MADISON - Beginning this winter, snowmobilers in Wisconsin will be required to purchase a Wisconsin trail pass in addition to having a valid Wisconsin Public Use registration.
Trails passes are $30 for the annual pass, or $10 for someone who is a member of a snowmobile club affiliated with the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs. Information about the discounts is available on the association's website at www.awsc.org/Trail-Pass-Registration.aspx
Department of Natural Resources Conservation Warden Gary Eddy, also the all terrain vehicle/snowmobile administrator, said dollars generated from the snowmobile trail passes will be placed in a segregated fund to pay for the development and maintenance of snowmobile trails.
"This is a direct benefit to Wisconsin snowmobiling," Eddy said, adding "the state is known for its outstanding snowmobile trails and winter fun."
In other changes, Eddy said a recent bill signed into law makes slight adjustments to Wisconsin trail pass requirements and commercial snowmobile registrations. Changes were effective November 13. These include:
For more detailed information regarding these requirements and how to order trail passes, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "snowmobile trail pass." For information on the discounted club membership trail pass, please contact Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs.
MADISON - Wisconsin's use of surface and groundwater declined 7.8 percent in 2014 from the prior year, marking the second year in a row that municipal systems, industrial users and farms reduced water withdrawals.
The details are featured in the 2014 Wisconsin Water Use Withdrawal summary [PDF], a report that highlights the ways in which Wisconsin's waters contribute to the state's quality of life while powering the economy. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources prepares the report as part of its role to monitor and protect the state's groundwater and surface water resources.
Electric power generation accounts for about 75 percent of the state's overall water use as utilities around the state withdraw water to cool power generating equipment, said Bob Smail, DNR water supply specialist. During 2014, a relatively cool summer and high precipitation led to decreased withdrawals for most uses compared to 2013.
Groundwater supplies about 12 percent of Wisconsin's water for all uses and in 2014 withdrawals for agricultural irrigation decreased 24 percent from groundwater sources, Smail said.
"The cooler, wetter weather reduced the need for irrigation last year," Smail said. "Another highlight was the overall 3 percent decline in municipal water use as customers continue to install efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances. Decreases at the municipal level might have been even greater if it weren't for a harsh winter, which led to significant losses due to broken pipes and frozen pipe prevention efforts."
The nearly 8 percent overall decrease in water withdrawals in 2014 follows a 6 percent decrease in 2013.
For 2014, water withdrawals from all surface and groundwater sources totaled 1.95 trillion gallons, down from 2.12 trillion gallons in 2013. The latest numbers continued a decrease following a recent peak withdrawal of 2.25 trillion gallons in 2012.
"Our water resources are critical to our health, environment and economy," Smail said. "Tracking water use by utilities, municipalities, agricultural users and industry helps inform our management decisions to ensure protection of this vital resource."
MADISON - Final updates to rules intended to improve how the state permits air emission sources became effective December 1.
Rule changes finalized on Tuesday include an exemption from operation permits for natural minor sources. Natural minor sources are defined as those that emit low amounts of air pollution such that the facility would be considered a minor source even when operated at maximum capacity, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Other changes include new exemptions from both construction and operation permits for "restricted use engines" and changes that allow site clearing, trenching and similar activities at minor source construction projects before a permit is issued.
"The new rule that exempts natural minor sources from needing operation permits will reduce a regulatory burden to many of our lowest emitters in the state without compromising our ability to control air pollution," said Kristin Hart, Permits and Stationary Source Modeling Section chief for the DNR's Air Management Program.
The department will begin implementing the natural minor exemption immediately, whereas many of the other changes included in the new rule must still be submitted to and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prior to full implementation. Among these are the "restricted use engine" exemption and the allowance to start certain activities prior to receiving a construction permit.For more information, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for Air Permits Exemption web page.
MADISON -- Thirty-six communities, nonprofit groups and counties will share $547,728 in 2016 state grant dollars to promote and sustain urban forest resources in Wisconsin.
The Department of Natural Resources urban forestry grant program funds projects that align with state and national goals for increasing the urban forest canopy and its benefits. This encompasses trees on both public and private property. For the 2016 grant cycle, priorities include, but were not limited to, projects that will increase the ability of local municipal partners to expand their urban forestry program; increase the ability of all local partners to provide ongoing urban forestry funding, services and/or markets; benefit multiple communities; and put existing inventories of urban trees to use.
