Green Bay

Great News for Wetlands in Wisconsin!!

Governor Evers’ signed the Wisconsin state budget, includes funding for collaborative project with the Oneida Nation, Audubon Great Lakes, Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Cofrin Center for Biodiversity to protect wetlands

Audubon Great Lakes has been working for years to empower our network in the region to protect and restore wetlands that improves habitat for breeding and migratory birds, builds our coastal communities’ resiliency to climate change and improves water quality for birds and people.  This work includes  educating state policymakers about the value of Wisconsin’s wetlands – including our advocacy day with members this past April. Through the course of this work, we have seen their prevailing view of wetlands start to change from nuisances to be drained to important resource that provides value in watersheds throughout the state. 

The results of that work recently reached new heights when Governor Evers’ signed the Fiscal Year 2023-2025 state budget into law. This budget included $350,000 over the next two years to fund an ongoing collaborative partnership among the Oneida Nation, Audubon Great Lakes, Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Cofrin Center for Biodiversity (UWGB), to understand how birds are responding to the Tribe’s conservation efforts 

Many bird species have declined with the disappearance of the wetlands, grasslands, and other habitats that they need across the Great Lakes region. In response, Audubon Great Lakes developed a spatial prioritization tool to identify the 12 most important Great Lakes coastal wetland regions for 14 species of marsh birds. The Green Bay region is one of those, and Audubon Great Lakes is working with partners in the region to coordinate habitat and bird population restoration. The Oneida Nation is one of those valued partners. 

Over many years, the Oneida Nation has restored 3,000 acres of the reservation's wetlands, grasslands, prairies, and forests — addressing water pollution and invasive plant species. Audubon is leading a bird monitoring project on recently restored Oneida Nation grasslands, marshes, and forests to evaluate the success of this restoration. This data is then used to inform future conservation work on their lands. 

Birds move frequently to areas that have good environmental conditions, and species abundance is a reliable marker of successful restoration. Since 2021, volunteer bird monitors have conducted hundreds of surveys, documented more than 117 bird species, and counted  more than 40,000 individual birds at Oneida restoration sites -- an incredible testament to the importance of this restoration and the dedication of the project volunteers. 

Oneida’s 300-acre restored Trout Creek grassland is dominated by native grasses that are essential to grassland birds — the bird group most rapidly declining in North America — and is one of the most productive, contiguous grassland complexes for birds in northeastern Wisconsin. State-threatened bird species, like the Henslow’s Sparrow, have returned to restored Oneida Nation lands, an incredible testament to the importance of this restoration work. 

This collaboration also builds bridges between partners who all have a stake in ensuring healthy habitat in the region, strengthening local community ties, and laying the foundation for future restoration work to be informed by community voices and indigenous conservation practices. Non-native coordinators and volunteers have benefitted from discussions about respecting Native land and learned about Oneida’s rich culture, history, and language while out in the field.  

Recognizing this valuable work, Governor Evers’ proposed, and the State Legislature funded, $350,000 over the next two years to continue this valuable conservation, data collection and knowledge-sharing work. With Governor Evers’ now having signed the Fiscal Year 23-25 State Budget into law, Audubon and the Oneida Nation will utilize this valuable funding to continue to advance our conservation goals. In addition, we have helped establish a new baseline in Wisconsin’s wetland policy: wetlands are valuable resources to be protected and utilized to benefit birds, fish, wildlife and people.  


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