MADISON - People can celebrate Earth Day while helping out and enjoying Wisconsin state park, forest, trail and wildlife properties during the seventh annual Work*Play*Earth Day. Volunteer events are sponsored by the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks and Department of Natural Resources properties. The events will be held April 11, 18, 25 and May 2.
Volunteers can join DNR staff, local friends group members, and people from nearby communities to help repair and enhance park, forest and trail properties.
"Work*Play*Earth*Day events continue to grow both in numbers and in participants," said Patty Loosen, friends coordinator for the state parks program. "This year 25 properties are holding events, up from 22 last year. Last year we had 720 volunteers participate donating more than 2,000 hours, so we expect this year to have an even bigger turnout."
One of the events this year will be an Arbor Day tree planting at High Cliff State Park on April 25. The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region provided a grant of $1,500 from its Environmental Sustainability Fund to the Friends of High Cliff State Park to help purchase native tree species for planting in the park this spring.
The grant focused on the park's pro-active approach to removing ash trees with the advance of the emerald ash borer in Calumet County. The day will feature emerald ash borer awareness poster presentations along with additional information about the beetle and tips on how homeowners can identify the insect. A tree will be symbolically planted to show the park's dedication to preparing for the pest and replanting lost trees in high use areas in the future.
Volunteers will meet at the Pavilion in the Upper Park by the Observation Tower at 9 a.m. for a short program on EAB and instructions on how to properly plant trees.
In addition to tree planting, other activities taking place around the state include installing benches, removing invasive plants, painting picnic tables and other structures, raking and cleaning up leaves and picking up litter. Refreshments are often provided and Friends of Wisconsin State Parks will also provide appreciation gifts for volunteers.
"When the work is done, volunteers join staff in hiking or biking park trails, visiting nature centers or interpretive displays, or enjoying any of the recreational opportunities available at the different properties," Loosen said.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Patty Loosen, DNR Parks Program Friends Coordinator, 608-264-8994; Paul Holtan, Communications, 608-235-2126
ASHLAND - Wisconsin owls are making noise.
These secretive nocturnal creatures are among the earliest nesting bird species in the state and can now be heard statewide - making early spring a great time for people to listen for owl calls and to consider volunteering to join a roadside survey to track their populations.
"This is prime owl time," says Rich Staffen, a conservation biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.
Owls are the marquee species this month as DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation program launches a new monthly web feature shining a spotlight on the tremendous diversity of birds in Wisconsin. Web users will find slide shows, videos and fast facts sharing ways people can enjoy listening and watching for birds, learning more about them, and taking steps to help birds remain a beloved part of Wisconsin.
There are 19 owl species in North America and six regularly nest in Wisconsin. Two others, the barn owl and the great gray owl, are rare breeders in the state. Another three - snowy owls, boreal owls and northern hawk owls - are occasional winter visitors.
"Right now, we have some great horned owl chicks starting to hatch, barred owls are talking to each other with the males and females dueting, N. saw-whets are starting to call more often and move north, and screech owls are on territories in upland forests and urban areas," says Ryan Brady, a DNR researcher who coordinates bird monitoring for the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative (WBCI).
Snowy owls, which all winter long have been enticing birders to brave the cold to search for these Arctic visitors, are still hanging around Wisconsin. Earlier this month, a second Wisconsin bird was captured near Reedsville and outfitted with a tracking device to study its movements. Follow Project SNOWstorm and the whereabouts of these birds.
Brady is now recruiting citizens to join WBCI and Minnesota's Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in carrying out a roadside survey to assess the status, distribution, trends, and habitat associations of owl populations in the region.
"Owl enthusiasts of any skill level are welcome," says Brady. All volunteers to the Western Great Lakes Owl Survey get online training and must pass a brief certification test to ensure accurate data collection.
