restoration.

Prepping to backfill the ditch draining the site (photo: WDNR)

Although the initial construction phase is complete, there is more work to be done at each of these sites. Both of these projects have up to five years of active maintenance that will be needed in order to hit performance standards that will ensure the sites are functional hydrologically and are supporting quality native wetland vegetation.  Costs for these types of projects are on the higher end, but this includes five years of management and monitoring to assure a quality wetland is the result.  I see the benefit in being that these are sites that will become quality habitat not degraded by the invasion of invasive species due to the long term maintenance and the funds allocated to that.  Both of these sites are located near urban areas and are open to recreational use for the public (varies by site).

Public Lands Program – 2023 Year in Review

Project: Wisconsin Public Lands Projects
County: Statewide
Project Start Date: 01/01/2023
Project End Date: 12/31/2023

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s January, 2024 Newsletter edition.

Wisconsin Waterfowl Association began the Public Lands program through a contract with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, formalized in January 2023. Mark Pfost joined the team as a part -time Public Lands Ecologist, with Anthony Hatcher hired to fill the full-time Public Lands Ecologist role. Anna Rzchowski was brought on to fill the full -time Public Lands Ecologist role in September 2023.

To date, 144 properties have undergone desktop reviews, with 8 properties under discussion to explore restoration potential, and another two properties moving forward through permitting (Navarino Wildlife Area and Peter Helland Wildlife Area). WWA ecologists continue to evaluate additional properties, prioritizing sites with high Conservation Opportunity scores and those requested by DNR managers.

While a number of DNR-owned wetlands have been hydrologically modified, the number of properties with potential for restoration is further reduced after assessing potential impacts to adjacent private lands, property management goals, and other factors.

If restoration opportunity exists, WWA’s ecologists conduct field surveys, develop restoration plans in collaboration with DNR staff, and facilitate permitting and project contracting and construction. To date, two projects have undergone permitting (an estimated 141 wetland acres to be restored). We anticipate beginning on-the-ground work at these sites in 2024.


Projects in Permitting: Two restorations totaling 141 acres

Navarino Wildlife Area: approx. 16 restored wetland acres (Shawano County) Peter Helland Wildlife Area: approx. 125 restored wetland acres (Columbia County)

Projects in Planning & Scoping: one potential restoration totaling 50 acres

Brooklyn Wildlife Area: approx. 50 acres (Dane County)

Projects in Early Review: Eight potential restorations

Young Prairie SNA: approx. 15 acres under discussion (Walworth County)

Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit: approx. 35 acres (Waukesha County) Koshkonong Wildlife Area (Jefferson County)

Lower Wolf River – Conradt Unit (Outagamie County)

Deer Creek Wildlife Area (Waupaca & Outagamie Counties) Jefferson Wildlife Area (Jefferson County)

Poygan Marsh (Waushara County)

Meadow Valley Wildlife Area (Juneau County)


Abrams Property Blinds Ready for South Opener

Project: Abrams Property
County: Oconto
Project Start Date: 09/17/2023

By Bruce Urben, WWA President

Five members from the local Green Bay chapter completed the annual blind brushing for the disabled accessible duck blinds on WWA’s Abrams  property located in southern Oconto County.

Thanks to Doug Steiner, Jesse Nickel, Logan Sincoular, Jake Kobernick and Jeremy VanSistine for getting the blinds ready for the south opener!

WWA’s Green Bay Chapter maintains the three waterfowl blinds and five deer blinds on the property.

The blinds are available for public use on a first-come, first-served basis and include almost a mile of solid surface trails on the property which allow wheel chair access. The blinds are available for anyone to use, with a priority for disabled hunters. Please pack out everything you pack in!

Waterfowl blinds are spacious and allow wheel chair access, all are located in the southern waterfowl hunting zone.

Black Terns Return!

Project: Rome Pond Wildlife Area
County: Waukesha
Project Start Date: 05/15/2023
Project End Date: 05/27/2023

By Mike Alaimo, Lead AWA volunteer.
All photos courtesy Mike Alaimo unless otherwise noted.

In an update our Waukesha Chapter’s black tern nesting project, we’re excited to share an early update on this year’s nesting platform project being done on WWA’s Adopt A Wildlife Area (AWA) project on Rome Pond Wildlife Area.

On the evening of May 15th I deployed twelve nesting platforms on Rome Pond. At first, I did not see terns, but then I found eight already staking claim on the raised peat.  This is where they concentrated last year, so I laced in four platforms in this area and before I left, they were already using the perch poles.

Nesting platforms and perch poles placed at Rome Pond May 15, 2023

I took a recon out on Rome Pond on May 27th.  With our current dry spell, water levels were coming down, exposing more peat that is drying.  This equals more natural nesting sites and has resulted in zero use of the platforms this year.  However, I did catch two pairs checking out two platforms, so there is hope that late arrivals will attempt nesting on them.  I will continue to monitor.  The irony is that I have pairs nesting within ten feet of platforms.  Hence, the picture of the terns laughing at my disappointment.

