Conservation Potential at Badger

There is a heavy hand at work when land use planners at the DNR propose on/off road motorcycles through a prairie teeming with grassland birds.

In a conservation plan that biologists have otherwise deemed stellar, the recently-released draft Master Plan for the future Sauk Prairie Recreation Area proposes a multitude of activities from on/off-road motorcycles and mountain bikes to sport rocketry. A future gun range is also discussed. Really?


Located on the south bluff of Devil’s Lake State Park and framed by the Wisconsin Riverway, the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant lands represent our largest and most viable opportunity to restore and manage a large-scale forest to grassland transition in Wisconsin.

Scientists and birders are concerned about population declines of many grassland bird species. Since the North American Breeding Bird Survey began in 1966, grassland birds have declined more steeply than any other group of birds in North America and the Midwest. These are the birds found at Badger.

The Driftless Area of Wisconsin, including the Baraboo Hills, is particularly rich in known and potential bat hibernacula sites within easy commuting distance for summer resident bat populations. Military ammunition production and storage bunkers and similar facilities at Badger provide a unique opportunity to help in the recovery of bat populations.

The nearby Baraboo Hills have been designated by The Nature Conservancy as one of the Western Hemisphere’s “Last Great Places” by the U.S. Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark, by the DNR as a Forest Legacy Area and a Conservation Opportunity Area of continental significance, and by the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative as an Important Bird Area. The nearby villages of Sauk City and Prairie du Sac have both earned and sustain Bird City Wisconsin status.

The DNR will be initiating a process to locate a public shooting range in Sauk County. The Sauk Prairie Recreation Area will be among the top contender sites. The potential gun range location at Badger features a complex of remnant prairie, oak woodland and grassland habitats.

The conservation goals outlined in the DNR plan are to maintain and reestablish the biological richness of Wisconsin’s disappearing native prairies, particularly grassland birds. Not only do proposed loud disruptive uses contradict these goals, they are not compatible with other sustainable recreational activities proposed for Badger like biking, family picnics, bird watching, snowshoeing and hiking, including the nearby Great Sauk Trail.

Your opportunity to submit public comment on the draft Master Plan ends Sept. 25. Click on the Action Alert at to send an email to the DNR. Copies of your comments will be sent to local, state and federal legislators.

Laura Olah is the Executive Director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, stakeholder member of the Executive and Finance Committee of the Badger Oversight and Management Commission, member of the Badger Restoration Advisory Board, co-founder of the Community Conservation Coalition for the Sauk Prairie, member of the Environmental Justice Committee of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, member of the Madison Audubon Society, and co-founder of Cease Fire.

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