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 Milwaukee County Parks (MCP) Natural Areas Program has been actively conducting both breeding and migratory bird surveys throughout the Park System’s natural areas since 2012. MCP staff and trained citizen-scientist volunteers follow standardized protocols for point counts, constrained area habitat searches, and transect surveys which document species presence by both visual and auditory observations. To date, the MCP and volunteers have collected breeding and migratory bird data (40,348 surveys in eBird) at 165 eBird "hot spots" within the Park System’s natural areas. Staff conducted 522 winter, migratory, and breeding bird surveys in 2020 making 42,805 bird observations made up of 205 species. All data has been entered into eBird. In addition, staff historically participated in the WI BBA ii and made 1,248 breeding bird confirmations within the Park System for 105 species over the last four years of the Atlas. To date, staff have documented 261 bird species (112 of which are listed as priority species in Wisconsin’s All Bird Conservation Plan) using the habitat found within the Park System’s natural areas. In total 5,773 bird surveys have been conducted by MCP since 2012 documenting 433,432 bird observations. This information is directly used to assist Parks in its land management decisions.
In 2017 the MCP completed a cooperative agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to collect baseline wildlife population data, including birds, throughout the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern (AOC). This was a three-year project that focused a portion of the MCP bird survey efforts in the Little Menomonee River, Menomonee River, and Milwaukee River corridors until June 2017. This data was analyzed and used to recommend habitat enhancement projects within the AOC. Update, the WI DNR and USEPA have pledged $2,000,000 towards habitat restoration and management within the MCP system for 2020.
Additional bird monitoring efforts are being made in Milwaukee County with the Lake Park Warbler Walks in spring and fall. Records are kept of every species observed, both visually and by call, and are posted online. The Urban Ecology Center hosts community-science based bird banding and bird walk programs in Washington Park, Riverside Park, and the Menomonee Valley and summarizes their observations and submits them to eBird. Finally the Milwaukee Biome Project historically collected extensive migratory bird data at Kletzsch, Lake, Riverside, Greenfield, and Falk parks as well as one site along the Root River Parkway.
The data that has been collected via these various collaborative efforts has been, and will continue to be, directly incorporated into existing and future habitat/land management decisions within the Milwaukee County Park System.
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)
The Milwaukee County Park System contains just over 15,600 acres of parkland including 9,300+ acres of undeveloped or restored, natural areas that serve as vital bird habitat. Habitat within the Park System is protected under County ordinance 47.08, which prohibits the “Injury to, destruction, or removal of public property.” Furthermore, Parks staff have worked with all the local municipalities in Milwaukee County to make sure all parkland is zoned as parkland. This designation prevents the sale of zoned parkland unless both the County Executive and the County Board of Supervisors agree on the sale.
D. Document that current municipal planning seeks to provide additional bird habitat.
The MCP owns and manages nearly 75% of the remaining green space within Milwaukee County. The MCP’s Natural Areas Program manages 10,275 acres within the Milwaukee County Park System. In order to efficiently and effectively manage the natural areas within the Park System, from both a social and ecological standpoint, the MCP began developing and implementing Ecological Restoration & Management Plans for these natural areas. These planning documents act as a comprehensive guide for how each natural area should be managed over the course of a 10-year timeframe. A major component of these plans is focused on creating and improving habitat for breeding and migratory wildlife. Examples of these habitat improvements include: reforestation of turf grass/agricultural fields, invasive species removal, installation of pollinator gardens, and seeding native prairie plants. This restoration and management planning process has also been incorporated into SEWRPC Watershed Management Plans, the County’s Land and Water Resource Plan, and the MCP’s internal decision making process. Several recent projects include 19-acres of reforestation at Barloga Woods in 2019-2020, 10-acres of reforestation projects at Brown Deer and Falk Parks in 2018 (focusing on native tree/shrub species beneficial to migratory birds), 0.7-acre wet-prairie planting at Greenfield Park in 2017, and the removal of invasive species populations which improves an average of 800 acres of bird habitat each year. Finally, the MCP has reached several agreements in 2020 that have transferred 49.7 additional acres of private natural areas located within Milwaukee County to public ownership.