Success might be defined this year by a very encouraging discovery.  While sitting in my boat close to the largest colony, I did observe a black tern with a slightly dropped leg.  This odd behavior is due to the geolocator.  After taking numerous leg shots and reviewing them at home this afternoon, we have a eureka moment.  A banded black tern from either 2021 or 2022 has returned and is actively tending an egg!

A Tern spotted on Rome Pond in May 2023 wearing one of the leg bands from a prior year’s banding project on the site!

More to come, as we will attempt to hopefully trap this bird but I was extremely excited about finding this needle in a hay stack.  The challenge is now is trying to recapture this bird to extract the geolocator. Stay tuned…

A banded Tern on Rome Pond May 27, 2023



Effective and Efficient – Waterfowl Stamp Grant Project Report

Project: Waterfowl Stamp Grant Projects
County: Statewide

By Peter Ziegler, Project Director –

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s May, 2023 Newsletter edition.

Earlier this year, WWA wrapped up its reporting to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on our latest waterfowl stamp grant. We proposed to complete 100 acres of wetland restoration with the $50,000 awarded to WWA.  I’m happy to say that with those funds WWA completed 20 projects totaling 233 acres between 2020 and 2022.  As a strong proponent and leading conservation organization that worked to accomplish the waterfowl stamp increase, we have shown with our efforts how effective and efficient WWA is with those dollars.  WWA works at maximizing partnerships and landowner investments in their own wetlands, leading to increased wetland habitat, which supports a wide range of species across our state.

Projects were completed within the following counties with a few having multiple projects: Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Juneau, Marquette, Manitowoc, Ozaukee, St. Croix, Washington and Winnebago.

Here are a few of the brief project summaries of the completed restorations:

Winnebago County, Wetland Acres: 13, Grassland Acres: 60

This project consisted of disabling drain tile across a 40 acre field and interrupting the drainage ditch.  This consists of wet meadow and a two acre wild rice pond with an additional one acre scrape. Artesian hydrology was captured and the site, now fully saturated, was farmed until we completed restoration.

Juneau County, Wetland Acres: 6

This projected was the restoration of an old oxbow wetland along the Baraboo River.  The oxbow had been drained.  A berm with water control structure was installed in the place of the surface drain.  This will restore natural hydrology to the six acre basin within a floodplain.  Site is a mix of PEM wetland and floodplain forest.

Ozaukee County, Wetland Acres: 2

This site is a degraded wetland basin that was dominated by reed canary grass and had a surface drain going out the south side.  The drain was disabled and one acre of the area was scraped for a wildlife scrape for open water habitat.

Fond Du Lac County, Wetland Acres: 10

A drainage ditch that was draining a 1960’s impoundment ran through an agricultural field and degraded wetland to a small creek to the south.  The ditch had an agricultural access road across it.  A culvert was replaced with a water control structure which allows the ditch to be filled and reverse drainage effects.  The ditch has a constant flow and will flood the entire area.

Dodge County, Wetland acres: 8

A wildlife scrape was constructed in monoculture cattails for permanent open water.  A small berm was constructed with WCS to capture water on the ag field.  This will seasonally flood providing good migratory bird layover/feeding area.

2022 Habitat Program in Review

County: Statewide
Project Start Date: 01/01/2022
Project End Date: 12/31/2022

More and better.  WWA continued to rebound from a COVID slowdown with strong results in our habitat restoration work.  221 acres important to duck breeding were restored last year in 15 separate projects.  This was done “very efficiently” as our grant donors would say, leveraging every dollar at least 2:1 against partner dollars (landowner, federal, local).

And we had more/better project opportunities to choose from, given a strong Habitat Committee effort to publicize our private lands program—applications were up a whopping 50% – allowing us to invest grant dollars in the most productive wetland opportunities.

Wild Rice.  Additionally, we stepped into our role as “agent” for the DNR’s wild rice range expansion in the state (WWA is partnering with the state and native resource managers to significantly expand the state’s wild rice efforts.)   While 2022 was a good year for wild rice – we collected and distributed 1100 pounds, more than in recent memory — there was still insufficient supply, leaving us with grant money in our pocket that we couldn’t completely use to purchase and spread wild rice seed.  That said, with our new public lands ecologists, we will be building a plan to better leverage volunteer effort in this exciting opportunity to build habitats attractive to both waterfowl and human harvestings.  You could play a role!

Partnerships.  Finally, our partnership with the USFWS for supporting their wetland and upland restoration efforts yielded good results.  In the last 5 years, we’ve contributed $120,000 that has been leveraged 12:1 to put over 1,700 acres of improved wetlands and uplands on the ground!

