Friends of the Upper Mississippi

Our Vision Statement

To work to protect, enhance and restore our Upper Mississippi River resources by serving as volunteers and partners with conservation organizations to provide education about these resources for our citizens, to advocate for government policies that will support these resources and to increase awareness of threats to the health of the Upper Mississippi River.

Genoa Fish Clinic

Genoa Fish Clinic – Genoa, WI

Mission of the Friends of the Upper Mississippi

  • Provide volunteer services to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other Conservation organizations for native species restoration and population monitoring.
  • Provide education programs for members and the general public on conservation issues and benefits
  • Provide grants for educational activities
  • Provide outdoor activities for children
  • Be a primary point of contact with local and national public officials in support of Mississippi River resources
  • Provide fundraising activities to support local conservation programs
  • Inform local groups and provide education on conservation issues

Endow-Bio Inc. Supports FWS Mission at the Genoa NFH


Endow-Bio Incorporated is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting ecosystem biodiversity and conservation by fund-raising and financial support of conservation organizations. The Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) was contacted in 2014 by Endow to be one of four beneficiaries in 2015. The Genoa NFH freshwater mussel recovery and restoration program was recognized by Endow as an effort that promotes biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems, and promotes conservation of this imperiled aquatic fauna. We were honored to be considered as a beneficiary that supports
ecosystem biodiversity, in good company with other notable organizations in 2014 such as Prairie Biotic Research and the Center for Coastal Studies. Through Endow-Bio’s 2014 efforts a total of $1609 was collected and distributed to the hatchery in early 2015. This donation will go directly to support freshwater mussel conservation through mussel propagation cage building supplies and food for host fish production. Many thanks are owed to Endow- Bio for supporting our freshwater mussel
conservation efforts in 2015. Also many thanks go to Congressman Ron Kind (WI-3rd district) and his sponsorship of the National Fish Hatchery Volunteer Act of 2006, which created legislation permitting direct donations such as these to be transferred directly to fish hatcheries in support of their mission.

Genoa NFH Increases Capacity to Rear Larval Lake Sturgeon


Lake sturgeon starter tanks in operation in the summer of 2014. Credit: USFWS

Winter is usually a time where the hatchery receives and cares for our salmonid (rainbow trout, lake trout, and coaster brook trout) eggs and fry, and begins to maintain and winterize all of our nets and equipment that we have put to hard use during our field season. In the last few years however, it is also a time that we try to expand our capabilities for doing good things in the upcoming production season, usually involving increasing our capacity in freshwater mussel recovery and restoration and lake sturgeon restoration. This season, due to increased success in lake sturgeon egg survival, we noticed that the new bottleneck in the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) lake sturgeon production program was larval tank space.

So this fall, fourteen new circular tanks are being acquired and, plumbing systems are being modified to accommodate these tanks to be installed over the existing juvenile rearing tanks. This will save floor space and rearing space. Through these efforts, we should be able to house an extra 30,000 larval lake sturgeon, until they are large enough to be cared for in our current juvenile tanks. The new space should also allow for healthier sturgeon to be cared for in our current facilities, which will hopefully allow for a healthier fish to be stocked into receiving waters. The added capacity will be important in future years, as lake sturgeon propagation for restoration is very much in demand, with historic populations in the Midwest at historic low levels and propagated fish surviving very well in ongoing restoration programs.

Outdoor Classroom Incorporates Milkweed Production into Curriculum


Students learn about the relationship between monarch butterflies and
milkweed plants. Credit: USFWS

Over the past few years the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) has been establishing relationships with area schools. This was done with the objective of developing an environmental-based curriculum that can be incorporated into the already established educational plans that each grade level follows. Our focus is to teach about the purpose of the National Fish Hatchery system and provide a place that students can learn to interact with and experience the natural world around them. We also hope to facilitate the development of a bond with nature that will last for the rest of their lives.

Our Sense of Wonder Wetland provides the perfect place for just such activities to occur. This space offers students the chance to experience diverse ecological communities including: wetlands, prairies, and woods. In this area students find snakes, hear bird calls, chase mice, or indulge in many other activities that a simple nature walk can provide. Mixed into all this fun are hidden lessons that are forever sewn into their memory.

jorge kids

Student plants milkweed seeds. Credit: USFWS

Due to the decline in monarch butterfly populations the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working toward increasing the acreage of established milkweed beds. Milkweed plants are the preferred food of monarch butterfly caterpillars and increasing the amount of suitable habitat for juvenile growth and development should increase adult populations.


jorge kids2
Students teaming up for Monarchs. Credit: USFWS

Seizing on the available opportunity the Genoa NFH has decided to incorporate milkweed plantings and the lifecycle of monarch butterflies into the outdoor classroom curriculum. We have worked with students from Southern Bluffs Elementary School in doing fall plantings in the prairie area of our Sense of Wonder Wetland. These students will be back in to spring to see if there plants have emerged. The Summit Environmental School has also joined the fun, with them we are hoping to start some plants early in the school’s greenhouses and plant them in the spring during their hatchery visit.

