Newsroom Midwest Region

Restoring native habitat for waterfowl in lower Green Bay

November 28, 2017

An aerial view of Point au Sable located along the east shore of lower Green Bay in Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin - Green Bay.
An aerial view of Point au Sable located along the east shore of lower Green Bay in Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin - Green Bay.

Historically, thousands of waterfowl, gulls, terns, shorebirds and passerines migrated through Point au Sable, a prominent wetland area located on the east shore of lower Green Bay. Point au Sable, owned by the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, provides valuable habitat for waterfowl such as mallards, a focal species for our Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program’s Great Lakes Coastal Focus Area. Unfortunately, low water levels in the early 2000’s led to the invasion of non-native phragmites, which greatly reduced native vegetation growth and the area’s wildlife habitat value. Wild rice was last seen in lower Green Bay in the 1950’s.

After spending several years trying to control invasive phragmites using herbicides, it was obvious that another more effective, longer term solution would be required to manage Point au Sable wetland habitat into the future. In 2012, the university worked with our biologists to develop a restoration plan that would provide benefits to a myriad of wildlife found in lower Green Bay.

“We determined that the construction of small earthen berms at low points around the lagoon, along with the installation of a water level control structure and the use of a mechanical pump system, would make it possible to control invasive vegetation within the lagoon using water level manipulation,” stated Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program biologist Gary Van Vreede. “The project was a success and created ideal conditions to re-introduce native vegetation.”

Last week, biologists from the Partners Program, Ducks Unlimited and the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, hand seeded wild rice in three acres of previously treated areas. In a few years the re-introduced wild rice beds will serve as an important food source for migratory waterfowl as well as excellent foraging habitat for northern pike.

“Thanks to increased water levels this fall, many of the treated sites are now in perfect condition to seed wild rice, which will provide excellent food resources for waterfowl as well as increased recreational opportunities,” said Brian Glenzinski, Ducks Unlimited biologist.

Due to assistance provided through the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the restored Point au Sable coastal wetlands will again provide valuable habitat for fish and wildlife and a place for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.

Left: Wild rice before it’s planted. Photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. Right: A biologist preparing to hand plant wild rice. Photo by Reena Bowman/USFWS.
Left: Wild rice before it’s planted. Photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. Right: A biologist preparing to hand plant wild rice. Photo by Reena Bowman/USFWS.