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 MCP Natural Areas Program acts as a vital resource for the community by both providing training resources to the public regarding invasive species and by facilitating stewardship at natural areas within their communities. From 2009-2020, the Natural Areas Program and its partners trained over 20,000 volunteers who donated nearly 130,000 hours towards restoration and management of the Park System’s natural resources. The MCP works with local middle and high schools, colleges and universities, private corporations, and not-for-profit organizations to provide hands-on field-based education on invasive species identification and management throughout the Park System. Critical partners such as The Park People and their “Weed-Out!” program provide numerous opportunities for the public to become involved with invasive species removal within the Park System’s natural areas under the guidance of the Natural Areas Program. The MCP has taken a leadership role (past President and past Secretary) within the Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium, which acts as an education and resource based Cooperative Weed Management Area for southeastern Wisconsin. Lastly, the Wehr Nature Center, which is part of the Milwaukee County Park System, provides programming for the public that engages them in invasive species education and management. The MCP is also incredibly fortunate to have numerous additional partners such as the TNC, UEC, RRF, and HTF that work on MCP property with their volunteers undertaking invasive species removal and native plant restoration projects.
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 County contains several segments of the Lake Michigan Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail including Discovery World, Havenwoods State Forest, Lakeshore State Forest, Milwaukee County Lake Shore Parks, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center & Doctors Park, Southern Milwaukee County Parks, Urban Ecology Center and & Milwaukee River Parks, and Whitnall Park and Wehr Nature Center. Trail maps are available online. Also, the entire Park System was designated an IBA in 2019.
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 Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition (UEC, RRF, River Keeper, Bike Federation of WI, Milwaukee Environmental Consortium, Milwaukee County, and the Village of Shorewood) played an active role in convincing the City of Milwaukee to create and approve a Tree Protection ordinance (File #081570) that states "This ordinance prohibits, with limited exceptions, any person from removing, damaging, disturbing or otherwise destroying any living and structurally sound tree located within the primary environmental corridor in the Milwaukee River greenway site plan overlay zone unless the person has obtained a tree maintenance and conservation permit from the commissioner of public works. This ordinance also establishes various requirements that apply to all tree maintenance and conservation permits issued by the commissioner, including a requirement for the replacement of removed trees, with a preference for native species, and the prohibition of any tree removal or disturbance that would result in soil erosion or slope destabilization."
I. Document a recent project that created or restored bird habitat in your community. (Exclusions: Bird feeders and small-scale artificial nesting structures)
Several recent projects include 19-acres of reforestation at Barloga Woods in 2019-2020, 14-acre woodland restoration project within the Little Menomonee River Parkway in 2020, 10-acres of reforestation projects at Brown Deer and Falk Parks in 2018, 0.7-acre prairie planting at Greenfield Park in 2017, and the removal of invasive species populations which on average improves the ecology of 800 acres of bird habitat each year.
Correspondence with the National Wildlife Federation staff in early 2018. At that time there were 381 certified wildlife habitats in Milwaukee County.
L. Show that your community has restored at least two acres of woodlands, wetlands, or prairie.
The MCP Natural Areas staff, volunteers, and partner organizations work to improve the ecology of approximately 800 acres of habitat each year through it natural areas activities. In the past 11 years the MCP has planted 48-acres of prairie at Bender Park, reforested approximately 64-acres of turf grass and agricultural fields system-wide, planted a 1-acre prairie at Grant Park (2015), 11-acres of prairie planted at Franklin Savanna, 23 acres of woodland understory plantings since 2016, and planted approximately 6-acres of pollinator gardens and native plant buffers along Park System lagoons and river ways in 12 parks.
M. Demonstrate that your community offers a program for private property owners who are interested in dealing with invasive plants that have significant negative impacts on bird habitat.
Wehr Nature Center and Schlitz Audubon both offer Master Naturalist programs that educate private citizens on land management techniques. Part of the course curriculum is education about the impacts of invasive species and how to control them.
N. Show that your community works on public lands to control invasive species that have significant negative impacts on bird habitat.
Working with volunteers and partner organizations, the MCP undertakes removal of 40 different invasive plant species which improves the ecology of approximately 800 acres of bird habitat each year. The MCP is currently inventorying, utilizing tablets and Arc Collector, all invasive plant populations located within the Park System's natural areas. Staff record phenological data, population size, and effectiveness of past control/treatments.
The MCP has several historic farm silos in the Park System, one of which has been confirmed as a breeding site for Chimney Swifts. This silo was scheduled for removal in 2018, however Natural Areas staff successfully advocated that the silo not be removed as long at it is structurally sound. The silo has since been removed from the demolition list. The MCP also has additional small Chimney Swift nesting colonies in the chimneys of three historic buildings in the Park System. Natural Areas staff advocated for any future repair or maintenance work on these chimneys only be conducted during the non-breeding season in order to protect the nesting Chimney Swifts.