"Urban forests serve a vital role in our communities, delivering valuable environmental, economic and social benefits," said Suzann DaWalt, DNR urban forestry financing specialist. "Well-managed urban forests provide economic benefits valued at nearly three times the cost of planting and maintaining these trees. The 2016 urban forest grants help communities maximize these benefits."
Projects receiving funding for the coming year include efforts to conduct tree inventories, develop management plans, restore urban forests, utilize urban wood and train local staff, DaWalt said.
DNR forestry officials encouraged communities to apply for grants to bolster their planning efforts to manage emerald ash borer and its impact on ash trees in their community. All are at heightened risk since the insect was confirmed in Wisconsin in 2008; a total of 39 counties are now quarantined. Grants help communities develop emerald ash borer preparedness plans as well as increase species diversity to reduce impact of future tree diseases or insect infestations.
The grants range from $1,000 to $25,000; grant recipients must match each grant dollar for dollar. A startup grant of up to $5,000 is available for communities that want to start, or restart, a community forestry program. Of the 36 entities selected for 2016 urban forestry grants, 11 are for startup grants.
MADISON - An informational report that will include preliminary results of the 2015 firearm deer season and an emergency rule to amend Lake Superior lake trout harvest limits for the 2015-16 open season that would adjust lake trout commercial fishing harvest quotas and implement new bag and size limit regulations for recreational fishing are among the items that the state Natural Resources Board will consider when it meets Dec. 9 in Madison.
Other items include a request to implement a catch and release fishing for lake sturgeon on the Menominee River downstream from Grand Rapids Dam and proposed rules affecting chapter NR 25 related to implementing a web-based electronic fish reporting system for licensed commercial fishers of the Great Lakes.
The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9, in Room G09, State Natural Resources Building (GEF 2), 101 South Webster St., Madison.
On Tuesday, Dec. 8, the board will tour Blue Mound State Park to review property and winter activities, presentation by the Friends of Blue Mound State Park, partnerships, proposed Blue Mound State Park Master Plan Amendment, and regional winter activities; tour the Nevin Fish Hatchery, 3911 Fish Hatchery Road, Fitchburg; and hear an overview of snowmobile programs including snowmobile grants and aids, trail development, and enforcement at the Department of Natural Resources Fitchburg Service Center.
The public must pre-register with Laurie Ross, board liaison, to attend scheduled tours or to testify at the board meeting. Registration information is available on the agenda on the DNR website. Exact tour schedule is subject to change)
The deadline to register to attend a tour or to testify, or submit written comments for the business meeting is 11 a.m., Friday, December 4, 2015.
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.
MADISON - The cover story of the December issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources, "From coal mines to jack pines," showcases a stunning bull elk photo and highlights the state's exceptional efforts, along with partners, to revitalize Wisconsin's elk reintroduction efforts.
A Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame member, Cliff Germain, is featured in "The forefather of the State Natural Areas System." Read about tales of hunting and sausage making in "Sixty-plus years of deer hunting" and then get some advice for cooking your own venison in "Deer done right."
Pheasants abound on public lands in "A bird in the hand," and birders get some advice for carefully seeing and photographing hawks and owls that visit the state in the winter with "Northern invasion." An author/photographer challenges others in "Taking time to look around" and another author is observant -- but not observant enough to see a ruffed grouse in the snow in "A great walk in unspoiled woods." Before jumping on your sled this winter, make sure to read "What to know before you go" featuring updates on snowmobile and ATV/UTV legislation.
Frozen waterfalls aren't as hard to find as you might think in "Wisconsin, Traveler." Our "Back in the Day" column is bound to get your attention with tales of pheasant diapers -- you read that right -- at the State Game Farm. "Wisconsin, Naturally" travels to the striking cliffs of Ableman's Gorge State Natural Area in Sauk County.
Get ready for the New Year with the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks 2016 calendar and read about the great ways the Natural Heritage Conservation Program is protecting rare plants and animals.
WNR magazine also has an e-newsletter "Previews and Reviews" to keep our readers informed about upcoming stories and past articles. Sign up to receive the e-newsletter and other email updates (under the Publications box, select Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine).
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The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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