City of Milwaukee

City of Milwaukee

HIGH FLYER

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.

State of Wisconsin “Smart Growth” legislation was passed in 1999, with all municipalities in Wisconsin required to have a comprehensive plan in place by Jan. 1, 2010.

Projects that exemplify the goal of Smart Growth and the promotion of sustainable urban living and healthy lifestyles include the Milwaukee River Greenway Project, which was formed out of a grassroots effort to protect 6 miles of urban river from insensitive development.

Partners included the Urban Ecology Center, River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Environmental Consortium, Village of Shorewood, City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Friends of Estabrook Park, Milwaukee Friends Meeting, and the Cambridge Woods Neighborhood Association.

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)

The Urban Ecology Center conducts Community Science Bird Banding during fall and spring migration. In addition, 156 weekly surveys are conducted annually at the three sites and have recorded over 200 species of breeding and migratory birds.

During fall and spring migration, Warbler Walks are led at Lake Park in Milwaukee, and Duck Walks are led during the winter months. Records are kept of species sighted and participants learn about the resident and migratory species in the park.

The Wisconsin Humane Society’s Wisconsin Night Guardians for Songbirds (Wings) program works with community scientists to monitor buildings in downtown Milwaukee for window collisions during spring and fall migration.

Lakeshore State Park maintains Nest boxes (cleaned, repaired annually).  The US Geological Survey installed nest boxes in the Third Ward that are monitored by local volunteers, to assess contaminant exposure in tree swallows and house wrens. Collected egg specimens are analyzed for chemical and biochemical endpoints.

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)

Milwaukee has more than 15,000 acres of parkland providing habitat for a number of species of birds. The habitat is legally protected by park planning. Unlike most urban areas in the country, the county government controls the majority of open spaces within the City of Milwaukee.

In 2010, the Milwaukee Common Council approved a special zoning district between the bluffs of the Milwaukee River north of the former North Avenue dam to the city limits at Silver Spring Drive.

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

One of the principles of “Smart Growth” is to convert barren land and brownfields to green space and parklands. As stated in the City of Milwaukee’s presentation of Comprehensive Planning and Smart Growth, “There are global benefits to the redevelopment of brownfields. The existence of brownfield sites within Milwaukee provides both problems and opportunities. These once productive, industrial and manufacturing sites lie abandoned or underused and are in need of land assessment and remediation.”

As stated in the Milwaukee Citywide Policy Plan, Milwaukee is a national leader in brownfield remediation. Milwaukee received one of the largest EPA grants for brownfields clean up, assessment and establishment of a revolving loan fund. The City’s existing and planned brownfields redevelopment projects have the potential to generate significant demand for entry-level and advanced-skills environmental work.

The Urban Ecology Center/Menomonee Valley Project restored a blighted railyard to become the newest city park, Three Bridges Park, a 24-acre park and outdoor classroom. This will result in an ecologically diverse park with the creation of multiple habitat zones native to southeast Wisconsin. The American Society of Landscape Architects announced that Landscapes of Place, LLC has been recognized with a 2011 Honor Award in Analysis and Planning for the project, “Making a Wild Place in Milwaukee’s Urban Menomonee Valley.” According to ASLA, the plan is “an example of what we can and should be doing in all cities: replacing a highly polluted area with a native landscape. The overarching goal: to transform the irreversibly altered land and hydrologic conditions to a mosaic of biodiverse landscapes, including forest, prairie, and ephemeral wetland, native to Milwaukee and ecologically appropriate for new conditions, with systemic and meaningful engagement of the community.”  In July of 2013, the Three Bridges State Park was officially opened to the public in the Menomonee Valley. This 24 acre park is now the largest city-owned park. Thousands of newly planted trees and shrubs fill the park and native grasses and wildflowers such as Asters, Sunflowers, Indian grass, Little Bluestem and Prairie DropSeed are abundant throughout this once brownfield industrial area. The park offers two miles of paved trails and plenty of river access for recreation and wildlife. Three Bridges State Park exemplifies the dedication of city organizations to connect jobs, people and nature in an urban environment. 

The Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum was a joint project of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, the Urban Ecology Center, the River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee Urban Rivers Foundation, Wisconsin Department of Resource’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, the County and City of Milwaukee to turn a brownfield into 3.7 miles of trail and 40 acres along the Milwaukee River newly planted with 1,000 trees. Over time it will be the most significant and biologically diverse native ecosystem in southeastern Wisconsin, and serve as a gateway to the Milwaukee River Greenway.

Lakeshore State Park is a man-made 22-acre island lying just east of downtown Milwaukee. This is a small island but offers great recreational opportunities. The park is currently developing a prairie habitat for breeding and migratory birds. The park was opened in 2006, and connects to both the Oak Leaf Trail and the Hank Aaron State Trail. It is part of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail. The park provides opportunities for citizen scientists to conduct bird surveys and provides Milwaukee residents with opportunities to learn about natural plantings.

Groundwork Milwaukee, part of Groundwork USA, is a network of independent, not-for-profit, environmental businesses called Groundwork Trusts. Locally organized and controlled, they provide cost effective project development services focused on improving their community’s environment, economy and quality of life. GWM helps people transform derelict land and wasted public space into valued community assets such as pocket parks, community gardens, recreation facilities and nature preserves. GWM partners with government agencies and the private sector to engage residents in the remediation of brownfields to build consensus on reusing these sites for community benefit. In 2009, GWM partnered with Lisbon Avenue Development Corporation (LAND) to transform the site of a former gas station into a neighborhood pocket park honoring victims of gun violence.

As part of the Greenseams program of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), two properties adjacent to the Milwaukee River and North Commerce Street covering about 7 acres were purchased through a partnership with the River Revitalization Foundation (RRF) in 2004 and 2009. RRF strives to connect the community and urban waterways to not only preserve rivers, habitat and water quality, but also to improve the quality of life for those living in Milwaukee. Contributions to the RRF of $400,000 from MMSD and $700,000 from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Stewardship Program enabled the organization to purchase the former Wheelhouse property. This property will serve as the gateway to the Milwaukee River Greenway and further the revitalization of this natural area.

E. Describe your community’s ordinance demonstrating that your community does not restrict natural/native landscaping that emphasizes native plants and non-turf lawns.

The only City of Milwaukee ordinance restricting “wild” or natural laws and landscaping is one that states that lawn grass may not exceed 9” in height. There are a number of programs promoting natural landscaping according to the Milwaukee Citywide Policy Plan which encourages the use of diverse native and regionally adapted plants and discourages the use of invasives in landscaping. Efforts are made to select plants on public lands which require minimal maintenance, irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides, and that tolerate urban environmental conditions such as soil compaction, heat and drought conditions, minimal water infiltration, and salt spray or other urban pollutants.

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.

Southeastern Wisconsin is a gateway for invasive species into Wisconsin due to maritime and roadway travel to and from Illinois, and increasing urbanization. The Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium (SEWISC) estimates that 5 new plant and animal species may enter the area each year. The City of Milwaukee works closely with SEWISC to raise awareness of the problem and promote efficient and effective management of invasive species. Milwaukee County Parks is a partner of SEWISC, as well as Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District, Lake Park Friends, Preserve our Parks, WE Energies.

Examples of community efforts to control invasive species include Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture and the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension - Milwaukee County’s joint Natural Areas Management Program. One of the activities of the Natural Areas Management Program is the partnering of The Park People of Milwaukee County and Corporate Work Days for invasive species removal and natural areas restoration.

Each May, the Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens holds a “Party for the Planet.” At this event, information is provided on the benefits of natural plantings, and native plants are sold to encourage the creation of bird-friendly yards.

Weed-Out, a grassroots volunteer program begun in 1996 to raise public awareness about invasive species, improve natural areas management, educate citizens about the environmental threat and recruit volunteers for hands-on weed control in the Milwaukee County Parks System--has conducted weed-out events on a regular basis.

Groundwork Milwaukee (GWM) worked with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in removing trash, debris and invasive species from an island in the Milwaukee River. GWM has made a long term commitment to the Kinnickinnic River Trail (KKRT), a City of Milwaukee bike trail that will connect Bay View and Lincoln Village to downtown Milwaukee. GWM works with the Milwaukee Christian Center Youth Build Program on invasive species management and pedestrian path building between the bike trail and the Kinnickinnic River.