The integration of these programs seems like a no-brainer. We are dealing with a real-world problem and the students are able to help us work toward making it better. Hopefully, they will see the results of their actions and grow-up remembering the impact that they can make and the importance of their decisions.

Lake Sturgeon Return to Upstate New York after Summering in Wisconsin



Sturgeon stocking location. Credit: USFWS

Lake sturgeon fingerlings reared in America’s heartland of Genoa Wisconsin this summer made the long trek back to upstate New York to be released in historical sturgeon waters of the Empire State. Sturgeon were historically common in the St. Lawrence, Niagara, and Genesee Rivers, as well as throughout the Great Lakes but overharvest, pollution, habitat destruction and barriers to spawning grounds caused large population declines by the early 20th century.

Lake sturgeon are on New York’s state Endangered Species list and are a species of concern for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to their low population numbers and unique life history that requires females to reach 20-24 years of age before reaching maturity. Genoa National Fish Hatchery was asked to participate in this restoration effort in 2011 due to its past experience in lake sturgeon egg collections and propagation. New York’s St. Lawrence River population of lake sturgeon typically spawns the latest in the spring due to the water source being the cold outflow of the Great Lakes. This usually causes this strain to be stocked out last in the fall, when autumn leaves and water temperatures are dropping at a rapid pace.

stocking trailer
New York DEC biologist moving Lake sturgeon. Credit: USFWS
This fall 6900 six inch lake sturgeon were placed on a truck and trailer in Wisconsin to make the 24 hour trip. The fish handled well, hauled with no problems and were anxious to get out of the tanks and into their natal waters. Sturgeon stocking is only one of a handful of conservation tools in the toolbox, with habitat and water quality improvements, dam mitigation to minimize impediments to migration and harvest controls also being important tools to consider and employ. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) also raises an equal portion of the egg take from St. Lawrence River Operations in their hatchery system to advance restoration. This was actually Genoa’s second trip east with sturgeon in 2014, with 6,500 four inch fish being stocked out in September. Many thanks go to Scott Schlueter of the Cortland Endangered Species office for coordinating the partnership between the Service and the NYDEC, and providing supportive funding through the Fish Enhancement, Mitigation and Research Outreach fund, a mitigation funding avenue of the Eisenhower Locks of Massena.

Heidi Keuler Recognized for Outstanding Work with Fishers and Farmers Partnership


The following letter was presented to La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office Biologist Heidi Keuler, in recognition of her fantastic work as Fishers and Farmers Coordinator. The letter was presented by Steve Sodeman and Jack Lauer Co-Chairs of the Partnership.

On behalf of the Steering Committee of the Fishers & Farmers Fish Habitat Partnership (FFP), we present you this letter in recognition and appreciation of your services as coordinator for FFP. Your leadership and professionalism have been an invaluable asset to the development, function and motivation of a rather unique partnership. FFP was created to address the needs of both farmers and fishes across the Upper Mississippi River Basin— farmers because of the significance of agriculture in shaping our landscape and our communities, and fishes because of their importance as both a natural resource and an indicator of the ecological health of the Basin. To make the Partnership relevant and representative we include a diversity of stakeholders representing state natural resource agencies, nongovernmental organizations working on behalf of environmental issues, and—perhaps most importantly—agricultural landowners and organizations that work and speak on their behalf. Agricultural representation in FFP is so important because nearly all our projects are on private lands, requiring landowner cooperation and engagement as a prerequisite for success. It is these characteristics of the Partnership and the Basin that present an organizational challenge and need for a skilled coordinator. Our successes to date as a Partnership are in no small part attributable to your guidance as coordinator. Simply put, we couldn’t do it without you. The accomplishments you have achieved as coordinator are many and varied. To list but a few, you have:
Exhibited an attention to detail, organization, and timely guidance to ensure the successful funding and implementation of farmer-led projects

Expanded the reach and representation of FFP with your efforts to bring in new members, secured multi-state grant funds to support stakeholder engagement training in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin
Engaged other partnerships and Fish Habitat Partnership staff at the national level, and in doing so have helped to attain a high profile for FFP

Earned the respect of all interests on the Steering Committee with your cooperative spirit and skill at bringing
together partners from diverse backgrounds and helping them to work together on common goals

Heidi, we have been pleased and rewarded with your leadership in FFP. You play an invaluable role in keeping us on task and in making the most out of what each of us can contribute to FFP. Thank you for your service as FFP coordinator. We look forward to continuing to work with you to further build upon the successes FFP has achieved with your leadership, service, and professional support.

