Weekly News Published - September 30, 2014 by the Central Office
Report highlights Menomonee Valley success during 20th anniversary of brownfields law
MADISON -- The highly successful renewal of Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley is not only a showcase on how to revitalize blighted urban areas, it's also a shining example of the key role the Department of Natural Resources plays in these efforts, a recent report revealed.
The non-partisan Public Policy Forum recently released the study "Redevelopment in Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley: What Worked and Why?" with the hope the report will serve as a road map to guide other communities facing similar challenges across the state.
The Hank Aaron State Trail runs through the Menomonee Valley. A new study on the valley's redevelopment points out the importance of state partnerships in the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated properties.
The study points out the importance of state partnerships in the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated properties, known as "brownfields," and mentions the DNR's role in oversight and approval of cleanup projects as well as the agency's work on the Hank Aaron Trail and the Menomonee River.
"DNR staff members...are viewed as having helped to move Valley projects through necessary brownfields cleanup approval processes in a collaborative and timely fashion," the report stated. "The positive impact of the DNR's increased 'flexibility, cooperation, and willingness to negotiate' ...was a key finding of national research on Wisconsin's brownfields redevelopment efforts."
"The report points out something we've been saying all along - that economic and environmental work can and should go hand in hand," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "We're thrilled to play a role in these efforts, because it means we're helping create economic opportunities for communities while protecting our world-class natural resources."
Stepp noted the study comes during the 20th anniversary of the passage of the 1994 Land Recycling Act, the state's brownfields law that helped set the table for many of the initiatives and DNR programs currently in play today.
Since 1994, the DNR has helped complete cleanups at more than 15,400 properties. Many of these sites were tax delinquent, financially dragging down counties, cities and towns, but today have become economic assets, helping create or retain jobs. That includes the Menomonee Valley, where the report shows more than 3,200 new jobs were added between 2002-2011.
Darsi Foss, program director for the DNR's Remediation and Redevelopment Program, noted that since 2004 the program has helped prepare 19,500 acres for redevelopment and has been instrumental in leveraging public and private dollars toward brownfield projects, including the agency grabbing $11.4 million in federal dollars for cleanups and $2.1 million for environmental assessments.
To help facilitate those redevelopments, the DNR has issued more than 4,000 "comfort" or assurance letters and liability exemptions as part of the tools created in the Land Recycling Law.
"Our state brownfields program is a national model, and we're very proud of that fact," said Foss. "Over the past two decades our staff helped 'bridge the gap' with technical, liability and financial assistance and, in many cases, our involvement has served as the catalyst in getting a project off the ground."
Foss added that since 1994 the state also recovered more than $22 million from responsible parties for cleanups. "We work hard to ensure that responsible parties pay their fair share," said Foss.
The study lists several key lessons learned through the Valley example that may help guide other communities, including strong intergovernmental cooperation and public-private partnerships, especially for large-scale redevelopments.
The "Redevelopment in Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley: What Worked and Why?" (exit DNR) report is available on the Public Policy Forum's website.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Darsi Foss, Remediation and Redevelopment Program director, 608-267-6713; Andrew Savagian, communications, 608-261-6422
MacKenzie Center kicks off school year with new programs, partnerships
POYNETTE, Wis. -- With 11 new course offerings that build on topics taught in K-12 classrooms, the MacKenzie Center is welcoming 29 new schools and groups eager to participate in its unique environmental and conservation education and outdoor skills programs this year.
From forestry and stream studies to watershed mapping and an exploration of predator-prey relationships, classes at the MacKenzie Center provided hands-on field opportunities to 3,738 students from 90 schools and organizations so far this year. These experiences extended the knowledge and skills developed through regular classroom work. The January through August student numbers are slightly ahead of last year and will continue to grow as more of the new schools begin their involvement with the center.
Year-to-date, students from 16 counties stretching from La Crosse to Milwaukee to Juneau as well as northern Illinois have traveled to take part in MacKenzie programs. Principals and educational leaders from Wisconsin's sister state of Chiba Prefecture in Japan and students from Jianxi University in China also visited the center, which is just 25 miles north of Madison and easily accessible from Interstate Highway 39/90/94.
"With its historic conservation aura and educational opportunities designed for today's students, the MacKenzie Center increasingly draws participants from around our state and around the world," said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "If you are an educator interested in cutting-edge environmental programs and outdoor skill building for your students, we like to say that all roads lead to MacKenzie."
Center director JD SmithWDNR Photo
JD Smith, MacKenzie Center director, said the center's curriculum draws on the comprehensive science, wildlife management and environmental protection expertise of DNR staff.
"The department's capabilities help set our programs apart from other nature centers," Smith said. "Students gain a unique opportunity to work with members of our education staff and other experts from wildlife, forestry, fisheries and more. Many of our participating schools bring students back for multiple visits, which enables us to work with the teachers and their classes on a more advanced level."
Among the schools with growing ties to the center is the Poynette School District, which has designated the MacKenzie Center as its outdoor classroom partner. Under the partnership, students will visit the center often throughout their K-12 experience, taking part in a progressive range of activities that build on previous skills.
