Brown County

Brown County


Habitat Creation, Protection, and Monitoring

A. Comply with Wisconsin's "Smart Growth" law for land use planning and resource management. This criterion is an option only for applications submitted before July 1, 2017.

The Brown County Comprehensive Plan, rewritten in 2004, and updated in 2007, was designed to meet the criteria of ”Smart Growth” planning in the state of Wisconsin. The plan includes many sections and chapters related to wildlife habitat protection and restoration. The most significant section is Chapter 8, titled “Natural and Cultural Resources.”  This chapter of the comprehensive plan includes an inventory and analysis of shoreland corridors, wetlands, environmentally sensitive areas, woodlands, wildlife habitat, endangered species (including birds), etc. in order to allow the “…facilitation of the movement of wildlife and provision of game and non-game wildlife.”  Recommendations from the chapter include encouraging local units of government in their effort to the “Tree City USA” program, urban forestry efforts, and to identify and protect significant natural resource features. Such encouragement was the driving force behind performing a bird study with the Town of Ledgeview as part of the Town’s Park and Recreation Plan amongst other projects.

B. Describe organized bird monitoring or data obtained from researchers or volunteers in the local park system. (Exclusions: Programs that receive credit under 4C: Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, Swift Night Out)

Nest box construction, placement and monitoring in Brown County is accomplished by volunteers and off-duty Brown County staff on Brown County and private lands. As such, the Brown County Park System has implemented several monitoring programs for birds within the park system.

Red Shouldered Hawk Nesting

For over the past 40 years, an annual research study has been conducted at the Brown County Restoration Camp Facility. This long-term study identifies the nesting locations of the state threatened Red-shouldered Hawks on the property, documents annual reproduction rates and also marks the individuals with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) bands. Annual reports are submitted to the WI State Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Endangered Resources.

Bluebird Nest Box Monitoring 

Bluebird nest boxes are monitored at Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve, Neshota Park, and Fonferek's Glen annually by volunteers to document species use, reproduction rates and predation rates. Survey results show this nest box program is very successful and has enhanced populations of these three bird species on site.

Waterfowl Nesting Structures

Many artificial nesting structures have been erected and maintained throughout the Park System. Boxes for cavity nesters such as Wood Ducks/Hooded Mergansers and nesting cylinders for Mallards  have been established to provide nesting locations and protection from predators in an effort to increase populations.

Nesting Islands

Within the water impoundments at the L.H. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve, islands were created for waterfowl nesting to reduce predation on Canada Geese, Mallards, and Blue-Winged Teal.

Furthermore, the Brown County Port and Solid Waste Department pioneered the effort to create prairie habitat on its two closed and monitored landfills in the early 1990’s. It sought and received WI State Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) approval to plant native wild flowers and prairie grasses on closed and final covered engineered sanitary landfills. In addition, it instituted a policy of managing the 200 acres as bird habitat by not mowing and other maintenance activities such as brush cutting only when necessary for amphibian habitat concerns.

Bird nesting boxes were constructed by local middle high school students and Boy Scout troops. They were placed on the closed landfill sites and on adjacent and future landfill properties. Over 110 nest boxes have been continuously maintained since 1993 and since that time successfully producing over 2,300 Tree Swallows and a similar number of Bluebirds.

C. Provide evidence (e.g., official designation of natural areas, easements, etc.) that existing bird habitat within community limits has legal protection. (Exclusions: Leash laws; prohibitions against disturbing nests and wildlife; areas consisting primarily of mowed grass)

Wisconsin State statutory protection for waterfowl areas includes the 1,000 acre Barkhausen Waterfowl Refuge and further protections are listed in the following ordinances.

