Leopold Foundation: Leopold-Pine Island Important Bird Area


The Leopold Insititute has been working with partner organizations and neighbors to manage a large landscape. Leopold Institute staff used the Adaptation Workbook at a 2015 workshop, and they have implemented several management actions that have adaptation benefits. 

Staff from the Leopold Institute used the Adaptation Workbook to consider how their on-going restoration work across a large landscape might alright align with climate adaptation, and also developed recommendations for future management ideas.

Project Area

The Leopold-Pine Island Important Bird Area (LPI IBA) sits along the Wisconsin and Lower Baraboo Rivers in south-central Wisconsin. This conservation area spans almost 16,000 acres, including the Aldo Leopold Memorial Reserve and the famous "Leopold Shack." This landscape is a mosaic of marsh, grassland, barrens, floodplain and upland hardwood forest, and agricultural land in private, state, federal, and non‐governmental organization ownership.The Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program is an international effort to identify, protect, and manage sites that contain critical habitats for birds. IBA recognition does not confer any legal status or carry any regulatory requirements, because it's a voluntary conservation program.

Management Goals

A floodplain forest stand before treatment within the Leopold Memorial Reserve.

The overall goal for the LPI IBA is to improve the health of our individual properties within the conservation area and their collective contribution to local, regional, and national conservation needs.  The partners of this IBA manage five large tracts of land that form the bulk of the landscape:

  • the Leopold Memorial Reserve, managed by the Aldo Leopold Foundation
  • the Pine Island State Wildlife Area and Baraboo River Floodplain Forest, managed by the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources
  • the Lower Baraboo River Waterfowl Production Area, managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the USDA NRCS
  • the Phil and Joan Pines tract, managed by Jim Pines and the Leopold Foundation

These partners, and other organizations such as the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association and the International Crane Foundation, use birds as indicators of conservation targets. Birds are relatively easy to identify and count, and the habitat needs of specific species are also extremely well studied, meaning that the success or failure of different birds tells a lot about how the plants, animals, and other parts of the ecosystem are working.

When the partners began planning their landscape-level management in 2005, they also created conservation targets for specific plant communities. The Stewardship Recommendations document for the IBA includes specific recommendations for the1,700-acre  Leopold Memorial Reserve, such as: 

  • creating a mosaic of marsh, meadow, savanna, barrens, and forest habitats
  • converting some floodplain forest to native dry and dry-mesic prairie
  • connecting isolated fragments of grassland in the uplands through harvest and prescribed fire


Climate Change Impacts

For the Leopold-Pine Island IBA in general and the Leopold Memorial Reserve in particular, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
More drought stress could be a big impact because of the well-drained sandy-loam soils on this property
Increasing floods from heavy precipitation events will likely affect this property, because it's adjacent to the Wisconsin River
Wildfire risk could increase across the landscape

Adaptation Actions

Leopold Institute staff used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project. At the time project partners began land management planning, they did consider climate change projections available from the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. This helped the team's fundamental expectation that drought-tolerant plant communities would be favored under most climate scenarios, and that many of the conservation targets for the IBA make good sense in light of climate adaptation. These are a few of the more specific adaptation actions for the IBA and Leopold Memorial Reserve that stand out: 

Entire property
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
Control existing garlic mustard, buckthorn, honeysuckle, reed canary grass, and Japanese hedge parsley
Map and monitor populations of new invasive species across the property
2.3. Manage herbivory to promote regeneration of desired species.
Maintain an active deer hunting program on the property, with an emphasis on antlerless tags
7.2. Maintain and create habitat corridors through reforestation or restoration.
Coordinate management with other IBA partners to align general goals and coordinate on implementation and monitoring.
Lowland oak savanna
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Conducted a timber harvest on 170 acres of floodplain forest, aimed at restoring the stand to a lowland swamp white oak savanna
Reserved bitternut hickory, white oak, and swamp white oak, which are all projected to fare well under climate change.
Prairie planting will occur throughout this stand after initial harvest, including a mix of 30 to 90 species.
1.5. Restore or maintain fire in fire-adapted ecosystems.
Prescribed burning will be implemented in the lowland oak savanna after harvest, brush clearning, and prairie planting
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
10.1 Promptly revegetate sites after disturbance.
Logging trails were sown with rye after the harvest to reduce erosion and prevent invasive species.


The Leopold Foundation and other partners conduct regular and rigorous bird monitoring surveys to document the effectiveness of their management actions. These monitoring protocols are described in the Bird Report below.

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

A processor working on the lowland forest harvest at the LMR property.
A forwarder transporting cut logs to a landing area at the LMR property.
A follow-up photo after the lowland forest harvest, taken at the same point at the photo above.
A  habitat type type map of the Leopold Memorial Reserve.

Project Documents

Next Steps

The project partners of the IBA will continue coordinating on conservation actions across the 16,000-acre property and monitoring the success of these actions.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen or learn more at: https://www.aldoleopold.org/visit/the-land/leopold-pine-island-iba/


Lowland/ bottomland hardwoods, Savanna/ open woodland, Landscape-scale planning, Wildlife habitat

Last Updated

Friday, December 9, 2016