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Voluntary Avoidance Areas

Voluntary Waterfowl Avoidance Areas Begin October 15
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reminds boaters that three voluntary waterfowl avoidance areas will be in effect again this fall on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge within Navigation Pools 7 and 8 beginning October 15.
The purpose of the voluntary avoidance areas is to reduce disturbance to resting and feeding waterfowl using Refuge closed areas during fall migration. Waterfowl are sensitive to human activity occurring near their resting and feeding areas. Even relatively distant boating activity may be enough to cause the birds to flush and burn-up valuable energy reserves. Boaters, who voluntarily throttle down and avoid concentrations of waterfowl, wherever they occur, will help allow these birds to spend their time accumulating fat reserves required for the remainder of their long migration.
The location and details of each area follow:
Lake Onalaska Voluntary Waterfowl Avoidance Area (Navigation Pool 7): Established in 1986, the 3,356-acre avoidance area covers a portion of the lake used by large numbers of migrating waterfowl, including canvasbacks. Dates of the program are October 15 through mid-November. The boundaries of the Voluntary Avoidance Area are marked with nearly 50 white buoys.
All boaters using Lake Onalaska for fishing, hunting, sailing, or other activities are asked to detour around the area marked with buoys to prevent unnecessary disturbance to waterfowl.
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U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Boater compliance with the program was monitored by a team from the U.S. Geological Survey in 2010 and 2011. Results indicate the number of boater intrusions into the avoidance area is on the increase from previous monitoring efforts. As a result, the number of daily disturbances has also increased.
As part of the monitoring program, weather surveillance radar documented flocks of waterfowl in flight after boating disturbances caused them to leave Lake Onalaska on two occasions during October, 2011. The overall pattern of movement indicated the birds likely moved from Lake Onalaska south to Winneshiek Lake (Pool 9) or northwest to Trempealeau NWR (Pool 6).
In addition to the many individual boaters who have made this program successful since its inception, program partners include the Lake Onalaska Protection and Rehabilitation District, La Crosse County Conservation Alliance, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Goose Island No Hunting Zone (Navigation Pool 8): The voluntary restraint program was established in 2007 after completion of the Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP).
All boaters are asked to voluntarily avoid entering the 984-acre Goose Island No Hunting Zone. Dates of this year’s program are October 15 through December 2, the end of the state duck hunting season.
To further reduce human-caused disturbance to waterfowl, the use of motors in the Goose Island No Hunting Zone is also prohibited. Buoys are located at popular boat access points to alert boaters.
Wisconsin Islands Closed Area (Navigation Pool 8): With the exception of a travel corridor in the Raft Channel that provides access to a business and five boathouses, all boaters are asked to voluntarily avoid entering this 6,538-acrea closed area. The dates of this year’s program are October 15 through December 2. Buoys are placed at commonly used access points to alert boaters.
The Wisconsin Islands Closed area continues to be used by large numbers of waterfowl as a result of the recently-completed habitat restoration project, the drawdown in 2001-2002, and boater compliance with the voluntary avoidance area. Aerial surveys recorded peak counts of 38,000 mallards, 24,000 tundra swans, 170,000 canvasbacks, and 104,000 scaup in the Wisconsin Islands Closed Area in fall 2011.
Maps showing the location of the voluntary avoidance areas are available at many area sporting goods stores, motels, and the new Refuge office located at N5727 County Road Z on Brice Prairie. A card describing the Lake Onalaska Voluntary Waterfowl Avoidance Area is also available at many of the same locations.
Refuge Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and the
telephone number is (608) 779-2399. Updated pool maps and other information are also available online at
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The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is the most visited refuge in the United States. The refuge extends 261 miles along the Upper Mississippi River from Wabasha, Minn. to Rock Island, Ill., protecting and preserving habitat for migratory birds, fish, and a variety of other wildlife. This 240,000 acre refuge was established in 1924.
In addition to being the most visited refuge in the country, the “Upper Miss” Refuge has
the added complexity of a major navigation system, including 11 locks and dams, within
its boundary. It is also a world-class fish and wildlife area which harbors 306 species of.
birds; 119 species of fish; more than 300 active bald eagle nests; thousands of heron and egret nests; spectacular concentrations of canvasback ducks, tundra swans, and white pelicans; and several threatened or endangered species

Last Updated: Oct 24, 2012
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