Protect Kakagon Sloughs, Bad River Res., WI



Dear Conservationists:

If you have not already done so, please take a few minutes to read my article copied below on the Kakagon/Bad River Sloughs, their Watersheds, and the importance of promoting good "watershed citizenship". I think that you will find this article relating to northwestern Wisconsin of interest.

It was published in the August 22nd Ashland Daily Press, and uses information derived from the Wisconsin Nature Conservancy's work to help conserve these Sloughs and Watersheds. These Sloughs are one of The Nature Conservancy's "Last Great Places."

The largest public landowner in the Bad River Watershed is the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Paper and forest products companies are the largest private landowners in this watershed, led by Georgia-Pacific. As such, forest management on these public and private lands will play a key role in the future health of these Watersheds and Sloughs. Overall, there are literally thousands of landowners in the Bad and Kakagon Watersheds. Compared to most of the Upper Midwest, these areas remain relatively wild and ecologically healthy. They provide a great opportunity to practice proactive, preventive, and cooperative conservation. And a rare chance to not repeat the past mistakes of taking special places for granted until it was too late.

Please feel free to use this information, keep the Sloughs and Watersheds connection in mind, and do whatever you can to encourage good watershed citizenship.

Florida has learned some tough, contentious, and very expensive lessons about the difficulties of restoring its Everglades. Wisconsin still has time to protect its and the Bad River Band's "Everglades": the Kakagon/Bad River Sloughs. Let's make sure that this time is well spent.

Many thanks for your consideration.

There is a world-class ecological "treasure" in Ashland�s backyard. It is the Kakagon/Bad River Sloughs; the largest, healthiest, fully-functioning estuarine system remaining in the upper Great Lakes Basin. It is a complex mosaic of ten natural communities, and has been called Wisconsin�s Everglades.

As the ancestral home and cultural base of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, these Sloughs have remained relatively pristine. This is a remarkable, commendable, and fortunate achievement. Most other Great Lakes� estuaries have been severely polluted, fragmented, and degraded. Thankfully, the Sloughs continue to provide significant wild rice beds, crucial spawning grounds for Lake Superior fisheries, and abundant migratory waterfowl. The Sloughs also sustain many rare species, including lake sturgeon, trumpeter swans, and bald eagles.

But while the Sloughs are located within the Bad River Reservation, the watersheds that shaped and maintain them go well beyond Rez boundaries. The thousand-square-mile Bad River Watershed includes not only the Bad but also the White, Marengo, Brunsweiler, Potato, and Tyler Fork Rivers. And the much smaller, but comparatively much more important, less than fifty-square-mile Kakagon watershed consists primarily of Wood and Bear Trap Creeks. These watersheds, and the cumulative effects of human land uses within them, largely determine the quality, quantity, and sediment load of waters entering the Sloughs.

These watersheds also have significant intrinsic ecological values. They contain 28 natural communities, support 72 rare or endangered species, and provide important interior forest habitats for many neotropical nesting bird species.

Unfortunately, these watersheds don�t respect myriad political and land ownership boundaries. They occur in parts of Ashland, Iron, and Bayfield Counties, from Delta and Drummond on the west to Saxon on the east, and from Odanah near the north to past Mellen on the south. Since the watersheds won�t adapt to lines on maps, people need to adapt their thinking.

Everyone living, working, recreating, managing, and/or owning land within these watersheds should consider their connection to the Sloughs. And strive to conduct their activities in the watersheds in a manner to avoid or at least minimize any adverse impacts. After all, what happens on land affects water, and water runs down hill. And thousands of incrementally small human impacts can add up to become big where the waters converge in the Sloughs.

As human population and development/recreational pressures increase in these watersheds, the need for cooperation in a watershed conservation ethic will also increase. There is a slogan that aptly says "think globally, act locally." But to protect the Sloughs into the future, perhaps it should be: "think like a responsible watershed citizen, act accordingly."



2,300-acre purchase to help protect "Everglades of the North"
Jan. 6, 2001

ASHLAND, Wis. (AP) -- A conservation group says its purchase of 2,346 acres of paper company land near the Lake Superior shore will help protect a region described as the Everglades of the North.

The Nature Conservancy and Stora Enso North America announced the sale Thursday of the 35 parcels of 20 to 300 acres on the Bad River Chippewa Reservation east of Ashland.

The land, much of hardwood and conifer forest, includes more than four miles of frontage on the Bad and White rivers and 825 feet of Lake Superior shoreline.

Proper management of the land will help prevent soil erosion and protect water quality in the rivers and the Kakagon-Bad River Sloughs -- 16, 000 acres of wetlands that are sometimes called the Everglades of the North, in comparison with the Everglades of Florida, officials said.