"We are developing a partnership that we hope can go beyond the outdoor opportunities the center is known for," said Matt Shappell, Poynette Schools District Administrator. "We'd like MacKenzie to become our 'outdoor classroom' providing a wide range of collaboration possibilities. The district started with technology education students working hand in hand with MacKenzie folks to put their engineering and design skills into practice -- they've created professional style signage that appears throughout the property."
Smith said the MacKenzie center's dormitories offer an important overnight option for classes traveling from more distant areas of the state. The center also recently added a shuttle bus that provides convenient transportation throughout the grounds and to nearby lakes and streams for additional fieldwork options.
"Our dorms allow us to welcome a wide range of students and international visitors and our accessible facilities accommodate guests with disabilities," Smith said. "In recognition of the growing demand for our programs, we are working with the Department of Administration to complete assessments of our facilities as part of our property-wide strategic planning."
In addition to the expanded curriculum for K-12 students, which now totals some 150 day and overnight programs, MacKenzie offers a variety of seasonal activities.
The 2014 maple education program served 24 schools with more than 1,600 participants and culminated in a successful maple syrup festival championed by the Friends of MacKenzie, a partnering volunteer support group to the center.
Then, in May, the center hosted the Midwest Outdoor Heritage Education Expo, bringing 1,400 students in for an outdoor skills experience. In July, the center held an archery clinic and helped some 100 youth and adults explore the basics of archery.
Hunter education represents an expanding focus at MacKenzie, with Learn to Hunt classes this fall for pheasant, raccoon, bow deer and gun deer running through December. Remaining dates include the weekend of October 18-19, December 6-7 and 13-14. The classes introduce newcomers to Wisconsin's hunting heritage and include instruction and field work before a novice goes hunting with an experienced hunter.
Game farm supervisor Kelly Maguire
Smith is working to more closely integrate the MacKenzie Center and the Poynette Game Farm, which shares the same property and each year raises more than 75,000 ring-necked pheasants for stocking programs statewide. The recent hire of Kelly Maguire as the new game farm supervisor means an additional level of expertise can be brought to bear in engaging students with wildlife management practices.
"MacKenzie is a very special place and the connection with the game farm creates a variety of possible opportunities we hope to explore in the future," Maguire said.
Schools, community groups, home school families and others with an interest in learning more about MacKenzie Center programs are encouraged to contact the center's education staff at 608-635-8105 or DNRMacKenzieCenter@wisconsin.gov. Additional program details may be found online by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "MacKenzie."
Hunters can help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species this fall
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin waterfowl hunters are among the most dedicated conservationists in the nation and during this fall's hunt, they are again being asked to take some time to clean and drain their equipment to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
"Our state waterfowl hunters contribute an exceptional level of time, talent and resources to improve habitat and as various duck and goose seasons get underway, we are again asking for their help in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species," said Bob Wakeman, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Aquatic invasive species are nonnative plants and animals that can cause severe economic or environmental harm. Species including zebra mussels, Eurasian water milfoil and nonnative phragmites spread when people move water, mud, seeds or plant fragments between sites.
Once established, invasive species can alter fish and game habitat, damage gear and make sites harder to access. For example, tall, dense stands of nonnative phragmites grass can reduce habitat for waterfowl while limiting access to ideal hunting sites.
Wakeman said all water users -- no matter the activity -- are required to follow aquatic invasive species control efforts: remove plants, animals and mud, and drain all water from watercraft and equipment. These easy actions help protect Wisconsin's valuable water resources from the negative effects of aquatic invasive species.
Patrice Eyers, a DNR wildlife technician at Mead Wildlife Area, said waterfowl hunters may have additional considerations because of their specialized gear.
"In addition to the standard boating gear, waterfowl hunters often use decoys, dogs, waders and push poles," Eyers said. "This equipment may contain water, debris and mud where invasive species like zebra mussels and invasive snails can hide. This equipment needs to be cleaned right along with the boat before leaving a hunting location. We also remind hunters at Mead to avoid using aquatic invasive species such as nonnative phragmites for their blinds."
DNR is working with the Wisconsin AIS Partnership and Wildlife Forever, a conservation nonprofit organization, to better understand challenges that might limit waterfowl hunters' efforts to clean and drain their equipment. Christal Campbell, an aquatic invasive species education specialist for DNR and the University of Wisconsin-Extension, is leading the effort.
"This collaborative project will identify the best ways to help waterfowl hunters prevent the spread of these invasive hitchhikers," Campbell said. "We've had a lot of success working with recreational boaters and anglers to prevent the spread of AIS through programs such as Clean Boats, Clean Waters and our drain campaign. This effort will help extend the initiative to waterfowl hunters."
As a reminder, all water users in Wisconsin are required to:
- Inspect boats, trailers and equipment.
- Remove any attached aquatic plants, seeds or animals (before launching, after loading and before transporting on a public highway).
- Drain all water from boats, motors and all equipment.
- Never move live fish away from a water body.
New public portal provides instant endangered resources information
MADISON - A new public portal will provide landowners planning on-the-ground work such as residential development, prescribed burns or utility maintenance an instant response regarding the potential impacts to endangered resources and next best steps.
