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 Stevens Point Smart Growth Plan was adopted in 2005, amended in 2006 and is currently still in effect.
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)
Birds continue to be monitored at Koziczkowski Park and the Erickson Natural Area, but no significant change has occurred since our first BCW application. For the 2020 season, the Bird Club of McKinley Elementary School fledged 42 individual birds: 13 House Wrens, 7 Black-capped Chickadees and 22 Tree Swallows. A total of 15 Club students and parents monitored 14 nest boxes in these park areas. Some monitored from mid-April to mid-July, well beyond their school year.
6 boxes were also monitored at McDill Elementary School. A total of 13 birds were fledged from these boxes: 8 Tree Swallows, 2 chickadees and 3 bluebirds.
For the past 19 years, the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society (ALAS) has developed and monitored an Eastern Bluebird trail (ABT = Audubon Bluebird Trail). In that time the trail has grown from 89 to 1,000 boxes and from 1 to 65 monitors. For the last 9 years it has been the largest and most productive trail in Wisconsin and for the last 7 years is thought to be the largest and most productive in the U.S. For the 2020 nesting season, this trail produced 6,000 songbirds, 4,000 of which were bluebirds. In the 19 years of its activity, the ABT has produced about 101,000 songbirds, of which 74,500 were bluebirds.
For one of the trails monitored by Sue Hall and Diana Mrozinski, 175 songbirds were produced: 118 bluebirds, 43 Tree Swallows and 14 chickadees. These numbers are sent to the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (BRAW) each season. Sue Hall has sent in her data for 15 years and has helped with many nest box activities during this time, especially with elementary school students. For the 2020 year, BRAW gave Sue Hall their "Outstanding Teacher of the Year" award.
In 2020, Rob Pendergast compiled a report about the 231 bird species he found in Portage County (including Stevens Point). This report was a very complete one. A report of this kind has been produced only twice before for Portage County.
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)
15 acres of prime habitat lie in the Stevens Point area. This is park land known as Koziczkowski Park and Erickson Natural Area. Home to dozens of migrating species, it is a confirmed nesting site for 33 bird species (including the Osprey). It is Stevens Point land and is used by birders in spring, summer and fall (see McKinley Elementary School above). ALAS was instrumental in preserving from development a 5.5 acre site adjacent to the 14 acre Koziczkowski Park, owned by the City of Stevens Point. In less than one year, Audubon and friends raised $308,000 for purchase of what is now the Godfrey & Maybelle Erickson Natural Area. Audubon members alone raised nearly $32,000, the Erickson's contributed $60,000, the City of Stevens Point contributed $75,710 and the Wisconsin DNR contributed $140,500 through its Urban Space Program.
Koziczkowski Park and the Erickson Natural Area continue to be used for visitation by local citizens and tourists and special Audubon field trips. In 2011 we added two Leopold benches to the site and were involved in removal of the invasive species, black locust and tatarian honeysuckle. Also, in the late winter of 2014, a pier was added to this property. It is used by McKinley Elementary School students to fish, bird watch and take water samples. This area is a very important stop-over site for Neotropical migrants.
ALAS has enhanced this property with an educational kiosk, two boardwalks, an entryway sign and removal of invasive species (for six years).
Over the past several years, ALAS has held the following activities at the Koziczkowski Park/ENA site: bird walks, including two World Migratory Bird Day celebrations 2) 12 years of nest box inspection and 3) Cavity nesting songbird Workshops for central Wisconsin in 2009 and for the Natural Resources Foundation in 2010.
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.
Portage County is part of the Central Sands Prairie Region of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail. Stevens Point has two locations on this trail (No. 53, Iverson Park, and No. 55, Schmeeckle Reserve).
The Stevens Point area has developed a new venture, Cycling without Age. The elderly and handicapped are ridden along trails and segments of the Green Circle trail, including the GWBNTs, in special "Trishaws" that enable them to observe nature, especially birds. There are six "Trishaws" operated by younger, physically fit "pilots". In the first year of operation these pilots pedaled about 1,450 miles and gave rides to 750 passengers. Because of COVID-19, only 289 passengers were given rides in 2020.
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.
In December of 2012, the Stevens Point Area Convention and Visitors Bureau put the BCW videotape prepared by Northland Adventures on its website. This video is also on the ALAS website. This video is very descriptive of the BCW program.
North Central Conservancy Trust (NCCT) is the most common land preservation group in central Wisconsin. In their history they have developed 53 easement properties totaling 4,407 acres, some of them in the Stevens Point area. Our Audubon chapter has developed a working relationship with NCCT. This involves holding legal documents for selected easements. Recently, we donated $7,500 to purchase and renovate their new headquarters. The land easements provide habitat for thousand of birds representing over 200 species.
