Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of River Falls


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 River Falls’ 2000 Comprehensive Plan is in full compliance with the “Smart Growth” law for land use planning and specifically includes a Natural Resources chapter that addresses resource protection to minimize habitat loss related land development.

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 St. Croix Valley Bird Club completed the following activities in the spring/summer of 2016:

  • Jim Beix maintained a bluebird trail of 44 nest boxes at River Falls Golf Course, 10 at Kinnickinnic State Park, 4 at the Kilkarney Golf Course, 7 at the industrial park north of River Falls and approximately 50 along the Pierce/St Croix County line.
  • Jim Higgins and Jim Beix monitored two Wood Duck houses on the South Fork of the Kinnickinnic River near Rocky Branch School.
  • Mary Roen monitored 4 Bluebird nest boxes at Sterling Ponds.
  • Mary Roen, Wendy Hill, Cathy Olyphant, Jim Beix, Ed Heit and Larry Persico all conducted surveys in St. Croix County for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II.

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

The City of River Falls Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 8, guides us in natural resource management and conservation and was documented in our previous application submitted last year. The City is proactive in the preservation of open space and park development. In the last decade the City added 89 acres of conservation area and currently has approximately 285 acres of conservation area within our boundaries. This is in addition to 200 acres of dedicated parkland that also serves as bird habitat.

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 City of River Falls has an ordinance to allow for Managed Natural Landscaping (Section 8.40.60 of the municipal code). The City encourages the use of native plants and has demonstrated this support at City Hall. In 2010, the building received certification as a LEED Silver building by the “US Green Building Council.” In addition, the City maintains a 12 acre prairie restoration at DeSanctis Park (Regional City Park) and has incorporated native plantings along the White Pathway and several neighborhood parks.

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 City works closely with the St. Croix Valley Bird Club in promoting activities and enlarging habitat. During the spring and summer of 2016, volunteers of the SCVBC completed the following activities:

  • Jim Higgins maintained a bluebird trail of 14 houses at Kelly Creek Preserve, a native prairie and oak savanna restoration area managed by Kinnickinnic River Land Trust.
  • Jim Beix and Jim Higgins coordinated the distribution of 48 Monarch kits through the partnership of St. Croix Wetlands Management District to 21 residents of River Falls for planting Monarch gardens in their yards.
  • Jim Beix, Jim Higgins and Mary Roen planted a pollinator garden in Highview Meadows in River Falls, Wisconsin.
  • Jim Higgins put up 10 Bluebird houses in River Falls’ Highview Meadows development with landowner John Hamilton. Jim will monitor them and report to BRAW in the fall.

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

What began as an Eagle Scout project transitioned to a priority for the St. Croix Valley Bird Club to look after and preserve the Chimney Swift population by offering them a reinforced tower at Highview Meadows Park. Due to lack of topographic barriers and landscaping, this site will require the club to monitor the tower from time to time to ensure it stands.

S. Demonstrate how a public golf course is managed to benefit birds.

In spring of 2014, Jim Beix, President of the St. Croix Valley Bird Club, communicated with Mr. Hanson, owner of the River Falls Golf Course regarding the implementation of bluebird boxes within the course. Mr. Hanson was eager to have the St. Croix Valley Bird Club take over the monitoring of numerous nest boxes on his golf course. Jim reported that there were many wood nest boxes throughout the course, some needing extensive repair or replacement. Many of the boxes were poorly situated, located in an environment of thick vegetation more favorable to wrens and chickadees. It was identified that some of the boxes needed to be relocated to open areas more ideal for bluebird habitat. Jim spent several months repairing boxes and building new boxes to replace those in too rough a shape to repair. He also identified areas throughout the golf course that would be favorable for bluebirds, and collaborated with the Lead Groundskeeper of the golf course in the new placement of the nest boxes.                                                                          

In the spring and summer of 2016, Jim monitored the 44 nest boxes on a weekly basis and recorded nest type, egg count, brood count and fledgling count. In addition, Jim maintains and monitors 4 nest boxes at the Kilkarney Golf Course on Radio Road.

Community Forest Management

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

The City of River Falls continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1993. River Falls proudly looks forward to their continued affiliation with “Tree City USA.” The City submitted its application for recertification in December 2016 to the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Limiting or Removing Threats to Birds

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

The City of River Falls Police Department employs an animal control officer who enforces the Domestic Animal Ordinance, Section 6.04 (Dogs and Other Domestic Animals) of the City’s municipal code. Outdoor cats that are not under control of their owner are subject to being picked up and transported to the Pierce County Humane Society. Owners are subject to a fine up to $72.00 per offense. Feral cats are live trapped and taken to the Humane Society for evaluation.

