DNR seeking input today on boat launch impact on rare frog

    Blanchard's cricket frog
    Blanchard's Cricket frog (Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)

    The Department of Natural Resources has issued a notice of an incidental take of a rare plant and frog species in Walworth County. It stems from the proposed construction of the Army Lake boat launch improvement project, in the town of East Troy.

    An incidental take notice is issued when individual members of a protected or endangered species may be lost due to a project. The DNR proposes creating a paved access site for motorboats on Army Lake. Construction would include building a concrete motorboat ramp, installing a 40-foot boarding pier, and refurbishing the nearby parking lot and road way.

    Populations of the state-threatened forked aster (Eurybia furcata) and the state-endangered Blanchard’s cricket frog (Acris blanchardi) have been located near the build site. The DNR has determined that the project won’t result in a significant impact to conservation efforts for the species.

    Nevertheless, the agency is seeking public input until Nov. 4 2019 on the project, and the risk it poses to local populations of threatened species. Measures, specific to both species, are being taken to mitigate the possibile loss. For the forked aster, the DNR recommends a border fence shielding known patches of the plant. A small population of the forked aster will also be moved to a new location by plant experts. The width of the boat ramp and road will also be narrowed to further minimize potential impacts.

    Blanchard’s cricket frogs found near the site will also be relocated to safer areas. “All cricket frogs (and preferably other amphibians and reptiles) found will be immediately removed from the disturbance area and relocated to suitable habitat outside of the project site,” states a DNR jeopardy report. “If cricket frogs are found on the first walk-through of the area, a second walk-through will be conducted. This process should continue until the biologist feels confident he/she has removed as many cricket frogs as possible from the disturbance area.”

    It’s not the first time the DNR has warned that a rare amphibian, reptile, or plant species could be at risk due to construction. In August, a notice of incidental loss was issued for populations of wood turtle (Glypetmys insculpta) and eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) in La Crosse County. The rare species were faced with a bridge project, which could have  potentially impacted breeding cycles and habitat security for the species.

    “The proposed activity will minimize and mitigate impacts to the forked aster and Blanchard’s cricket frog,” the DNR’s jeopardy assessment states. “The department has determined that the proposed activity is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence and recovery of the forked aster or Blanchard’s cricket frog, or the whole plant-animal community of which they are a part, within this state and the activity is not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of a habitat that is critical to the continued existence of these species.”

    Isiah Holmes
    Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, and other outlets.