In 2020, ALAS continued to develop a bird habitat and bird viewing area with Schmeeckle Reserve. For bird habitat, we planted "bird friendly" trees and put in an artificial stream and placed a dozen or so bird feeding stations within the habitat. The idea was to develop a model backyard habitat that viewers could use for developing their own backyard habitat. But that was not all--we developed a bird viewing area for children and adults to view the birds coming to this habitat. This area was equipped with binoculars and bird guides to help with the identification of birds coming to the feeding stations. ALAS raised more than $2,325 for the outdoors and indoors areas. We have already documented 30+ species of birds coming to our feeders. We expect this area to attract hundreds of viewers each year.
L. Show that your community has restored at least two acres of woodlands, wetlands, or prairie.
The Green Circle Trail encompasses three municipalities (Stevens Point, Whiting and Plover). Started originally with 22 miles of trail, it has since added 23 miles of spurs to make it a 45-mile trail. This trail passes through many habitats that are favorable to birds. Bird watching is common on the trail and is especially appealing along the Wisconsin River where ducks, geese and swans are common during migration. The trail itself is maintained, but fragile habitat is protected.
Kiosks are being placed at the intersections of trail segments for the Green Circle. Audubon has helped pay for two of these kiosks ($9,000). In 2020, no new kiosks were completed, but one is planned for 2020. Please note that each of these segments has its own descriptive panel that features a bird species and a bird species list has been developed for the major segments of the Green Circle Trail.
In 2020, a 5.13 acre parcel of land was purchased near Bukolt Park and an easement developed by the North Central Conservancy Trust. This parcel has now become part of the Green Circle Trail.
An extension of the Green Circle Trail is being planned for in the future. It will involve a bridge over the Plover River, extension away from I-39 and a chance for development of several acres of Prairie. The City is negotiating purchase of the land and grant opportunities are being explored.
The trailhead project for the Green Circle Trail is now complete. The Menzel Pavilion is now open for reservations. The Menzel Pavilion is an open-air shelter featuring a two-story, double-sided fireplace, stone columns, a cedar roof, uncovered patio area, and seating for 50 people. A reservation fee provides access to the fireplace and electricity.
The Aldo Leopold Audubon Society has spent $4,000 on two Chimney Swift Towers in the Stevens Point Sculpture Park (2012). To date, no swifts have nested in these towers. We have found a swift roosting site and plan a "Swift Night Out" in the summer of 2021.
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.).
The Aldo Leopold Audubon Society has started nest box trails at eight different elementary schools in central Wisconsin. Three are in Stevens Point and one is in Plover and will be used in our BCW applications. The others are at Grant Elementary School, SW Portage Co., Wisconsin Rapids, Port Edwards & Nekoosa.
In mid-April of each breeding season, students involved in this program start collecting data from their nest boxes around their respective schools. Last season that involved 75 students and parents. Most trails have at least three species of birds nesting, sometime four (bluebird, Tree Swallow, chickadee and wren). Students learn to ID nests, eggs and chicks. But the most important thing they learn is how to collect accurate data on specially prepared data sheets.
Local papers regularly give us publicity for our efforts. In 2019, we added our 8th elementary school, McDill, in Stevens Point. Six nest boxes were set up and over 20 chicks representing four species were produced. In 2020 we produced 13 songbirds of three species from these boxes.
S. Demonstrate how a public golf course is managed to benefit birds.
Nest boxes are located on two different golf courses in the Stevens Point area. About 45 birds were fledged from 15 boxes at the Stevens Point Country Club and 20 birds were fledged from five boxes at the Wisconsin River Golf Club. We have excellent rapport with administrators at these golf courses and golfers get educated regularly about conservation of songbirds from nest box monitors.
V. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.
Over a nine-year period (2001-2009), ALAS constructed 3,500 nest boxes. These were constructed at the Wood Laboratory on the UW-SP campus and transported to a storage area. About 1,300 of these boxes were used by the ABT, and 2,200 were distributed to other bluebird trails in the state. Payment for most of these additional boxes was made by the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin, but ALAS helped with distribution of boxes statewide and installation of about 100 bluebird trails. Although these nest boxes were made in Stevens Point, we had a major influence on bluebird conservation, statewide, over a five-year period.
In 2020 the City of Stevens Point established a new park: John Groholski Park (9.25 acres). The land was donated by John's widow in his name. A Master Plan has been developed by Rettler Corporation. Note that the majority of the park is wetlands, great habitat for birds.