F. Demonstrate that your community enforces an ordinance that requires domestic cats to be kept indoors, on a leash, or in an enclosure to prevent them from preying on birds and other wildlife and spreading disease.

The City of River Falls possesses laws that do not allow feral animals, including cats, to be running at large within the community. It is only lawful to possess feral animals so long as a series of regulations are met that allow for special exception. This information is viewable in section 6.08 (Wild Animals) of the municipal code.

It is illegal in the City of River Falls for animals to be running wild. As was discussed in the “removing hazards for birds” section of this application, the City’s Animal Control Officer James Walker is responsible for ensuring there are no cats running at large that may be preying on the native bird population. The animals are live trapped and sent to the Pierce County Humane Society for evaluation. The owners of the animals are subject to fines as an additional method of removing outdoor cats.

Public Education

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

The St. Croix Valley Bird Club hosted numerous educational activities and events in the River Falls community throughout 2016, including:

  • 1-9-16: Program at the River Falls Public Library from 1:00-3pm. Speaker, Bill Hogseth, Outreach Chair for the Gaylord Nelson Audubon Society, presented, “Understanding Grassland Birds.” There were 60 people in attendance.
  • 2-6-16: Program at the River Falls Public Library from 1:00-3pm. Marcie O’Connor, naturalist from Buffalo County, Wisconsin, presented “Butterflies for Birders.” She spoke to an overflowing crowd of 60 people.
  • 3-19-16: Program at the River Falls Public Library from 1:00-3pm. Lynette Anderson from Belwin Nature Conservancy in Afton, MN, gave a program, “Belwin, Bison and Birds.” There were 50 people in attendance.
  • 3-22-16: SCVBC board member Cathy Olyphant was one of many speakers at the St Croix River Association Conference held at UW-River Falls. Her topic was “Birds Matter.” Approximately 30 people attended her talk.
  • 4-9-16: Program at the River Falls Public Library from 1:00-3pm. Tracy Hames of Wisconsin Wetland Association in Madison, WI, gave a talk, “Wildlife and Wetlands in Western Wisconsin.”
  • 4-22-16: Rocky Branch Elementary Ecology Day, 1:00-3pm bird program for 80 Kindergarten and First Grade students given by SCVBC members Wendy Hill, Debby Walters, Jim Higgins, Jim Beix, John & Gladi Sippel.
  • 4-29-16: Arbor Day presentation by Cathy Olyphant to 2nd graders at the River Falls Montessori School.
  • 05-23-16: River Falls Montessori ECO Day: 9:00am-3pm., bird program for 100 students K-5 given by SCVBC members Wendy Hill, Ashley Umlauf and Lynda Meyers.
  • 7-9-16: John, Gladi and Wendy staffed a SCVBC info/educational table at River Falls Days from noon-4pm.
  • 9-17-16: Program at the River Falls Public Library from 1:00-3pm. Jennifer Vieth, director of Carpenter Nature Center, gave a program at titled “Northern Saw-whet Owls in the St. Croix Valley.” Its focus was on CNC’s recent efforts to band these little owls as they migrate through our region spring and fall. Approximately 25 people were in attendance.
  • 10-8-16: Program at the River Falls Public Library, Lower Level, from 1:00-3pm. Carrol Henderson, supervisor of the Minnesota DNR Nongame Wildlife Program, and lifelong birder gave a program titled, “Minnesota’s Loons and the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill” - its focus was on the effects of the 2010 Gulf oil spill on Minnesota’s loons and research that’s been done to measure the impact. Approximately 30 people attended.
  • 11-5-16: Program at the River Falls Public Library from 1:00-3pm. Tom Prestby, one of Wisconsin’s top birders and shorebird researchers spoke about “Shorebirds of Green Bay.” His talk focused on shorebird conservation and migration in the Green Bay area of Lake Michigan. Approximately 40 people attended.

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.

In April 2016, SCVBC volunteer Cathy Olyphant staffed a table in Glen Park at Kinnickinnic River Land Trust’s annual river clean-up in River Falls, Wisconsin. Perhaps a dozen or two dozen people stopped by with interest and questions.

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)

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.

The City of River Falls celebrated International Migratory Bird Day on May 7, 2016 at River Falls City Hall and the White Pathway on the Kinnickinnic River from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. An “Early Bird” bird hike at 8:30 a.m. was well attended. The event was sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Bird Club. Guest speakers entertained large audiences with their presentations. Heather Williams of Fox Den Books led a Children’s Story Time and Master Falconer, Jordan Jones, provided a live raptor talk. 50 volunteers, 20 Partner Organizations, and an estimate 200+ visitors were in attendance. The Carpenter Nature Center crew banded for us again, banding 36 individual birds this year.

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Community Details

Joined Bird City: 2010

Population: 15,000

Incorporated: 1875

Area: 6.6 mi2

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