Johnson Controls conducts Green Jobs Day for Milwaukee youth to work on invasive species removal.

The Urban Ecology Center provides information on the control and removal of invasive species for neighbors through brochures available at the Center. The UEC also runs a program called (ROOT) Restoring Our Outdoor Treasures that gets the public involved with the removal of invasive species at Riverside Park. This program provides both education about effective invasive species removal as well as the opportunity to use that knowledge in the park.

Friends of Lake Park conducts weekly efforts to remove invasive species and plant native vegetation.

The River Revitalization Foundation Fostering Our Riparian Biodiversity (FORB) volunteer program recruits and cultivates relationships with community members to engage them in invasive species removal, plantings, seed collection and trail maintenance as stewards of urban public greenspaces. FORB is offered 2-3 times a week year-round. The purpose of their program is to attract and engage community groups, students and corporations in volunteer service days that enhance our greenspaces for outdoor restoration and improve the habitat quality for wildlife. We hope to leverage partnerships via FORB to foster the public’s personal connection to nature near them. During the academic year, RRF supervises 30 university service learners each semester. Each service learner donates a minimum of 8-hours to RRF’s mission, this collaboration allows college students to apply curriculum and principles learned in the classroom in a real-world setting, gaining hands-on experience in the conservation sector. 

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.

Milwaukee offers many segments of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail with the following parks and sites: Discovery World, Havenwoods, Lakeshore State Park, Lake Shore Parks, County Parks, Urban Ecology Center, and the Milwaukee River Parks.

Milwaukee is part of a newly designated nearshore Important Bird Area, called the “Milwaukee-Racine Lakeshore Migration Corridor,” as the City of Milwaukee is along a major migratory pathway. The Wisconsin Stopover Initiative divides stopover sites into two tiers where Tier 1 Migratory Bird Stopover Sites are estimated to support >10,000 birds per season for one or more bird groups, and Tier II Bird Migratory Stopover Sites are estimated to support >1,000 but <10,000 birds per season for one or more bird groups. Lake Park East and the Inner Harbor-Kinnickinnic Mouth are both Tier 1 stopover sites for waterfowl, and Lake Park, the North Branch Milwaukee River, North Milwaukee River Parks are Tier 2 sites for land birds.

In 2001, the Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Culture joined in a landmark conservation agreement, The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, pledging to preserve habitat for resident birds and birds that migrate to or through Wisconsin. Recognizing the recreation significance of nature in general and birding in particular, the Milwaukee County Parks developed the Oak Leaf Birding Trail. The Oak Leaf Birding Trail includes parks within the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County. This unusual urban birding trail is visited by sea ducks, Neotropical migrants, and raptors of all kinds, thanks in part to the lakefront location.

H. Show that the local Chamber of Commerce or a similar group (e.g., an Audubon chapter, Wild Ones, etc.) takes an active role in the planning process for protecting and enlarging favorable bird habitat.

The Rotary Club of Milwaukee contributed $400,000 as a catalyst for building partnerships to create the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum.

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

The Urban Ecology Center/Menomonee Valley Project is restoring a blighted rail-yard to a 24 acre park and outdoor classroom. This will result in an ecologically diverse park with the creation of multiple habitat zones native to southeast Wisconsin. The American Society of Landscape Architects announced that Landscapes of Place, LLC has been recognized with a 2011 Honor Award in Analysis and Planning for the project, “Making a Wild Place in Milwaukee’s Urban Menomonee Valley.” According to ASLA, the plan is “an example of what we can and should be doing in all cities: replacing a much polluted area with a native landscape. The overarching goal: to transform the irreversibly altered land and hydrologic conditions to a mosaic of biodiverse landscapes, including forest, prairie, and ephemeral wetland, native to Milwaukee and ecologically appropriate for new conditions, with systemic and meaningful engagement of the community.”

On Saturday, July 20, 2013, “Three Bridges Park” opened to the pubic (see sub-category 1D in the basic requirements).

The Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum is a joint project of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, the Urban Ecology Center, the River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee Urban Rivers Foundation, Wisconsin Department of Resource’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, the County and City of Milwaukee to turn a brownfield into 3.7 miles of trail and 40 acres along the Milwaukee River newly planted with 1,000 trees. When completed, it will be the most significant and biologically diverse native ecosystem in southeastern Wisconsin, and serve as a gateway to the Milwaukee River Greenway. The arboretum increases the opportunity for ecological research in a unique urban environment and the diversity of native species provides a source of seed stock for the region. Replacing invasive species with deep rooted, native species improves water quality and reduces storm water runoff. The Urban Ecology Center at Washington Park is expanding the area being converted from grass to native woodlands to 20 acres.

In the Wisconsin Humane Society’s 1/3 of an acre “Wildlife Compound” at 45th and Wisconsin Avenue, they organically suppress invasive plant species and encourage native plant species to improve this area as a stopover site for migrating birds and other wildlife and a sanctuary for local birds, bats, and pollinators.River Revitalization Foundation acquired two parcels, the Wheelhouse property and Lazenby property, respectively in 2008 and 2014 that are RRF's 4-acre Turtle Park. This park was once a blighted commercial space that has been converted to an urban savannah along the Milwaukee River that attracts a variety of wildlife and pollinators, especially migratory birds. In 2019-2021, Glendale Corporate Park landowners (Ascension, Barnabus, Caddis) also donated easements of 3.5 acres along ½ mile of the Milwaukee River. Since the fall of 2022, RRF staff and volunteers have been removing woody invasive species and planting native shrubs and trees to increase the quality of this lowland riparian forest habitat. 

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

The Urban Ecology Center provides information on the control and removal of invasive species for neighbors through brochures available at the Center. The UEC also runs a program called ROOT (Restoring Our Outdoors Together) that gets the public involved with the removal of invasive species throughout the park. This program provides both education about effective invasive species removal as well as the opportunity to use that knowledge in the park.

Friends of Lake Park conducts weekly efforts on Wednesdays to remove invasive species and plant native vegetation that is open to anyone from the public and Lake Shore State Park Friends remove invasive species often where anyone from the public can attend.T

he River Revitalization Foundation Fostering Our Riparian Biodiversity (FORB) volunteer program recruits and cultivates relationships with community members to engage them in invasive species removal, plantings, seed collection and trail maintenance as stewards of urban public greenspaces. FORB is offered 2-3 times a week year-round. The purpose of their program is to attract and engage community groups, students and corporations in volunteer service days that enhance our greenspaces for outdoor restoration and improve the habitat quality for wildlife. We hope to leverage partnerships via FORB to foster the public’s personal connection to nature near them. During the academic year, RRF supervises 30 university service learners each semester. Each service learner donates a minimum of 8-hours to RRF’s mission, this collaboration allows college students to apply curriculum and principles learned in the classroom in a real-world setting, gaining hands-on experience in the conservation sector.

O. Document a program to support the establishment of natural lawns and native landscaping, possibly including public presentations of Audubon’s Plants for Birds Initiative (contact them for a presentation kit).

The Urban Ecology Center provides in most years a course focusing on native planting, landscaping and principles for yards aimed for people in Milwaukee and SE Wisconsin in general. These are have been run as a 5 week course with 5 categories. 1. Why Plant Natives? 2. Measuring and Drawing your Existing Yard. 3. Creating the Blueprint for your New Yard. 4. Plant Selection and site Preparation. 5. Planting and Maintaining for the Long Term.

T. Document that your community maintains a birding trail or hot spot location with educational signage and/or literature. (Note: A birding hotspot alone is not sufficient - your community must actively promote birding and public education at the site itself.)

Recognizing the recreation significance of nature in general and birding in particular, the Milwaukee County Parks developed the Oak Leaf Birding Trail. The Oak Leaf Birding Trail includes parks within the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.

V. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

The Milwaukee Southwest/Wehr Chapter of Wild Ones gives grants to organizations to enhance and protect wildlife habitat. One grant is to the River Revitalization Foundation of Milwaukee to enhance the wildlife habitat along Southbranch Creek.

The River Revitalization Foundation serves as the urban rivers land trust in Milwaukee, caring for the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers.

Community Forest Management

A. Demonstrate that your community has been awarded Tree City USA status by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

The City of Milwaukee continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1979.