The Central Wisconsin Recycling Collective (CWRC) was recently awarded the WDNR's 2020 Recycling Award for Projects and Initiatives. The CWRC is a regional (including Stevens Point) recycling education program with the message of "to bin or not to bin". Susan Schuller, Board member of ALAS, is development, education, and outreach coordinator for the CWRC.
John and Melissa Eron of Stevens Point have been selected as the recipients of the 2020 Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award. Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. In Wisconsin the prestigious $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation, and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. ALAS wrote a supportive letter for the Eron's application.
ALAS received a request from The Mead Wildlife Area to support a grant request to the North American Wetlands Conservation Act Proposal to repair the Little Birch Dike. We agreed, the grant request was received and ALAS donated $500 as its commitment to the project.
Community Forest Management
A. Demonstrate that your community has been awarded Tree City USA status by the National Arbor Day Foundation.
Stevens Point Continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1980 (40 years when accepted this year).The City has also received Tree City's Growth Award for 15 years. An Arbor Day celebration was held in Stevens Point on November 4, 2020.
Audubon applied for a $750 grant from Audubon National for replacing trees damaged by the summer storm of 2017. We received it and have donated it to the Forestry Dept. of Stevens Point. We also added another $649 from our Treasury for a total of $1,399. Audubon members have helped plant many trees to help with this reforestation project.
E. Show that your forester, a member of your tree board, or another person currently responsible for managing your community’s trees has completed the Wisconsin DNR’s Wisconsin Tree Management Institute.
Todd Ernster, our Stevens Point Forester, has not only completed the Wisconsin DNR's WI Community Tree Management Institute course, he taught it for the 5th time in spring of 2019. The 2020 Institute was canceled due to COVID-19.
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 ALAS website has a link to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) web site and its “Cats Indoors!” program. ALAS is cooperating with two local veterinary clinics and the Portage County Humane Society to distribute the ABC brochure, “Cats, Birds and You.” Several hundred of these brochures are now in the hands of these facilities and more are provided by ALAS as needed.
B. Demonstrate that your community provides property owners with information on how to protect birds from window strikes (e.g., online links, brochures).
Links to the Window Alert website can be found on both the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society and the Stevens Point websites. In October 2019, we had Bryan Lenz in to speak on the topic of "Birds, Windows and You". Bryan is "Collision Coordinator" for the American Bird Conservancy and shared his expertise with a group of 67 people.
G. Show how your community regulates communication tower construction, siting, and lighting to mitigate their risk to migrating birds.
In 1999, ALAS members approached the Portage County Planning and Zoning Department for consideration of the development of a Communication Tower Ordinance. With the strong backing of then Stevens Point Mayor, Gary Wescott, this ordinance (Wireless Telecommunication Facility Ordinance) was passed on May 18, 1999. This ordinance was revised on January 1, 2007, and again on June 17, 2008.
This ordinance, to the best of our knowledge, was the first ordinance in the state to address concerns about migratory birds and communication towers (7.3.1 PURPOSE: F; 7.3.7 DISTRICT REQUIREMENTS: B—Areas prohibiting telecommunications facility location: Floodplains, Wetlands, Shorelands, Conservancy-zoned districts).
This ordinance is quite sensitive to and supportive of healthy bird populations. Although this became a county-wide ordinance, the original motivation for it came from residents in the City of Stevens Point, namely those from ALAS.
ALAS has held a Christmas Bird Count for 61 years. The center of the count circle is at the Old Main Building on the UW-Stevens Point campus. A total of 25-40 persons participate in this community-wide conservation project each year. The species record for a single count is 53 and was set in 2005.
The 2020 summary for species and individuals had not been compiled by the time this application had been prepared. For two reports observed, a total of 41 species were observed. Unique species from these two of 8 sector reports included: Sharp-shinned, Cooper's and Rough-legged Hawks, Harrier, Long-eared and No. Saw-whet Owls, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Shrike, Common Raven, Snow Buntings and Ring-necked Duck.
E. Illustrate a program that involves schools, garden clubs, or other organizations in bird conservation activities.
The Aldo Leopold Chapter of the National Audubon Society has coordinated nest box programs for elementary schools for the past 13 years. In Stevens Point, one has been McKinley School (see earlier comments). In 2015 we added yet another Stevens Point elementary school, Madison and in 2019, added McDill School. The students at these schools are given an orientation session in preparation for the season. For 5-7 weeks they then investigate 6-8 nest boxes (donated by ALAS) and record the contents. They are able to observe nest building, egg laying and chick hatching. They are taught how to handle chicks and dispel the myth that human smells cause the parents to abandon the chicks. This program has been very well received by the students, their teachers and their parents.
