Protecting Our Natural Resources
From lagoons and marshes to forests and prairies, the natural areas under Milwaukee County Parks stewardship are vital to the environmental health of the region.
The Natural Areas team at Milwaukee County Parks manages over 9,000 acres of land, including nine beaches along the shores of Lake Michigan. We respectfully acknowledge that the lands and waters encompassed by the Milwaukee County Park System are on the ancestral homeland of Indigenous People. We honor the ancestral owners and strive to be respectful stewards. Learn more in our Land Acknowledgement Statement.
With the help of volunteers and community scientists, the natural areas team monitors wildlife populations, develops habitat restoration plans and protects the wild spaces that enhance the ecological health of Milwaukee County.
Reducing Invasive Species
Managing invasive species that threaten our native plant and wildlife populations is an ongoing effort. To help combat invasive plants, the Natural Areas team helps organize weed-outs with volunteers and friends groups to help remove invasive species such as common buckthorn, Japanese knotweed and garlic mustard.
Protecting Endangered Species
Monitoring wildlife populations is a reliable way to measure the ecological health of our natural areas and to determine the success of our restoration efforts. Data collected by Natural Areas staff and community scientists is crucial in helping to make sure that common species remain common, and that rare, threatened and endangered species are protected and properly managed within the Park System. Wildlife monitoring programs include:
- Secretive Marsh Bird Surveys
- Songbird Nest Box Monitoring
- American Kestrel Nest Box Monitoring
- Turtle Monitoring
- Wildlife Camera Trapping
- Milwaukee County Urban Wildlife Inventory
- Milwaukee County Coyote Watch
As a designated Important Bird Area, the Milwaukee County park system takes additional measures to protect our feathered friends. The Moratorium Policy on Vegetation Management During the Bird Nesting Season directs the work of not only the Parks, but also the entities doing work through right-of-entry permits.
Improving Water Quality
Milwaukee County Parks include nine miles of Lake Michigan shoreline as well as rivers, lagoons, ephemeral ponds, creeks and lakes. Our Natural Areas team works to improve water quality in these waterways through projects such as shoreline stabilization and monitoring.
The Natural Areas team helps monitor and maintain the Forked Aster Nature Trails throughout the County. The designated hiking trails within the Park System provide over 50 miles of soft trails for park users to enjoy, while protecting the natural resources that add to quality-of-life for our citizens.
Natural Areas 2022 Review
The review of our research and community-based monitoring programs includes data on
- Invasive Species Management, including total invasive species control at 53 natural areas
- Native Plant Research & Restoration, including harvesting seed from 163 native species
- Wildlife Monitoring, including Wetland Species, Dragonfly/Damselfly, and Bat populations
- Native Plant Research & Restoration, including mapping 226 acres of rare plant species
- Ecological Restoration, including monitoring/controlling 14 rapid-response invasive species
Read the 2022 Review
Important Bird Area
In 2019, Milwaukee County Parks received the prestigious designation as Important Bird Area. an honor bestowed on only 2,700 sites in the United States.
The 15,000+ acres of Parks greenspace include a variety of habitats, include the southernmost extent of northern forest in Wisconsin, oak woodlands, riparian forest, recreated prairie, 85 miles of river and stream corridors, a diversity of wetlands, and 14 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Diverse habitats and the proximity to Lake Michigan make this site an important corridor for migratory birds.
Milwaukee County Coyote Watch
Share and view coyote sightings in Milwaukee County on our iNaturalist page.