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Wisconsin Conservation Projects

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Kickapoo Community Sanctuary  Join us in our efforts to empower local citizens to protect the Kickapoo!


Badger Army Ammunitions Plant (BAAP) Kickapoo Valley Reserve
Blue Mounds Project Museum of the Kickapoo
Endangered Crane Reintroductions Ornate Box Turtle Conservation
Ferry Bluff Eagle Council Valley Stewardship Network (VSN)
Kickapoo Organic Resource Network (KORN)  

Badger Army Ammunitions Plant

The Badger Army Ammunitions Plant (BAAP) comprises over 7,000 acres of land that was once native prairie. The plant is scheduled to be decomissioned soon and is now at the center of a controversy over how the area will be used in the future. Community Conservation initiated contact with Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) in order to work with them on a proposed land use vision. This proposal was presented by a short Task Force. It later became the template for a formal proposal developed by the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance (formerly Community Conservation Coalition for the Sauk Prairie), a coalition of many groups.

Community Conservation administered funds for them until they achieved their non-profit status in 2002. This coalition has conducted fundraising and campaigns to raise awareness about the future use of the BAAP lands, working towards bringing interested parties together in support of a conservation-based plan for the lands. Their long term education program for area residents included a workshop integrating conservation with agriculture.

In 2000, the Sauk County Board of Supervisors appointed a Badger Reuse Committee to evaluate the potential use of the lands. They established 9 values to be used to determine the future use of the lands. The SPCA proposal was ranked first by the Badger Reuse Committee. Currently, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Ho-Chunk Nation, and the US Department of Agriculture continue discussions about developing a co-management plan for the area.

Blue Mounds Project

The Blue Mounds Project, begun by Brian Pruka under the auspices of Community Conservation, provides an "ecological extension" service to landowners in Dane and Iowa counties who wish to encourage bio-diversity on their lands. A project extension worker now works with over 200 landowners, encompassing over 11,000 acres, to guide their land management practices with emphasis on restoring native ecosystems.

Endangered Crane Reintroductions

Community Conservation Director, Dr. Robert Horwich, developed the isolation rearing technique for the reintroduction of captive cranes that is currently being used for endangered Whooping cranes, Siberian cranes, South African wattled cranes and Mississippi sandhill cranes. The pioneering technique for rearing captive cranes for release in the wild was developed by Dr. Horwich at the International Crane Foundation (ICF) in 1985. Horwich approached ICF to study behavioral developmental processes in cranes to compare with mammalian development.

At the request of ICF, using his theoretical model of infant development and classical ethological studies, he developed the method to raise cranes which would imprint on their own species rather than on their human caretakers and thus would breed normally in the wild. This involved developing models and costumes based on classical ethological sign stimuli. Thus puppets modeled after crane heads were used; as well as crane mother recorded calls and costumes which would mask the human form. This allowed humans in costume to be the actual parents of the young chicks. Thus the surrogate parent could teach the chicks to feed and protect them from predators.

Recently this technique has been modified to be used to introduce whooping crane chicks to form a non migratory population in Florida and a migratory population which breeds in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin reintroductions take place at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge where Horwich had released the original sandhill cranes which were used to develop the technique. Today's birds are now led by ultralight aircraft along a migratory route to Florida and they return to Wisconsin on their own. A similar project is being carried out with Siberian cranes in Russia where an experienced hang glider leads them to potential wintering areas. Other projects have involved using the technique to reintroduce wattled cranes and Mississippi sandhill cranes back into the wild.

Ferry Bluff Eagle Council

Community Conservation originally worked with the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council in 1988-1989 to produce a management plan for the area to safeguard the wintering roosts of the American bald eagle. Community Conservation also helped in the development of a tourism and education program which resulted in an annual Eagle Watching Days. This program which is now sponsored by the Wisconsin DNR attracts $750,000 in annual tourism income to the Sauk-Prairie area. Ferry Bluff Eagle Council and another group of local residents of the Eagle Land Cooperative have carried out eagle winter roost counts and nest surveys on the Wisconsin River since 1990. They are also working with landowners to encourage roost and nest protection.

Kickapoo Organic Resource Network (KORN)

Community Conservation aided in the formation and development of KORN, an educational network for organic farmers. As a result, Community Conservation stimulated the production of a book by Laura Benson and Bobby Zirkel, Organic Dairy Farming in 1995, which was published with a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. In its third printing by Community Conservation, it has been used widely throughout the US, Canada, Australia and Russia. Click here for more information on this book. Community Conservation worked with MOSES, an educational farming organization, to create a major revision of the book in 2006, available now at the Community Conservation Store.

The Kickapoo Valley Reserve

Closer to home, in southwestern Wisconsin, Community Conservation intiated the Kickapoo Valley Reserve in 1992. The Reserve Board insures that the lands along the Kickapoo River, formerly under the control of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, would have local input into their management.