The mission of the Central Wisconsin Children’s Museum (CWCM) is to provide a family-based discovery place where children and adults can play and explore together to strengthen confidence, capabilities and creativity through hands-on investigation.
In 2013, the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society developed the following initiatives with the CWCM, initiatives that served over 20,000 people in 2020:
Bird Wing Display: Children hold their arms up and compare them to the wingspread of an eagle, hawk, owl, etc. This remains a very active display. ($200 ALAS donation)
Cavity-nesting Songbird Display: Nests and eggs of Eastern Bluebird, Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren, and Tree Swallow are displayed in viewable, plexiglass containers. ($75 ALAS donation and USFWS permit renewal every two years).
Bird Books for Children: Purchase of 30+ books. ($250 ALAS donation).
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).
In 2019, the City Council developed a Beekeeping Ordinance for the City of Stevens Point. It is modeled after Wisconsin Statute 94.76 and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection ATCP Chapter 21.23 regarding beekeeping and transportation of bees. This ordinance is proving to be quite popular and is definitely in the best interests of ecosystems (including birds).
In addition, the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point has been recognized as a "Bee Campus-USA". One of only three state campuses certified as a Bee Campus USA, the university maintains gardens across campus that use very limited amounts of pesticides and maintains habitat for pollinating insects.
The City of Stevens Point Dept. of Forestry and ALAS are cooperating to develop four acres of prairie pollinator garden with American Transmission Company. We have received $4,500 in grants from ATC for this project. We have cleared the first acre under the power lines of Koziczkowski Park and killed competing vegetation with roundup. ATC has cleared another three acres and we will treat those areas with roundup in the spring and summer of 2021. In the winter of 2020 we planted the first prairie seeds in acre #1. In the spring of 2020 we will add plant plugs to enrich the pollinator prairie in the first acre.
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 Aldo Leopold Audubon Society has an active series of talks (eight per academic year with an average of 80 per talk) and field trips (three in 2019-20; low number due to COVID-19). These events are advertised in a brochure and nine newsletters sent out to our 500 members. In 2020 we had to resort to virtual programs for our fall. We averaged 50 online viewers for three programs (Leigh-Yawkey Birds in Art, No. Saw-whet Owls and Wild Turkeys).
We also have one major fundraiser each year, a bird seed sale. This year we netted $3,500 from sales of bird seed.Our other major source of funds comes from our Endowment with the Community Foundation of Central Wisconsin. Currently, our balance is at about $240,000 and we will have $8,700 in interest to use for our 2020-21 budgets.
Boston School Forest is located in Plover but serves the entire Stevens Point School System. In the 2019-20 school year, 5,638 students (mainly) and adults attended the facility. In addition to monies allocated from taxpayers, a total of $22,225 was received for in-kind and monetary donations. The Aldo Leopold Audubon Society contributed $300.00 for the ropes course. The ropes course was completed this year. A project that started this year was a local connection to the Mystery Science district-wide curriculum.
Energy & Sustainability
A. Document an energy audit for a municipal building and show that your community is working to implement its recommendations.
Since 2013, the waste water treatment plant in Stevens Point has used methane gas from its waste water intake to power its generator. After receiving a $114,000 grant from the state agency, Focus on Energy, that efficiency reached a remarkable 95%. Director of the plant, Joel Lemke, thinks the waste water department might reach a point where it can actually generate power and sell it back to the power grid. This effort is remarkable because release of methane contributes 23 times the effect for global warming that Co2 does, so its importance cannot be overstated. This year the plant developed the technology to upgrade its solid waste from a Class B to a moisture-less, Class A level. This solid waste is used by a local farmer on his crop fields.
Heat from waste is used to heat the buildings at the waste water treatment plant. In addition, they have built a new municipal garage for storage of City vehicles. This building has a 131 kW solar array on top of the building, largest in central Wisconsin. In its first year of operation, it produced 110 kilowatts of energy, considerably more than the 86.9 kilowatts used by the building. Dozens of kilowatt hours were sold back to the grid.
The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association have designated Stevens Point with its highest recognition, Solsmart Gold. This designation recognizes Stevens Point for taking steps to encourage solar energy growth and to remove obstacles to solar development. This is the second year for this recognition.
Stevens Point has established two Tesla electric car charging stations and is now negotiating for two more general stations. It is now estimated that the City is producing 26% of itsenergy from renewable sources (estimate from Mayor of Stevens Point).
