Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

Town of Mercer

Town of Mercer

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.

Mercer adopted the Town of Mercer Comprehensive Plan 2025 in 2005. The plan is in compliance with Wisconsin's "Smart Growth" law for land use planning and resource management.

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)

Priding themselves as the “Loon Capital of the World,” it is unsurprising that Mercer has been actively involved in Iron County’s citizen-based loon monitoring project for over 16 years, resulting in many successfully hatched loon chicks from artificial platforms. In 1999, the WDNR approached a group of Environmental Educators in Iron County with the idea of piloting a citizen-monitoring program for artificial loon nesting platforms. The concept for the Practicum in Loon and Lake Ecology came out of this discussion, with Hurley and Mercer students involved in a pilot during the spring and summer of 2000. Students constructed nesting platforms; selected study lakes based on water quality and habitat features, and placed and monitored the platforms in spring and summer. As of 2016, this program has been monitoring lake health and loon production for 16 years in the Mercer and Hurley Area. The students’ work has resulted in many successfully hatched loon chicks from the artificial platforms that they have constructed and placed out for loons to use in Iron County.

Rice Lake and the Flambeau Flowage are ideal nesting grounds for loons and the efforts of monitors and platform designers the area has been recognized as a critical habitat. As such the areas are in-line to receive DNR grants and additional surveys.

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

Park planning in the Town of Mercer has been highlighted in the community’s “Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan,” which was adopted in 2006 and amended three times, most recently in 2010.

In Section 5, the document notes the ongoing planning process. Section 6 describes the planning region with a detailed focus on the Town of Mercer’s important water resources around which a number of wildlife viewing accesses have been formulated. These accesses are available on and around local lakes and on the 27,000 acres on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage and the Little Turtle Flowage. Nearly 54% of Mercer is public land that supports both motorized and non-motorized recreation. The wildlife and natural habitat are vital to the community’s outdoor recreation planning. The outdoor plan’s latest Statement of Need describes a great necessity to link its rich nature-based attributes with a 7-mile non-motorized trail that would extend to Vilas County and serve as the northern-most link in the Northern Highlands Regional Trail System.

The Town of Mercer has applied for and received $1,121,090 in grant funding to help construct this trail. Of that total, $396,876 comes from the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Fund and $45,000 from the Recreational Trails Program. The trail was constructed this past summer and provides access to the area’s unique wildlife and natural habitat.

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.

Most of the lakes in the Town of Mercer, belong to the Iron County Lakes Alliance, which has been educating all local lake associations regarding the eradication of invasive species for 15 years. The organization has offered numerous Invasive Species Identification and Clean Boats/Clean Waters workshops for all Iron County lakes.

The Rice Lake Properties Lake Association, just one small lake organization located in Mercer, has undertaken focused activities to address such issues as noted in its newsletter, the Turtle Soup Times. Recently, it has been addressing the problem of encroaching Curly-leaf Pondweed, providing tips on identification and removal.

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.

The 14,000-acre Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area is listed in the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail guide. This area encompasses a wide variety of wildlife habitats, including large expanses of open water, hundreds of scattered islands and many quiet bays. Surrounding woodlands vary from steeply rolling hills to level terrain with grassy openings, small wild lakes and ponds, and expansive wetlands. The woodlands consist of Aspen, northern hardwoods, White Birch, pine and scattered old growth Hemlock pockets.

The Flowage, known for its high density of Bald Eagles, Ospreys and Common Loons, also hosts Black Terns, Merlins, Trumpeter Swans and over 150 other bird species. In addition, a variety of reptiles, amphibians and mammals including deer, bear, bobcat and timber wolves also reside there. Even the occasional moose hangs out there in the fall. Many opportunities exist to observe and enjoy wildlife in a remote and wild setting.

Also located a short distance to the north of Mercer is the Underwood State Wildlife Area. This is a 1,600-acre upland forest and cedar swamp, home to Bald Eagles and Ruffed Grouse.

Community Forest Management

F. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

The Mercer School Forest Management Plan emphasizes education for both students and town residents regarding bird houses and feeders and habitat management. This project involves both cooperation and interaction between professionals and citizens.

