The Secretariat is delighted to announce that the United States has designated as its 31st Ramsar Site the Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs (4,355 hectares, 46°39'N 090°41'W) on the shores of Lake Superior in the state of Wisconsin. A largely undeveloped wetland complex composed of sloughs, bogs, and coastal lagoons that harbor the largest natural wild rice bed on the Great Lakes, the area is under tribal management that is protected as a Conservation Area by an Integrated Resource Management Plan under the jurisdiction of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa.
The endangered Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) and threatened Canada Lynx (Lynx Canadensis) are two rare and elusive species known to inhabit the site. It provides necessary and rare feeding, resting, and nesting habitat for both migrating and local populations of birds, and one of the two remaining sites for the endangered Piping Plover (Charadirius melodus) is located immediately to the north at Long Island. The site also protects wild rice beds that are becoming increasingly fragmented on Lake Superior - as the only remaining extensive coastal wild rice bed in the Great Lakes region, it is critical to ensuring the genetic diversity of Lake Superior wild rice.
Tribal members frequent the area primarily for subsistence trapping, hunting, fishing, and to retain historic harvesting techniques; access to the area is strictly limited to Bad River tribal members and Bad River Natural Resources staff. The largest ecological threat to the site is from invasive species and from controversial potential mining activity in the Penokee-Gogebic Range upriver. In the surrounded areas water quality could also potentially be affected by municipal wastewater, failing household septic systems, and agricultural and logging practices within the watershed.
Tribal members harvesting wild rice (Photos: Tim Tynan)