Schmeeckle Reserve has added a solar array and two electric vehicle charging stations. These were purchased with $28,000 in grants.
Midstate Technical College students recently installed 135 solar panels on the roof of the downtown Stevens Point campus. On a sunny day the array will produce nearly 50,000 watts of power and will supply about 15% of the campus's energy usage.
Grow Solar Central Wisconsin, sponsored by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, has come to a successful end. This year 28 central Wisconsin households (including several from Stevens Point) decided to go solar, resulting in just over 180 kW of new renewable energy generating capacity in our region. This represents an average household bulk discount savings of $900. 180 kW of solar has a huge impact. Annually, this new solar will prevent greenhouse emissions equivalent to 356,580 lbs. of Co2.
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.
Biking and walking can reduce the use of cars significantly and that leads to l0wered greenhouse gases.
In April, 2014, the Portage County Board approved a County-wide bike plan. Each municipality has to approve it separately. In October of 2015, the Stevens Point City Council approved the component of the bike plan for Stevens Point.
In September of 2016, Stevens Point received a grant of $390,141 for the WisDOT's Transportation Alternative Program. This grant funded a community infrastructure project that will add 13.16 miles of marked and signed bicycle lanes, urban shoulders, and shared lane marking on existing and arterial streets. The City will provide matching dollars totaling $97,535. Stevens Point ranked 2nd out of 33 projects approved for the 2016-20 period.
The Mayor of Stevens Point, Mike Wiza, started a Biking and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) in August, 2015. They gave a report on Jan.9, 2018. Among other things, they reported on a cooperative biking map with UW-SP. This map was based on comfort and convenience.
The City Council voted to upgrade the existing BPAC to become a new Bicycle and Pedestrian Street Safety Commission (BPSSC).
The City Council also approved a four- to three-lane conversion on a one-mile stretch of Stanley Street. Bike lanes were added to this stretch with completion in the summer of 2019. In 2019 the City also installed parking kiosks throughout UW-SP to encourage more walking, bicycling and bus usage.
In August of 2020 City crews began marking the 13.16 miles of bike lanes approved the previous June. These lanes will run across the major streets of Michigan Ave., Clark Street, Main Street and Water Street.
The City has just received a notice from the League of American Bicyclists that it has received SILVER status as a Bicycle Friendly Community. This status is for 2020-2024. The City has been at a BRONZE status since 2016.
The Stevens Point City Council voted unanimously on June 19, 2017, to join the ranks of Green Tier Legacy Communities. In summer of 2018, Stevens Point hosted the state convention of GTL communities assuring that they are taking leadership in the GTL consortium. The City activity continued in 2020.
Gravel driveways are now permitted in the City. This change will allow runoff to percolate through the soil and will drop runoff totals and pollutants from entering waterways.
UW-SP is considered one of the most sustainable colleges/universities in the USA. They are now working with the City on a compost plan that will serve the needs of over 30,000 people (combined populations of Stevens Point and UW-SP). If implemented, it will be unique for a city the size of the area.
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 City now has a parking garage for city vehicles with the largest solar array on top (131 kW) of any in central Wisconsin. In 2020 it produced 110 kW hours of electricity, more than the 86.9 kW hours used. Most of the excess electricity was returned to the grid.
H. Describe your community’s efforts to educate residents about climate change.
Talks by the Citizens Climate Lobby, Stevens Point Chapter (500+ members mainly from Stevens Point) are presented over the course of the year. They had several major talks last year, one of which was Climate Change and Birds. ALAS also has talks on climate. The Stevens Point Chapter of CCL meets once per month with an agenda published several days in advance. They plan activities, including agenda items for local political groups such as the Stevens Point City Council. They also have biannual opportunities to lobby for the climate crisis in Washington, DC. This group is bipartisan politically.
World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD)
A. This community's municipal body passed the required World Migratory Bird Day resolution.
The Resolution for the June 5, 2021, WMBD was unanimously approved by the Stevens Point City Council on December 21, 2020.
Our WMBD was held on May 20, 2020. A total of 7 people attended the WMBD. The field trip was originally scheduled for May 9 but had to be postponed because of COVID-19. COVID-19 also limited attendance. Each person was able to see nests and eggs of each of the four common nesters in our boxes (bluebirds, Tree Swallows, chickadees & wrens). Before the field trip there was an orientation for all of those attending. Educational nest boxes from previously failed nests (approved by USFWS) were shown to participants. They could then guess which bird species occupied the boxes as we opened them.