What is the Natural Areas Department?
The Natural Areas Program is a creative use of partnerships that engages Wisconsin’s largest community through the science and beauty of restoration ecology while managing approximately 10,000 acres within the Milwaukee County Parks System.
In just five short years this newly reborn Natural Areas Program has developed over 80 community partnerships and has trained 8,000 volunteers. These volunteers, who have donated nearly 60,000 hours, consist of university students, elementary school students, community groups, government agencies, NGO’s, religious institutions, and private corporations. The assistance these partnerships provided and continue to provide is integral to the management of the Milwaukee County Park’s 9,200 acres of natural areas. These resources include upland and bottomland forest, fens, oak savanna, remnant wet-mesic prairie, shrub-carrs, open marsh, lagoons, pollinator gardens, and surrogate grasslands. These are natural resources that have been historically molded by the influences of a great lake, Wisconsin’s ecological tension zone, and over 150 years of Euro-American settlement. Many unique challenges present themselves in a county where the human element cannot be separated from the natural element, nor should it. The overriding goal is restoration and management of these natural resources, but another, which is of equal importance, is binding the citizens of Milwaukee County to their natural areas. In the process we are creating stewards, advocates, donors, and in effect a corps of restoration ecologists.