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.).
Externally, the MCP works in partnership with the Boy Scout’s Eagle Scout Program in Milwaukee County, through which participants implement projects such as building and installing Wood Duck and songbird nest boxes within Park System’s natural areas. Since 2013 Eagle Scout candidates have installed Wood Duck boxes and songbird boxes at Greenfield Park, Grobschmidt Park (Mudd Lake), Grant Park, Jackson Park, Brown Deer Park, Franklin Oak Savanna, the Oak Creek Parkway, the Little Menomonee River Parkway, Falk Park, Sheridan Park, Uihlein Park, Froemming Park, Bender Park, Whitnall Park, Noyes Park, and Rainbow Airport Prairie. The following species have been confirmed nesting in the boxes: wood duck, hooded merganser, eastern screech owl, American kestrel, eastern bluebird, tree swallow, black-capped chickadee, and house wren.
S. Demonstrate how a public golf course is managed to benefit birds.
The MCP works with the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (BRAW) through the placement of Bluebird trails in Dretzka, Greenfield, and Grant Park Golf Courses. The MCP’s Dretzka Golf Course has received the Audubon golf course certification. Staff are currently removing invasive species, monitoring wildlife populations, planting native plants for pollinators, conducting youth education events, testing water quality at the golf course as part of the certification process, and recently installed a bee pod/hive.
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 MCP and partners have created the 45-mile Forked Aster Hiking Trail System within the Park System’s natural areas. This was done to improve public access and appreciation of natural areas, provide sustainable hiking trails, reduce the spread of invasive species, and reduce the negative impacts on wildlife habitat from “social trails” within MCP natural areas. These trails have provided excellent birding trail opportunities for area birders and bird information is placed within trailhead kiosks when they are available. Natural Areas staff also uploads its bird survey data in existing eBird designated ‘hot spots” so area birders can see what species they are likely to find at natural areas within the Park System. To date, 165 eBird “hotspots” have been designated within the Park System, and 31 of those sites also contain a section of the Forked Aster Hiking Trail System. The MCP combines birding hotspot information on its website with it's hiking trail descriptions. MCP staff and partners also lead birding walks on numerous trails during spring, fall, and winter periods.
U. Show that your community maximizes the value of right-of-way space (e.g., power lines, pipelines, etc.) by planting them with native grasses, shrubs, herbs, and other prairie/grassland plants.
Numerous utility (power, gas, water, sewer, stormwater, etc.) ROW easements cross the MCP Park System. Before utility easement holders can enter and conduct work within these easements they are required to provide documentation clearly showing all proposed activities and potential impacts. They are required to provide an invasive species management plan listing how equipment will be cleaned before and after accessing sites as to prevent the introduction of invasive species, provide a list of what herbicides will be used, and provide a list of what materials will used for restoration work. When restoring the vegetation at a site contractors are required to use natural fiber erosion control mats (nylons fibers can cause wildlife mortality), plant MCP approved seed mixes most of which are native species, control any MCP rapid response invasive species within the utility corridor, and work during conditions that do not cause rutting or soil erosion. All of these requirements are collated in MCP Right-of-Entry permits that must be issued before any work can be undertaken in a ROW running through MCP property. In certain circumstances, typically stormwater or drainage easements, the MCP requires a tree inventory and compensation to the tree replacement fund for any trees removed, and it also requires an inventory of rare native plants which need to be avoided during construction.
Community Forest Management
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.
The MCP has an active urban forestry program that is planting native hardwoods trees within the Park System. A significant part of this work has recently focused on replacing native ash trees, because EAB is causing a severe decline in forest cover. As previously noted in this application, the Natural Areas staff has also planted native trees and shrubs beneficial to birds as part of the MCP’s turf grass and agricultural land conversion program. In the last 5-years the Natural Areas Program has planted approximately 6,900 native trees and shrubs as part of the Natural Areas/Parks reforestation program.
F. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.