The wetland complex, Lake Superior' s largest estuary, is a federally designated National Natural Landmark.

The Nature Conservancy bought the property from Stora Enso North America for less than $200 an acre, said Matt Dallman, Chequamegon Bay Watershed Project director for the conservancy.

He said the private, nonprofit conservation group and Stora Enso began working on the sale a few months ago.

"It was an opportunity that just came up," he said. "It fit our goals to protect land in a corridor from the uplands to the sloughs."

The Nature Conservancy plans to eventually turn the property over to the Bad River Chippewa.

"The tribe will be empowered to manage the lands for the protection of natural resources and for tribal members," said Tom Doolittle, a Bad River wildlife biologist.

Only about 53 percent of the reservation is under tribal control.

"Tribal sovereignty is something that occurs with land ownership," Doolittle said. " The restoration of Indian lands is just not a natural resources priority but is also a cultural priority. It comes right down to getting the tribe' s land back.

"The Nature Conservancy has been extremely helpful in recognizing tribal needs and management and jurisdictional problems that have occurred in the past."

In 1997, Bad River Tribal members calling themselves the Ogichidaa, or protectors of the people, held a vigil on Oak Point in the Kakagon Sloughs to protest the damage boaters were doing to its wild rice beds -- the largest in the state.

In 1998, the group blockaded a logging site on the reservation, saying that the local logger violated a gentlemen' s agreement with tribal resource managers not to cut trees on private land next to the Bad River.

The river has one of the last viable populations of lake sturgeon in the American waters of Lake Superior.

About 200 acres of the property in the purchase are in the sloughs, Dallman said.

The land provides habitat for wildlife including wolves, moose, bear and migratory birds like the golden-winged warbler, the Nature Conservancy said.

Waterfowl and other birds use the wetlands as feeding and resting spots during migration.

Observers have spotted several rare species -- including trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes, bald eagles and the threatened piping plover -- in the sloughs and Wisconsin' s other coastal wetlands.

At least 41 species of fish use the wetlands for spawning, as nurseries or for feeding.

In June, the conservancy' s Wisconsin chapter acquired 2, 189 acres of northern forests containing 15 wild lakes and ponds near Boulder Junction in Vilas County.

In April 1997 the chapter obtained the 1, 043-acre Caroline Lake Preserve near Mellen to help protect the headwaters of the Bad River.

The Bad River and Caroline Lake purchases are part of the chapter' s efforts to protect property and encourage wise land use within the Chequamegon Bay watershed. The chapter plans to use Caroline Lake as a demonstration site for proper land management.

"We' re writing a forest management plan that can be accepted under the state managed-forest law," Dallman said. "We' re going to harvest timber out there.

"We' re not against forestry -- we just want to make sure it' s done in a sound way."

The Nature Conservancy, a private, non-profit group, said it has helped protect 58, 000 acres of land at 153 sites in Wisconsin over the past 40 years.

Stora Enso is a paper and forest products company based in Finland. It has papermaking operations in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada.





This Witness alert was in 1997


Bad River tribal members urgently request a support presence for for the Anishinaabe Ogichidaa encampment on the Kakagon Sloughs at the Bad River Chippewa Reservation in northern Wisconsin. Bring water and a sleeping bag. There are tents already set up at the site. Boats will transport folks out to the encampment.

For more information call:
Frank Koehn 715/774-3333
Marion Koehn 715/682-8435 or
Sylvia Cloud 715/682-8359

The press release that follows was released to local and regional media.

Witnesses for Peace and Justice and the Lake Superior Greens will join with the Ogichidaa at Odanah, Wisconsin Saturday and Sunday August 9th and 10th to support Ogichidaa concerns over the health of the Kakagon sloughs rice beds and the operation of motorized boats in the sloughs. The witnesses and the Greens invite others concerned with the health of the sloughs and Lake Superior to join them in Odanah.

The Ogichidaa have recently raised concerns that dumping and unauthorized outhouses--a violation of the US clean water act--may be damaging the health of the sloughs. The Ogichidaa are holding ceremonies to draw public attention to the destruction of Bad River ricing beds where dredging, heavy boat traffic and clear-cutting have severely reduced the rice harvest. The Kakagon sloughs are the largest remaining pristine fresh water estuary on Lake Superior.

To reach Witnesses for Peace and Justice or for more information about joining with them at Odanah call: Frank Koehn 715/774-3333

R Bob Olsgard
Communications Coordinator
Lake Superior Alliance
W3060 Cook Road
Sarona, WI 54870
Ph. & Fax: 715/635-8171