The Story of Success: Wisconsin’s State Natural Area program preserves pristine public lands
By Ken M. Blomberg
It’s called Little Bear Hemlocks, a 59-acre parcel of land owned by the DNR and designated a State Natural Area in 2010. It is the only remnant hemlock forest in the state in public ownership. Located just north of the Highway 34 north, Highway 10 west interchange, Little Bear Hemlock is a remnant slice of historically vast hemlock forests once occupying this area of the state. While hemlock is the dominant canopy species, the area supports white pine, sugar maple and yellow birch. According to the Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program website, ground plants includes “hepatica, Virginia water-leaf, sweet cicely, wood sorrel, bunchberry, three-leaved goldthread, lady fern, rattlesnake fern, northern beech fern, marsh marigold, wild geranium, partridgeberry and bishop’s-cap.”
Portage County is home to 10 designated state natural areas. These include the Buena Vista Quarry Prairie, Buena Vista Prairie Chicken Meadow, New Hope Pines, Dewey Marsh, Pickerel Lake, Emmons Creek Barrens, Mead Conifer Bogs, Upper Little Wolf, Bradley Creek Swamp Conifers, Flume Creek Cedars and my neighborhood’s Little Bear Hemlocks. For detailed descriptions of these county gems, check out these and other state natural areas by county at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Lands/NaturalAreas/county.html. There you can click on a county on the map or choose a county name from a list to find a state natural area.
I was attracted to information on the Mead Conifer Bogs (No. 373). Located around 10 miles from our home, it contains 932 acres of northern wet forest dominated by black spruce and tamarack along the Wood, Portage, and Marathon county lines. Long before its designation as a natural area, I hunted grouse and woodcock along its eastern edge. Penetrating the bog with bird dogs was not an option, especially on cloudy days without a compass. It is also home for a pack of wolves, who have a history of killing intruding hunting dogs. Late last summer, they killed one bear hound and injured several others that entered their denning area off the end of County Line Road.
To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of the Portage County Gazette at one of the many newsstands in the area, including gas stations and grocery stores. Or subscribe at www.shopmmclocal.com/product/portage-county-gazette to have weekly copies delivered by mail.
For more information or to subscribe over the phone, call 715-343-8045.