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Upper Mississippi River - More Information

Background information on DU's Upper Mississippi River conservation priority area
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Concentration areas in Wisconsin include the southeast and northwest parts of the state and conservation work is primarily focused on production, although these areas also provide important migratory habitat. The northwest area was historically dominated by pothole-type wetlands and the southwest area historically characterized by a glaciated mosaic of wetlands surrounded by tall grass prairie and oak savanna. Agriculture and urban development have resulted in substantial wetland loss, fragmented grasslands and increase sediment and nutrient loading to streams and rivers in both areas. The conservation focus in Wisconsin is on protecting and restoring small seasonal wetlands and re-establishing native prairie adjacent to wetlands for production and spring migratory habitat, and expansion of existing state and federal wildlife areas for fall habitat.

In Minnesota and Iowa, the Living Lakes initiative targets spring migratory habitat for multiple waterfowl species. The focus is to establish stepping stones of perpetually protected and managed wetland complexes for Keokuk Pool in southwestern Iowa through northern Minnesota that will provide waterfowl with the necessary food and habitat resources as they travel across this migratory pathway. This will be accomplished through shallow lake watershed improvements, shoreline protection and acquisition, and shallow lake and large marsh restoration, enhancement and protection.

The Scioto, Muskingum, and Miami River watershed s are currently being evaluated for the migration and wintering habitat benefits they provide. These river systems serve as primary migration corridors for tens of thousands of waterfowl between Lake Erie and the Ohio River, as well as waterfowl species traveling west from the Atlantic coast. Several thousand mallards, black ducks and Canada geese winter along these rivers, feeding in the rich agricultural fields lining the river valleys.

Conservation programs in Missouri and eastern Kansas also fall within the boundaries of the Upper Mississippi River Waterfowl Conservation Region. The focus of programs in Missouri and Kansas is on protection, restoration and development of migration habitat for waterfowl following corridors along major rivers such as the Marais des Cygnes, Kansas, Osage, Neosho, and Missouri and their major tributaries. To date, conservation efforts have been project-specific and include notable works at Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area in Kansas, and Four Rivers and Grand Pass Conservation Areas in Missouri.


  • Restore and protect wetlands and associated habitats that benefit waterfowl, wildlife, and people, improve water quality, and promote watershed health.
  • Provide habitat of sufficient quality and quantity so to not be limiting to wintering, migrating and breeding waterfowl populations.
  • Target wetland and lake restoration activities to provide adequate food resources to spring migratory waterfowl.
  • Along river systems, aim for interconnected natural habitats of old-growth timber, buffered waterways, emergent flood plans, and complexes of wetland types by restoring Hydrology to the extent possible.
  • Develop GIS targeting tools and the research needed to address current uncertainty in the life cycle needs and limitations of key waterfowl species within the Upper Mississippi Watershed.
    Establish outreach programs to educate the public on the importance of wetland values and a healthy environment.
  • Evaluate the role of DU in regard to expanded conservation programs throughout the region, including: a) formation of new partnerships; b) provision of biological and engineering services to agencies and private landowners; c) development of partnership-driven private lands programs; and d) proactive use of conservation easements to protect habitat.


  • Foraging habitat limits populations migrating through or wintering in the region.
  • Wetland and grassland restorations provide all the habitat elements needed for successful reproduction and provide sustainable benefits.
  • Wetlands and grasslands will continue to be restored, enhanced and managed to maximize productivity for waterfowl and other wildlife by state and federal agencies.
  • Wetland restoration activities are additive towards improving water quality problems in the Mississippi River system and improving food resources for waterfowl.


  • Restore wetlands and associated grasslands on private land, utilizing Farm Bill Programs such as WRP, CRP and CREP, DU Private Lands Programs and NAWCA.
  • Develop hydrological restoration and management systems that emulate natural conditions.
    Maximize mid-migration habitat through the protection of habitats that are vulnerable to loss through acquisition, conservation easement or long-term management agreements and other cooperative land protection programs.
  • Increase public awareness of DU’s programs and the benefits to wetlands they provide by developing public relations plans for regional conservation programs.
  • Restore wetlands and associated grasslands on public land.
  • Incorporate management capability into restored wetlands to maximize wetland productivity for waterfowl and other wetland wildlife.
  • Expand wetland conservation programs to watershed or landscape levels - targeting water quality as a major issue/benefit.
    Restore bottomland hardwood forests in concert with moist soil management units and enhancement of shrub/scrub wetlands to provide food resource benefits to migrating and wintering waterfowl.
  • Develop shallow water habitat to benefit the large numbers of waterfowl that frequent flooded agricultural fields during spring migration.
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