The Brown County Park and Outdoor Recreation Plan, rewritten in 2008, provides a planning document that promotes the stewardship of natural, historical and cultural resources throughout Brown County. The plan addresses the needs of birds and other wildlife by seeking to “maintain wildlife corridors to adequate linkage for wildlife movement and about wildlife areas…,” and by verifying that recreational areas “…do not adversely affect the preservation and protection of wildlife habitat areas.”  The park plan also seeks to protect natural resources through wildlife management, protection of forestlands, maintenance of wildlife population levels, encouragement of native biological diversity, promotion of stewardship projects, providing for sustainable development, discouraging private development that encroaches upon nature, making natural areas accessible without destroying natural features and habitat while controlling minimal access in passive areas. This is all done in an effort to protect, retain, and regain natural habitat for plant and animal species, including birds.

The Brown County Sewage Plan, rewritten in 2002, allows Brown County to operate as an agent of the WDNR for sewer service areas and environmentally sensitive area protection and amendments. When sites are reviewed using the Sewage Plan, one major component that must always be addressed is the “protection and provision of wildlife habitat.” This includes habitat for bird species, with a focus on areas associated with environmentally sensitive area features such as rivers, ponds, lakes, wetlands, and steep slopes. Amendments may not be approved without proof that habitat is not disrupted, unless a restoration or mitigation plan is submitted and approved by Brown County staff, the Brown County Planning Commission Board of Directors, and the WDNR Bureau of Watershed Management. The Brown County Sewage Plan also encourages that the development of shorelands meet standards set forth in NR 115, Brown County Chapter 22 related to shorelands and wetlands and Chapter 23 related to floodplains.

The Brown County Subdivisions Ordinance, rewritten 2002 and updated in 2009, replicates the requirements of the Brown County Sewage Plan related to the protection of environmentally sensitive areas. The Subdivisions Ordinance requires that all environmentally sensitive areas, and buffer areas adjacent to such features, be properly shown on plats and certified survey areas before the documents can be recorded. This helps property owners and developers identify lands that should be protected due to its importance for wildlife habitat and water quality, including habitat for waterfowl and other bird species. In 2010, Brown County PALS staff began working with staff specialized in planning, zoning and property listing in order to adapt environmentally sensitive areas into a format that replicates the Sewage Plan, Subdivisions Ordinance, Shorelands and Wetlands Ordinance. The proposal is in draft form but has been reviewed by a subcommittee developing the Subdivision’s Ordinance rewrite, and has been reviewed by the WDNR Bureau of Watershed Management.

The Brown County Shorelands and Wetlands ordinance does not include elements to protect environmentally sensitive areas. However, in 2010-2011, the ordinance has been undergoing a rewrite to include enforcement and references related to the protection of wildlife habitat as identified in the Brown County Sewage Plan, Subdivisions Ordinance, and NR 115. A proposed ordinance potentially will include statements such as, “Environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs) are portions of the landscape, including valuable natural resource features that should be protected from intensive development. ESAs shall include all lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, floodways, and certain other significant and unique natural resource features. Furthermore, areas of steep slopes (slopes 12% or greater) when located wholly or partially within these natural resource features shall also be included as an ESA.”  The proposed ordinance also establishes specific “…impervious surface standards to protect water quality and fish and wildlife…,” may impact lands within 300 feet of a stream, and establishes shoreland setbacks. The ordinance also establishes mitigation plan requirements for shoreline buffer restoration and enhancement plans.

The Control of Construction Site Erosion Resulting from Land Disturbing Activities and the Control of Post Construction Storm Water Management ordinances provide construction site erosion control standards and reduce the amount of post-construction storm water pollutants that could affect wildlife habitat and waters of the state, including bird habitat. The standards meet and exceed standards of NR 115. The ordinance affects Brown County highways within the urbanized areas of Brown County.

