DNR Central Office - TREMPEALEAU - National and international officials gathered today at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge here with state and local partners to celebrate formal designation of the Upper ... More... Contact(s): Craig Thompson, regional DNR land leader and acting director of the DNR bureau of endangered resources, 608-785-1277 Ed Culhane, DNR communications specialist, 715-839-3715 TREMPEALEAU - National and international officials gathered today at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge here with state and local partners to celebrate formal designation of the Upper Mississippi River Floodplain as a Wetland of International Importance. DNR Secretary Matt Frank issued this statement of congratulation: “The Mississippi is one of the great rivers of the world, and we strongly support this landmark designation. The vast wetlands of the Upper Mississippi floodplain, teeming with fish and wildlife, have long been an important anchor for Wisconsin's economy, its environment and its high quality of life. Now this beautiful workhorse of a river is receiving the recognition it deserves as a globally important resource. Upper Mississippi River Floodplains Goose Island south of La Crosse WDNR Photo “We applaud the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for its leadership in securing this designation. The Wisconsin DNR has a long history of working with our local, state and federal partners on the Upper Mississippi, and we look forward to ongoing cooperation and good will as we continue to restore and protect this global treasure.” The Wisconsin DNR invites all those with an interest to learn more about this fantastic natural resource and its recreational opportunities by visiting a special web page, Global Treasure. BACKGROUND: EDITORS: The designation as a Wetland of International Importance includes just over 300,000 acres of federal and state lands and waters of the Upper Mississippi River floodplain from near Wabasha, Minn., to north of Rock Island, Ill. All of the 240,000-acre Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge headquartered in Winona, Minn., and the 6,226-acre Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin are included. These natural floodplain backwaters of the Upper Mississippi run through Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. They were enlarged by construction of locks and dams in the 1930s to improve commercial and recreational navigation. Today the site consists primarily of flowing main and side channel habitats, large shallow to moderately deep backwater marshes, flooded floodplain forests and shrub-dominated communities. It is perhaps the most important corridor of fish and wildlife habitat remaining in the Midwest, supporting significant populations of more than 100 native fish species and the nationally endangered Higgins’ Eye Pearly Mussel. In addition, the site is at the core of the Mississippi Flyway, through which 40 percent of North America’s waterfowl migrate. Several federal and state-managed areas are located within the site. Recreation is one of the major economic activities in the area. The Convention on Wetlands, often called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The designation is awarded by member countries, including the United States. There are 30 Ramsar wetlands in the United States and Wisconsin has two of them. Horicon Marsh is Wisconsin's first Ramsar site. The Wetland of International Importance designation has no effect on current jurisdictions or on the responsibilities of the federal, state and local governments that manage the river. Nor does the designation affect current river uses. Wildlife officials believe the designation is an important milestone, however, and one that could help secure additional funding.