MADISON - The Ice Age National Scenic Trail attracts an estimated 1.2 million visitors every year and trail users contribute approximately $113 million annually to Wisconsin's economy, according to surveys conducted last year of trail users and businesses along the trail.
The Ice Age Trail, one of only 11 National Scenic Trails in the United States, is a thousand-mile footpath highlighting Wisconsin's glacial geology and scenic beauty.
"This study highlights the importance of outdoor recreation to Wisconsin's economy and the value of protecting and managing our natural resources," says Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources.
The Ice Age Trail is administered through a partnership involving the National Park Service, the DNR and the Ice Age Trail Alliance, (both links exit DNR) a statewide nonprofit group that first advanced the concept of the Ice Age Trail in the 1950s.
According to Brown, the trail has been developed through a mosaic of partners, including private donors, landowners, businesses, nonprofit organizations and city, county, state and other municipal governments. The trail itself is built and maintained largely by volunteers coordinated by the alliance. Last year, more than 2,100 volunteers contributed nearly 70,000 hours of time to the trail.
In 2012, the Ice Age Trail Alliance and other partners undertook a survey of Ice Age Trail users. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater interviewed trail users and polled businesses near the trail.
Through the market research conducted in this study, annual usage of the Ice Age Trail was estimated at 1,252,685. This estimate of trail users was measured through field survey market research conducted using a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Joint Effort Marketing program. Field market researchers were onsite to interview users at major trail destinations during peak and "shoulder" tourism times to record number of users, usage patterns and frequency.
To gauge the economic impact of the Ice Age Trail on Wisconsin, the UW-Whitewater Fiscal and Economic Research Center built and employed an economic modeling system that produced an economic multiplier, which is a quantitative measure of economic impact that recognizes that all levels of economies are interconnected networks of interdependent activity.
The model looked at the direct effect of the trail users, volunteers and family members on items and services such as lodging, food and beverages, gas for transportation, and related expenses.
Currently there are about 640 miles of the Ice Age Trail open to the public for activities such as hiking, backpacking and snowshoeing. Land acquisition and trail construction are ongoing to complete the entire 1,200 mile route. The trail highlights world-renowned landforms sculpted by the last wave of glaciers that left Wisconsin more than 10,000 years ago.
The complete report on the economic impact of the Ice Age Trail (exit DNR) is available through the Ice Age Trail Alliance website.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brigit Brown, 608-266-2183 or Paul Holtan, 608-267-7517
MADISON. - The public will have an opportunity to review and comment on alternatives for completing the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Rock County at three "open house" meetings that will be held in late April .
The National Park Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource, Rock County, City of Janesville, and Ice Age Trail Alliance will present four alternatives for completing the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Rock County.
Approximately 20 miles of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail already exist in Rock County, including segments at Storrs Lake Wildlife area, Milton and Janesville. The first of the four alternatives is to take no action on completing the trail. The remaining three alternatives all begin at the Walworth County line near Clover Valley State Wildlife Area and incorporate all of the existing Ice Age National Scenic Trail segments in Rock County.
National Park Service and DNR staff and volunteers will be available to answer questions and explain the alternatives being presented. Attendees will have an opportunity to review maps and make comments, and suggestions. Comments also may be submitted electronically by logging on to parkplanning.nps.gov/iatr (exit DNR). After reviewing these comments and completing an environmental assessment, there will be a final round of open house meetings in 2014 to present the preferred alternative.
Ultimately, the corridor chosen for the Ice Age Trail will average 3 to 5 miles in width and will focus the efforts of the various partners, volunteers, agencies, and organizations working to complete the trail in Rock County. To successfully complete the trail, this corridor will be wider than what is actually needed in order to allow enough flexibility to work with landowners, since all participation in the Ice Age Trail project is voluntary.
Two weekday meetings and one weekend meeting have been scheduled, and will be held:
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail was authorized by Congress in 1980. When completed, the trail will be a footpath that meanders approximately 1,200 miles across the state of Wisconsin, tracing features left by the last glacier that swept over North America more than 10,000 years ago.
For additional information about the Rock County Open Houses, including specific information about event schedules and locations, please contact the National Park Service office in Madison at 608-441-5610.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Pam Schuler, National Park Service, 608-441-5610 or Brigit Brown, DNR, 608-266-2183
MADISON - As the remaining signs of winter melt away and black bears begin to emerge from their dens, homeowners statewide are encouraged to take precautions to reduce the potential for problems with these hungry bruins.
Natural food sources are limited at this time of year, and bears are often attracted to bird feeders, garbage cans, grills, or other common attractants found in yards, says Brad Koele, Department of Natural Resources wildlife damage specialist.
"Taking steps to remove any food attractants will greatly reduce the likelihood of having problems with bears," said Koele. "Black bears normally avoid contact with people. However, when food sources are available, bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food and can become a nuisance."
