Nearly the entire 500-acre parcel targeted by the WDNR administration for an off-road vehicle track and gun range at Badger Army Ammunition Plant – including a parking lot, staging area, vehicle wash station and support buildings – has been identified by WDNR biologists as a High Priority Grassland Bird Parcel.
A major portion of the area has also been identified by WDNR experts as one of two ecologically significant sites at Badger that “warrant high protection and/or restoration consideration during the development of the property master plan.”
WDNR biologists say the 500-acre area being considered for ATVs and a gun range is a high-priority parcel for grassland birds.
The highest quality habitats for grassland birds are found in the extensive non-native grasslands (surrogate grasslands) in the south-central tractand north-central section of Badger. High-quality grassland bird habitat with a moderate shrub component is located in the northeast section of Badger.
These areas should be contiguous and when combined with the restoration potential of the surrounding property and landscape would offer significant management opportunities for viable populations of grassland and shrubland birds, according to WDNR biologists.
Prairie once occupied approximately 2.1 million acres in Wisconsin. Now, approximately 2,000 acres remain – less than 0.1%.Of these, only those prairies that occurred at the wet and dry ends of the soil spectrum survived. Virtually all deep-soil Mesic Prairies were converted to agricultural or residential uses.
The Dry Prairie within the south-central parcel of Badger has been the focus of many years of maintenance and restoration by volunteers and members of the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance. The site is unique as remnant plant communities are very rare at Badger and therefore warrants special management consideration in future master planning efforts, WDNR experts said.
Such sites, in conjunction with the large expanse of surrogate grassland making up the entire Badger property, offers an opportunity to restore two globally rare natural communities and improve habitat for many grassland, savanna, and woodland plant and animal specialists, especially grassland birds.