This site features a pine barrens community that is part of a large, open landscape located on a gently rolling pitted glacial outwash plain. The site is similar in composition to presettlement barrens, with logging, grazing, and periodic fires having maintained its open character in addition to the action of frost in pocket depressions. Today, this community is maintained through management as a State Natural Area that includes the use of prescribed fire. Aspen, oak, and jack pine forest surround the opening, and low granitic outcrops are found scattered throughout the area. The dominant vegetation consists of grasses and sedges, with a well-developed shrub layer that includes blueberry, bearberry, prairie willow, and sweet fern. Herbaceous plants include rice grass, poverty oat grass, wintergreen, barren strawberry, and hawkweeds. The area also harbors a diverse and unusual lichen flora (WDNR 2007).
Dunbar Barrens hosts a full assemblage of pine barrens breeding birds. Priority species with good breeding populations here include Upland Sandpiper, Brown Thrasher, and Eastern Towhee, Clay-colored Sparrow, Field Sparrow, and Vesper Sparrow.
Pine barrens communities require active management in order to maintain their open character. Ongoing management at Dunbar Barrens includes timber harvesting and prescribed burns. This has improved the habitat for barrens species, and should continue to increase and enhance available habitat. Ongoing monitoring will be important to document the effects of management on barrens birds.