Chippewa Falls, Wis. — The National Audubon Society has hired Ashly Steinke of Chippewa Falls as the organization's first grassland ecologist for Wisconsin. Steinke works for Audubon’s Great Lakes regional office, and his primary focus will be working with private landowners in spearheading the growth of the organization’s wildlife habitat certification program, Audubon Conservation Ranching.
Steinke will work closely with farmers and ranchers in central Wisconsin and the Driftless Area to establish and enhance grassland bird habitat on their lands. The Audubon Conservation Ranching program, Audubon's flagship grassland habitat initiative, is a collaborative effort between farmers, ranchers, and Audubon to address the decline of grassland bird populations. Over 100 ranches, encompassing nearly 3 million acres, have earned Audubon Certified status as bird-friendly land. This certification includes the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal on beef and bison products, highlighting their origin from lands managed to support birds and biodiversity. Building on the program's success in 14 other states, Audubon is expanding it to Wisconsin in 2023.
Steinke brings valuable experience in utilizing management-intensive grazing to promote quality wildlife habitat, with a particular focus on grassland birds and invertebrate communities. He worked previously as a county conservationist for the Taylor County Land Conservation Department and facilitated the translocation of Greater Prairie Chickens to the Buena Vista Grasslands. Steinke also served as a special projects coordinator for the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, collaborating with private landowners to restore wetland and native grassland habitats.
"We are thrilled to welcome Ashly Steinke as our Grassland Ecologist for Wisconsin," said Tom Prestby, Wisconsin Conservation Manager for Audubon Great Lakes. "His extensive experience in working with landowners, commitment to grassland bird conservation, and dedication to regenerative agriculture make him an exceptional addition to our team. Ashly's expertise will be instrumental in expanding the Audubon Conservation Ranching program in Wisconsin and fostering partnerships that protect and enhance grassland habitats for the benefit of birds and other wildlife."
Steinke says his new post blends his passions with an opportunity to shine greater light on the importance of rebuilding grassland ecosystems. "I am excited to contribute to the National Audubon Society's vital work in protecting grassland birds," said Steinke. “Audubon Conservation Ranching has worked to conserve grassland bird habitat on over 3 million acres, and initial data is proving on those acres that grazing and production agriculture can go hand-in-hand with bird conservation. There are so many farmers in Wisconsin who are excited to be a part of this program and turn improve the resiliency of their lands for wildlife and people.”
Steinke holds an undergraduate degree in Wildlife from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and completed a Master's degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from South Dakota State University. His research in the Black Hills of South Dakota focused on Merriam's Wild Turkeys, which deepened his understanding and appreciation for prairie, grassland, and wetland ecosystems and the wildlife species that depend on them. Steinke's passion for these ecosystems has led his family to embrace regenerative agriculture on their all-grass Sedge Wood Farms just outside of Chippewa Falls. He can be reached via email and at (715) 579-6355.
About Audubon Great Lakes
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.