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Brice Prairie Conservation Association
Caring for Lake Onalaska and the Black River Bottoms
The Brice Prairie Conservation Association (BPCA) was founded in 1958, with the mission of preserving Lake Onalaska and the Black River bottoms. Brice Prairie is a community surrounded by wetlands, water and the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge, just upstream of Onalaska and La Crosse, Wis.
Projects and Activities
Many of BPCAs activities are long-range environmental projects. Seeing results is one of the benefits of membership.
Oak tree regeneration in the Black River bottoms: With a special permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, BPCA members began collecting swamp white oak acorns and growing seedlings in a nursery on BPCA land in 1991. They transplant young trees to floodplains and islands, then return to protect them and monitor their progress. (See Battle for the Islands in the May-June 2004 issue of Big River.) BPCA has planted more than 3,000 trees, some of which are now more than 20 feet tall.
Swamp white oaks were one of the most common trees in the river bottoms until the lock-and-dam system altered water levels. Its acorns provide food for waterfowl and other wildlife.
Purple loosestrife control: The BPCA has been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources since 2001 on a biological control program to control the invasive wetland plant. They raise Galerucella beetles in an insectary on their propery, and release them at selected sites in Pool 7. The group has reared and released about 12,000 of the beetles in heavily infested loosestrife stands, and is monitoring the results.
Bird houses: BPCA has built, installed and monitored more than 500 bluebird houses. The group counted 3,066 fledglings in 2004 a record year.
Bird populations around here are much healthier than they were, said BPCA President Leif Marking.
Wood duck houses has been another group project since 1971. In 2004, they fledged 645 wood ducks and 1,366 hooded mergansers.
BPCA also established three emergency shelters and a navigation light to aid boaters on Lake Onalaska, besides hosting an annual fishing derby and participating in clean-ups.
BPCA has about 60 members, mostly committed, long-time members. The group would like to grow. Its an eclectic group of people who live in Brice Prairie and belong to the organization because they love fish and wildlife, said club officer Marc Schultz. Dues are $7.50 per person, $10 per family.
The groups only fundraiser is the annual fishing derby in February, which brought in $6,000 last year.
The Wisconsin Conservation Congress awarded BPCA the Outstanding
Achievement by a Local Conservation Club in 2003 and 2000.
The groups goals are to do better on the projects they have going, which means building more bird houses, raising more beetles to control loosestrife, and planting and tending more oak trees in the Black River bottoms.
How to Join
The Brice Prairie Conservation Association meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month at its headquarters on Highway ZN on Brice Prairie. For more information, call Leif Marking at (608) 781-0323 or Marc Schultz at (608) 781-1662.
Photos courtesy of the Brice Prairie Conservation Association.
Originally published in Big River Magazine March 2005.