This IBA, on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF), covers a vast forestland from north and east of Lake Owen, down along the west side of Lake Namekagon, and south to where the Teal River (flowing out of Teal Lake) joins the West Fork of the Chippewa River. Topography is high and relatively flat in the south and morainal with large lakes farther north. The most important features here are the extensive tracts of old conifer forest, extensive conifer wetlands, and dry pine-oak forest that still remain, the majority of which lie in low areas between ridges and along southwest-flowing streams. The Porcupine Lake Wilderness Area, Eighteen Mile Creek Area, and the Lake Owen old growth complex form one of the largest blocks of mature hardwood forest remaining on the CNNF. The wetlands have been protected by no harvest activities since they were established as a part of the National Forest. Some of the uplands are in an old growth condition with patches of hemlock and white pine mixed with hardwoods. Elsewhere, the uplands have been managed for early succession trees, mostly aspen, pole-sized sugar maple, and white birch. Other communities in this area include alder thickets, open bogs, muskeg, smaller patches of old red pine forest, floodplain forest, lakes, and upland openings. Rare and notable plants in this area include Canada yew, fragrant fern, purple clematis, and marsh horsetail. Namekagon Lake, the tenth largest lake in Wisconsin and the headwaters of the Namekagon/St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, is an important staging area for waterfowl.
This site harbors a tremendously diverse and abundant breeding avifauna, with numerous IBA criteria species meeting and far exceeding their criteria thresholds. Full breeding assemblages for several different forest types are found here. Conifer-loving birds are especially numerous; Olive-sided Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Blackburnian Warbler, Northern Parula, Pine Warbler, Red Crossbill, and White-winged Crossbill are a few examples of species with high populations. Swamp conifer and shrub wetland species such as Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Golden-winged Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and Black-and-white Warbler also are numerous. Dense, old, and unmanaged conifer stands in both the wetlands and uplands provide opportunities for many ?boreal? warblers to reach exceptionally high breeding densities. The site hosts several rare or uncommon species, including Black-backed Woodpecker, Cape May Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, and approximately 10 pairs of Long-eared Owls, an impressive number given that only 19 records of this very secretive state Special Concern species were recorded throughout Wisconsin during the Breeding Bird Atlas Project (Shea 2006).
Forestry and recreation are the chief land uses within this IBA. Currently, the management emphasis in the northern portion of this IBA is the restoration and/or maintenance of interior northern hardwood forest conditions at a landscape scale. Management throughout the remainder of this large area ranges from Wilderness Area to more traditional aspen and pine plantation management. Several large areas have recently been designated as natural areas (Old Growth, Special Management Area, State Natural Area) including Ghost Lake Cedars (a very large wetland complex with old growth white cedar), Wilson Lake (a mosaic of sedge meadow communities in association with Wilson Creek, Wilson Lake and Star Lake, which also has upland pine on eskers) and the northern end of Lake Owen (featuring several small high quality old growth hemlock-hardwood stands with a significant hemlock, white pine, and red oak component) (USDA Forest Service 2004). Also included in this IBA are the Porcupine Lake Wilderness area and the Rock Lake Semi-primitive Non Motorized area. The Rock Lake area, and this IBA overall, is very popular among mountain bikers because of the extensive trail system. Exceptional use of this site by a multitude of breeding neotropical migrant birds and many priority species warrants substantial consideration in forest management decisions. This area is likely to be a source area for populations of many of these species. Management for a variety of forest types and ages may be providing adequate habitat for many species. However, landscape-level habitat needs as well as particular habitat features must be taken into account. Maintaining large, unbroken tracts of forest is critical to the many species of forest-interior birds breeding in this IBA.