Volunteer surveyors are asked to conduct two roadside surveys of an assigned route after dark, the first between April 1 and 15, and the second between April 25 and May 10. Volunteers drive their route, which contains 10 stations each one mile long. They record all owls detected during a five-minute listening period at each station. The entire survey is typically completed in about two hours.
Routes are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis; interested volunteers can view an interactive map and sign up on the survey's web page for one or more of the 90 survey routes statewide.
"For anyone who loves owls, this is a great opportunity to participate in a large-scale, long-term survey that provides important information to help assure the sound management and conservation of owls throughout the western Great Lakes," Brady says.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: For owls, Rich Staffen, 608-266-4340; Sumner Matteson, 608-266-1571; for the owl survey, Ryan Brady, 715-685-2933
MADISON - A 10-year management plan for wild turkeys in Wisconsin and a request to approve an emergency rule related to walleye management in the Ceded Territory of the state and are among the issues the state Natural Resources Board will take up at its April 8 meeting in Madison.
The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 8, in Room G09, State Natural Resources Building (GEF 2), 101 S. Webster St., Madison. Agenda items include:
The public may testify at board meetings on topics open for public comment (listed on the agenda) and during the citizen participation period. The public may also submit written comments about issues that come before the board. The deadline to register to speak at the board meeting or to submit comments is 11 a.m. on Friday, April 3, 2015. For more information see the board public participation page of the DNR website.
Board meetings are webcast live. People can watch the meeting over the Internet by going to the NRB agenda page of the DNR website and clicking on webcasts in the Related Links column on the right. Then click on this month's meeting. After each meeting, the webcast will be permanently available on demand.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Ross, board liaison, 608-267-7420
MADISON - April marks the beginning of another spring turkey hunt, and a strong year of turkey production in 2014 means hunters should look forward to a good season.
"We had a nice year of production in 2014," said Scott Walter, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist. "Though some parts of the state saw large rainfall events in June, July and August were excellent for brood rearing and survival, and our statewide surveys reported a 22 percent increase in the number of broods seen per observer hour, as well as an increase in brood size."
Turkey populations rise or fall from one year to the next, largely in response to weather conditions during critical nesting and brood-rearing periods. According to Walter, we are likely still seeing the benefits of an outstanding year of production in 2012.
Despite severe weather conditions during the winter of 2013-14 and a late spring, many reports noted turkey broods with small chicks late in the brood observation period - an indication of successful late nesting or re-nesting activity.
Hunters harvested 41,815 turkeys during the 2014 spring season - this was a 10 percent increase from the 37,804 birds harvested in 2013. Spring hunter success rates in the past few years have ranged from 17 to 22 percent.
The 2015 spring turkey season will consist of six seven-day time periods. Each time period will begin on a Wednesday and run through the following Tuesday. In total, 237,768 permits were made available for this spring's hunt, essentially the same number made available for the 2014 spring season. More than 134,000 permits were issued in the drawing for the spring 2015 season - this left just under 104,000 available for over-the-counter purchase. Leftover permits went on sale on a zone-per-day basis March 23, and will be available for purchase until they are sold out or the season ends. The 2015 season closes May 26.
Join Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources experts for a spring turkey hunt online chat April 7 at noon. Visit the DNR web site at dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "chat" to submit questions and view responses from DNR experts. Here, you can also view past chats and sign up to receive email notifications.
Wisconsin's state park turkey management zones have been eliminated - this change became effective Sept. 1, 2014. Beginning in spring 2015, hunters are no longer able to apply for spring turkey permits in any of the previously listed state park hunting zones. However, Wisconsin's state parks will remain open for spring turkey hunting and have been absorbed into the larger turkey management zones. For example, a hunter wishing to hunt Zone 1A (Governor Dodge State Park) may still do so with a Zone 1 permit.
Spring turkey hunting within state parks is permitted during the Youth Turkey Hunt and the first three time periods of the regular spring turkey season. For more information regarding hunting within state parks, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "state park hunting."
