This is a vast area of high, relatively flat and poorly-drained ground that lies at the Gulf/Atlantic watershed divide. Extensive peatlands and forested wetlands are dominant features. Flowing out of the forested wetlands are numerous parallel, nearly straight, alder-lined streams. Uplands are forested mostly with aspen and pole-sized sugar maple. Primary vegetative cover types include conifer wetlands, black ash swamp, open bog, muskeg, alder thicket, sedge meadow, young deciduous upland forest, mature deciduous upland forest, and spruce-fir. Smaller patches of old pine forest, marsh, lakes, and pasturelands also are present.

Ornithological Summary

This site contains some of the largest and highest-quality peatland and forested wetland habitats in the state. It is considered to hold the core Golden-winged Warbler habitat in the state, with a population estimated in the thousands of pairs. Alder-lined streams and large peatlands with shrub and patchy conifer borders hold the largest concentrations of this species, which also is found in black ash swamps and young deciduous forest, especially close to streams and peatlands. The site also harbors high populations of numerous other high-priority species such as American Bittern, Black-billed Cuckoo, Black-backed Woodpecker, Veery, Nashville Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and LeConte?s Sparrow.

Conservation Issues

This area is largely uninhabited and much of it is managed for forest production and recreation by Douglas County. There are three State Natural Areas: Black Lake Bog, Belden Swamp, and Erickson Creek Forest and Wetlands. Conservation issues include fragmentation and degradation of fragile bog and swamp habitats by logging roads and motorized recreation, flooding by beaver dams, loss or alteration of natural disturbance regimes (fire, insect outbreaks), and decrease or loss of conifer component in the uplands. Extensive bog, sedge meadow, and forested wetland complexes should be maintained intact and undisturbed. Beaver populations should be monitored to ensure that flooding is not creating adverse impacts at a large scale. Bog vegetation recovers very slowly from damage. Motorized recreation should be monitored to prevent habitat destruction and the spread of invasive species (e.g., purple loosestrife, phragmites). Best Management Practices and sustainable forest management practices should be employed in and around bogs and other wetland habitats (WDNR 2005). Forest management should include maintaining a mosaic of early-successional habitats, a diversity of size and age classes, and special habitat features for particular species (e.g., snags, dead/dying trees for Black-backed Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher). Many priority species at this site are conifer-dependent (e.g., Black-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Nashville Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Connecticut Warbler); maintaining this conifer component should be a consideration in forest management. Monitoring of key species should be expanded, especially for species that are poorly monitored (e.g., American Bittern, Yellow Rail, Olive-sided Flycatcher, LeConte?s Sparrow, etc.).

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