Highly habituated bears can be dangerous and may need to be euthanized.
"Preventing the problem in the first place is the best solution for both humans and bears," said Koele.
It is illegal to intentionally feed bears in Wisconsin. It is also important for landowners to make sure they are not unintentionally feeding bears by allowing a food source to be accessible near their home. Bird feeders are often a source for a quick meal, especially in the spring, and unsecured garbage cans or dumpsters are also potential attractants.
Wildlife biologists encourage residents to follow these steps to avoid attracting bears:
If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise to scare it away. Then back away slowly or go inside and wait for the bear to leave. When scaring the bear away, make sure it has a clear escape route. Never corner a bear.
If a bear finds food such as bird feed or garbage near your home it will likely return. The visits will eventually 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 the bear will quit visiting a site once the food source has been removed.
If you encounter a bear while in the woods you should stay calm and not approach it. Give it space, walk away, and watch from a distance. Never approach a sow with cubs.
The Department would also like to caution that it is unlawful and unethical to shoot at bears. Each year the Department receives reports about bears that were shot with bird shot.
"Shooting bears with bird shot is illegal, extremely inhumane and could result in significant injuries or even is fatal to the bear," said Koele. "There are a variety of non-lethal, humane abatement options available for resolving conflicts with bears."
The Department of Natural Resources partners with USDA-Wildlife Services for responding to black bear complaints. Homeowners who are unable to resolve a conflict with bears should contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture-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 (608)266-2151 or Dan Hirchert (608) 267-7974.
MADISON -- David MacFarland, who has worked as the wolf, bear and furbearer research scientist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources since 2010, has been named to the position of carnivore staff specialist for DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management.
"David was a valuable member of the wolf season framework team that developed rules and harvest quotas for Wisconsin's first wolf season in 2012," said Bill Vander Zouwen, DNR wildlife ecology section chief. "David has also worked closely with many citizens to conduct carnivore research, most notably in the completion of two black bear population estimates."
MacFarland holds a bachelor's degree in environmental science from Messiah College, a master's degree in conservation biology and sustainable development and a doctorate in wildlife ecology, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In his new position, MacFarland will be responsible for the wolf management, bear management and cougar response programs for our bureau.
"Management of Wisconsin's large carnivores is arguably more interesting now than ever," MacFarland said. "Wolves are fully state managed for the first time in decades, bear populations have grown and cougars are returning after a long hiatus. The decisions made over the next few years will lay the foundation for several decades of carnivore management.
"I am looking forward to working with the citizens of the state as we decide together how to manage these species now and into the future."
MacFarland began his position April 7 and is stationed out of the DNR office in Rhinelander.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: David McFarland 715-365-8917 or Bill Vander Zouwen, 608-266-8840
MADISON - This spring state environmental officials are recommending options such as recycling and composting to replace open burning of trash and yard debris, alternatives that can help the economy and also keep dangerous pollutants out of the air.
While it is legal to burn some yard waste in certain areas, state forestry officials caution that debris burning is the number one cause of wildfires in Wisconsin, causing about 30 percent of the state's wildfires each year.
"Don't let the recent rainfall lull you into complacency," says Catherine Koele, wildfire prevention specialist with the Department of Natural Resources. "Wildfire season is upon us and the weather can change quickly. All it takes is a day or two of dry and windy conditions to elevate the fire danger."
Burning trash in Wisconsin is illegal because of its environmental risk. A study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that 15 households burning trash each day emits the same amount of cancer-causing dioxin and furan emissions as a 200-ton-per-day municipal waste incinerator that uses high-efficiency emissions control technology.
"Open burning of any material - plastic, paper or wood - produces a variety of hazardous and toxic air pollutants, including carcinogens such as arsenic, benzene and formaldehyde," said Brad Wolbert, DNR waste and materials management program section chief. "Children and people with asthma are especially harmed by smoke from burning garbage. If you burn trash, you're affecting your health and the environment more than you know."
It's also illegal in the state to burn recyclable materials such as glass, plastic, metal containers and clean paper, as well as agricultural and horticultural plastics such as silage film, haylage bags, bale wrap, woven tarps and nursery pots and trays. If these materials cannot be recycled, they should go to a landfill or other legal disposal facility, not a burn barrel or pile.
"Every community has a recycling program for plastic, glass and metal containers, and paper," Wolbert said, "and for yard debris, composting is the best option."
Wolbert noted that composting and recycling are the preferred alternatives to burning and provide many additional environmental and economic benefits. Search for "open burning" on the DNR website for more alternatives to burning.
If burning is the only option for yard waste, a burning permit from the DNR is required to burn debris piles or for broadcast burning any time the ground is not completely snow-covered. Permit holders are authorized to burn vegetative materials, such as leaves, brush and pine needles. Permits are designed so that people burn safely when and where the risk of wildfire is minimal.
