Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge

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Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge
IUCN category Ib (wilderness area)
Map showing the location of Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Map showing the location of Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Location Washington, Door County, Wisconsin, USA
Nearest city Washington Island
Coordinates 45°19′N 86°57′W / 45.317°N 86.950°W / 45.317; -86.950Coordinates: 45°19′N 86°57′W / 45.317°N 86.950°W / 45.317; -86.950
Area 330 acres (1.3 km2)[1]
Governing body U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge consists of Hog Island (2 acres), Plum Island (325 acres), and Pilot Island (3.7 acres). The islands are located in Lake Michigan, near Washington Island, off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula. An Executive Order in 1913 declared Hog Island a protected breeding ground for native birds. Plum and Pilot Island were transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007. The islands were acquired to protect native bird habitats and endangered species habitats in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. Because the islands are part of the Wisconsin Islands Wilderness Area, public use of any of the islands is prohibited.[1] The refuge is managed by staff at the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, in Mayville, Wisconsin.[2]

History[edit]

Alt text
Great Blue Heron, one of the many birds that migrates to the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

By executive order in 1913, Hog Island was declared a national preserve to provide a safe nesting and breeding ground for the species of birds native to the area. The Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge became the second national wildlife refuge in Great Lakes area. It was the 28th wildlife refuge in the United States. Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge was also created under the same executive order. It became the 29th wildlife refuge in the United States, and the third refuge in the Great Lakes region. In 1970, Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge were declared part of the Wisconsin Islands Wilderness Area. This wilderness area is one of the smallest in the entire United States.[3]

Plum Island and Pilot Island originally held lighthouse facilities and provided safe havens for sailors out on Lake Michigan. Some of these safe havens are considered part of the National Register of Historic Places. By 1939, the US Coast Guard had taken control of Plum Island, and acquired control of the lighthouse on the island. The old wooden lighthouse was eventually replaced with a steel structure in 1964, and workers were moved to the island in order to oversee the operations of the lighthouse. At this time the lighthouse used range lights. By 1969, these lights were replaced with an automatic lighting system. The lighthouse is still in use today, but no longer are coast guard employees required to stay on the island to monitor the lighthouse.[4]

The lack of human presence on the islands for many years has led to much reclamation of the land by the plants and wildlife native to the area. On October 17, 2007, Pilot and Plum Islands were officially added to the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Previously under the control of the United States Coast Guard, they are now managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.[4]

Geography/Geology[edit]

The Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge consists of three main islands which cover approximately 330 acres (1.3 km2). Hog Island covers 2 acres (8,100 m2) of land, Plum Island 325 acres (1.32 km2), and Pilot Island approximately 3.7 acres (15,000 m2). Located off the northern tip of the Door Peninsula in Lake Michigan as part of the Niagara Escarpment, these islands are mainly composed of limestone and dolomite. These rocks form the foundations of the islands, which are a result of millions of years of compaction of sediments.[1] The islands have been eroded and re-shaped over many years by changing water levels, specifically by the drop in water level of oceans and glacier movement.[3]

Natural Life[edit]

Vegetation[edit]

Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge contains a variety of plants native to the area. Hog Island has an abundance of Canada yew. This plant is greatly decreasing in number on the island because of the increase in white-tailed deer and their appetite for this shrub. Other vegetation common to the wildlife refuge, specifically Hog Island, includes: red-berried elder and red raspberry plants.

Plum Island is most well known for having large forests of basswood trees and sugar maple trees, which are local to the island. Also, the coast of the island is mainly covered with white cedar trees. These trees are most commonly found in areas with an abundance of dolomite located just under the ground surface.[3] Another plant native to the area of Plum Island is the endangered Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris Iacustris). Dwarf Lake Iris is mainly found along or near the shoreline of Plum Island.[4]

Alt text
Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris).

Wildlife[edit]

The Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge is also a safe haven for multiple species of wildlife, specifically birds. This refuge was set aside with the primary goal of protecting the native birds and other endangered species found in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. Great blue herons and red-breasted mergansers are commonly found building nests and breeding at Hog Island. Large colonies of herring gulls are common, as well. These birds are able to migrate to the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge every year due to the lack of human presence on the island. No development has occurred on Hog Island due to its small size, remoteness, and landing difficulties.

Plum Island may offer public use opportunities in the future provided they are compatible with the refuge’s purpose and mission. But because no humans are currently allowed on Plum Island, the area has numerous qualities not found in the other mainland areas. One of these qualities would be the abundance of vegetation that is normally destroyed by humans. These qualities of Plum Island have resulted in the formation of a small ecosystem on the island, which has become home to many native species of birds.[1] Pilot Island provides a safe haven for approximately 3,600 double-crested cormorant nests and almost 650 herring gull nests. Black-crowned night herons also nest on Pilot Island. Smallmouth bass, lake trout, lake sturgeon, and lake whitefish are commonly found in the waters northwest of Plum and Pilot Islands.[4]

Wisconsin Islands Wilderness Area[edit]

In 1964, the United States Congress passed the Wilderness Act of 1964, which created the National Wilderness Preservation System. This bill declared almost 9 million acres (36,000 km2) of land across the United States federal wilderness and protected it from being overrun and destroyed by the human population.[5] In 1970, Hog Island and Gravel Island became one of the smallest areas of land protected by the Wilderness Act, and thus became known as the Wisconsin Islands Wilderness Area.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge - Overview" U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Retrieved 10-22-2009.
  2. ^ "Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge Island Habitat Restoration Project" Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 10-22-2009.
  3. ^ a b c d "Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge - Wildlife and Habitat" U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Retrieved 10-22-2009.
  4. ^ a b c d "Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge Acquires Plum and Pilot Islands" Fish and Wildlife Journal. Retrieved 10-22-2009.
  5. ^ "Wilderness Areas in the United States" The Encyclopedia of Earth. Retrieved 10-22-2009.

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.