Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of La Crosse


Community Achievements

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 City of La Crosse’s website states:

The 1999-2001 Wisconsin Biennial budget included legislation requiring all Cities, Villages, and Towns to adopt comprehensive plans by 2010. Under the Comprehensive Planning and “Smart Growth” Legislation all jurisdictions will prepare and adopt a comprehensive plan with at least nine elements. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2010, any community that makes land-use decisions is required to base those decisions on its adopted comprehensive plan. Each element of the plan will include background information, objectives, polices and goals, programs, and a portrayal of what those aspects of the community are planned to look like when the target year arrives (2020 for the La Crosse Comprehensive Plan).

Not only does the City meet the nine elements that are required by state law, but it added an additional five elements to its comprehensive plan.

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)

Lower Pool 7 and Upper Pool 8 of the Upper Mississippi Wildlife and Fish Refuge are located along the La Crosse portion of the Mississippi River. This federally protected area provide habitat for many species of migratory birds. Several areas within La Crosse’s city limits are included within the boundaries of the refuge.

Additionally, La Crosse’s Municipal Code contains regulations for a Conservancy District in Zoning, Section 15.18. This district is established to preserve open space land and water areas for plant and animal habitat among other purposes. Development is very limited in the Conservancy District.

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.

Several of La Crosse’s parks and trails have Great Wisconsin Bird and Nature Trails (GWBNT) designation. The GWBRT website gives a brief description of what the parks/trails has to offer.

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.

Since 2002, the City of La Crosse has been in partnership with the Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC) to purchase and preserve the local bluff lands through the La Crosse Bluffland Protection Project. According to the Mississippi Valley Conservancy website, “The program provides scenic preservation to ensure that beauty of the landscape is not destroyed by poorly-planned development, as well as protecting rare natural communities like bluff prairies and providing a marvelous outdoor recreational resource”. An indirect effect of this conservation effort is that it enlarges the habitat for local and migratory birds. See here for more information about the MVC and the La Crosse Bluffland Project.

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

The Mississippi Valley Conservancy has restored over two acres of prairie land in the city of La Crosse. In their 2009 Grant Report to the Stry Foundation, they describe the type of restoration work that they have done in the Juniper Partners Tract in La Crosse.

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

The Mississippi Valley Conservancy has a program to help control invasive plants on the lands they maintain in the city.

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.)

The city maintains trails in the La Crosse marsh that includes informational signs and maps. The Coulee Audubon’s Marsh Map illustrates the trails and bird observation points.

Community Forest Management

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

The La Crosse area has a longstanding tradition of promoting effective and responsible land use. This point can be demonstrated by the volume of natural habitat for local wildlife that surrounds the city. The City of La Crosse continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1989.

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.

La Crosse’s Current Leash Ordinance demonstrates its effort to control free-roaming cats. They are working to better educate the public and enforce this ordinance in the future.

G. Show how your community regulates communication tower construction, siting, and lighting to mitigate their risk to migrating birds.

The city is in the process of enacting an updated zoning ordinance in 2016. The current zoning ordinance has regulations for Wireless Communication Facilities, but the city has included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “Service Guidance on the Siting, Construction, Operation and Decommissioning of Communications Towers”.

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 Planning Staff has registered La Crosse’s City Hall as a Bird-Safe Building with the Wisconsin Humane Society.

Public Education

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).

La Crosse has been represented in both the Great Backyard Bird Count and the Christmas Bird Count for numerous years.

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 Coulee Region Audubon Society does a lot to raise awareness of La Crosse’s bird assets. It regularly holds birding hikes to Myrick Marsh and Hixon Forest. While no sightings occurred in 2016, there have been reports of the threatened Bell’s Vireo in the marsh. Fortunately, the Golden-winged Warbler, a species of concern has been spotted on these hikes.

The Mississippi Explorer also helps raise awareness of their bird assets. It is a pontoon boat based in La Crosse during the warm season that takes people on guided backwater wildlife cruises. The naturalist onboard teaches about the natural history of the river and identifies numerous Bald Eagle nests that are located along the river.

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)

A. This community's municipal body passed the required International 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 International Migratory Bird Day website. To see what other Bird City communities have done in the past, please view some other profiles on our website.

LA CROSSE, WI, May 2, 2015 – WisCorps, Coulee Region Audubon Society, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey and the City of La Crosse are hosting an International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) celebration at the Myrick Park Center on Saturday May 2, 2015 from 6:30 am – 1 pm. This entirely free event includes a sunrise birding hike, bird banding, family-friendly birding walks, live owl presentation, and bird-themed crafts and games. All ages, abilities, and families are welcome to participate in all activities.

This day brings awareness of over 350 migratory bird species, including many that depend on preservation efforts for their survival. IMBD is the largest-known conservation and education event of its kind in the Western Hemisphere with over 500 events now being hosted from South America to Canada. The partnering sponsors have been instrumental in migratory bird protection, monitoring, and habitat conservation while educating communities about how they can participate.

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Community Details

Joined Bird City: 2011

Population: 51,647

Incorporated: 1856

Area: 22.5 mi2

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