Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, photo by Luke Wuest

Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Expansive, high quality, most pristine habitats are the typical targets sought by conservation organizations for protection.  Thinking outside the box, Angie Curtis and Shawn Graff of the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) presented the idea of protecting a most unusual site – a golf course – to add to their collection of preserves.

Formerly known as Squires Country Club in northeastern Ozaukee County, the site consisted of mowed fairways and a few water holes sandwiched between two hardwood forested corridors near Lake Michigan’s shore.  OWLT recognized the potential to restore water holes for migratory shorebird habitat and were considering converting the upland fairways to prairie grasslands.  At the very least, acquisition of this site would improve water quality by eliminating the application of more than six tons of fertilizers and chemicals annually and the need to pump 12 million gallons of water from local wells for irrigation every year to maintain the golf course.

Angie Curtis (left), OWLT, and Andrew Struck, Ozaukee County, consult with DNR staff Sumner Matteson (far right), Kim Grveles (not shown), and Dale Katsma (second from right) in October, 2007, photo by Kim Grveles

After evaluating the site with the WISI habitat models, Kim Grveles, Sumner Matteson, and DNR wildlife manager Dale Katsma visited the golf course in October 2007 to assess its potential as a migratory bird preserve.  We encouraged OWLT to focus on restoration of the fairways for migratory songbirds rather than planting prairies and affirmed their decision to convert ponds to shorebird stopover habitat.  After purchasing the site in 2008, OWLT renamed it Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, the first preserve of its kind consisting of 116 acres of newly planted hardwoods, shrublands, savanna, grasslands, and constructed wetland ponds and ephemeral pools.

Forest Beach Migratory Preserve
Forest Beach Migratory Preserve
Ozaukee Washington Land Trust
Ozaukee Washington Land Trust

“This was a real opportunity,” said Graff, “because this is one of the last remaining 100+ acre sites not developed on Lake Michigan.  It is really a pleasure and rewarding that we’re making (the preserve) happen.”

What rare birds are using Forest Beach Migratory Preserve?  Visit our new Birds at Forest Beach page to learn the answer.