The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades (apologies to Timbuk3).  Success frequently builds on success, and that’s the case with WWA’s restoration programs.  Our experience over decades in this field was recognized when the DNR contracted with us to restore neglected wetlands on state-managed properties in January.  The additional capacity we’ve grown with the two new ecologists we just hired (see separate story) makes us super competitive for the grant dollars to conduct the restorations (like from Duck Stamp dollars, or North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) funding, or others.  We have tentatively been awarded $200K in state duck stamp dollars (for our public and private lands work), which can be doubled by matching it to federal (i.e., NAWCA) and other sources of dollars.  Think about how much more we’re going to be able to do!

Winnebago County Project Highlighted by Fox Wolf Watershed Alliance

Project: Kalbus Project
County: Winnebago
Project Start Date: 12/01/2022

WWA played a critical role in the success of this project, recently highlighted by the Fox Wolf Watershed Alliance (FWWA) here.

Kalbus wetland project site map

The Kalbus Wetland project was a multi partnership project brought to WWA via the FWWA. WWA took the lead on the design of the wetland restoration, with input from the landowners and support from Winnebago County Land & Water Conservation Department.

Ground breaking on site in December 2022

Ground breaking on site in December 2022

WWA led the landowners through the process, beginning with what would be possible on the regulatory side and then creating a design that would best benefit the watershed and restore the maximum amount of wetlands within the site.

Kalbus project December 2022

Before things turned bitter cold in December ,the major earth moving was completed under WWA oversite.

Water control structure installed by WWA

Check out the article by FWWA showing some aspects of the project here.

Kalbus project

Help WWA Expand Wild Rice Restoration

Project: Wild Rice

By Peter Ziegler, Project Director –

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s October, 2022 Newsletter edition.

Wild Rice plays a critical role for migratory birds in Wisconsin.  Anyone who hunts wild rice knows the draw it is for ducks.  Let me tell you from personnel experience, a rice bed is a good place to hunt ducks.  WWA has been doing wild rice restoration for over a decade in Wisconsin.  With high demand, and being at the mercy of Mother Nature’s bounty, some years it gets tough to find enough rice for all the potential restoration projects.  This year, and into the future, WWA, WDNR and Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) are coordinating their efforts to prioritize high quality sites.  This will get available rice were it is most beneficial among the leading organizations doing wild rice restoration.

The need is there, but the availability of rice is not always.  Sometimes it’s a down year for production due to weather conditions affecting the water bodies where rice grows.  The other main issue is availability to secure rice due to lack of vendors.  There are very few individuals outside the native tribes that collect rice.  WWA is looking to see how we can bolster this side of the equation, and that is where you, as our members, can become involved.  If there is any interest in learning how to collect rice for WWA’s wild rice restoration projects, let me know.  We are looking at getting additional boats in the water to see if we can increase the availability of green wild rice for restoration needs in the state.

Last week WWA sourced ~1,100 pounds of rice, which was then distributed to three sites.  Powell Marsh in Vilas County, Crex Meadows in Burnett County and Collins Marsh in Manitowoc County all received wild rice that was locally collected in northern Wisconsin.  All three of these sites were in their second or third year of seeding, which is important timing for establishing a healthy stand, and we did not want to miss a year.  A host of other sites were planted under the guidance of GLIFWC and its member tribes, which were also deemed priority waters for restoration.

A past, successful seeding in Oneida County, where the rice is in transition from its floating leaf to emergent life stage. This stand filled in really nice and thick the following year.

Abrams Blind Brushing 2022 Season

Project: Abrams Property
County: Oconto

By Bruce Urben, WWA President

Friday, September 16th was the annual blind brushing for the disabled accessible duck blinds on WWA’s Abrams  property located in southern Oconto County.

Green Bay Chapter members from left to right: Cody Ferris, Mike Keeler, Logan Sincoular and Jeremy VanSistine, along with our future waterfowlers. Photo credit Doug Steiner.

WWA’s Green Bay Chapter maintains the three waterfowl blinds and five deer blinds on the property. A crew of Green Bay Chapter volunteers came out in force on the Friday before the youth opener to brush the blinds in for the season.

Cattails cleared and used for brushing the blinds. Photo credit Doug Steiner.

The blinds are available for public use on a first-come, first-served basis and include almost a mile of solid surface trails on the property which allow wheel chair access. The blinds are available for anyone to use, with a priority for disabled hunters. Please pack out everything you pack in!

Waterfowl blinds are spacious and allow wheel chair access. Photo credit Doug Steiner.

The blinds are located in the southern waterfowl hunting zone.

Wood Duck Box Build with Girl Scout Troop #2275

Project Start Date: 05/05/2022

On May 5, 2022 Jason Spitzmacher, Doug Florio and Brad Miller, volunteers with WWA’s Valley Chapter, spent the day at Woodland School in the Kimberly School District with Girl Scout Troop #2275 building wood duck box kits.