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What's New

The 10 year Wisconsin Sharp-tailed Grouse Management Plan draft has been released by the WDNR and is available for public comment. Several of our Board members are on the Sharp-tailed Grouse Advisory Committee and have put many long hours into it's language and long-term consequences. This process, wildlife management plans available to the public, is a uniquely "Wisconsin" process and we ask that you please participate. Please take a look at the document above and submit comments to Robert.Hanson@wisconsin.gov. This is a good plan and will have great results for all species that use the Pine Barrens of NW Wisconsin.

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An excellent newly released publication written by Dave Peters describes the details of the formation of sand barrens in northwestern Wisconsin, the human inhabitants of the area through time, and the unique assemblage of plant and animal species that the barrens support. Additionally, a few of our board members are quoted in the text along with their current research! Click the book or it's underlined title to purchase.

 

Sand and Fire:

Exploring a Rare Pine Barrens Landscape

By Dave Peters

Published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press

A few miles from the confluence of the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers in northwest Wisconsin lies a rare preserve of pine barrens that offers one of the most significant opportunities in North America to preserve, restore, and manage a large-scale barrens community. A tiny remnant of the millions of barrens acres that once covered the region, the Namekagon Barrens were formed over thousands of years by unfathomable amounts of glacial sand and repeated fires. This is a land of scrub oak and jack pine, blueberries and sweet fern, the ideal habitat for wolves and sharp-tailed grouse.

Just as compelling is the land’s rich human history, from Paleo-Indian hunters to Ojibwe berry pickers and from failed immigrant farm efforts to the habitat specialists who manage it today. This first-person account of a trek across the barrens sets the land’s unusual natural history as the backdrop for a multilayered story about the impact of people on a vulnerable landscape.

We are currently in the process of planning our annual meeting which will likely be held at the end of June/early July 2023 in the Namekagon Barrens area. We will announce that date as soon as it is known.

Additionally, there is talk among the grouse organizations of the Mid-West about holding a tristate symposium in an attempt to find out how we are similar/different and what we can do to forward each other's mission. This is exciting and an unprecedented opportunity at cross-communication between organizations; more to come! 

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We continue to hear tales and tantalizing hints of Sharp-tailed grouse on private land across the state of Wisconsin. Do you now or have you in the past, had sharpies on your property, we want to know about it! Please send us an email at tbell@wisharptails.org and give us the full story. Up until recently, private land management has largely been ignored and we want to change that. WSGS currently has members with deep knowledge and expertise in the areas of working farm and recreation land management. Reach out and let's put a plan together!

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Our February events were both, huge successes! WSGS raised almost $4000 at our event with WIBHA and added over 40 new members at PheasantFest! Most importantly, our members were able to communicate with grouse/upland habitat advocates from across the nation, finding ways to collaborate and support each other's missions. Without our members and supporters, we would cease to be effective. Thank-you, all of you!

 WSGS has an exciting new partnership to announce. We have begun a relationship with American Forests to implement the Rolling Barrens concept in a larger way, across the NW Sands. To date, AF has committed $116,500 to Bayfield County to continue to implement their landscape level plan. Additionally, another $39,000 has been earmarked to begin work in Douglas County. American Forests is distributing these funds directly to the counties. How does WSGS fit in? Our organization will be vetting Rolling Barrens projects that the counties submit when requesting funds. With our extensive expertise and years of experience in the NW Sands, AF and Wisconsin residents can rest assured that funds will be distributed only to projects that will truly benefit Sharp-tailed grouse and all barrens species. 

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Click Here to Read About A Similar Project In Michigan

The below grant application was, unfortunately, rejected.

The WDNR is in the process of submitting an application for a federal grant called the “America the Beautiful Challenge Grant”;  $1.2 million of this grant out of the  $5.7 mil being requested is targeted for Barrens Habitat work in the NW Sands and would have great potential to provide benefit for sharp-tailed grouse .  WSGS as well as other potential partners, are being asked to provide a letter of support. Also, WSGS was asked if we would be able to commit to any matching contribution over the 4 year period of the grant (2023 thru 2026).

WSGS wrote a letter of support for the project emphasizing the $1.2 mil. dedicated to Barrens work and committed to matching funds and in-kind activity contribution of  $10,000 over the 4 years of the project period. Those funds would be dedicated to sharp-tailed grouse habitat work with partners in the Northwest Sands and in-kind participation in STG surveys/research projects. 

