Weekly News Published - July 22, 2014

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Big Changes for DNR Park visitors at the Wisconsin State Fair

WEST ALLIS, Wis. - The Wisconsin State Fair kicks off on Thursday, July 31 and while the DNR Park continues to be a green and shady oasis in the fair, visitors will notice some big changes and new additions to the site.

New this year, families will find an outdoor natural play area for the kids, a new scavenger hunt with a prize at the end and the introduction of 'Go Discover!' Program for children that is all about bats, birds and insects.

There is an expanded area for archery enthusiasts or those who are just interested in giving it a try and a laser shot activity center. There is a technology area where Department of Natural Resources staff will help visitors download handy apps and assist with QR codes.

There are also big changes at the park this year. The non-profit group, Interfaith, which ran the t-shirt printing tent chose to not return this year so there will be no t-shirt printing available. Instead, visitors will find the largely expanded National Archery in the Schools Program tent and get an introduction to target archery from a trained warden.

Park goers are also reminded to keep an eye out for emerald ash borer signs throughout their walk to learn how to identify this invasive species and prevent it spreading in local neighborhoods. The recent discovery of the invasive insect at the park required several trees to be removed and others to be treated in an effort to extend their life while maintaining the cool shade they provide. Fortunately, with the help of private nurseries and the DNR reforestation program, the park received hundreds of new trees and shrubs.

Fair-goers will also find some of their traditional favorites. They can still pick up hunting and fishing licenses, trail passes and state park stickers at our customer service desk. The casting clinic will be held daily from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the archery tent where kids can learn how to cast, hook and reel in those whopper fish. Take an adventure photo in the south building at the Natural Heritage Conservation booth, say hello to Smokey Bear, swing by the wildlife display for a hand-on experience with animal pelts or stop by the Tree of Pledges and pick your environmental pledge for the year.

Wisconsin State Fair (exit) visitors can enjoy these exhibits and much more daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. For a DNR Park map, and more, search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keywords "state fair."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Trish Nitschke, DNR Office of Communications 920-360-3252.

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Public hearings set to gather input regarding Wisconsin waterfowl season structure

MADISON -- The Mississippi Flyway Council will meet in July to analyze survey data and make recommendations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on waterfowl hunting regulations. The council includes waterfowl specialists and wildlife directors from 17 U.S. states and Canadian Provinces.

Recommendations from the council will help the USFWS establish a framework in late July under which states and provinces can set waterfowl hunting seasons.

Following the council meeting and USFWS direction, public hearings on Wisconsin's proposed waterfowl seasons will be held Aug. 4-7. Wisconsin's final season structure will be set by the Natural Resources Board at its Aug. 13 meeting in Hayward.

"The public will have an opportunity to provide input on waterfowl hunting seasons during each of these upcoming meetings and hearings as well as by email, mail or phone," said DNR migratory game bird ecologist Kent Van Horn. "Input from the public is an important part of developing a season proposal for approval in mid-August."

The Post-Flyway meeting will be held:

  • Saturday August 2, Plover - 3-5 p.m. - Elizabeth Inn, 5246 Harding Ave.

The following public hearings on season structure proposals will be held from 7-10 p.m.:

  • Monday Aug. 4, La Crosse - State Office Bldg, Rooms B-19 and B-20, 3550 Mormon Coulee Road, 608-785-9000.
  • Tuesday Aug. 5, Rice Lake - Days Inn, 1710 South Main Street, 715-234-4444.
  • Wednesday Aug. 6, Appleton - Agricultural Services Center, Main conference room, 3369 West Brewster St, 920-832-1804.
  • Thursday Aug. 7, Pewaukee - Wildwood Lodge, N14 W24121 Tower Place, 262-506-2000.

The August Natural Resources Board meeting will be held:

  • Wednesday Aug. 13, Hayward - 8:30 a.m., Famous Dave's Conference Center at Grand Pines Resort, 9993 N. Grand Pines Road.

The proposed waterfowl seasons will be available online beginning Aug. 4. Search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "waterfowl." The department will accept public comments on the proposed waterfowl season structure at each public hearing.

People who are unable to attend one of the hearings can provide input or comments through midnight on Thursday, Aug. 7. Comments may be directed to Taylor Finger, Wisconsin DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707, by email to Taylor.finger@wisconsin.gov, or by calling 608-261-6458.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent Van Horn, DNR migratory game bird ecologist, 608-266-8841

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Careful habitat management and managed drawdowns provide for another great year of shorebird viewing in Wisconsin

MADISON -- For migratory shorebirds, winter preparations are underway as adult birds return to Wisconsin shores and wetlands from their arctic breeding grounds. Managed public properties throughout the state provide an excellent opportunity to view a number of these birds and other wetland species.

"Shorebirds are notorious for being the earliest southbound migrants," said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources research scientist and bird monitoring coordinator Ryan Brady. "The first birds arrive in late June, numbers build through July, and then diversity and abundance peaks here around mid-to-late August."

