WWA’s New Public Lands Initiative

By Bruce Ross, Executive Director bross@wisducks.org

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

March 2023 will likely be remembered as a significant moment in WWA’s 39-year history.  This is the month we dramatically expanded our restoration impact by hiring two additional wetland ecologists, as part of a creative partnership with the DNR.

PROBLEM STATEMENT:  The surge of wildlife biologist retirements from the Department of Natural Resource (DNR) in the past few years has left the state with tens of thousands of acres of restorable wetlands in its inventory, but without the expertise or bandwidth to undertake those restorations.  Particularly challenging is the need to address the many smaller-scale wetlands in sufficient quantity to have a landscape-level impact.  Such smaller wetlands require more time, effort and funding per acre than large impounds that can be accomplished more cheaply.

Meanwhile, actual restoration funds are increasingly available: WWA and other state waterfowlers just lobbied successfully to increase the habitat restoration fees they pay each season, and growing federal recognition of wetland importance is making more federal funds available. Use of these funds requires experienced professionals to shepherd the restorations from concept to completion.

The missing piece is having adequate wetland restoration expertise to initiate the property reviews, design the restorations, acquire the actual restoration funds, and contract/oversee any required construction.

SOLUTION:  The DNR and WWA have just agreed to pilot a two- to three-year program where WWA will dedicate wetland restoration specialists to these problems. Both the DNR and WWA will be responsible for bringing the necessary funds to support these positions.  While the DNR is only expecting one ecologist, we hired two.

WWA’s new full-time PLE Biologist Anthony Hatcher

Meet Anthony Hatcher

Anthony has over ten years of experience in natural resource conservation, including diverse experience in habitat restoration, environmental monitoring, field botany, and conservation agriculture. Prior to coming to WWA, Anthony worked for a Conservation District in Washington State helping private landowners implement restoration projects and conservation agriculture practices.

Anthony holds a B.S. in Ecology and has a master’s certificate in Restoration Ecology. When not working for WWA, Anthony enjoys spending time outdoors with his family and friends.

Meet Mark Pfost

WWA’s new part-time PLE Biologist Mark Pfost

After retiring from the Navy, and then earning degrees in geography and wildlife ecology from UW-Madison, Mark took a position with the USFWS’s Wisconsin Private Lands Office to gain habitat restoration experience. He worked as a biotech at the Upper Mississippi Wildlife & Fish Refuge in Savanna, IL before moving to the Rainwater Basis Wetland Management District in Nebraska. Most of his time was spent burning, controlling invasive species and restoring prairies.

Mark earned his masters degree, then returned to Wisconsin as the Partners for Fish & Wildlife biologist based out of Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. He’s spent the last twelve years primarily restoring wetlands and prairies.

These two ecologists have already begun working to identify restorable wetlands on state-managed properties, and WWA has already been awarded grants to undertake the projects they identify and design.