Elk NetworkRestoring Elk Country – Lake Wazee, Wisconsin

Conservation | December 30, 2020

Presented by Yeti.

Talk about a complete transformation – this is Lake Wazee in west-central Wisconsin.

It was an active iron mine quarry for 25 years but a massive restoration project helped return the area to its original state.

And that restoration work continues today.

The Jackson County Forestry and Parks Department, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently teamed up to improve elk habitat.

RMEF supplied funding to create five different plots designed to provide early spring grazing opportunities for pregnant cows.

About 25 to 30 cow elk from the Black River herd use this area in Jackson County Forest each spring as calving grounds so they need high quality, nutritious forage.

Crews also used prescribed fire across 240 acres to control woody vegetation and enhance native vegetation, and built two and a half miles of permanent firebreak to assist with future prescribed burns.

The forage plots benefit other wildlife species like whitetail deer.

In October 2020, Jackson County hosted a deer hunt for disabled veterans. Four vets successfully harvested animals.

A multi-use area, Lake Wazee is a destination for scuba divers from across the Midwest because of its clear, deep water. It is the deepest inland lake in Wisconsin.

By all accounts, this reclaimed mine site stands as a restoration success, especially when combined with other RMEF-funded projects throughout the Black River Elk range highlighted by the successful 2015 reintroduction of elk.

Restoring elk country is core to RMEF’s Managed Lands Initiative.

Since 1984, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners completed more than 12,800 conservation and hunting heritage projects that protected or enhanced more than 8 million acres of wildlife habitat.