The MCP has a Forestry Division that maintains the health of trees located throughout the Park System in the picnic areas, golf courses, parkways, dog parks, etc. Trained urban forestry staff (a number are certified arborists) conduct pruning to improve tree health, plant predominantly native tree species through their tree replacement program, and mitigate the impacts of EAB and gypsy moths in cooperation with DNR initiatives. The Natural Areas staff and its volunteers work to maintain the forestry health of the woodlands outside of the more “improved” areas of the Park System by removing invasive species, replanting native plants (woody & herbaceous), and undertaking reforestation with entirely native tree/shrub species in select tree planting areas. Natural Areas staff continues to expand its oak woodland restoration project at Falk Park to selectively thin the canopy to maintain and enhance plant diversity as well as habitat diversity. Through the removal of dense stands of sugar maple and American basswood, staff are improving forest habitat for native oak and hickory regeneration. The additional light reaching the forest floor allows for the vigorous growth of native woody understory vegetation, which is a habitat component all too often lacking from the Park System’s mature forests. Oak species have been shown to benefit over 500 species of invertebrates, more than any other tree genus, and healthy insect populations have significant and direct benefits for migratory and breeding birds.
Limiting or Removing Threats to Birds
B. Demonstrate that your community provides property owners with information on how to protect birds from window strikes (e.g., online links, brochures).
In 2018 the MCP Natural Areas Program developed and piloted a bird window strike community science program. As part of the process, staff assessed 67 buildings within the park system, and surveyed the 13 highest ranking (for potential mortality) in 2020. Staff will be presenting the survey results to Parks leadership in early 2021 to begin the discussion of mitigation techniques. The Milwaukee County Zoo staff and volunteers work hard to minimize injury and mortality associated with bird window collisions. Existing structures are actively monitored and modified to help mitigate strikes. By applying stencils, striping, silhouettes, decals, netting and better planting practices, bird window collisions are greatly reduced and can be used as an educational tool with zoo visitors. Additionally, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee conducts a study to document window collisions on campus. The Wehr Nature Center also installed bird friendly windows in its recent renovation of the center’s education room, which has reduced the significant number of collisions to nearly zero collisions after window installation, and this allows education staff to discuss bird mortality and window strikes with the thousands of visitors and school children that use the nature center each year.
C. Show that your municipality practices Integrated Pest Management, using natural pest control and the best available science to minimize pesticide and herbicide use.
The MCP Natural Areas staff has created and regularly updates an Invasive Species Quick Reference Control Guide which lays out in detail the type of herbicides to use, the appropriate window for effectively applying these herbicides based on the invasive specie being treated, the appropriate conditions for use, and the minimum amount of herbicide necessary to control the 40 different invasive species the staff manages each year. The guide also highlights non-herbicide treatments, if possible, such as mowing, hand pulling, and bio-control listing the windows for effective control. The Natural Areas Program has also partnered with schools and universities to raise and release purple loosestrife beetles as bio-control in the past. As mentioned in category #1 Natural Areas staff is currently digitally mapping all invasive species populations within the Park System. One of the goals and implemented actions of this inventory is to find and remove "rapid response" populations of invasives such as, Japanese barberry, Japanese knotweed, lesser celandine, European privet, wayfaring tree, etc., that are not yet common in the Park System. By controlling these species at low population levels, staff can prevent them from becoming the next common buckthorn or garlic mustard and greatly reduce future herbicide use. MCP also created its first system-wide integrated pest management plan in 2019.
D. Document that a municipal or major public building has been awarded LEED certification as a bird-friendly building (LEED SSpc 55).
Milwaukee Bucks venue, Fiserv Forum, thanks to Bryan Lenz.
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.
Milwaukee County is home to five nature centers (Wehr Nature Center, three Urban Ecology Centers, two of which are located within County parks, and Schlitz Audubon Nature Center) which actively educate the county's youth and adults through a variety of diverse environmental education programs.
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.
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center provides information on their website about conservation in the yard. Schlitz along with Wehr, also provides the State of Wisconsin's Master Naturalist Program. The WI Master Naturalist Volunteer Program is a statewide effort to promote awareness, understanding, and stewardship of the state’s natural resources. Students completing the program are certified Master Naturalists, and to maintain their certifications they have to volunteer 40 hours per year on restoration projects and attend and additional 8 hours of training annually.
Wehr Nature Center continues to host its Woodcock Walk, a Christmas Bird Count, as well as numerous other bird walks throughout the year. Lake Park Friends and the Urban Ecology Center also both participate in and host a Christmas Bird Count. The MCP Natural Areas staff actively participated in the WI BBA ii Atlas which is one of the state's largest, if not the largest, citizen science based programs. Also staff have piloted and will be expanding the bird window strike monitoring program.