Customers can obtain permits online or by calling 1-888-WIS-BURN from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. They may also visit their local ranger station or emergency fire warden to receive permits. Once an individual has a burning permit, he or she must call or go online after 11 a.m. on the day of the planned burn to check daily fire restrictions.
For more information on burning permits and the current fire danger in Wisconsin, visit the DNR website and search "burn permit." To learn more about ways to handle waste materials, search "waste" on the DNR website. Information on recycling of agricultural pesticide containers is available at www.acrecycle.org (exit DNR).
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Waste Program: Brad Wolbert, 608-264-6286; Forestry Division: Catherine Koele, 608-219-9075 (cell)
MADISON - Nearly 330,000 catchable size trout are being stocked in dozens of inland trout waters across Wisconsin before the May 4 inland fishing season opener. A list of waters receiving fish and how many were planned for stocking is now available online.
Becky Walters, a DNR fisheries technician from the St. Croix Falls Fish Hatchery, stocks domestic brook trout into Arkansaw Creek in Pepin County. About 200 yearling fish, averaging 9.5 inches, were stocked April 4.
"Cold weather has delayed some of the stocking this year but we still plan to have everything done by the May 4 opener," says David Giehtbrock, DNR statewide fish production manager.
DNR fisheries crews have been stocking rainbow, brown, and brook trout raised at Nevin, Osceola and St Croix Falls state fish hatcheries. They've also been working with fishing club volunteers, students, and others to help stock the fish raised under 21 cooperative rearing agreements with DNR.
Some of the fish are to be stocked in urban fishing waters, small lakes and ponds cooperatively managed with the local municipality and used as a place for fishing clinics and kids fishing.
The trout are stocked in waters where the habitat is marginal and there is no natural reproduction. They are a small subset of the state's overall trout treasury -- more than 13,000 miles of classified trout water and trout populations that have generally increased statewide over the last 60 years.
Read "A Trout Treasury: Welcome to the good old days of trout fishing," in the April 2011 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine to learn about the general, overall improvement in the total number of trout, and trout in all the size ranges since 1950.
Find links to downloadable and interactive maps of trout streams and other resources to help find places to fish on the inland trout page of the DNR website.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Giehtbrock (608) 266-8229
MADISON - Anglers and others interested in fishing in the Driftless Area still have time to share their ideas to help guide state acquisition and development of land and public access along Wisconsin's trout and bass streams.
An online survey is available through April 29 for interested anglers and others to complete, says Paul Cunningham, the Department of Natural Resources fish specialist who co-leads the effort. The survey is available on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, by searching for "master planning" and clicking on the Driftless Area streams link.
Anglers and others can still take an online survey to guide public access, land management and acquisition in the Driftless Area. Here, people review maps at an informational meeting on the topic in Fitchburg.
"People who weren't able to attend the nine public meetings we had on this topic can still provide their ideas and perspectives through taking a 10-minute on-line survey," Cunningham says. "We want your ideas for managing lands along trout and bass streams, suggestions of where you'd like to see future public fishing opportunities, and any concerns you want us to take into consideration."
The online survey features questions about recreational use of DNR lands, current management approaches, why anglers choose a certain honey hole, and where DNR should focus future acquisition efforts.
The survey and public meetings are part of a long-term master planning process for more than 200 DNR properties in the Driftless Area. DNR currently owns about 28,000 acres in the Driftless Area and holds easements on more than 8,000 acres of land that allow anglers access to more than 300 streams.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul Cunningham, 608-267-7502, John Pohlman, 608-264-6263, or Carolyn Betz, 608-266-2698
MADISON -- Parties interested in preparing a bid or being part of a partnership for maintaining and developing programming at the MacKenzie Environmental Education Center may attend a meeting and site visit at the center on April 11
In early March, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued a Request for Proposals (exit DNR) focused on maintaining the environmental education programming and developing a first-of-its-kind conservation skills mentor training center at the MacKenzie center.
The April 11 meeting will begin at 10 a.m. in the Badger Den at MacKenzie (map [PDF]). DNR staff will provide background for the RFP, answers to written questions, and will lead a tour of the facility. Attendees can meet potential partners and ask follow up questions.
The entire grounds and facilities identified in the RFP will be open for inspection. Additionally, there will likely be user groups attending functions at the facility that day providing a great opportunity to observe the current programs and functions there.
Kurt Thiede, DNR land division administrator said the goal of this RFP is to develop a self-supporting, showcase conservation skills mentor training and environmental education facility. The goal is to maintain school age education programs while also providing outdoor skills training for youth and for adults who will serve as outdoor skills instructors and mentors, along with industry demonstration areas and public access.
"This is a unique opportunity to be involved at the leading edge of a government-industry-stakeholder partnership that seeks to enhance Wisconsin's conservation history," Thiede said.
People who want more information on the meeting or tour can contact Richard Straub at 608 261 6415 or by email Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Richard Straub 608 261 6415 or Richard.email@example.com
The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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