The City of Milwaukee also received the “Tree City USA Growth Award” in 2009, for demonstrating progress in its community forestry program through improved education and public relations, planning and management and tree inventory and analysis.

C. Document an ongoing community program to incorporate a significant number of native trees, native shrubs, native herbaceous plants, and/or cultivars of native species in public or large-scale private landscaping.

All three branches of the Urban Ecology Center are having a native plant sale to encourage homeowners to plant native species.  

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District also organizes a Milwaukee region-wide native plant sale each spring:

F. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

Greening Milwaukee is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development and preservation of the City’s trees. The Milwaukee Citywide Policy Plan states that one of its goals is to preserve existing trees and significantly increase the citywide urban tree canopy and tree diversity through a tree planting initiative. The policy aims to prepare and implement a strategy to minimize the impact of major urban forest die-off due to the threat of invasive pests and disease, and to support efforts of community organizations to increase the tree canopy on private property.

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 Wisconsin Humane Society operates a low-cost Spay-Neuter Clinic that provides these services for cats (and dogs) for all Milwaukee Metro area residents. The Society also offers advice on its website for helping people train their cats to become “indoor-only” cats and teaching one’s cats to walk on a leash; and has a “Pets for Life Program”Pets for Life Program” (PFL), one of the goals of which is to provide free spay and neuter services for pets of residents of two of the City of Milwaukee’s under-served zip codes. 

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

Milwaukee County participates in a program called WIngs (Wisconsin Night Guardians for Songbirds). This program educates the public on the dangers of window strikes and how to prevent them. Printable brochures are available at the Wisconsin Humane Society website for interested individuals to hand out to building managers. Businesses, classrooms and individuals can register a “bird safe” home, business, classroom or campus. In addition, displays of different types of bird collision prevention materials are displayed at the Wisconsin Humane Society building. Volunteers also patrol key buildings in downtown Milwaukee during migration to log avian fatalities due to bird strikes and to transport injured birds to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at the Wisconsin Humane Society. Hundreds of avian window collision victims are admitted to the wildlife rehabilitation hospital each year. In addition, the data collected aids in encouraging building managers to make their building bird-safe.

Each May, the Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens holds a “Party for the Planet” where one of the activities focuses on educating visitors about bird collisions. Literature from the American Bird Conservancy is available and a myriad of materials is provided for guests to make their own decals or stencils to be taken home and applied on their windows.

H. Document that your community operates a significant Lights Out program that dims building lights to reduce collisions during spring and fall migration or that you have an outdoor lighting ordinance that includes Lights Out during bird migration.

The WIngs program (mentioned in further detail below in sub-category 3E) encourages businesses to turn “lights out” during peak migration seasons to help minimize bird collisions.

I. Demonstrate that your community has enacted a bird collision monitoring program and has treated problem windows to reduce collisions with municipal and commercial buildings.

Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum is the World's First Bird-Friendly Arena. The new Milwaukee Bucks arena, Fiserv Forum, includes design elements that make the massive building bird-friendly, making it less likely that birds will be killed after flying into the large glass windows. The arena's most obvious bird-friendly feature is the use of fritting, a thin ceramic coating on glass. The fritting gives the glass tiny lines that humans can see up close but that do not interfere with the transparency. For birds, fitting reduces the transparency of the glass and signals that the glass is, in essence, a wall that they should avoid. Bryan Lenz who was the former director of Bird City Wisconsin helped urge the designers to incorporate bird friendly designs into the building.

Milwaukee County and City of Milwaukee participate in a program called WIngs (Wisconsin Night Guardians for Songbirds). This program educates the public on the dangers of window strikes and how to prevent them and is also headquartered in Milwaukee. Printable brochures are available at the Wisconsin Humane Society website for interested individuals to hand out to building managers. Businesses, classrooms and individuals can register a “bird safe” home, business, classroom or campus. In addition, displays of different types of bird collision prevention materials are displayed at the Wisconsin Humane Society building.

Volunteers also patrol key buildings in downtown Milwaukee during migration to log avian fatalities due to bird strikes and to transport injured birds to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at the Wisconsin Humane Society. Hundreds of avian window collision victims are admitted to the wildlife rehabilitation hospital each year. In addition, the data collected aids in encouraging building managers to make their building bird-safe.

