What is a Barrens Habitat? by Mark Nupen


Definitions: The Wisconsin Pine Barrens region is an area of sandy rolling hills historically comprised of a mosaic of pine forests, open prairies, and oak savanna (Figure 1). The region is located on a sandy outwash plain with nutrient poor, sandy soils (Radeloff et al. 2000). These sandy, well-drained soils were prone to drought conditions and recurrent forest fires were frequent (Radeloff et al. 2000). Fire was the major factor forming the pine barrens (Curtis 1959).

Our Namekagon Barrens is quite isolated relatively small. When I asked friends about it they simply said “just Barrens”. Few people understand what is here and why. Some people think there should be trees here like the ‘old days’ and they keep burning it. Very few recognize that what we see here was actually the ‘norm’ stretching from Grantsburg to Bayfield area. Huh????? The history has been lost over just a few generations. We know what the woods look like around most of the area, so, I decided 3 yrs ago to go out monthly to several sites and take pictures. Document what happens over the seasons from April through October.

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What an adventure of surprises that was to say the least. Now, I have to tell you I grew up around the Sonoran desert in southern Arizona which I very much enjoyed. The beauty there can be subtle and you have to walk around and take a look up and down. The color on our Barrens started right away in April with the Pasque Flower, the spectacular Woodlilly in July, and the Blazing Star in August.

Come out in July to pick blueberries like the Indians and Settlers did. Sit awhile and enjoy the tastes, the beauty and life surrounding you.

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Then there was the fragrance of the Sweet Fern that lasted all summer long, just like the Creosote bush in the Sonoran Desert. Wow, I just had not expected such a variety of plants that came and went all summer long. You WILL NOT see this variety if you drive by in your car; you have to get out of the car and walk around.

Another contradiction for some visitors is that FIRE is renewing to the Barrens and is absolutely essential to the plants, the soil and the animals who live there.

There are some wetlands much like islands with their own beauty of different plants and bugs!

There are the animals, like the Sharp Tail Grouse, the main protected species on this property. It is not found in the wooded areas and mating only occurs in the open areas called a Lek. You should come out at dawn to sit in one of the blinds and watch this spectacle of nature and you won’t regret it.

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The wolves are here also along with many other animals not often seen in the woods. Watch the hawks as they search for their prey. If you don’t seem many animals on your walk-about then look down for a sandy patch and the freeway of animal tracks.

Come and enjoy the Barrens and walk about to see what is there. Prepare yourself by checking our website and Facebook site.

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