County boards in seven central Wisconsin counties have recently approved proclamations or resolutions declaring April 2014 as "Celebration of Grasslands Month", acknowledging the key role that grassland habitats play in our region's ecology and economy.
Adams, Juneau, Marathon, Portage, Taylor, Waushara, and Wood counties have each acknowledged support of the effort. While the specific wording of the measure varies in each county, they all urge citizens to recognize the beauty and biological diversity of grasslands in our region.
The widespread support for grasslands comes as Golden Sands Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Council puts the finishing touches on the ninth annual Central Wisconsin Prairie Chicken Festival, which includes a series of events to be held April 5–13. The festival events feature a range of activities that provide fun and entertainment for all ages, while building awareness of the value of grasslands.
The festival's name comes from its focus on the Greater Prairie Chicken, an endangered grouse species that requires open grasslands for its survival.
Central Wisconsin is home to the largest stable population of Greater Prairie Chickens east of the Mississippi River.
"We commend the boards of supervisors in each of these counties for their recognition of the importance of grassland habitats in the Central Wisconsin region," said Amy Thorstenson, executive director of Golden Sands RC&D, the organization that coordinates the annual Prairie Chicken Festival. "Grasslands are vital to the well-being of several threatened and endangered species, and they provide many other benefits as well."
Central Wisconsin residents are encouraged by organizers of the festival to immerse themselves in the Greater Prairie Chicken experience. Activities kick off April 5 with the Grassland Gala, to be held at the Central Wisconsin Children's Museum in downtown Stevens Point. The event features live music, children's activities, speakers, displays and exhibits, and fun for people of all ages.
Birding enthusiasts can spend a morning in viewing blinds at the Buena Vista Grasslands on April 11-13, where they can observe the prairie chickens' distinctive amusing mating rituals, followed by a hot breakfast while they learn more about grassland habitat and efforts to preserve it. After breakfast, expert guides will provide grassland bird tours and demonstrations.
Reservations are required for prairie chicken viewing and birding tours.
The festival also includes the Boomin' Brewery Bash at Central Waters Brewing Company in Amherst on the evening of April 12. The event features two live bands, art, crafts, food, local vendors, a silent auction with items donated by local businesses and organizations, presentations, and great beer, including the Festival's own limited edition specially-labeled Boomin' Brew Ale.
All festival events are free and open to the public, with the exception of viewing blinds, which require a fee and advance registration. Donations are encouraged, and all proceeds support grassland conservation efforts in Central Wisconsin.
For more information visit www.prairiechickenfestival.org or contact Golden Sands RC&D at 715-343-6215.