Wetland Management District
|1764 95th Street
New Richmond, WI 54017
Phone Number: 715-246-7784
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
|Waterfowl production areas provide habitat for grassland nesting birds, including waterfowl and songbirds.|
St. Croix Wetland Management District
Lying along the eastern edge of the tallgrass prairie in west-central Wisconsin, the St. Croix Wetland Management District encompasses a fascinating diversity of habitats. Within the eight-county district, one can travel north through the high river bluffs of Pepin County, to the prairie potholes of St. Croix County, and then to the pine barrens of Burnett County.
The district includes Barron, Burnett, Dunn, Washburn, Pierce, Pepin, Polk, and St. Croix counties. The central portion of St. Croix County, the heart of the district, is known as the Star Prairie Pothole Grasslands. These grasslands are ranked sixth out of 26 priority grassland landscapes in Wisconsin.
The district manages relatively small tracts of prairie wetland and grassland habitats known as waterfowl production areas (WPAs). WPAs are purchased using Federal Duck Stamp dollars within the historic prairie pothole portion of the district, including southern Polk, St. Croix and Dunn counties. After purchase, prairie wetland and grassland habitats are restored and then managed for breeding waterfowl, other migratory birds, and indigenous wildlife.
The district's 41 WPAs totaling 7,500 acres are administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Refuge System. In addition to managing WPAs, district staff provide assistance to private landowners who wish to manage their land to benefit wildlife.
The St. Croix Wetland Management District is adjacent to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropoitan Area of two million people. This dynamic presents unique opportunities and challenges for prairie wetland habitat preservation, restoration and management.
Getting There . . .
The district office is located midway between New Richmond and Somerset, Wisconsin, 0.5 mile south of Highway 64 on 95th Street. A white "U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service" arrow in the road ditch on Highway 64 points to 95th Street. At the entry road, you will be greeted by a St. Croix Wetland Management District sign.
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Less than 1% of Wisconsin's native tallgrass prairie still exists. Tallgrass prairie is the most endangered ecosystem in North America. Restoring and managing tallgrass prairie and wetland habitats is the district's primary focus, both on waterfowl production areas and private land. These habitats provide courtship, nesting, broodrearing, and migratory resting areas for waterfowl and other migratory birds, plus year-round homes for indigenous wildlife species.
In general, prairie seed is plentiful on the market, but where is it from? Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri? If we hope to genuinely reestablish tallgrass prairie in west-central Wisconsin, we must start with seed that has adapted to the climate and soils of west-central Wisconsin for thousands of years. This is what we call local ecotype seed. A local, commercial, ecotype seed source doesn't exist, so in the interim we have formed a partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to hand collect prairie grass and wildflower seed from remnant native prairies in this area and establish a local ecotype seed nursery. The seed will be used to reestablish prairie on the district's waterfowl production areas.
Prairie management today requires that we periodically burn, graze, mow, and hay these grasslands, simulating Mother Nature's management for thousands of years. Why? Because we have eliminated wildfires and free-ranging herds of large, plant-eating creatures like bufallo and elk from the landscape. We must now mimic these natural processes in order to keep the prairie healthy.
The rolling topography of the district has prevented drainage of many of the pothole wetlands, however, many are severely degraded from upstream runoff and adjacent habitat loss. Restoration efforts both on waterfowl production areas and private land focus on restoring healthy wetland habitat and assisting landowners with good land management practices.