Heidi in field

Partnership coordinator and La Crosse FWCO biologist Heidi Keuler is widely recognized as “Outstanding in her Field!

Waterfowl Observation Day

waterfowl waterfowl2The annual Waterfowl Observation Day, hosted by the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, Upper Mississippi River Interpretive Association(UMRIA), and the Friends of the Upper Mississippi (FUM), will be held Saturday, November 8th at the Brownsville Overlook between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Visitors will be able to view migrating birds that have stopped to rest and feed along their journey to their wintering grounds.
Binoculars, spotting scopes, and bird identification guides will be available for visitors to use. Refuge staff, members of UMRIA, members of FUM, and volunteers will assist with bird identification, discuss the Pool 8 island restoration project, and answer related questions. Refreshments will be available during this event with all donations benefiting FUM. Members of UMRIA will have items available for purchase from the Prairie Wind Nature Store, featuring a new tundra swan ornament.
Brownsville Overlook is one of the best places along the river to view hundreds of tundra swans; diving and puddle ducks; bald eagles; and other birds. The overlook is located about three miles south of Brownsville, Minn., along Highway 26.
If you aren’t able to make the special event on November 8th, Refuge staff and volunteers will be available at Brownsville Overlook every Saturday and Sunday from October 25th – November 23rd between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to share information about migrating waterfowl and eagles. Please note that refreshments will only be available on November 8th.

For more information, contact the La Crosse District Office at (608) 779-2399

Senator Baldwin Visits Genoa NFH

By: Aaron von Esch
U.S. Senator Tammy Bald-win from Wisconsin visited Genoa NFH in early August as part of a tour of Wisconsin’s freshwater coasts. She was given a tour of the Mississippi River around Blackhawk Island where mussel biologists showed her an active native mussel bed exhibiting a few species of native mussels from the Mississippi River. She then received a brief life history on some of the native mussels found in this area. Her next stop was at the mobile aquatic rearing station (MARS) located at Blackhawk Park. There she was able to see a part of the hatchery’s mussel propagation efforts underway. In the trailer Sen. Baldwin was able to get a close up look at the endangered Higgins’ eye pearlymussel, along with snuffbox, winged mapleleaf, and sheepnose mussels. These mussels are raised in the MARS trailer which uses river water because of the rich source of food items conducive to freshwater mussels contained in the Upper Mississippi River water.

baldwin musselsSenator Baldwin checks out some Higgin’ eye

Next Sen. Baldwin visited the hatchery and received a tour of the sturgeon building which housed over 80,000 juvenile lake sturgeon. A life history of lake sturgeon and explanation of our propagation for restoration and recovery efforts of these fish followed. Sen. Baldwin also got to truly get a grasp on an ongoing restoration program by holding a semi-willing volunteer and feel the scutes (modified sharp scales used for protection) on these fish. She also toured the coaster brook trout building where she saw over 20,000 fingerling brook trout that will be kept on station and grown to 10 inches before being released on the Northern shore of Lake Superior.

Baldwin sturgeonAngela shows off this years’ class of sturgeon

Senator Baldwin was also briefed on plans for a new interpretive visitor center that is being planned at the hatchery. The Great River Road Interpretive Center will provide information to the public about the history, native species, and natural resources of the Mississippi River. The station was honored to host Senator Baldwin as she gathered information on ongoing federal conservation activities on the River, and in the State.

Let the Tagging Begin!!!!

By Orey Eckes
This year eggs were collected from lake sturgeon from four river populations: Wolf River, Wisconsin River, Rainy River and St. Lawrence River between the months of May-June. After a summer of intensive culture, lake sturgeon collected in the spring of the year reach lengths of 5-8 inches by August. Individual coded wire tags are inserted into the sturgeon to allow biologist to monitor growth and survival in the wild. In addition to being magnetic, each batch of tags has a unique identification number assigned according to where the fish will be stocked. If collected in the future, a metal detector is all that is needed to determine if a fish came from the hatchery.

tagging photo
As tagging begins hatchery staff relies heavily on partnerships between Friends Groups and volunteers to assist with tagging over 60 thousand sturgeon. The mission of the Friends Groups coincides with the Fish and Wildlife Service mission of conserving and protecting America’s Fish and Wildlife resources and their habitat for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Friends of Pool 8 and 9, as well as many other volunteers assisted with tagging, sample counting and checking tag retention for quality assurance. These tasks could not be accomplished without the help of friends groups and volunteers. The hatchery staff is appreciative of all our wonderful volunteers. Thank You for your hard work!!! By: