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 Kozcizkowski Park and the Erickson Natural Area, but no significant change has occurred since our first BCW application. For the 2019 season, the Bird Club of McKinley Elementary School fledged 28 individual birds: 7 House Wrens and 21Tree Swallows. A total of 20 Club students and parents monitored 13 nest boxes in these park areas. Some monitored from mid-April to mid-July, well beyond their school year.
For the past 18 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 2019 nesting season, this trail produced 6,000 songbirds, 4,000 of which were bluebirds. In the 18 years of its activity, the ABT has produced about 95,000 songbirds, of which 70,500 were bluebirds.
In 2019, Rob Pendergast compiled a report about the 239 bird species found in Portage County (including Stevens Point) in the last 5 years. This report was a very detailed, sophisticated one, only the second of its kind compiled for the county. It detailed where the species were found, in what numbers and photos were included of unique species. During this time a new species was added to the Portage County "all-time" list, the White-faced Ibis.
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 Kozcizkowski 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 below). ALAS was instrumental in preserving from development a 5.5-acre site adjacent to the 14-acre Kozcizkowski Park, owned by the City of Stevens Point. In less than one year, Audubon members and friends raised $308,000 for purchase of what is now the Godfrey & Maybelle Erickson Natural Area. Audubon members 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 (Stewardship funds).
Kozcizkowski Park and the Erickson Natural area continue to be used for nest box monitoring by McKinley Elementary School (28 songbirds produced from 13 boxes in the 2019 season), visitation by local citizens and tourists and special Audubon field trips (Stevens Point CBC and spring bird counts). This area continues to be used by large numbers of migrating birds and as a nesting site for 33 species of birds (including a pair of Ospreys and the newest member of the species list, the Long-eared Owl). In 2011, we added two Leopold benches to the site and were involved in removal of black locust and tartarian honeysuckle. Also, in the late winter of 2014, a pier was added to this property. It is used for McKinley Elementary School students to fish, bird watch and take water samples. The Whiting Dam that produces the McDill Pond had major leakage problems. Repair of the McDill Pond Dam was completed in October, 2012, and McDill Pond was filled in April, 2013. This area is a very important stop-over site for Neotropical migrants and the 2013 year of renewal brought it back to its original luster as an avian stop-over site in the spring of 2014. Several "fall-outs" were experienced during this time, an indication that this habitat has recovered after a drop in the water level.
ALAS has enhanced this property with an educational kiosk, two boardwalks, an entryway sign, and the removal of invasive black locust and exotic tartarian honeysuckle over a period of six years. More than 100 people helped with this effort.
Over the past several years, ALAS has held the following activities at the Kozcizkowski Park/Erickson Natural Area site: 1) Bird walks, including two International Migratory Bird Day celebrations 2) 11 years of nest box inspections by McKinley Center Elementary School; 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 three "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.
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 Visitor's Bureau put the BCW videotape prepared by Northland Adventures, on their 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 51 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 2019, ALAS developed 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 2019, 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.
At Schmeeckle Reserve in Stevens Point, a new structure was built, an amphitheatre. This amphitheatre holds over 200 people and will give presentations to thousands of people per year. All of these programs are environmental and many deal with birds. This structure will provide an enhanced knowledge of the conservation of birds and the problems and solutions they face.
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 2020.
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 175 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. Last season, 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.
V. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.
Over a 9-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, but 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 5-year period.
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 1976 (44 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 in May, 2019.
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.
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 four 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 60 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.
A total of 43 species and 4,803 individuals were found on the 2019 SP-CBC. There were no new species found on the 60th count year. Uncommon species observed included Barred Owl, Nor. Flicker, Belted Kingfisher, Nor. Shrike, Field Sparrow and Trumpeter Swan.
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 12 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 2019:
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 Bee Keeping 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).
The City of Stevens Point (Dept. of Forestry) and ALAS are cooperating to develop 4 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 Kozcizkowski 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 2020. In the winter of 2020 we will plant 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 (8 per academic year with an average of 80 per talk) and field trips (14 in 2019-20). Our total attendance at our talks is between 550 &650 and our attendance on our field trips totals 250-300. These events are advertised in a brochure and 9 newsletters sent out to our 400 members. We also have one major fundraiser each year, a bird seed sale. This year we netted $2,300 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 $200,000 and we will have $8,700 in interest to use for our 2019-2020 budgets.
Boston School Forest is located in Plover but serves the entire Stevens Point School System. In the 2018-19 school year, 9,041 students (mainly) and adults attended the facility. In addition to monies allocated from taxpayers, a total of $30,232.95 was received for in-kind and monetary donations. The Aldo Leopold Audubon Society contributed $300.00 plus donated display boxes with nests and eggs for the Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow, chickadee, wren and House Sparrow. ALAS also had a booth display for the 2019 E-Day celebration.
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 23X the effect for global warming that CO2 does, so its importance can not be overstated.
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.
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 remove obstacles to solar development.
Schmeeckle Reserve has added a solar array and two electric vehicle charging stations. These were purchased with $28,000 in grants.
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.
Bike Trail Development (Biking and walking can reduce the use of cars significantly and that leads to lowered greenhouse gases).
In April 2014, the Portage Co. Board approved a County-wide bike plan. Each municipality has to approve it separately. In October 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 funds 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 second out of 33 projects approved for the 2016-2020 period.
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 map developed with UW-SP. This map was developed based on comfort and convenience.
The City Council voted to upgrade the existing Bicycle/Pedestrian advisory board to become a new Bicycle and Pedestrian Street Safety Commission (BPSSC).
The City Council approved a 4 to 3 lane conversion on a one-mile stretch of Stanley Street. Bike lanes were added to this stretch--construction of of bike lanes was completed in the summer of 2019.
The Stevens Point Area Bicycle Service (PABS) was recently recognized as the "Best local bike shop in Wisconsin" by Outside Magazine. The magazine held the shop in high regards for their custom builds and engagement with the city.
Stevens Point was ranked in the top five for small college towns in 2019 by WalletHub. Each community was ranked with three aspects: 1) Wallet friendliness 2) Social environment and 3) Academic and economic opportunities. Stevens Point ranked 5th of 200 in the "Best College Towns & Cities" category. Since the BCW application recognizes a favorabe environment for birds andhumans, this recognition is viewed as quite favorable.
The City has purchased 1.66 miles of abandoned rail bed for a commuter/recreational bicycle trail in 2018.
The City installed parking kiosks around UW-Stevens Point to encourage more bicycling, walking and bus usage.
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.
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.
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 (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, D.C.
International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)
A. This community's municipal body passed the required International Migratory Bird Day resolution.
The Resolution for the May 9, 2020, WMBD was approved by the Stevens Point City Council on January 20, 2020.
Our WMBD was held on May 12, 2019. A total of 14 people attended the WMBD. Before the field trip there was an orientation for all of those attending. Auduboners presented a map showing the migratory route of neotropical migrants. Blue-winged Teal, Bobolinks and Upland Sandpipers were discussed as long distant migrants of 6,000 miles or more.
The group started in Iverson Park and ended up at Lost Creek Wetlands, the most bird friendly habitat in Portage Co. Five field guides led the trip. We saw or heard 53 species of birds. The weather was reasonable and people enjoyed the trip.