To help the public locate areas with good habitat and viewing conditions, the department has offered a user-friendly map since 2012. Current locations and access directions can be found on this interactive map (exit DNR). Private land sites with safe roadside viewing conditions are also found on the map.

Birders are asked to submit their sightings to Wisconsin eBird (exit DNR) to help biologists track migratory shorebird populations and assess the value of management activities.

"The map represents a simple way for citizens to locate areas of high shorebird concentration and includes directions for accessing these locations," said Jason Fleener, DNR wetland habitat biologist.

While a handful of shorebirds nest in Wisconsin, the majority make only short stops. These shorebirds fly thousands of miles from nesting grounds on the arctic tundra and in boreal forests to wintering areas from U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts to Argentina.

"Having appropriate stopover habitat for these birds to rest and refuel - sometimes doubling their body weight in just days - is critical to the survival of individual birds and overall health of populations," said Brady.

Migratory shorebirds include nearly 40 species of plovers, sandpipers, phalaropes and their relatives. According to Brady, they require specialized and sparsely distributed wetland habitats like mudflats, shallow water and exposed sandbars. In Wisconsin, natural occurrence of these habitats is scarce and unpredictable. As a result, DNR and other conservation partners maintain additional habitat at select public properties each year through water level management.

Based on local weather conditions, wildlife biologists open water control structures beginning in late April or early May to slowly reduce water levels in impoundments. The goal of these reductions is to expose new mudflats and habitat. This timing coincides with spring migration of shorebirds as they head north to summer breeding grounds. Mudflats can also be created naturally during dry periods as wetlands evaporate.

In other instances, impoundments are purposely drained when a dam is deemed unsafe following a safety inspection. Drawdowns are also implemented in the summer to coincide with the shorebird migration south to wintering grounds.

By the end of summer, a reduction in water levels results in large, expansive mudflats and a great deal of new annual plant growth. After most shorebirds have migrated south in late summer, biologists will often raise water levels on impoundments, depending on the management goals for each site.

An important benefit of water level management is the large volume of seeds produced by new plant growth. These seeds are consumed by waterfowl, wetland birds and sparrows during fall migration after many shorebirds depart. Careful management helps regenerate bulrushes and other emergent plants that grebes, coots, rails, ducks and other wetland-dependent species use for nesting habitat in successive breeding seasons.

Funding for habitat work is provided in part by hunter license revenue, excise taxes on hunting and shooting equipment, the state waterfowl stamp, and private funds.

"If you value this type of habitat management and recreational opportunity, please consider purchasing a waterfowl habitat stamp at your local license agent to fund important projects for shorebirds and other non-game wetland birds on state lands," said Fleener.

Shorebird outlook for 2014

Given the close link between water levels and shorebird habitat, weather has a significant impact on habitat availability - especially away from publicly-managed lands.

"June was very wet across most of Southern and Western Wisconsin and included some extreme rainfall events. This has led to localized flooding in agricultural fields and has resulted in additional migratory shorebird habitat," said DNR Dane County wildlife biologist, Andy Paulios.

High water levels and fewer managed emergent wetlands have reduced shorebird habitat in Northern Wisconsin this year. The best reports are currently coming out of Southern Wisconsin, especially areas north and west of Horicon Marsh and in northern Dane and southern Columbia counties.

Shorebird habitat conditions are very dynamic - more hotspots await discovery for those who seek this fascinating group of birds.

For more information regarding birding and bird conservation, please visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "birding."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ryan Brady, DNR research scientist and bird monitoring coordinator, 715-685-2933; Eddie Shea, DNR assistant wetland habitat specialist, 608-261-0775

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Open houses set on Chippewa County Ice Age Trail corridor alternatives

MADISON - The public will have an opportunity to review the proposed preferred corridor alternative and possible route options for the trail in for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Chippewa County at two upcoming open house meetings.

The National Park Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Ice Age Trail Alliance are holding the open houses to present the preferred Chippewa County corridor for the trail (exit DNR), and to seek input and comments from county landowners and residents. There will also be presentations about Chippewa County and the Ice Age Trail.

The Ice Age Trail was authorized as a National Scenic Trail by Congress in 1980 and a State Scenic Trail in 1987. When completed, the trail will meander over 1,200 miles through some of the finest glacial scenery in Wisconsin providing day walkers, backpackers, school children, and general outdoor enthusiasts with a premier hiking and educational experience. Today, approximately half of the trail is built.

To complete the trail, the NPS, DNR, and Ice Age Trail Alliance are working with county and local units of government, interested organizations and citizens, and landowners to establish a permanent route throughout the state, including Chippewa County.

During the open house meetings, maps and aerial photos will be on display for review and comment. Representatives from the three organizations will be available to answer questions and explain each partner's role in the Ice Age Trail project. Presentations to explain the location of the preferred alternative, the local volunteer effort to create the trail, and the economic benefits of trails will be given at each meeting. On Saturday, there will be a hike on an established section of the Ice Age Trail near the City of Cornell.