The Brown County MS4 Permit Storm Water Ordinance, written in 2009, is an adaption of storm water ordinances written in the Subdivisions Ordinance. The MS4 Ordinance addresses illicit discharges on county highway systems within the urbanized area. The affected area includes roadside ditches, swales, and ultimately rivers connecting to waters of the state. Ditches and rivers serve as habitat for wildlife, including birds. The MS4 Storm Water Ordinance provides information regarding swale connections and an efficient response procedure that minimizes the damages to bird habitat and water habitat that could occur if a spill was not addressed. All county highway systems and related outfalls that are potential illicit discharge sites have been located using GPS system and mapped using a GIS program. Likewise, all sites are field visited at least once every five years to verify damage to habitat has not occurred.

In 2013, a two-year partnership project began to address the infrastructure needs associated with the 33 acre couth wetland impoundment of the Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve. In addition, a 56 acre tract of the north end of the preserve is targeted for aggressive invasive woody plant species. Both of these projects will aid in both the creation of habitat and removing hazards to birds.


D. Document that current municipal planning seeks to provide additional bird habitat.

See 1C above.

F. Show that your community offers the public information on how they can control and remove invasive species in order to improve or maintain bird habitat.

The main goal of the Brown County UW-Extension Invasive Species Program is to help maintain biodiversity. This is done through the control of invasive species including Buckthorn, Garlic Mustard, Honeysuckle, and Phragmites. During the year, staff worked on removing garlic mustard, wild parsnip, barberry, and buckthorn. Efforts were also made to make better use of selective herbicides and do some more seeding of native plants species into areas managed through the invasive species program.

G. Document that there is a segment of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail or a designated Important Bird Area within or adjacent to your community.

Brown County is listed in the Great Wisconsin Birding and Natural Trail Guide. The Brown County Parks System alone holds 4 out of the 6 Brown County spots listed. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve is a 1000 acre waterfowl refuge and a natural area that offers a picnic area, bird watching, hiking and cross country skiing. The Reforestation Camp is a 1543 acre County managed forest and natural area that also contains the N.E.W. Zoo, fishing, hiking, cross country skiing, mountain biking and bird watching.

I. Document a recent project that created or restored bird habitat in your community. (Exclusions: Bird feeders and small-scale artificial nesting structures)

 The southern edge of Green Bay once contained one of the largest and most diverse wetland habitat complexes in the Great Lakes. These wetlands had historically been protected from high energy wave and storm actions by the Cat Island chain of barrier islands. The west shore of Green Bay also provides a "leading line" that guides and concentrates migrating birds from a broad northern opening to the southern tip of the bay. Shallow waters and extensive beds of submergent and emergent aquatic vegetation provide a major stopover for waterfowl and other migrating birds; as well as habitat for diverse populations of water birds, furbearers, invertebrates, and native fishes. According to USFWS surveys conducted in the 1990s, the Cat Islands provided nesting habitat for 13 species of colonial nesting water birds, the highest species diversity of any island in the Great Lakes. During extremely high water levels in the mid-1970s, a series of severe storms during ice breakup resulted in catastrophic erosion and ice damage to the islands. While remnant islands and wetland habitat still remained, most of this habitat was lost or degraded due to erosion negatively affecting both habitat and water quality.

In 1988, as part of the development of the Lower Green Bay Remedial Action Plan, the restoration of the Cat Island chain was identified as the top priority for restoration of habitat in Green Bay. In 2005 Brown County as the Port of Green Bay received a Lake Bed Grant (2005 Wisconsin Act 390) from the Wisconsin Legislature to allow for reconstruction of the Cat Island Chain in Green Bay.

In addition to the environmental benefits, the islands provide the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Port of Green Bay a safe and beneficial place to deposit clean navigational sediments. Maintenance dredging of the Green Bay Harbor is the foundation of the economic vitality of the Port of Green Bay. A backlog of dredged material exists in the navigational channel in excess of one million cubic yards. The three islands are anticipated to provide disposal capacity of 20-30 years for clean dredged material from the outer harbor in Green Bay.

