The Great Lakes basin is the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world and provides a variety of coastal habitats required by numerous species to complete their lifecycle. Wisconsin encompasses 17,500 square miles of the watershed and approximately 600 miles of shoreline. Over twenty-five percent of Wisconsin’s human population resides in the watershed, where corresponding development, disturbance, and other anthropogenic factors such as climate change threaten the existence of many coastally-oriented species.
Located in Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan near the town of Belgium (Figure 1), the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve started its existence as a golf course and country club. This 116 acre tract was purchased by the Ozaukee-Washington County Land Trust (OWLT) with the intention of restoring wetlands and native plant communities that will help protect Lake Michigan water quality and provide feeding habitat and refuge for native and migratory birds. The preserve is uniquely located along a vital migratory corridor, known as the Lake Michigan Flyway, which connects Canada and the Arctic Ocean to South America and is used by birds such as black - billed cuckoo, eastern meadowlark, solitary sandpiper and golden-winged warbler.
In partnership with state and local biologists, ornithologists, and restoration specialists, the OWLT and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) developed a restoration plan for Forest Beach Migratory Preserve. The plan is designed to provide a diversity of habitats of value to numerous migratory bird assemblages (see Appendix A), rather than concentrating on specific habitat needs for a single species. Based on habitat associations and conservation priorities described within the Wisconsin’s Wildlife Action Plan, eight different assemblages consisting of more than 80 rare or declining bird species is expected to use habitats on the preserve during some period of their lifecycle.