The open house meetings will be held:

  • Saturday, August 2, Cornell, noon-3 p.m., Cornell High School, 708 Bridge St.
  • Thursday, August 7, Stanley, 4-8 p.m. Stanley-Boyd High School, 507 East 1st Ave.

The partners initiated the Corridor Planning Process for the Ice Age Trail in Chippewa County in 2004 and have since held meetings with local officials and open house meetings to provide the opportunity for the public to comment on two possible alternative corridors for the trail in Chippewa County. Based on the input received at these meetings and criteria for placing the trail -- significant geological and biological resources, scenic views, and linkages to communities and public lands -- a preferred corridor has been identified that crosses the central portion of Chippewa County in a northwest to southeast direction, from the City of Cornell to the Town of Colburn adjacent to the Taylor County line.

It generally follows the Perkinstown Moraine revealing kettle ponds, collections of ice walled lake plains, meltwater channels, drumlins and an esker formed during the late Wisconsin Glaciation. The proposed corridor would link potential support facilities for hikers such as trailheads, water, parking, camping, groceries, and phones at such places as the City of Cornell, Otter Lake County Park, and Pike Lake.

Today, approximately 23 miles of the Ice Age Trail has been constructed in Chippewa County and are located west of the City of Cornell through the Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area. The preferred alternative would allow an additional 22-25 miles of Ice Age Trail to be constructed from the City of Cornell to the Taylor County line.

Averaging 3-5 miles wide, the proposed corridor is a "zone of opportunity" which defines the area where the trail may be located. For landowners who are interested in allowing the Ice Age Trail passage across their lands, the partners can work with them either by direct purchase (fee simple or conservation easement) or through handshake agreements.

Lands purchased for the Ice Age NST by public agencies or non-profit organizations may be eligible for funding assistance under the Wisconsin State Stewardship Program and Federal grant programs. The partners do not want to acquire all of the land within the corridor. The intention is to acquire an approximate 50-1,000 foot wide trailway for the Ice Age Trail. In some areas, more land may be desired to preserve outstanding resource features or to accommodate the wishes of the landowner. This width of trail way provides for a high quality hiking experience for the public while maintaining a buffer for neighboring landowners. All land transactions are made on a willing-seller basis only.

All participation in the Ice Age Trail is voluntary. For landowners who are interested in allowing the Ice Age Trail passage across their lands, the partners can work with them either by direct purchase (fee simple or conservation easements) or through handshake agreements. Lands purchased for the Ice Age Trail by public agencies or non-profit organizations may be eligible for funding assistance under the Wisconsin State Stewardship Program and Federal grant programs. The partners do not want to acquire all of the land within the corridor. The intention is to acquire an approximate 50-1,000 foot wide trail way for the Ice Age Trail. In some areas, more land may be desired to preserve outstanding resource features or to accommodate the wishes of the landowner. This width of trail way provides for a high quality hiking experience for the public while maintaining a buffer for neighboring landowners. All land transactions are made on a willing-seller basis only.

More information is available on the NPS website www.nps.gov/iatr (exit DNR), DNR website dnr.wi.gov (search Ice Age Trail), and Ice Age Trail Alliance website (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brigit Brown, DNR, 608-266-2180, Cameron Bump, DNR 715-839-2786, or Pamela Schuler, NPS, 608-441-5610

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New crossbow deer hunting season will be offered in 2014;

DNR staff encourage hunters to participate in interactive chats

MADISON - With some major rule changes coming for this year's deer hunting season, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has created a number of resources to help make sure hunters are ready for another great deer season.

New in 2014, a crossbow deer hunting license is available for any qualified hunter to purchase. Previously, only disabled hunters could use a crossbow under the authority of an archer license.

The crossbow deer hunting season will run concurrent with the regular archer season. During open firearm seasons, a gun deer license will authorize bow and crossbow use. Crossbow licenses include one statewide buck tag and one Farmland Zone antlerless tag. It is important to note that persons purchasing a traditional bow and a crossbow license will receive only one set of tags.

To help transition into this new season, the department is hosting an online crossbow chat at noon on Thursday, July 24. DNR regulations experts will be on hand to answer all crossbow-related questions.

The crossbow chat will kick off a series of chats that will help make sure hunters are aware of rule changes associated with this year's deer season.

The next chat, which will cover bonus antlerless tags, will take place at noon Aug. 12. Additional chats aimed at answering general regulations questions are scheduled for Sept. 2 and Sept. 9 at noon. For more information, search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keyword "chat."

Hunters are also encouraged to check out the frequently asked questions page for more information regarding rule changes. The FAQ feature provides brief responses to a wide variety of deer hunting questions, ranging from deer management unit boundaries to antlerless permits. To view the FAQ page, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "deer."

Those interested in receiving email updates on crossbow deer hunting can sign up to receive occasional email reminders about season dates, regulations reminders and other important information. Visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page for "subscribe for updates for DNR topics," then follow the prompts and select the "Crossbow Deer Hunting" distribution list.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Nack, DNR big game management section chief, 608-264-6137

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The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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Last Revised: Tuesday, July 22, 2014