A voluntary waterfowl avoidance area (VWAA) was established on Lake Onalaska in Navigation Pool 7 of the Upper Mississippi River, Wisconsin, USA, in 1986, to reduce boating disturbance to migratory waterfowl. We monitored boater compliance with the VWAA program in 1993 and 1997. Of 1,664 "boating events" observed on Lake Onalaska, boats intruded into the VWAA on 127 occasions. Boating events have increased from 1.82 boating events/h in 1986-88 to 1.97 in 1993 and 2.58 in 1997. Despite a 60% increase in boating traffic, the lake-wide disturbance rates in 1997 were comparable to that in 1981. We attribute this to a significant reduction in the proportion of lake-wide boating events that resulted in disturbance, a direct consequence of the VWAA program. Rate of intrusion into the VWAA was 0.11 per boating event in 1997 compared to 0.18 per boating event in 1986-88. Boating disturbances to waterfowl within the VWAA occurred at about half the rate (0.24 to 0.28 disturbances∙hr-1) observed prior to establishment of the program (0.48 disturbances∙hr-1). We also identified access points used by boaters and boating activities that were most likely to result in intrusion into the VWAA and associated disturbance to waterfowl. Results of these analyses have provided useful information to resource managers for targeting public education efforts. The VWAA program has contributed to the value of Lake Onalaska as a waterfowl refuge and demonstrates an effective collaboration among government agencies and non-governmental organizations.
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A voluntary program to curtail boat disturbance to waterfowl during migration