Although the majority of the land in the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed is farmed, there are public natural and recreational areas throughout the watershed. Natural areas in the corridor of the Wapsipinicon River have been targeted for public acquisition and management by city, county, and state partners. As a result, the Upper Wapsipinicon River Corridor has become one of Iowa’s premier wildlife areas.
The Wapsipinicon River Bird Conservation Area (BCA) was the 11th BCA to be dedicated in Iowa. Located in Bremer, Black Hawk, and Buchanan Counties, its core is made up of the Sweet Marsh wildlife Area and the Wapsipinicon River Greenbelt. The area has a great variety of habitats, including vital floodplain wetlands, forests, and grasslands. Containing approximately 88,000 acres, the Wapsipinicon River BCA contains valuable riparian habitat that is home to such species as the Sandhill Crane, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Woodcock, Black-billed Cuckoo, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Bald Eagle.
The bottomland timber lining the river corridor is important to a number of birds who rely on standing dead trees, like those in floodplain forest, to nest successfully. Marsh birds find suitable breeding habitat in the delicate wetlands along the river and numerous shorebirds and waterfowl use the area as a stopover point on their long migrations to their northern breeding ground. River corridors around the state of Iowa contain some of Iowa’s best preserved wildlife habitat but the Upper Wapsipinicon River BCA is an excellent example of a healthy riparian ecosystem that harbors many species of plants and animals. (Description from interpretive signage at Sweet Marsh in the Wapsipinicon River BCA. Additional information about specific species, management and history of Sweet Marsh, and the Iowa BCA program is available at Sweet Marsh.)
According to the Upper Wapsipinicon River Rapid Watershed Assessment conducted by the NRCS there are 58 plant and animal species listed as threatened, endangered, or species of special concern that inhabit the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed. The Iowa DNR has identified the threatened, endangered, special concern. and selected rare species that are defined as “unique”, for each county in Iowa. The database is called the Iowa Natural Areas Inventory (INAI) and is available to the public via the Natural Areas Inventory Interactive Mapping.
The table below shows the number of threatened, endangered, special concern and selected rare species defined as unique in each UWR Watershed county according to the Iowa Natural Areas Inventory. The UWR Watershed encompasses varying percentages of each of these counties and therefore an unknown subset of the total number of species by county is located within the UWR Watershed portion of any given county.
An interactive map showing specific species occurrence within each county in the watershed is available at https://bison.usgs.gov/#home