• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation

Havenwoods State Forest is a beautiful Wisconsin DNR property on the north side of Milwaukee that is nonetheless assailed by invasive species and attempting to recover from more than a century of significant disturbances.

To help create or restore healthier forest stands, a plan is being developed to transition over 70 acres of the property toward a more diverse and resilient future. This would be accomplished by removing the invasive species, underplanting or expanding those stands with native or intentionally migrated species, and minimizing deer browse on recently planted trees.

Project Area

A wetland at Havenwoods State Forest.
Project Area Description Havenwoods State Forest is Wisconsin’s only urban state forest, covering 237 acres on the north side of Milwaukee. The property has a complex history, having been the site of the Milwaukee County House of Corrections, a U.S. Army base, and a missile silo. These land uses were abandoned in the 1970s, allowing much of the land to naturally revegetate, though with a small palette of species favoring many invasives. Havenwoods currently contains a mix of forests, wetlands, prairies, and artificial ponds.

Management Goals

Havenwoods State Park is managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and staff and volunteers are planning to alter the forest conditions in about 70 acres of the property to support a more diverse mix of plants. Invasive plant species, particularly buckthorn, are abundant in many places, and some forests have lost much of the forest canopy from emerald ash borer and Dutch elm disease. Therefore, the primary management goals are to reduce these invasives plants and transition existing forest communities in upland and lowland settings to more diverse and resilient futures.

Challenges and Opportunities

Renewed interest in forest management in the state park, along with the existing impacts from invasive plant species and insect-related tree mortality, were viewed through a climate change lens to help understand the current management challenges and opportunities. These included:


The nature and intensity of past disturbances on this site combined with current impacts from invasive species, forest pests, and tree diseases have resulted in an overall lower forest diversity and capacity to adapt in many areas.
This land use legacy increases risk from climate change, new pests or diseases, and other stressors.
High levels of buckthorn and other invasive species increase competition and will require extremely high levels of intervention and repeated treatements to control these species to a point where desirable species can thrive.
Conditions for some tree desirable tree species, such as sugar maple, are projected to become less suitable as the climate warms and changes. Tree species adapted to colder climate may decline.
Even more adaptable tree species like silver maple may face increased stress if they are located in areas that become wetter or drier as a result of changes in precipitation and hydrology.
Havenwoods will become an important refuge for humans to cool down as conditions warm in nearby urban areas. This may increase recreational use and visitor demands, with risk to some natural areas.


The forested and undeveloped conditions at Havenwoods are expected to result in an important refuge from urban heat.
The park’s legacy of land use and urban setting may provide a wider range of management interventions that would not be possible in a more-intact setting.
Park stakeholders are interested in planting a variety of native and intentionally-migrated species.

Adaptation Actions

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

70-acre project area
Mow and mulch large amounts of invasive species, mostly buckthorn, with tractor or similar vehicle
Use hand-held methods of removing invasives, such as with loppers, pruners or by pulling. Support with staff and volunteer labor
Use herbicide to control the reestablishment of invasive species following removal
Use mechanical planting methods to plant mix of species on sites where buckthorn and other invasives had been removed.
Hand plant trees and shrubs using volunteer and staff labor in other locations.
Use fencing or tree tubes to protect planted trees from deer herbivory


Several monitoring items were identified that could help inform future management. These included monitoring the effectiveness of invasive species treatments, the survival of tree planting, and control of deer browse on planted or regenerating trees. Managers can use existing protocols where they already exist or consider developing protocols as needed to be used by staff as well as volunteers when possible.

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Forest types
Invasive species

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