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A biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Green Bay Field Office plants wild rice seed in the lower bay of Green Bay. Photo by USFWS.

A biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Green Bay Field Office plants wild rice seed in the lower bay of Green Bay. Photo by USFWS.

Partners Work Together to Reestablish
Wild Rice in Lower Green Bay

The lower bay of Green Bay was once an expansive area of emergent marsh habitat that included large beds of wild rice. Local Native American tribes historically relied on these wild rice beds for food and cultural practices. These areas also provided important habitat for a variety of migratory bird and fish species. Unfortunately, during the 1970s, a combination of high water levels and a series of storm events eroded the Cat Island Chain, a stretch of barrier islands that sheltered the lower bay. Without the protection of the Cat Island Chain, the lower bay emergent marsh habitat was also lost.

After many years of planning by staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Green Bay Field Office and several other partnership agencies and organizations, a 2.5-mile-long protective barrier was constructed on the footprint of the original Cat Island Chain. With the new Cat Island barrier in place, the backwater areas of the lower bay are again protected from the destructive force of large waves, allowing for the potential restoration of the productive wild rice beds and emergent marsh habitat once found there.

Based on the success of research trials undertaken by the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to grow native emergent vegetation in the lower bay, a group of partnership agencies and organizations recently collaborated on an effort to reestablish an area of wild rice. In late November, Green Bay Field Office biologists Gary Van Vreede and Reena Bowman joined individuals from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Ducks Unlimited to plant wild rice seed in lower bay of Green Bay. More than 7 acres of shallow wetland habitat were seeded through this joint partnership effort.

This project is an important step towards the recovery of emergent marsh habitat in southern Green Bay. When restored, this area will once again provide important breeding, feeding and stopover habitat for a variety of waterfowl and shorebird species. In addition, the area will serve as important spawning and feeding habitat for a variety of fish species.

By Gary Van Vreede
Green Bay Ecological Services Field Office

Last updated: January 6, 2016