"This resource is a great example of how the Department of Natural Resources continues to better serve our customers," says DNR Secretary, Cathy Stepp.
The Natural Heritage Inventory Public Portal is a free, online mapping application available to anyone who owns land or is an authorized representative of property in Wisconsin. The public portal allows individuals to complete an Endangered Resources Preliminary Assessment.
Previously, landowners had to complete a full Endangered Resources Review first to obtain recommendations. Now, the preliminary assessment provides an instant record and summary of the project, a map of the project area and determining results based on the impact to endangered resources. These results will indicate to a landowner if they need to continue by requesting an ER Review.
"The portal gives landowners a quick and easy way to discover what work they might have to do ahead of time to comply with laws," says Stacy Rowe, DNR endangered resources energy review specialist. "We're excited to offer the public a new tool to get results faster."
If no endangered resources have been recorded within the project boundary, no further actions are required. If legally protected endangered resources are present, landowners will be instructed to request an Endangered Resources (ER) Review to ensure compliance with Wisconsin's Endangered Species Law (s. 29.604 Wis. Stats.) and the Federal Endangered Species Act (16 USC ss 1531-43). Once completed, the ER Preliminary Assessment can be used in conjunction with the request for an Endangered Resources Review.
In addition to the public portal, the department also offers several tools to allow citizens to access rare species data. Citizens can use the tools to discover rare species that have been documented in each of Wisconsin's counties as well as individual townships. Because these tools provide general information and do not include sensitive species, they cannot be substituted for endangered species reviews.
Landowners can access the public portal by searching the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keywords "public portal." People can also learn how to complete an assessment by watching a step-by-step video on the DNR website.
Disabled deer hunt shows great participation by Wisconsin landowners and will provide a number of opportunities for disabled hunters statewide
EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated with revised numbers of sponsors for these hunts.
MADISON - Eligible hunters interested in participating in the 2014 gun deer hunt for hunters with disabilities are reminded that this year's hunt will take place from Oct. 4-12.
"The disabled hunt program highlights some important partnerships and is a great example of the sense of community associated with deer hunting in Wisconsin," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.
As of the June 1 land sponsor application deadline, 86 landowners had enrolled more than 78,000 acres of land across 46 counties for this year's deer hunt. For a list of sponsors for the 2014 season, please visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "disabled deer hunt."
Hunters should contact sponsors directly and be prepared to provide their name, contact information and DNR customer ID number. To be eligible, hunters must possess a valid Class A, Class B long-term permit that allows shooting from a vehicle or Class C or D disabled hunting permit. As in the past, eligible hunters must also possess a gun deer license.
For more information regarding deer hunting in Wisconsin, search keyword "deer."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Kaminski, Assistant Big Game Ecologist, 608-261-7588
Find fall colors and lots of flavor in Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine's October issue
MADISON - Readers of Wisconsin Natural Resources should "fall" in love with the stunning cover photo of the October issue that shares stories ranging from memories of deer hunting in red plaid ("Back in the Day") before blaze orange, to tasty pieces about wild rice and more that highlight what makes Wisconsin a state to savor indoors and out.
"Wisconsin's forests benefit from active management" shares ways that forest plans enhance ecological diversity and expand recreation and economic opportunities. In "Driftless oaks," the authors ask for help in finding the weathered sentinels whose rings tell the story of the environmental history of southwest Wisconsin.
Meet an up-and-coming young sportsman in "An urban teen with a taste for the outdoors," and discover the work of the Inner City Sportsmen Club. Safely hunting from heights is the focus of "Stand up for safety." Join a Girl Scouts troop to create housing projects instrumental in "Building a better life for bats."
Learn about a tasty and healthy tradition in "What's cooking at wild rice camp?" Then, taste and Green Tier status come together in "The soy of cooking...up great environmental ideas." "Wisconsin Traveler" toasts wine country.
Discover ways DNR's mobile apps are making it easier to find places to have fun in "Connecting with outdoor enthusiasts." And there are several great reads in this issue, all with personal takes on the importance of savoring the season and sharing those memories with your two and four-footed friends ("A tail from the field," "Reflecting on dad" and "The bells of autumn").
Find out why students and professional scientists smell of dead fish in an effort to trap rusty crayfish in "Flipping lakes." The MacKenzie Center is the center of attention alongside fabulous kid photos in "Outdoor youth expo enjoys new home while "Wisconsin, Naturally" showcases Kurtz Woods State Natural Area.
Wisconsin Natural Resources 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).
Not a subscriber? Here's what you are missing:
- A 12-month calendar in December featuring Wisconsin State Parks
- Our new "Previews and Reviews" e-newsletter
- Special products like the upcoming insert on the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative
- As well as stories to keep you informed about Wisconsin natural resources issues
- All included for the low price of $8.97 for a 1-year subscription.
Already a subscriber? Remember to consider Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine as a thoughtful and inexpensive gift that gives all year. Share what you value about the outdoors with family, friends, customers and professional colleagues. Subscribe toll-free at 1-800-678-9472, online at www.wnrmag.com or by mail. Subscription blanks and single issues are also available from our circulation office at PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Natasha Kassulke at 608-261-8446.
The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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