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 town has created materials on the “Cats Indoors” program and protecting birds from window strikes that will be made available at the Mercer Public Library, the Northwoods Wildlife and Wetlands Club’s educational building, DNR Ranger Station, and Mercer Chamber of Commerce’s website and office.

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

The town has created materials on the “Cats Indoors” program and protecting birds from window strikes that will be made available at the Mercer Public Library, the Northwoods Wildlife and Wetlands Club’s educational building, DNR Ranger Station, and Mercer Chamber of Commerce’s website and office.

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. 

The Mercer K-12 public school and the Mercer Environmental Tourism Charter School both participate in the Flying WILD program.

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.

The Mercer area has numerous web links and local clubs that both provide information and actively participate in creating and enhancing backyard bird habitat. Groups that provide information include the Rice Lake Property Owners newsletter the Turtle Soup Times, Hanson’s Garden Village, the Mercer Woods and Blooms Garden Club, and the Mercer K-12 Public School Forest program.

The Mercer Chamber of Commerce website offers many links to clubs and organizations that aid in the creation of backyard bird habitat. Such links include the North Lakeland Discovery Center, Northwoods Wildlife and Wetlands Club, Turtle-Flambeau Flowage Associations, WDNR, and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative.

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).

Tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition for years. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission: The Christmas Bird Count. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people all around the world to leave the comfort of a warm house during the holidays and venture into the woods, fields, and bank parking lots in search of birds.. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations - and to help guide conservation action. Both the Town of Mercer and The town of Manitowish Waters fall within a count circle that has been organized for over 20 years by naturalist and artist John Bates and Mary Burns.

In addition, Town of Mercer residents participate in the Annual Sandhill Crane Count in Iron County. The count is conducted every spring as a population survey throughout the state. Data are collected and sent to the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI.

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

The Mercer community sponsors two festivals: Loon Day (the first Wednesday in August) and the Lupine Junefest (the second Saturday in June) annually. In 2016, Mercer celebrated its 36th annual Loon Day on August 3 in downtown Mercer. Events included an arts and crafts fair and the loon call contest. The 10th annual Lupine Junefest was held on June 11 and included bike tours, information booths, a photography contest, and an arts and craft fair. The 2016 International Migratory Bird Day event was held during Lupine Junefest. Several hundred people participated, many in our Birdfest trips and stopping by the Birdfest tent. The 2017 Lupine Junefest Birdfest will be held June 10.

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

The Mercer community involves schools and garden programs in bird conservation efforts. In addition to the Woods and Blooms Garden Club that involves bird landscaping activities, the two main public education programs are:

  • Mercer Environmental Tourism Charter School: The mission of the Mercer Environmental Tourism Charter School is to provide Wisconsin Grade 7-12 students with standards-driven curricula that promote academic excellence along with vocational, business and higher order thinking skills needed to prepare them for entry into careers or post-secondary education. METCS combines a variety of academic and hands-on learning experiences with 21st century technology to enable students to enhance local and global environments.

Northwoods Learning Adventures LLC:  This business is a for-profit nature-based education program focused on scenic learning adventures and wildlife tours based in the Northwoods. This includes Citizen Based Science Monitoring and Ecological Consulting. Their mission statement reflects dedication to the exploration of the region’s natural, cultural and historic resources.

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.

June 10, 2017 was Mercer’s Junefest-Lupinefest-Birdfest at Carow Park. For the bird enthusiasts we had bird watching tours led by naturalist Zach Wilson. A bald eagle (chicks) banding trip was led by Bruce Bacon and climber Jeff Hays from Ohio. There were free bird house kits for kids ready to put together by the kids and volunteer Tom Leidenheimer. A bird house display showed folks other house design options. Wild Instincts (wildlife rehabbers) from Rhinelander brought several rehab hawks for people to see up close and personal. Iron County Conservation Department had a display on invasive and answered a lot of questions. A bird banding display showed all the banding options. And finally Zach gave a loon presentation on work being done in Iron County by students.

Joined Bird City: 2014

Population: 1,732

Incorporated: 1909

Area: 184.8 mi2

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