Classic Sharptail WSGS
Sharptail Tracks WSGS
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Our annual meeting of the flock on 06/18/22 was a success. We had several fantastic and knowledgeable presenters give WSGS the updated status of their projects as well as the state of sharp-tails in their area. Below is a brief rundown:

**Most notably, Dave Evenson, one of the founders of WSGS and our president since 2004 has decided to step down. His sage advice and leadership will be greatly missed. As one of the people that took WSGS from an idea to reality, we owe much to Dave. Dave’s drive and expertise will be missed by the WSGS, but he has promised to remain an active member of the organization and stay involved as
“president emeritus”.

-Nancy Christel the property manager of Namekagon Barrens brought us up to date, focusing mainly on the 1400 acre eastward extension which they have brought from forest to viable sharp-tail habitat over the past decade

-Bob Hanson, Senior Wildlife Biologist in Burnett Co showed us the time-line for the DNR Sharp-tail Plan update, March 2022- March 2023, with a lot of writing to be done over the summer. Additionally, he reviewed the need for interconnected habitats between WI & MN. Wisconsin is part of the Interstate Sharp-tail Working Group, which includes 14 states and 3 provinces. Recommendations from that group suggest 50,000 acre blocks for prairie grouse management. While Wisconsin has about that much acreage in total, it is not genetically connected.

-Mark Hager, Douglas County Forester told us about the efforts that county is making on the Five Mile Barrens, harvesting and regenerating Jack pine within the 1977 Five Mile Fire footprint.

-Kathy Dalberg from Friends of the Bird Sanctuary explained the recent focus of FOTBS, the Gordon Fire Tower. They have a donated cabin on site which can be rented and gives you the privilege of climbing the tower, and they also open the tower for free climbs every other Sunday in summer.

-Mike Amman, Bayfield County Forester, told us about the Barnes Barrens. A core of 1000 acres will be surrounded by four 2500 acre blocks to be cut over the course of 48 years. About 15 birds are presently using the core, which is about 600 acres at present. The 1300 acre Bass Lake Barrens stepping stone, adjoining US HWY 2, was started last year, and is about half cut, with active contracts on all the wood.

-Brian Heeringa, USFS, reported on Riley Lake and Moquah Barrens. At Riley Lake they got an October 2021 burn, have been mowing leks and are in the process of building up an artificial lek. They sheared 20 acres of alder and are planning a 725 acre burn on the east side. Riley had 11 dancing males.

-Bill Berg, Minnesota Sharp-tailed Grouse Society, shared his 50 year+ experience with the decline of sharp-tails in the East Central MN range. This are was covered with sharp-tails when private lands were managed favorably, but that no longer is the case. He states that Wisconsin at least has the properties that are specifically managed for barrens.

-Ken Jonas VP & Treasurer gave the election results- Trevor Bellrichard, Trevor Hubbs and Bruce Moss were elected to the board. Winner of the Mike Johnson decoys was Paul Peterson. Ed Frank, Bruce Moss and  Jeff Kellogg won the art raffle. Ken gave the financial report and then a brief history of Dave Evenson's 32 years with WSGS, including serving as president since 2004. On behalf of WSGS Ken presented Dave with a Mike Johnson male wood duck decoy (probably the only one Mike made).

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Jay Dowd Sharptail

Renowned upland artist Jay Dowd surprised WSGS with this amazing sharp-tail piece, featuring a male dancing in the Wisconsin Pine Barrens. The clarity and fidelity of this image is truly amazing. We have two t-shirt designs available for purchase with this design, one with our organization's name and one without. This design is briefly unavailable to keep it fresh for Spring 2023.

The WDNR recently sought comment on the 2022-2032 Prairie Chicken Plan. Every 10 years the agency updates their strategy and management practices to account for the current state of prairie chickens in Wisconsin. WSGS partnered with the Wisconsin Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers to issue a joint statement which included recommendations based on current science, on the ground experience, and decades of combined knowledge in the field. To read the statement, see below.

The long awaited Sharp-tailed Grouse sculpture by artist David Groenjes, that was funded through 60+ donations to the Jim Evrard Memorial Fund arrived at Crex Meadows on June 23rd, 2021. This art work is being displayed at the entry to the Nature Trail just south of the Crex Meadows DNR Education Center in Grantsburg. Final plans are to build a low mound for placement of the STG sculpture. A dedication occured August 2021 at WSGS Annual Meeting held at Crex Meadows.

Crex Meadows Sharptail Sculpture
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