Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

Town of Three Lakes

Town of Three Lakes

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 Town of Three Lakes Comprehensive Plan is intended to assist local and county officials implement the goals, objectives and policies outlined within and to serve as a guide for making future decisions in each of the nine plan elements. The plan is also to assist with development and management issues by addressing long-range needs and concerns regarding growth, development and preservation of the community while simultaneously identifying short-term tactical initiatives that can be undertaken now and which are in concert with the overall goals. This plan meets the requirements of the Wisconsin “Smart Growth” Legislation, WI Statue 66.1001 (Appendix A).

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)

Three Lakes doesn’t have a park system like many communities have. What we enjoy as our natural surroundings are our chain of lakes. The Loonwatch Program began in 1978 at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute to protect the Common Loon through education, monitoring, and research. Big Fork Lake, Long Lake, and Planting Ground Lake, which are all parts of the Three Lakes Chain of Lakes, plus Seven Mile, Spirit Lake, and Whitefish Lake, all have a Loonwatch volunteer who collects data on the habits and rearing of the loons on these lakes.

The Midwest Crane Count is an annual survey of Sandhill and Whooping Cranes sponsored by the International Crane Foundation.  Three Lakes residents have participated for several years.  There are six counting sites in Three Lakes.  Last year’s count was held Saturday, April 14, 2018.  The count was held despite very unfavorable weather conditions and an unusually late spring.  The 2019 count will be held April 13.

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)

Thunder Lake State Wildlife Area: Thunder Lake Wildlife Area is a 3,000 acre property located in northeast Oneida County, one mile north of the Village of Three Lakes. It consists of 50 percent open peat wetland (poor fen) and 50 percent forested tamarack/black spruce wetland with the 120-acre Rice Lake and 1.3 miles of shoreline on 1,800-acre Thunder Lake. The whole property is open for hunting except for the waterfowl closed area around Rice Lake. A wide variety of wetland wildlife use the property including Mallards, Blue-winged Teal, Ring-necked Ducks, Great Blue Herons, Sandhill Cranes, Canada Geese and numerous species of wetland songbirds. Three rare species, the Nelson Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Merlin, and the Yellow Rail nest on the property. Common mammals include white-tailed deer, beaver and muskrats.

One Stone Lake Hemlocks State Natural Area

Situated along the northern boundary of Thunder Lake Wildlife Area and the Rice Lake natural area, One Stone Lake Hemlocks supports stands of mature mesic forest with some old-growth characteristics. The canopy is heavily dominated by hemlock with associated species of yellow birch, sugar maple, and white cedar. A few super-canopy white pine are present. Most canopy gaps contain sugar maple; however hemlock is reproducing well near the lakeshore and locally through the site. The herbaceous layer varies from sparse to luxuriant. Characteristic species include Canada mayflower, intermediate wood-fern, shining clubmoss, American starflower, three-leaved goldthread, and wood sorrel. This site is part of one of the largest wetland complexes within the north central region. Surrounding One Stone Lake are extensive, open peatlands including open bog, muskeg, and poor fen which support good populations of area sensitive peatland birds. The forested wetlands also include extensive good quality stands of white cedar and black ash with tamarack being locally important. This entire area has been identified as a Land Legacy site. One Stone Lake Hemlocks is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2010. (From the Wisconsin DNR website)

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

The community of Three Lakes set aside a portion of the Don Burnside Park called “Memory Lane” for survivors of deceased to plant native trees and shrubs as a memorial to their deceased, thus providing additional bird habitat.

A $2,500 grant from the American Transmission Company has been received by Three Lakes.  The funds will be used to plant energy saving and pollinator friendly native plants in the open space created by the remodeling of the public Demmer Library and the newly reconstructed Three Lakes Community Building and town office building.  The landscaping plans include trees, shrubs, and vines as well as pollinator friendly bushes such as ninebark and viburnum.

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.

Three Lakes has partnered with the Wisconsin Headwaters Invasive Partnership  (WHIP) and received a grant to map the invasive species along the nearly 130 miles of town roads. Upon completion in 2013, the Natural/Cultural Resource Subcommittee created a terrestrial invasive species management plan for the town crew and notifies property owners who have terrestrial invasives on their property with a spec sheet to aid in the identification and explaining ways to eradicate the problem species. This could become the model for other communities to develop their invasive species management program.

The Three Lakes Chamber of Commerce and the Demmer Memorial Library distribute literature on both aquatic and terrestrial invasive species. The Three Lakes Township and the Demmer Memorial Library both have an invasive species link directing the community to the Wisconsin DNR web site for invasive species.