The primary goals of the Cat Island Chain Restoration Project are to:

• Reestablish the historic string of barrier islands and shoals to protect remaining wetland habitat, promote reestablishment of additional emergent and submergent aquatic vegetation and restore island habitat; and

• Provide disposal capacity for clean dredged material from the outer harbor in Green Bay navigational channel, beneficially reusing the dredge material.

In 2012, after nearly 25 years of planning and searching for funding, the Brown County Port & Resource Recovery Department began reconstruction of the first portion of the Cat Island chain through funding provided by a $1.5 million EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Grant. Brown County completed the initial phase of the project through construction of a wave barrier extending 3,900 feet into the bay. Additional phases were funded through a cooperative effort between Brown County and the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The remainder of the 2.5 mile wave barrier as well as the side dikes for the three islands were constructed by the Corps from 2012 to 2014 as was an offloading facility at the shipping channel. The chain has been designed as three open-backed islands with a connecting dike that serves as a wave barrier. The islands will be filled over the next 20-33 years by the Corps of Engineers using clean dredge material from the maintenance of the Green Bay Harbor.

The project will reconstruct the Cat Islands protecting and restoring approximately 1,225 acres of shallow water and wetland habitat with construction of the wave barrier along the remnant Cat Island shoals. The wave barrier provides the base for filling the three islands with beneficially reused material dredged from the outer navigation channel. The islands total about 272 acres and are helping to recreate island habitat and, by blocking wave energy reestablishing aquatic plant beds in the lower bay. Restoring the islands is expected to lead to recovery of much of the important lower bay habitat and benefit sport and commercial fisheries, colonial nesting water birds, shorebirds, waterfowl, marsh nesting birds, amphibians, turtles, invertebrates, and fur-bearing mammals. The wave barrier will provide long-term protection to the barrier islands and restored wetlands from future storm and ice damage.

While originally estimated at $35 million to complete the project, the final cost was just under $20 million with Port of Green Bay through the Brown County Port & Resource Recovery Department providing 35% or about $6 million as a match for the construction phases that were completed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The project is a partnership between the Port of Green Bay, Brown County, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources, Lower Fox River/Green Bay Natural Resources Trustee Council, UW Sea-Grant, UW-Green Bay and 14 Port terminal operators. Funding was provided from EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants, a Wisconsin DOT Harbor Assistance Program grant, a Natural Resources Damages Assessment grant, and funds collected by the Port of Green Bay.

Oversight for the project and future management decisions are provided by the Cat Island Advisory Committee (CIAC) which was established by the WDNR as part of the Water Quality Permit for the project. The permit establishes the CIAC as a five-member committee with one representative each from the WDNR, Port of Green Bay, Corps, USFWS and a citizen member. In addition advisory members from UW-Green Bay, UW Sea Grant and other organizations provide input to the committee on a variety of issues dealing with management of the islands.

The impact of the Cat Island Chain restoration has already been seen in improved water quality, re-vegetation of near shore areas and an increase in waterfowl species. The project is also seen as a model for beneficial reuse of dredge material. We expect to see impacts well into the future.

L. Show that your community has restored at least two acres of woodlands, wetlands, or prairie.

In 2018 Brown County Parks 87.6 acres of land was donated that is adjacent to Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve which was being used for agriculture. This land will now no longer be able to be developed and work was completed to restore 22 acres of wetlands on this site. In 2022 8 acres was seeded with a No-Till Seeder with a native wildflower mix which included milkweed, culvers root, black-eyed susan, and over 20 other species in addition to big and little stem grasses. In the Fall of 2023 additional acreage will also be seeded with native wildflowers and grasses with the exact amount to be determined by budget. 

N. Show that your community works on public lands to control invasive species that have significant negative impacts on bird habitat.

The Parks Department works with volunteers, both indiviudals and groups, (such as Scout Troops) controlling Buckthorn and Barberry at Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve. In 2022 there were work days on April 30th, May 7th, August 19th, September 24th, November 6th, and December 17th. This total 163 hours total of volunteer help. This was done in the way of cutting and stump treating common and glossy buckthorn or pulling smaller buckthorn with a weed wrench. Barberry was dug up and disposed of. 