J. Document that your community has registered a municipal building(s) in the Wisconsin Humane Society’s WIngs BirdSafe Business program AND show that this building has made an effort to reduce window collisions (see “Things that can be done at businesses”).

The Urban Ecology Center was the first public building to be registered in the Wings BirdSafe Business Program.

Additionally the Wisconsin Humane Society’s Milwaukee Campus is also registered in the Wings BirdSafe Business Program.

Public Education

B. Provide web links or a community newsletter demonstrating that your community educates property owners on methods to create and enhance backyard habitat for birds.

Community newsletters such as Riverwest Currents, provide information to neighbors on methods to create and enhance backyard habitat for birds.

In addition, a neighborhood program in Riverwest organized a “Think Spring! Plant a Serviceberry  event where residents could purchase a serviceberry tree for their own backyard, or one to be planted along the Milwaukee River Greenway, in honor of Arbor Day.

The Urban Ecology Center hosts an annual Native Landscaping Workshop with a series of classes and lectures that lead up to a native plant sale. Many of the talks relate specifically to birds.

The Zoological Society of Milwaukee’s “Birds without Borders” program also gives Milwaukee residents information on how to make their yard bird friendly.

The Wisconsin Humane Society’s website gives information on how to enhance backyard habitat for birds.

The Urban Lawn Reduction Project is a blog about converting a Milwaukee yard into a no-mow, native plant environment.

Wild Birds Unlimited provides Milwaukee area residents with birdscaping information.

The Milwaukee Chapter of Wild Ones presents educational conferences on natural landscaping.

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).

The Urban Ecology Center and Friends of Lake Park conduct public Christmas Bird Counts in the region coordinated by Schlitz Audubon.  

For the last few decades an annual May Day Count has been held that covers much of the City. The results are sent to the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology.

Many volunteers monitored parks and other areas of the City as part of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, and reported their observations of breeding bird activity via the Atlas’s online portal. Data collection has ended for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II with a huge thanks to over 2,000 volunteers who spent countless hours collecting data. The results will be published and compiled into a user-friendly format that will complement the book.

Nearby Nature Milwaukee, an environmental justice organization, whose mission is to celebrate and support the environmental movement in MIlwaukee’s communities of color have hosted Christmas Bird Counts along Lincoln Creek for the last two years.

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

The Urban Ecology Center holds an annual Brew City Birding Festival  that celebrates birds and bird migration.  The  Brew City Birding Festival is a week-long bird themed festival that offers a variety of different family-friendly activities including field trips to highlight some of Milwaukee's most important migratory stop-over sites, lectures on topics such as how to use E-bird, bird walks, bird art workshops, and bird-banding demonstrations. This festival also includes the Green Birding Challenge, a friendly competition where teams compete to find the most birds without using fossil fuels and the Backyard Birding Blitz, a green birding collective with participants contributing from around the world.  Spring of 2022 was the 10th Annual Green Birding Challenge and 5th Annual Brew City Birding Festival.

Havenwoods State Forest dedicates every fourth year its annual winter festival to a focus on birds, including bird feeding information, habitat improvement, identification and general enjoyment. In 2012, Havenwoods also promoted “Celebrate Urban Birds!” and plans to do so in the future.

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

Several City of Milwaukee organizations are involved in city, county and state bird conservation activities. The Urban Ecology Center sponsors birding trips within the City of Milwaukee, as well as throughout the state and neighboring states. In addition, UEC has pioneered the BIGBY effort in Milwaukee, encouraging birders to catalog “green birding” sightings within walking, biking, or canoeing distances from their homes in Milwaukee.  This grew and led to what is now the Wisconsin Green Birding Challenge.

Monitoring efforts occur regularly within city limits sponsored by Milwaukee BIOME project, the Urban Ecology Center, Havenwoods State Forest, Lake Park Friends, Wisconsin Society of Ornithology, Milwaukee Audubon Society and Madison Audubon Society. Lake Park Friends sponsors a series of monthly lectures that have included the topics of backyard enhancement for birds, ”Birding by Ear” given by John Feith, “Migrating for Food and Family” given by Paul Hunter, and the ecology of Red-headed Woodpeckers given by William Mueller.