The Three Lakes Chamber of Commerce recently put the DNR’s individual Invasive Species - YouTube video segments on controlling honeysuckle, buckthorn and garlic mustard on their website.

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.

Thunder Lake State Wildlife Area is a 3,000 acre property just N.E. of Three Lakes, WI. It is part of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail system. 

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.

The Three Lakes Natural Cultural Resources Committee, a sub-committee to the Plan Commission, organizes and guides in the removal of Buckthorn for the general public annually during the month of September.

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

The spring of each year, Three Lakes High School teacher Al Votis, recruits students who spend a combined effort of approximately 600 hours removing buckthorn from the forested area surrounding the Three Lakes High School and community. This is an ongoing project.

The Natural Resources Committee, a sub-committee of the  Plan Commission of the Three Lakes Town Board, has sponsored several buckthorn and barberry eradication work days for local volunteers.

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

The Big Stone Golf Course, located within Three Lakes Township recently planted 2500 fir trees. The management also supports the policy of maintaining deadwood trees unless they pose a danger to the public.

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 Nicolet Bird Club of Three Lakes erected a kiosk in the Thunder Lake Wildlife Area in 2016. It contains a map of the 2 trails the club established, information on the terrain and checklists of birds that may be found while walking the trails.  The bird club has disbanded, however, the trails and kiosk remain, and are maintained by volunteer workers.

V. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

Three Lakes is a proactive community. This is evident by the creation of the Three Lakes Waterfront Association in 1967. Its mission statement is “Three Lakes Waterfront Association is organized to preserve and protect Wisconsin inland waters, their watersheds and ecosystems in the vicinity of Three Lakes through:

  • Promoting and encouraging through education responsible stewardship of Wisconsin waters.

  • Acquiring, exchanging and disseminating information to members on water and land use, related environmental matters, zoning and other pertinent laws and regulations.

  • Supporting and conducting related research and education.

  • Coordinating joint endeavors with similar organizations to promote environmental and ecological education and activities.

With objectives

  • Preserve and conserve water and natural resources.

  • Protect native wildlife and its habitat.

  • Promote water related safety regulations and practices.

  • Promote ecologically sound sanitation standards and practices.

  • Provide a forum for members to share ideas and concerns regarding Three Lakes waterways.

The TLWA monitors boats arriving and departing our area lakes, checking them for aquatic invasive species. They also supply links to the Wisconsin Association of Lakes, many links regarding shoreline restoration, Oneida County UW-Ext., Cooperative Extension which contains updated information on invasive species, and the Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association working with protection and preserving of the riparian habitats of our waterways.

Community Forest Management

F. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

After years of neglect, Bill Lamon, coordinating with the Three Lakes Parks Board, initiated aggressive forest management practices in Cy Williams Park. Buckthorn, bush honeysuckle and multiflora rose had destroyed much of the native landscape. Hand pulling and spot treating the cut stumps with herbicide were techniques used in eradicating these invasive species. This is a major project with the goal of creating the three tiers of a healthy forest in the Cy Williams park.


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 American Bird Conservancy leaflet, "Cats, Birds and You" is distributed at the Three Lakes Town Hall, Chamber of Commerce Office and at the Demmer Memorial Library.

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

The American Bird Conservancy leaflet "You Can Save Birds from Flying in to Windows!" is distributed at the Three Lakes Chamber of Commerce Office and at the Demmer Memorial Library.

Public Education

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.

These links can be found in the Three Lakes Chamber of Commerce, library, and the town of Three Lakes website:

How to build a backyard bird habitat

Making a wildlife habitat at home

Creating a home for birds and natures other creatures

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).

Annual Midwest Crane Count: Each year in mid-April, the Nicolet Bird Club of Three Lakes join the over 1,000 volunteers travel to their local wetlands and favorite birding locations to participate in the Annual Midwest Crane Count. Though not specifically a local park, the club monitors the Sandhill Cranes found in the Lake James Cranberry Marsh which lays within the township of Three Lakes. There are 6 crane counting sites in Three Lakes. This annual survey of Sandhill and Whooping Cranes spans over 90 counties in six states of the upper Midwest (Wisconsin and portions of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota).  Individuals will continue to do the count on April 13, 2019

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

The Nicolet Bird Club of Three Lakes has funded and organized 2-day Bird Fests, annually since 2012. The Chamber of Commerce has provided advertising on its website, billboard, in its brochure in addition to inhouse club flyers.  In 2019, the Three Lakes Fish and Wildlife Association will sponsor the bird fest. TLF&WIA is a non-profit organization established more than 25 years ago dedicated to the improvement of the Three Lakes area habitat, mostly related to fishing and hunting, but fully aware the such improvements and protections benefit the non-target species as well.  Community education has always been a component of the TLF&WIA mission.  Sponsoring Bird Fest is a natural extension of their sponsored activities.