P. Demonstrate the implementation of a program to preserve Chimney Swift nesting and roosting sites (preferred) and/or to construct Chimney Swift towers.

The Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve Nature Center is over 85 years old and has a 35-foot-tall masonry chimney. Plans to cap the chimney to prevent moisture from entering have been abandoned due to the Chimney Swift colony that utilizes it. A local Eagle Scout constructed an chimney swift nesting tower placed near the Barkhausen Nature Center that will hopefully be used this Spring.

R. Show how your community aids a local youth group (e.g., Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of USA, 4-H Club, etc.) or conservation group in bird conservation projects (e.g., bluebird trail, habitat restoration, Wood Duck nest boxes, etc.).

Each spring Barkhausen staff arranges the monitoring of waterfowl nesting structures on site and adjacent private property. Assisted by Delta Waterfowl they have been able to erect over 20 additional Wood Duck nesting boxes on adjacent property. Previous accomplishments in this area have also already been referenced to in the above basic criteria narrative, notably subcategory 1B , 1P, and 4F.

Community Forest Management

F. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

The Brown County Land and Water Conservation Department, in cooperation with the Brown County Conservation Alliance, accepts orders for its annual tree sale. Species include Concolor Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, Highbush Cranberry, and Silver Maple along with some of the annual offerings of Pine, Oak, and Maple. Also available for purchase are tree tubes, 3’x3’ weed barriers, fertilizer, and planting gel.

Brown County’s Agricultural Shoreland Protection Ordinance requires a 35’ wide vegetated buffer strip along every stream in the county’s unincorporated municipalities. Cost-sharing may be available to install riparian buffers. In 2011, over 7 miles of buffer strips were installed.

Located along the west shore of southern Green Bay, the Suamico/Little Suamico River watersheds have some of the most productive wetlands remaining in the Great Lakes system. In fact, more than 50% of Lake Michigan’s remaining wetlands are located along the west shore of Green Bay. Small perennial and intermittent streams and connected wetlands provide high quality fish spawning and rearing habitat, especially for Northern Pike which reside in Green Bay as adults. Many other wildlife species, from songbirds to waterfowl, also benefit from this type of habitat. Green Bay’s ecosystem however has been severely disrupted by wetland loss and mismanaged stream networks from intense development pressure and agriculture practices.

The scarcity of top predator species such as Northern Pike has been recognized as a significant problem in the waters of the Bay. With over 70% of historic wetlands along the west shore already having been lost, this project presents a tremendous opportunity to have a positive impact on the entire ecosystem of the bay by preserving and/or restoring the remaining intermittent and perennial stream/wetland networks that still exist in these watersheds. Stabilization and protection of these areas will reduce sedimentation and nutrients which now flow into Green Bay from land within the watersheds.

Each year Brown County Parks receives 20-30 trees from the Green Bay Packers to be planted in the park system. The tree species are selected by Park staff with emphasis on native trees with some providing shade in the future and many others providing food for a variety of wildlife. 

Limiting or Removing Threats to Birds

A. Describe your community’s educational program to control free-roaming cats and/or the manner in which you actively publicize the Cats Indoors! initiative.

The City of Green Bay, which comprises half of Brown County’s residences, does not allow any animals to be at large within the City. The City has an ordinance that requires animals to be confined when it is off premises. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve  promotes the “Cats Indoors!” program.

B. Demonstrate that your community provides property owners with information on how to protect birds from window strikes (e.g., online links, brochures).

Brown County actively provides literature and guidance for the community on preventing bird window-strikes.

Public Education

A. Demonstrate that schools in your community participate in a nationally-recognized environmental education program (e.g., Flying WILD, Audubon Adventures) or that your community organizes its own substantial education and outreach program for young people. 

