This IBA encompasses a large block of forest that is largely within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF). The area consists of pitted and un-pitted outwash plains with flat to rolling topography associated with the Northern Highlands Pitted Outwash glacial landforms. The site represents one of the largest areas in the state dominated by old, large-diameter upland conifers, forming the eastern edge of what was once the great "Pinery" of the state (centered over what is now the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest). This area also is part of the Wisconsin?s "Lake District", a globally significant concentration of lakes which provide concentration areas for many species of waterbirds. It also includes the headwaters of the South Fork of the Flambeau River. The landscape is mostly vegetated with forests of hemlock, northern hardwoods, white pine, red pine, white cedar and swamp conifers. This area contains most of the old growth hemlock-hardwoods on the CNNF. White and red pine forests are unusually common here, as well. Wetlands are mostly forested, with areas of white cedar and swamp conifers that have seen little logging activity. Kettle bogs are distinctive features here (for example, those visible along Chippewa Trail Road), as are the large muskegs, including a large muskeg complex in the northeast corner of the site protected by the Lac de Flambeau Indian Reservation. A number of rare plants and animals occur here, including: calypso orchid, spreading wood fern, purple bladderwort, Robbins spikerush, lake sturgeon, and bullfrog.

Ornithological Summary

The site is considered a Blackburnian Warbler core area, with up to 10,000 acres of suitable habitat available for this species. In addition, significant populations of conifer-loving birds, including Blue-headed Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, and Pine Warbler are found here. Maintenance of old-growth red and white pine stands potentially could be developed into a core area for crossbills and Evening Grosbeak. The forest holds a rich assemblage of breeding neotropical migrants, especially warblers, but also American Woodcock, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Conservation Issues

The majority of this IBA is in a natural area designation. The CNNF has designated two semi-primitive non-motorized areas (Wabasso Lake and Round Lake). Along the western edge of this IBA, forestry operations will emphasize the restoration of natural pine-oak ecosystems (USDA Forest Service 2004). The use of this area by so many neotropical migrants, particularly those considered forest interior species that are sensitive to fragmentation, should be a major consideration in forest management decisions. Several priority species, including Blackburnian Warbler and Black-throated Blue Warbler, require mature, structurally complex stands. Blackburnians additionally prefer tall conifers (particularly white pine) for nesting and foraging (Harriman 2006); Black-throated Blues require small, shrubby gaps within contiguous, mature forest (Howe 2006). Maintaining a diversity of size and age classes will benefit many species.

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