The 2015 Spring Turkey Youth Hunt will be open statewide April 11-12; this two-day hunt, which began in 2007, provides for one-on-one mentoring for future hunters in a relaxed atmosphere without competition for hunting spots from regular season hunters.
Through the Mentored Hunting Program, hunters ages 10 through 15 may hunt during the two-day youth turkey hunt without first having completed hunter education, so long as they do so with a qualified adult mentor and follow the program's rules.
Youth ages 12 through 15 who have already completed hunter education may hunt during the youth hunt while accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older. Each youth must have a valid spring 2015 turkey harvest permit, license and stamp.
"The mentored hunt is a great chance for all of us adults, parents and hunters to grab a rookie and get in the game," said Keith Warnke, DNR hunter recruitment coordinator. "Now is the time to take the opportunity to mentor a new hunter."
Youth are allowed to hunt on April 11-12 in the turkey management zone for which their permit is valid, regardless of the time period their permit shows, and may harvest only one male or bearded turkey during the two-day hunt.
A youth hunter who does not successfully harvest a turkey during the two-day hunt may use an unfilled permit during the time period and in the zone for which the permit was issued. There is no special application procedure for the youth hunt, but these hunters must either receive a tag through the drawing or purchase a leftover tag. All other spring turkey hunting regulations apply.
DNR statistics show that 80 percent of accidents during turkey hunting seasons involve hunters mistaking other hunters for game or hunters failing to positively identify their target, while the remaining 20 percent are self-inflicted.
"The two most critical ingredients for a successful spring hunt are a detailed hunting plan in one hand and a firm grip on firearm safety in the other," said Jon King, DNR conservation warden and hunter education administrator. "Treat every firearm as if it is loaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction, be sure of your target and what's beyond it and keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until ready to shoot."
A Conservation Patron license provides all the basic fishing and hunting privileges at a great price - $165 for Wisconsin residents, a price reduction of nearly one-half when compared to the value for each item included. For Wisconsin residents under the age of 18, a Conservation Patron license costs only $75.
Hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website, at all authorized license agents, and at DNR Service Centers (hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays).
For more information regarding turkey hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "turkey."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861; Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458; Keith Warnke, hunter recruitment coordinator, 608-576-5243; Jon King, hunter education administrator, 608-575-2294
MADISON - The village of Sussex in southeast Wisconsin is looking to improve part of its downtown business district with the help of an award from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources brownfields program.
The department awarded $200,000 in grant funds to the Sussex Community Development Authority from the Ready for Reuse Loan and Grant Program to use for excavating petroleum-contaminated soil on a half-acre site along Main Street and Kneiske Drive.
"These brownfield funds go a long way in helping communities like Sussex get a jump on cleaning up contaminated sites and spurring economic redevelopment in the process," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.
During the 1950s, the site was filled in with soil in order to raise the elevation of the area to match the elevation of Main Street. The village bought the property in 2014 and planned to unearth and realign Spring Creek in order to address a failing culvert and promote redevelopment along Main Street.
The department is also funding a portion of the stream unearthing and realignment project with a Nonpoint Source Water Pollution Abatement and Storm Water grant and a Petroleum Environmental Cleanup Fund Award.
Once the contaminated soil has been removed and disposed of at a licensed facility, clay soils will be installed to cap the property.
The work along Spring Creek will reduce the risk to soil contaminants and the potential release of contaminants to the creek, improve creek water quality and conveyance of flood waters, and improve the overall aesthetics of the Main Street corridor.
In the last decade, DNR has awarded nearly $8.5 million in Ready for Reuse grants or loans to more than 20 communities across the state to help clean up contaminated properties known as brownfields. The Wisconsin DNR's brownfields program is an award-winning national leader in these redevelopment efforts.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Christine Haag, DNR Brownfields and Outreach Section Chief, 608-266-0244; Andrew Savagian, Communications, 608-261-6422
MADISON - Spring is right around the corner and many bears have begun to emerge from their dens. Homeowners are encouraged to take precautions to avoid potential conflicts with hungry bears.
