• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation
The Friends of the North Pikes Creek Wetlands (FNPCW) worked with a consulting forestry firm to write an addendum to the current management plan for their 130-acre conservation property located in the Superior Coastal Plain. This addition incorporates science-based adaptation strategies for wildlife species into the existing forest management plan, identifying and recommending actions that will either enhance the resilience of, or transition the habitat for, the benefit of multiple wildlife species as the climate continues to change over this century.

Project Area

Aerial view of North Pikes Creek
The Friends of the North Pikes Creek Wetlands' 130-acre conservation property contains the headwaters of North Pikes Creek, a WDNR-designated Outstanding Resource Water and Class I trout stream, with a naturally reproducing population of brook trout. The conservation property is ecologically diverse and is comprised of aspen forest, northern hardwood swamp, emergent marsh, beaver wetlands, shrub thickets, ponds, and river corridor, with multiple “micro sites” throughout. The property’s large, intact, dynamic wetland complex, riparian habitat, and forests, provide homes for more than 300 species of plants and animals, including American marten, gray wolf, snowshoe hare, golden-winged warbler, grouse, woodcock, northern long-eared bat, and great blue heron. A small area of the property is being utilized for outdoor education to increase community awareness of the ecological value of wetlands, and the importance of their protection.

Management Goals

North Pikes Creek wetland

The FNPCW’s overall goal for their 130-acre conservation property is to ensure the continuation of a healthy mosaic of upland and wetland habitats that support a diversity of wildlife species. Goals by land cover type include:

  • Maintain and expand extensive wetland, pond, and riparian habitat on which 70% of Wisconsin’s wildlife species depend.
  • Maintain and improve the resiliency of the current aspen forests to sustain breeding habitat for American woodcock, ruffed grouse, and golden-winged warbler.
  • Improve forest species diversity, and ultimately transition black ash-dominated wetland forest stands to species that will fare better in a warming climate.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:

  • Changes in precipitation patterns. Warming is expected to be greatest in winter, which may reduce the deep snowpack in the watershed needed to replenish the aquifer, retain soil moisture, and maintain a healthy wetland ecosystem.
  • Temperature increases will hasten the decline of aspen-birch forests which constitute 30% of the property’s forest cover.
  • Altered hydrologic regimes will negatively impact the northern hardwood swamp habitat.
  • Warmer winters will allow native and non-native pests to have more frequent reproductive cycles and higher survival rates in the winter months, and coupled with wetter growing seasons, will increase stress on forest stands.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:


A decrease in total snowfall, snow depth, and snowpack duration may lower the water level of the wetland marsh, and decrease its value as beaver habitat.
Balsam poplar, paper birch, and quaking aspen are expected to decline across northern Wisconsin by the end of the century.
Boreal species will face increasing stress from climate change.
The die-off of mature black ash will cause higher water tables and altered nutrient and carbon cycling, making replacement tree planting challenging.
Invasive plant and insect species could become more common with climate changes and climate-related disturbances.
Forest composition will change across the landscape. Die off of black ash trees will accelerate this.
Deer herbivory on preferred tree species may hinder regeneration, particularly with less winter snowpack.


Lake Superior may act as a buffer for rising temperatures and the NPC wetlands may remain cooler and function as a refugia for plant and wildlife species.
Beavers are resilient animals and will build dams out of a wide assortment of materials. They may persist under less-than-ideal conditions.
Golden-winged warbler require a diverse mosaic of tree ages to fulfill its life history needs. Young forest and riparian habitat may fill those needs with species other than aspen.
Climate change has the potential to alter the hydrologic regimes in lowland riparian hardwoods, leading to drier soils and improving conditions for both tree regeneration and planted seedling survival.
A warmer, drier climate will extend the northern range of swamp white oak, bur oak, and hackberry – which are potential replacement species for black ash.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Wetland complex: beaver ponds, marshes, and riparian areas
Increase beaver populations by relocating individuals to the head of the North Pikes Creek watershed.
Plant a diversity of shrub species in alder-dogwood dominant riparian areas to increase complexity and provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for golden-winged warbler, grouse, and woodcock.
Install a Beaver Dam Analog (BDA) in an FNPCW-owned section of North Pikes Creek located about 1 mile south of the headwaters' marsh.
Create patches of early-successional forest in several locations across the property to provide vertical and horizontal diversity for a variety of wildlife.
Leave 2-5 perch trees per acre for golden-winged warbler.
Leave large, downed logs and dead standing trees during patch cut for ruffed grouse drumming logs.
Leave reserve trees to enhance natural regeneration of species expected to fare better under climate change.
Create additional tree diversity within aspen dominated stands in anticipation of future conditions by planting species expected to fare well in a warming climate, possibly red maple, sugar maple, American basswood, and red oak.
Plant a variety of fruit bearing native shrubs along patch edges following an aspen cut adding horizontal and vertical structure, and cover and food.
Add at least two additional age classes in the existing cover in order to create more resiliency to future disturbance (storm events).
Northern Hardwood Swamp
In black ash stands, create gaps around large mast producing seed trees to encourage natural regeneration of species expected to fare well in a warming climate.
Underplanting will be conducted in conjunction with group selection or gap creation to create conditions most suitable for growth and seedling survival.
Protect from disturbance all cedar/balsam fir/white pine inclusions in the black ash-dominated forest to provide perching habitat and thermal cover.
Underplant black cherry, swamp white oak, bur oak, hackberry, and American elm to increase diversity and maintain forest cover for wildlife as the stand transitions.
Human Community
Utilize the Beaver Hollow Outdoor Education Area to educate and engage the community in the conservation of wetlands and wildlife.
Continue to collaborate with the WIDNR South Shore Streams staff to assure our that our management plans for the North Pikes Creek Watershed are complementary.


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Continue citizen monitoring efforts, e.g., water quality testing, macroinvertebrate identification, and e-bird and trail camera reporting
Conduct post beaver relocation counts of lodges and dams
Establish and monitor photo points in wetland and riparian areas
Measure survival and coverage of tree species underplanted in the black ash-dominated habitat
Evaluate quality of wildlife habitat for target species before and after practice implementation using the Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Guide (WHEG) developed for golden-winged warbler

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