The Wisconsin Humane Society’s WIngs program has Bird-Safe Classrooms and Bird-Safe Campus components. Featured under the former are The Migration Game, how to make home-made bird-collision-prevention window clings, and the new Chimney Swift Adventure Game.

F. Demonstrate that your community understands the critical ecological role of pollinators by documenting your Bee City USA status or by describing another substantial effort to promote pollinator health (for ideas visit the Xerxes Society and the Pollinator Partnership).

Friends of Lake Park has been planting pollinator gardens around the lighthouse, ravine and south of the Lion bridge

Friends of Lakeshore State Park assembled more than $6,000 of grant dollars to cover the purchase of over 4,500 native forbs and prairie plant plugs. These were planted in the park prairies over a three day period with the help of volunteers from area garden clubs and Milwaukee public schools

River Revitalization Foundation high school interns survey bumble bees on a weekly basis for 8 weeks in summer. Data collected is entered into the Wisconsin DNR’s Bumble Bee Brigade database.

H. Document a substantial regular program that educates young people on any of the following topics: climate change, energy efficiency, green/bird-safe buildings, or environmental sustainability.

Since 2013 the Urban Ecology Center has held I Spy Bird Camp, a week-long camp for urban third and fourth graders in which campers participate in bird banding and explore birds in urban settings.

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.

The Urban Ecology Center sponsored day and also overnight field trips to various points in Milwaukee, in Wisconsin, and out of state to study birds of the area. A major riparian artery of the City, the Milwaukee River, has had seven miles of river bank preserved through the Milwaukee River Greenway. This ambitious undertaking preserves habitat, will present educational signage and foster plant and animal diversity.

In 2013, a web camera was placed on an active nest of an American Robin at the Urban Ecology Center to the delight of visiting school children. Additionally, WE Energies features webcams in Peregrine Falcon nests on its Valley power plant and at the US Bank Building in Milwaukee.

Energy & Sustainability

A. Document an energy audit for a municipal building and show that your community is working to implement its recommendations.

The City of Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office had a Comprehensive Energy Plan completed in 2019, which identified recommended Energy Conservation Measures at all 106 municipal buildings and facilities.  Through grants and annual capital funding, ECO is working with the City Department of Public Works (DPW), the Milwaukee Public Libraries, and other departments to implement those energy conservation measures as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.  ECO and DPW will also soon pursue an Energy Savings Performance Contract to accelerate the pace of energy efficiency improvements across all municipal buildings. More specifically, Milwaukee Central Public Library underwent a facility energy audit in 2011 after the implementation of their green roof and rooftop solar panels. By 2012, the building's energy use declined 10%. They have since switched remaining incandescent light bulbs to LED throughout the facility, while also optimizing the facility’s chiller system. The building recently underwent the next phase of their energy reduction plan in 2020, performing energy efficient renovations to the facility’s HVAC system using an Energy Savings Performance Contract to help finance those renovations. The Central Library has now reduced energy use by 19% since 2009.

B. Show that your community goes above and beyond in its support for, and implementation of, green transportation (e.g., bike trails, rideshare programs, bike trails/lanes, etc.). Be sure to utilize the narrative to illustrate why your community is exceptional because standard practice will not receive credit.

The City of Milwaukee Complete Streets program was approved in 2018 and is currently being implemented through a Safe and Healthy Streets grant, providing significant improvements in bike and pedestrian infrastructure throughout the city.  The City's Complete Streets policy was recognized by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition as one of the best in the nation in 2018. In terms of public transit, Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) recently launched the bus rapid transit system (BRT) that features the MCTS Connect route. The route spans nine-miles going east-west. The system emulates a rail line but benefits from the cost efficiencies of bus transit that takes passengers farther with respect to cost than rail transit. BRT combines a variety of components such as elevated bus stations, designated bus lanes, and off-board fare collection to create a more efficient busing experience that cuts passenger wait times at each stop and limits stalling due to traffic. The BRT line includes bus service every ten minutes during peak times and midday and every 20-30 minutes during off-peak times. Additionally, the BTS fleet is composed of new battery electric buses. MCTS hopes to eventually expand on this system by creating a north-south route, and the creation of seven additional BRT lines was recommended in the recently approved Climate & Equity Plan.