The Kickapoo River, located in the driftless area in the southwestern part of the state, is one of the oldest rivers in North America and one of the most beautiful, with unique ecosystems. The 8,569 acre parcel was originally purchased by the federal government under eminent domain in the 1970's for the purpose of building a dam. This action created local conflict for over twenty-five years. Construction of the dam was halted due to environmental concerns.

When Governor Tommy Thompson, after a canoe trip on the Kickapoo River, publicly stated that the dam issue was dead, Community Conservation staff began to mobilize community members to help write a proposal for the lands. Community Conservation intiated a proposal to create a community sanctuary and a rural education center for the parcel. They worked with the citizen committees and the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Board in their early years to further the original vision. The proposal was overwhelmingly approved by the local community.

The Wisconsin Legislature passed legislation written by a local committee giving management responsibility of the lands to a nine person Kickapoo Authority, six of whom are local residents. Recently, two additional board positions were created for representatives of the Ho Chunk Nation. In 1996, additional federal legislation passed which directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to transfer 1200 acres with culturally significant sites, to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to hold in trust for the Ho-Chunk Nation and the other 7,369 acres to the Department of Administration of the State of Wisconsin.

The Reserve Board has been managing the Reserve since 1996 but finally assumed formal control of the Reserve lands in December, 2000. They have established trails and campsites and in 2004 opened a visitor's center. The Reserve Board holds monthly public meetings and distributes a monthly newsletter about the Reserve's progress.

Museum of the Kickapoo

As part of many of Community Conservation's projects, a local based rural museum is created to educate both local people and visitors to the protected area. These have included museums in the Community Baboon Sanctuary, the Homeland of the Crane, and the Museum of the Kickapoo. Other projects have been encouraged to similarly create educational displays. The Museum of the Kickapoo makes use of the historic hydroelectric building on the Kickapoo River in Gays Mills. Exhibits include simple displays on area natural resources including, Geology, Water Quality, Prairies and Oak Savannas, Forests, Wetlands, Native American heritage and Area Conservation.

In 2003, a play written and directed by K. O'Brien on community conservation, entitled "Community Consternation," was given at the Museum of the Kickapoo grounds.

Ornate Box Turtle Conservation

Community Conservation and volunteer Bill Moore stimulated a search for remnant populations of the threatened ornate box turtle in sandy, dry prairie habitat.. Wisconsin is the northernmost part of their range which extends down to Texas. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources currently carries out the project, which includes working with local communities in southern Wisconsin. A landowner contact program was initiated in 1992. Once a more complete survey was done on the existing populations, a program was initiated for translocating box turtles in small remnant populations to larger habitats to build larger protected populations within the state. The project also includes "headstarting " young turtles by collecting and hatching eggs and rearing the young turtles to sizes where they are less vulnerable to predators.

Valley Stewardship Network (VSN)

Community Conservation worked with the West Fork Sports Club in Avalanche, Wisconsin and Trout Unlimited to create a community stewardship program for the Kickapoo River and its tributaries. It was originally called the Kickapoo Watershed Consortium. The program initially involved a team of volunteer citizen monitors as well as some local teachers and their students, who monitor streams for water quality as part of their science classes. Their monitoring and columns written in local newspapers raised public awareness of water quality issues while at the same time establishing a database to track the health of the watershed. All of the monitors are assisted by a watershed monitoring coordinator, who also maintains a database of the results.

To further assist the monitors, Community Conservation created a resource book collection, housed at the Soldiers Grove Public Library, of textbooks, handbooks, school curricula, journals and videos dealing with water quality, conservation and monitoring.

The Kickapoo Watershed Consortium which is now called the Valley Stewardship Network (VSN) received a grant for nearly $50,000 from the Wisconsin Area Telecommunications Foundation for the purchase of computer based laboratory devices for water monitoring, GIS mapping systems, and computers to install them on. The equipment was given to participating Kickapoo Valley schools to allow the students to gather and store their water quality data electronically, then input it into the GIS mapping system for analysis and interpretation.

In 2000, with grants from Trout Unlimited, the Stry Foundation and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Valley Stewardship Network was created to bring together these diverse projects. They have achieved 501(c)3 non-profit status with a Board of Directors and have sponsored a Forestry Field Day, a valley poetry contest and an annual Celebrate the Kickapoo Day. In addition, they are helping Kickapoo Valley townships get started on land management plans using GIS mapping.

A recent program Kickapoo Conversations, trained area residents as meeting coordinators for a series of area land use planning visioning meetings. The program resulted in the creation of a booklet representing the view of participants, which was distributed to village leaders and others throughout the Kickapoo Valley. They have also begun a program for bio-assessment service to local landowners similar to the Blue Mound Area Project (see above).