Migratory birds and outdoors enthusiasts who use the upper reaches of the Mississippi River in Wisconsin will see enhanced habitat from two Ducks Unlimited projects kicking off this year.

Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will protect 280 acres at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge and enhance 77 acres at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

Because Wisconsin has lost more than 50 percent of its historical wetlands, Ducks Unlimited is committed to protecting the wetlands that remain. Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge was established on the banks of the Mississippi River more than 80 years ago as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.

As part of this project, a 280-acre parcel of land will be purchased and incorporated into the wetland. The new land will grow the refuge, keep it safe from development and provide a safer alternative access point on the north end of the refuge.

Downstream from Trempealeau is the sprawling Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The refuge covers more than 240,000 acres and 261 river miles across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.

Ducks Unlimited will enhance an important corner of the refuge in Wisconsin, the Halfway Creek watershed. The watershed provides additional flood storage and wildlife habitat while improving the water quality of the Mississippi River.

Ducks Unlimited will install a new rock weir structure, diverting additional water into the wetlands for improved water management. This will improve the water quality of the upper Mississippi River and provide enhanced wetland habitat.

"These projects are great examples of providing services far beyond our waterfowl focus, with increased recreational opportunities and water quality benefits that reach all the way to the gulf coast and help address hypoxia issues down there," said Brian Glenzinski, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist in Wisconsin.

Both projects are funded through a North American Wetland Conservation Act grant with support from Ducks Unlimited, the USFWS, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Knowles Nelson Stewardship grant, the Galstad family and Friends of Trempealeau Refuge.