This IBA, located on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF), covers the pine-dominated forest from the edge of the Northwest Sands Ecological Landscape east across the moraine to more mesic lands near the Rainbow Lake Wilderness Area. The site sits on top of this high, relatively rugged moraine, which also contains numerous kettle lakes holding various amounts of water. This landscape has been altered by timber exploitation and road and power grid development, though virtually no one lives within the site. The most important features are the extensive tracts of old, naturally regenerated conifer forest, deep kettles with small wetlands, and dry pine-oak forest that tends toward a barrens community in the western part of the area. Some of the uplands are in a similar condition, with patches of old red pine and white pine mixed with hardwoods, including the Rainbow Lake Wilderness Area, which represents the northwest edge of hemlock range in North America. The Camp Nine Pines area contains one of the largest blocks of natural red and white pine on the CNNF, representing 22% of all natural pine on the Forest. A continuous canopy of 85 to 100 year old pine and pine-oak stretches over nearly 3,200 acres, broken only by natural open frost pockets and several recent jack pine clear cuts. In places, the uplands have been managed for early succession forest trees, mostly aspen, plantation red pine, and white birch. Many deep and shallow water seepage lakes occur here, many with large conifers (hemlock, white pine, red pine) along the shoreline. There are a number of unique wetland communities, including a deep ravine with a seasonal stream and conifer swamps with signficant white pine inclusions. Smaller patches of open wet meadow, barrens, and upland openings are scattered throughout. This area is also important for numerous rare animals and plants including the timber wolf, bog copper butterfly, four-toed salamander, and a very rare lichen.
This site supports a full assemblage of pine forest species with robust populations of such high priority birds as Blackburnian Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, and Canada Warbler. Other species with large estimated population sizes include Blue-headed Vireo, Northern Parula, Pine Warbler, Evening Grosbeak, Red Crossbill and White-winged Crossbill. Old-growth conifer forests are particularly important for these species. Long-eared Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, and Connecticut Warbler are among the uncommon or rare species that breed here. Red-shouldered Hawks have been reported from the Rainbow Lake Wilderness Area, and loons nest on several of the lakes within this area.
The majority of this area is formally protected as a federal Wilderness Area, Research Natural Area (candidate), Special Management Area, or State Natural Area. Management of the remaining portion emphasizes the restoration of late-successional, natural origin pine-oak forest. This should benefit species such as Blackburnian Warbler, Northern Parula, Pine Warbler, and White-winged and Red Crossbills, for which dense, old, and unmanaged conifer stands can provide core habitat. The Forest Service considers Pine and Blackburnian warblers to be ?species of interest? and indicators of mature, natural red and white pine forests on the CNNF (USDA Forest Service 2004: Appendix II). The Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan identifies the Red Crossbill as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need that is significantly associated with northern dry forests like those found at this site. A full range of conifer age classes will additionally benefit this species (WDNR 2005). Monitoring of these priority species will be necessary to ensure that management is maintaining their diversity and abundance.