Traditionally the Bird Fest started in the Three Lakes Center for the Arts, first Friday in June. The evening started with a meet and greet, followed by a keynote speaker, then a bird related or environmentally themed movie. The following Saturday, the event featured a bird walk, bird banding exhibition, wild flower hike, loon calling contest, children’s bird house painting and more.  Starting in 2019 the Bird Fest will move to being an exceptional single day event. The morning will start with a guided bird walk and end with a key-note speaker.  There will be a post-speaker night walk to listen for owls and possibly the yellow rail at Thunder Lake Wildlife Area.  Between the early morning bird walk, the other customary concurrent activities will be held.  A second, later, bird walk will be held for the late risers. Even though reduced to a single day event, there will be more concurrent choices and more hours spent in the field than in the previous 2-day format.

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 June 2016, Three Lakes began work establishing two of four demonstration sites in and around Three Lakes where native plants favored by pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies will be planted to increase insect numbers and improve the ecosystem. Three Lakes continues to support the pollinator program.  Oneida County has also become involved.

In 2019 American Transmission Company (ATC) has awarded a grant for planting projects on public property, outside the rights of way.  Vegetation funded through the Community Planting program requires that communities plant trees outside of high-voltage transmission line rights of way.  Low growing, compatible vegetation funded through the Pollinator Planting program allows entities to cultivate species that benefit pollinator food and habitat.  This grant will be used for the landscaping between the public library and the Three Lakes Community Building.

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 Three Lakes Fish & Wildlife Improvement Association was established in 1990. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to conservation, youth education, wildlife habitat improvement, fishery enhancement, and maintenance of public facilities used by hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.The group’s main fund-raiser is the lavish “Wild Game Feed” held each June. Other annual events include hunter safety programs, a youth basketball tournament, Kids Free Fishing Day, and the presentation of the Koshuta Scholarship. Projects sponsored by the Association include the Three Lakes Chain Fish Crib Book, bluegill stocking, boat landing projects, the Three Lakes High School wildlife display, game trail maintenance, lake surveys, deer aging surveys and the conservation of Maple Lake. In 2019 the TLF&WIA will begin their sponsorship of the IMBD Bird Fest.

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.

The Three Eagle Trail is a 12.7 mile non-motorized hiking/biking/ski trail that connects the towns of Three Lakes and Eagle River, Wisconsin.

The trail is largely off-road, pedestrian pathways surfaced with crushed, compacted limestone, an ideal surface for biking, walking and running.

 In the winter, 5 miles of the trail is groomed for traditional straight-track and Nordic skate cross country skiing.

The trail is supported by the Three Eagle Trail Foundation, whose goal is to develop, construct and maintain a safe, family friendly, biking and walking transportation route connecting the Town of Three Lakes and the City of Eagle River, and to support future connections of the trail to a larger network of non-motorized trails across Vilas (much existing) and Oneida (still only in concept) counties.

Northwoods Transit Connections is a tri-county on-demand public transit program.  Anyone needs only to call the number and the minibus comes to make a pick-up.  They will transport people for any reason.

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)

The Town of Three Lakes doesn’t have a large footprint when it comes to energy efficiency, but it does take this seriously. The current street lights are replaced with LED bulbs through attrition.

Additionally, there are soon to be completed new, energy efficient buildings to house our town offices, police station, as well as an expansion of our Demmer Memorial Library. Both projects will include the application of energy efficient windows, upgrade HVAC and lighting. A grant from the American Transmission Company will be used to place landscape plantings that will aid the energy efficiency of the new buildings.  There will be deciduous trees on the south exposures, conifers as windbreaks, and shade producing plants around the HVAC units among other considerations.

The village of Three Lakes has just completed a major remodel of their sewage treatment plant. The new system is more efficient both in limiting the release of nutrient rich effluent and, by replacing older equipment with new equipment, more energy efficient.

A. This community's municipal body passed the required International Migratory Bird Day resolution.

Joined Bird City: 2012

Population: 2,339

Incorporated: 1909

Area: 99.9 mi2

Community Website

Community Bird City Page

Community Tourism Page

Community Map