Barkhausen staff have developed and implemented a "Birds" program offered to schools, scouts, and day care groups for field trips at Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve. This 2-hour program talks about bird habitats, adaptations, and characteristics. Students engage in a bird beak simulation activtiy called "You Eat Like a Bird" , actively demonstrate the struggles of migration, and go on a Naturalist-led Hike.

C. Demonstrate that your community is represented in at least one citizen science bird monitoring program (e.g., the Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, Swift Night Out).

Numerous townships within Brown County annually participate in both the Christmas Bird Count and Great Backyard Bird Count. In addition, residents also participate in the following:

Migrating Raptor Banding - migrating hawks and Saw-whet Owls were banded and released at Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve in the fall pre-pandemic (2010-2019). Brown County is actively working to start these programs again in 2023.

Canada Goose Banding - The WDNR and Green Bay Duck Hunter Association work together to band canada goose goslings throughout Brown County every summer. 

Annual Crane Count - Bay Area Bird Club sponsored activity.

April Field Trip - sponsored by Bay Area Bird Club to Lake Michigan to count Loons, Grebes, Scooters, and other early migrants.

Red-Shouldered Hawk Monitoring - threatened Red-shouldered Hawks are banded and monitored at the Brown County Reforestration Camp.

D. Describe your community-sponsored annual bird festival. This must be a multi-day event or a truly exceptional one-day event.

Each year the Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve conducts programming centered on World Migratory Bird Day. It has been held in conjunction with the annual Spring’s Wings event held at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in the past.

E. Illustrate a program that involves schools, garden clubs, or other organizations in bird conservation activities.

 Bluebird house building workshops are available at Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve. In 2021 this program was done virtually. The hardships Eastern bluebirds have faced and the recommendations to help attract bluebirds to landowners’ properties are explained. Participants build a bluebird house and learn ideal areas to place it on their own. Articles from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the North American Bluebird Association are made available for take home reading.


In addition, Brown County advocates many Scouting opportunities. The activities of area Webelos to earn their Naturalist Badges include:

  • Name six wild animals that live at Barkhausen, their habits and where they live
  • Describe 3 activities that take place at the Center and the importance of those activities
  • Explain what migration means and the term “flyway”
  • List 4 ways in which humans affect their environment and how these ultimately affect the natural world particularly related to the food chain
  • Name two poisonous animals and plants in Wisconsin

Students learning Winter Wildlife Tracks and Sign must be able to:

  • Describe 5 different types of animal signs
  • Make conclusions on behavior of animals based upon their tracks
  • Differentiate between various species by their tracks and sign

Students learning about winter adaptations and hardships of animals living in northern environments during winter months must be able to do:

  • Name 2 adaptations of a Snowshoe Hare that help it survive through the winter
  • Investigate several different animal signs found during the winter
  • Describe 3 different strategies that animals use for winter survival

K. Demonstrate that your community actively raises awareness of its bird assets. Examples include placing a remote web camera on a nest platform, offering bird watching field trips, or creating a significant educational resource on your community's bird life.

High Flyer-level accomplishments in this category have already been mentioned in the above basic criteria narrative, notably in subcategories 4C and 4E.

Energy & Sustainability

C. Document that a municipal building is LEED certified (silver or higher).


World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD)

A. This community's municipal body passed the required World Migratory Bird Day resolution.

B. Document and describe your event that incorporates the annual IMBD theme in some fashion. If the event has not yet occurred, please share your detailed plans. For information on the current year’s theme and event materials, please visit the World Migratory Bird Day website. To see what other Bird City communities have done in the past, please view some other profiles on our website.

At Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve staff are determining a day filled with multiple program opportunities to celebrate WMBD 2023. Public will be able to participate in bird hikes, educational programs, and craft projects throughout the day. With the 2023 theme, water, Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve staff will highlight the wetland habitats found on the property and their importance for birds and other wildlife.

Joined Bird City: 2011

Population: 248,007

Incorporated: 1818

Area: 616.0 mi2

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