"More than 800 bear-related complaints are reported each year," said Brad Koele, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife damage specialist. "Many of these conflicts occur as a result of some type of attractant, especially bird feeders, garbage cans, grills, uncontained compost or pet food left outside and accessible."
Black bears normally avoid contact with people, but when food sources are available bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food.
According to Koele, it is especially important to remove these attractants during the spring, as bears are emerging from dens and looking to restore depleted energy reserves when natural foods are limited.
It is illegal to intentionally feed bears in Wisconsin, but it is also important for homeowners to make sure they do not unintentionally feed bears via an accessible food source near their home.
If a bear finds food such as bird feed or garbage near your home it will likely return and visits may stop when food is no longer available. Bears will periodically check sites where food was once available, so it may take several days to weeks before a bear will quit visiting a site once the food source has been removed.
Homeowners can follow these steps to avoid attracting bears:
If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise to scare it away - back away slowly and seek a safe location where you can wait for the bear to leave. When scaring a bear away, make sure it has a clear escape route - never corner a bear. If you encounter a bear while in the woods, stay calm and do not approach it. Never approach a sow with cubs and do not attempt to break-up a fight between your pet and a bear.
The department would also like to remind homeowners that it is unlawful and unethical to shoot at bears with firearms.
"Shooting bears with bird shot is illegal, inhumane and could result in significant injuries or even death for the bear," said Koele. "There are a variety of non-lethal, humane abatement options available for resolving conflicts with bears."
The department partners with U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services for responding to black bear complaints, and homeowners who are unable to resolve a conflict with a bear should contact the USDA Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in Southern Wisconsin, and 1-800-228-1368 for properties Northern Wisconsin.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Koele, DNR wildlife biologist, 715-356-5211; Dan Hirchert, DNR wildlife biologist, 608-267-7974
MADISON - The 2015 Wisconsin National Archery in the Schools Program state tournament will take place April 10-11 in Rothschild at the Central Wisconsin Convention and Expo center.
This year's event will feature athletes in grades four through 12 from 59 schools throughout Wisconsin. Currently, more than 1,400 students have registered for the event, with over 670 female archers planning to participate. The event will feature a 3-D animal range, flying or rolling discs, a bow fishing exhibit and laser gun ranges.
"The National Archery in the Schools Program provides a great opportunity to try a new sport for these kids," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Schools throughout the state have been great partners in helping the program grow and reach more students of all ages."
Students at this year's state tournament will compete for individual and team awards in elementary, middle and high School divisions, as well as a chance to qualify for the NASP national tournament in Louisville, Kentucky.
Through NASP, archery is typically taught during the school day as part of a physical education curriculum. Interested teachers can attend a one day training session to receive Basic Archery Instructors certification. Archery equipment and a teaching curriculum is provided and grants are available to help offset any initial startup costs for schools.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Daniel Schroeder, DNR NASP coordinator, 608-235-4619
MADISON - Preliminary harvest data from Wisconsin's 2014-15 bobcat seasons has shown that hunters and trappers harvested 274 bobcats. Preliminary data combines both state and tribal harvest information, and final harvest information should be available by mid-June.
This marks the fifth year of expanded bobcat harvest and includes results from the newly opened southern bobcat harvest zone.
"Wisconsin's bobcat population is doing well and continues to expand into central and southwest Wisconsin; 2014 is also notable for efforts to improve population estimate procedures - this is a high priority for the department and key conservation partner groups," said John Olson, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources furbearer ecologist. "We share a hope that better population estimates will lead to expanded hunting and trapping opportunities."
The department's bobcat population estimate research is led by Nathan Roberts, the department's furbearer research scientist.