E. Show that your community has implemented a sustainability plan that improves your community’s energy efficiency and/or increases the use of renewable energy. (Exclusions: Smart Growth comprehensive plans)

The City of Milwaukee recently passed the Climate and Equity Plan on June 20th, 2023. One of the primary goals the plan aims to achieve through its implementation is reduction of the City of Milwaukee’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45% in the year 2030, progressing to net-zero emissions by 2050. The plan focuses on 10 big ideas to implement, with the majority targeting improvement of energy efficiency and increased usage of renewable energy in both the residential and commercial sectors. The ideas that target energy efficiency and renewable energy most directly include:

  • Making healthy home energy upgrades more accessible for City of Milwaukee residents as they attempt to transition
  • Construction of new net-zero energy homes
  • Implementation of commercial building benchmarking and performance standards along with various financing resources to aid the transition necessary for compliance
  • Electrifying transportation through equitable implementation of EV Charging stations and transition of Municipal fleets to EVs, hybrids, or low emissions vehicles 
  • Increasing support for rooftop solar and utility-scale investments in renewable energy to create a just and more sustainable power grid

A more in depth explanation of the specific strategies and efforts the City of Milwaukee is utilizing to implement this plan can be found here

F. Demonstrate that your community participates in a community solar program or that a municipal building receives a significant percentage of its electricity from renewable energy.

The Milwaukee Shines program, led by the City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO), works to expand solar energy through a city-wide, collaborative, and comprehensive approach. Through a variety of community partnerships, the program has worked on a variety of solar energy projects throughout the City of Milwaukee. The program also provides valuable information and resources to support Milwaukee residents in their transition to rooftop solar. Since the creation of Milwaukee Shines in 2008, 10 megawatts of solar have been installed throughout the city, with more solar energy projects currently unfolding that will increase that amount. 

Regarding municipal buildings, 18 renewable energy projects have been installed at City of Milwaukee buildings, including solar electric, solar hot water and a wind turbine, which provides all of the electricity to the City’s Port Administration Building.  The City of Milwaukee has a goal of having 25% of City of Milwaukee energy use provided by renewable energy by 2025. One of the most recent projects was brought online in 2020, and is a 2.25 MW ground mounted installation on a City-owned former landfill site near General Mitchell International Airport. This is the largest solar installation in the City to date, and the funds generated from this installation help fund further climate change action and projects in the City of Milwaukee.

H. Describe your community’s efforts to educate residents about climate change.

Milwaukee Public Library has been selected to participate in Resilient Communities: Libraries Respond to Climate Change. This is an initiative of the American Library Association striving to raise awareness and connect the public to accurate information about climate change through their community library. As a participant of this program, MPL has coordinated a Climate Change Book club that meets monthly to discuss and learn about sustainability and climate change as a community. They also host tours of MPL’s expansive green roof, in addition to bike repair clinics that are open to the public.  Moreover, the City of Milwaukee ECO provides a comprehensive website with information and resources for residents to help fight climate change.

I. Document that your community is part of the Energy Independent Community program.

The City of Milwaukee is listed as an Energy Independent Community by Energy On Wisconsin, as well as one of the 49 EI communities that participated in the programs most recent Energy Independent Community Survey. Milwaukee was also among the 60% of survey participants considered an Active Energy Independent Community still committed to achieving its energy independence goal. 

The Survey Findings and Analysis conducted by UW-Madison corroborating the above claim can be found here.

The Energy On Wisconsin website listing Milwaukee as a current Energy Independent Community can be found here.

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.

The Milwaukee WMBD event in 2022 was the Urban Ecology Center’s Green Birding Challenge. It’s a fossil fuel-free competition for registered teams to record as many birds as possible in 5 hours. This event now has more categories to include both the serious and casual birder as well as families. In 2019, the Urban Ecology Center expanded the event to include a Brew City Birding Festival which was a week-long bird themed festival which offered a variety of different family friendly activities. These activities included field trips to highlight some of Milwaukee's most important migratory stop-over sites and birding by canoe, lectures on topics such as how to use E-bird, bird walks, bird art workshops, and bird-banding demonstrations.

Joined Bird City: 2012

Population: 594,833

Incorporated: 1846

Area: 96.8 mi2

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