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 hosts a week long "Brew City Birding Festival." A large number of the events are hosted within the Milwaukee County Park System at Riverside and Washington Parks, while other parks and parkways have been used for various field trips associated with this event. Due to COVID this year's festival was down sized and focused on backyard bird activities that people could participate in.
E. Illustrate a program that involves schools, garden clubs, or other organizations in bird conservation activities.
The MCP Natural Areas Program works with hundreds of volunteers each year, from middle school aged youth to the elderly, by offering engaging opportunities through its Community-science program. This annual opportunity, which started as a pilot program in 2013, offers volunteers the opportunity to participate in various wildlife research surveys including breeding and migratory bird surveys. Volunteers are also engaged through stewardship opportunities restoring bird habitat throughout the Park System by planting native trees/shrubs and pollinator gardens, removing invasive species, and monitoring nest boxes.
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).
The MCP regularly undertakes projects to provide vital habitat for pollinators. MCP in partnership the Xerces Society, hosted a rusty patched bumble bee habitat management workshop with area land managers in 2019. One of the outcomes of this workshop was the further development of the MCP's new bumble monitoring community science program. Community Science bee volunteers donated 630 hours conducting surveys in 2020. To date the monitoring has documented the federally endangered rusty patch bumble bee in 16 parks within the park system. Also, in recent years MCP has planted 61 acres of native prairie plants focusing on planting a diversity of plants that bloom spring through fall. The MCP has installed a bee pod at Dretzka Golf Course as part of its Audubon certification and maintains a beehive at Wehr Nature Center for educational programming with area schools. The MCP and its partner organizations have also planted pollinator gardens, rain gardens, or micro-prairies at parks (Grant, Nash, Riverside, Washington, Whitnall, Greenfield, Juneau, Lake, Doctors, and Kletzsch) throughout the system.
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.
I. Show that your municipality promotes and supports a bird club or other environmentally/ecologically-minded club. (Exclusions: Garden clubs, unless you demonstrate a strong focus on native plants)
The MCP waives all rental fees for the WI Metro Audubon Society's regular use of the Wehr Nature Center's facility, which would add up to several thousand dollars annually.
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.
Natural Areas staff, at a minimum, leads six field trips each year (field trips were led in 2020 following the County's COVID guidelines) within the Park System to highlight the unique natural resources, which does include bird populations within the Park System. Natural Areas staff has also given numerous presentations at local, regional, and national conferences highlighting the value and diversity of urban natural areas and the flora and fauna associated with these sites. Natural Areas staff has excellent educational relationships with UW-Milwaukee, UW-Stevens Point, and Alverno College where our staff conduct lectures, lead field trips, and/or provide in-depth Natural Areas internships for undergraduate students.
Energy & Sustainability
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.
MCP provides the 125-mile multi-use paved Oak Leaf Trail (OLT) to the residents of Milwaukee County. This trail system also connects to the Ozaukee County Inter-Urban Trail. With the exception of Shorewood and Whitefish Bay, the OLT traverses every single municipality within Milwaukee County.
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)
In 2007 the County Executive and the County Board approved Milwaukee County's Green Print plan. The goals of the plan are sustainable construction, wise use of energy resources, and the education of staff and citizens on "green" initiatives that can be implemented at home and at work. This effort is led by the Milwaukee County's Office of Sustainability.
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.
Milwaukee Public Museum features 234 solar panels on its south-facing tower wall, each measuring about 4 feet x 6.5 feet. The panels are linked to a kiosk located on the ground floor that provides near-real-time data on the energy generated by the panels. This kiosk also provides information on outside environmental conditions as well as an overview of how solar panels work.
MPM is proud to partner with Milwaukee Shines, MREA, and the Milwaukee Public Library to host meetings about solar power in summer of 2019. Visit Grow Solar Milwaukeefor more information
H. Describe your community’s efforts to educate residents about climate change.
Wehr Nature Center: "Climate change is impacting every aspect of the natural and man-made world. How can we as nature lovers educate and advocate about this crucial issue? Join naturalist Bev Bryant and local climate change ambassadors as we practice engaging in climate change conversations."
The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and County Executive will sign a resolution (draft uploaded) recognizing World Migratory Bird on an annual basis.
The Milwaukee County Zoo hosts an annual eco-friendly event called “Party for the Planet” that commemorates World Migratory Bird Day and Earth Day that educates participants on how they can help migratory birds. Additionally, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center hosts an event honoring WMDB and the Urban Ecology Center hosts their Green Birding Challenge to celebrate the WMBD.