"This autumn, we worked with trappers to place GPS satellite collars on seven bobcats," said Roberts. "We will be collaring more animals this upcoming year and these collared bobcats will help us better understand the status of bobcats in northern Wisconsin to update our population models and improve our annual quota setting decisions."
Annual harvest quota recommendations are made by the Furbearer Advisory Committee, which includes DNR staff, tribal and partner agency representatives and individuals from key user groups. Wisconsin's bobcat hunting and trapping seasons are divided into early (mid-October to December 25) and late (December 26 to January 31) time periods. These early and late seasons for each zone can be closed early, if needed, to stay within approved harvest goals.
Harvested bobcats must be reported within 24 hours and receive an in-person registration tag from a local conservation warden within five days of the month of harvest. Successful harvesters must provide the bobcat carcass to the department for scientific examination. Department staff use data collected from this examination to monitor population age structure, pregnancy rates and litter sizes. This information is tracked annually to allow adjustments to harvest based on overall size and health of the bobcat population.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: John Olson, DNR furbearer ecologist, 715-685-2934; Nathan Roberts, DNR research scientist, 715-490-9345
MADISON - A number of activities that have no or low impact on endangered or threatened plants and animals will be added a broad incidental take permit and authorization, under a Department of Natural Resources proposal currently open for public comment.
Incidental take refers to the unintentional loss of individual endangered or threatened animals or plants that does not put the overall population of the species at risk.
The Broad Incidental Take Permit and Authorization for No and Low Impact Activities was originally approved in 2013 and revised in 2014. This revision will new no and low impact activities as well as to update existing activities including removal of duplicate activities and clarification of activity descriptions. New activities include things like minor fence installations and vegetation management.
Department staff concluded that the take allowed for under this permit and authorization is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence and recovery of the state population of the species or the whole plant-animal community of which they are a part; and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the action. They also concluded that the take allowed for under this permit and authorization is not likely to appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival or recovery of the species within the state, the whole plant-animal community of which they are a part or the habitat that is critical to their existence.
The conservation measures to minimize the adverse effect on the endangered and threatened species will be incorporated into the proposed Incidental Take Permit and Authorization. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on the species are available by searching the DNR website at dnr.wi.gov for incidental take public notice or upon request from Rori Paloski at 608-264-6040 or Melissa Tumbleson at 608-267-0862. Public comments will be taken through April 30, 2015, and should be sent to Rori Paloski, DNR Conservation Biologist, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Rori Paloski at 608-264-6040 or Melissa Tumbleson at 608-267-0862
MADISON - The Department of Natural Resources has appointed one of its most well respected and experienced leaders to head the agency's Land Division staff. DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp today announced the appointment of Sanjay Olson as administrator. Olson had served as deputy Land Division Administrator since 2011.
"I am excited to add Sanjay to our management team and look forward to his input and collaboration," said Stepp. "Sanjay's strong leadership and management skills along with his proven track record of collaboration and customer service are welcomed assets to our agency's leadership team."
As administrator, Olson will oversee almost 500 professional and technical staff working in wildlife, parks & recreation, natural heritage conservation, land acquisition, master planning and capital development programs across the state.
"I am honored and thrilled that I have been asked by Secretary Stepp and her leadership team to serve as the administrator of the Land Division", said Olson. "I look forward to leading the Land Division and its talented staff that work at our treasured state parks, that manage our rich wildlife resources, and that care for and develop the lands of the state."
Olson has worked for the Department of Natural Resources for more than 20 years, spending the last 4 years as the deputy administrator for the division. Prior to that, he spent 17 years in the Engineering & Construction Management Section within the Bureau of Facilities & Lands, the last nine of which as section chief. Before joining state government, Olson worked for a private consulting firm, specializing in civil engineering and surveying.
Olson holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Olson succeeds Kurt Thiede, who was recently appointed Deputy Secretary after serving over four years as administrator. Olson begins his new position immediately.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Sanjay Olson, Lands Division administrator, 608-261-6453
The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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