DU helping to re-establish wild rice in Green Bay

Chris Houghton, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, spreads wild rice in lower Green Bay in November.

Chris Houghton, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, spreads wild rice in lower Green Bay in November.

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More wild rice is returning to lower Green Bay as Ducks Unlimited and several conservation partners expanded their efforts to restore the native food source.

DU and the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay and University of Wisconsin Extension are planting wild rice, wild celery and bulrush in the former Duck Creek Delta in the wave shadow created by the Cat Island Chain, which was constructed in 2014.

In November the partnership seeded 20 acres of rice, seven of which were reseeded test plots originally planted in 2015.

The vegetation is attractive to migrating waterfowl, but it serves other purposes, too, said DU Wisconsin Regional Biologist Brian Glenzinski.

"Any emergent vegetation has water quality benefits, as it soaks up nutrients and pollutants," Glenzinski said. "Fisheries benefit because it provides foraging for northern pike, too."

Wild rice was last seen in the bay around the 1950s. Today, vegetation consists mostly of invasive cattail. This third year of reseeding was aided by numerous partners, including the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Extension, The Nature Conservancy, the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute and the Fund for Lake Michigan.

Also joining in the reseeding efforts was the Green Bay Duck Hunters Association. President Roger Hansen said the group has a long history of supporting DU and the conservation efforts.

"The duck club and DU believe if you have the habitat, the ducks will come. Club members are very appreciative of the habitat projects," he said.

DU's Cat Island rice efforts are funded from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service-Coastal Program and the Fund for Lake Michigan. The programs will also fund projects at Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve in Brown County and Dunes Lake in Door County.

Glenzinski said the partnership will continue to monitor success. Establishing wild rice is tricky, because it's uprooted by carp and targeted by geese in its early growing phase.

"Wild rice is finicky and we’re trying to re-establish it in a relatively harsh environment," Glenzinski said. "Water quality in Green Bay is still an issue. There is no guarantee, but we are using a scientific approach to guide our restoration efforts in a responsible manner."

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