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NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 582 days

Weekly News Published - March 15, 2016 by the Central Office

 

DNR ramping up efforts to address Kewaunee County water quality issues

MADISON - The Department of Natural Resources is ramping up its efforts to work with stakeholder groups to address ongoing water quality issues in Kewaunee County.

In July 2015, the DNR - working in concert with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - formed four work groups comprised of local, state and federal stakeholders to study and make recommendations regarding water quality issues that can be applied not only in Kewaunee County, but in other sensitive areas of the state. Comprising the work groups were representatives from Kewaunee and Door county land conservation offices, Midwest Environmental Advocates and other environmental groups, farmers, private citizens, and various state and federal agencies, including the EPA and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

Recommendations from the work groups have been made in recent weeks to the DNR, the EPA and Kewaunee County officials. The last of those work groups is currently finalizing its recommendations for consideration. More information about the work groups is available by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for Groundwater Collaboration Work Group.

"We're looking forward to making science-based decisions and using the suggested best-management practices put forth by the work groups to address these issues facing Kewaunee County residents," DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said. "We will work in lockstep with all of these stakeholders - including Kewaunee County, DATCP and the EPA - to bring about long-term solutions."

DNR research focusing on Kewaunee County

Over the past year, DNR has funded research that will be used to guide the agency's response to the work group recommendations. That research includes a study that resulted in the testing of 320 private wells in Kewaunee County.

The study is being conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh's Environmental Research and Innovation Center, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Geological Survey Wisconsin Water Science Center, the Kewaunee County Land Conservation Department and the UW-Stevens Point.

The two-year study will assess the extent and sources of groundwater contamination in Kewaunee County. It also will assess the correlation of soil thickness and well casing depth with the likelihood of well contamination.

DNR is hiring an environmental enforcement specialist dedicated to monitoring water quality in Kewaunee and surrounding counties and also filling three positions in its Watershed Management Program to assist with oversight of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, of which there are 16 in Kewaunee County. CAFOs are farming operations of 1,000 or more animal units.

DNR encourages owners of private wells to have their wells tested annually. More information about well testing can be found on the DNR website. For information about whether people may qualify for financial assistance with a contaminated well, see "Grants for contaminated wells."

Another tool to address water quality issues is a program administered by DATCP that makes grants available for farmer-led watershed initiatives to address soil and water conservation issues throughout the state. Funding for the program was included in the 2015-17 biennial budget approved last year by the Wisconsin Legislature.

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With help from Wisconsin's hunters, sampling results provide current snapshot of CWD in Wisconsin

MADISON - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources sampled more than 3,100 deer for chronic wasting disease statewide in 2015. In all, 290 positive detections were made, primarily within the endemic area in southern Wisconsin.

For 2015 sampling and prevalence data and more information regarding chronic wasting disease search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "CWD."

"Once again, hunter cooperation has been outstanding. This year was our first sampling year under the new electronic deer registration system, and we used this opportunity to try new collection methods," said Tim Marien, DNR wildlife health biologist. "Although the total number of deer tested decreased from 2014, that was not unexpected this first year. We learned from the experience and will continue to work closely with hunters to make sample submission convenient and gather more samples."

The department has monitored trends in chronic wasting disease distribution and prevalence within Wisconsin since its discovery in 2002.

According to Marien, prevalence continues to increase within the department's long-term monitoring area in southwest Wisconsin, and remains higher in males than females and higher in adults than yearlings.

Monitoring efforts also included ongoing surveillance within a 10-mile radius of each new CWD positive wild deer found in 2012 in Juneau, Adams, and Portage counties in central Wisconsin. Since then, eight additional positives were found in Adams and Portage counties

Surveillance was also conducted surrounding CWD-positive captive deer facilities in Marathon and Eau Claire counties, with no wild CWD deer detected.

Efforts in 2015-16 marked the fourth year of CWD surveillance in Washburn County, following the 2012 discovery of a CWD-positive adult doe near Shell Lake in northwest Wisconsin. Following recommendations from a local community action team, local landowners and hunters helped the department sample more than 2,000 deer in the area over the last four years. No new positives have been detected. Based on four years of sampling, all information has indicated the disease is not widespread in the Washburn area, and may occur at a very low prevalence rate.

"On behalf of our whole department, I want to thank hunters for their continued role in providing samples and helping us monitor this disease within Wisconsin," said Tami Ryan, DNR wildlife health section chief.

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Assess conditions, obtain burn permits to help prevent wildfires

WOODRUFF, Wis. -- Fire season is upon us and weather conditions are shaping up to result in increased wildfire activity.

During the past week, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported 23 wildfires. As a result, fire control officials urge those planning to burn in the outdoors this spring to assess the weather and obtain proper burn permits prior to lighting any fire.

"Fire season arrives shortly after the snow-cover disappears. It doesn't take more than a couple of days for things to dry out and for the fire danger quickly elevate, especially this time of year," said Catherine Koele, DNR wildfire prevention specialist.

Weather is the single most important factor influencing how fires start and spread. Temperature, wind, humidity and precipitation are the key weather components that determine the daily fire danger. Wildfires can happen just about any time of the year, but history has shown that spring brings Wisconsin's highest fire occurrence.

Throughout the spring, the DNR monitors the weather and fuel conditions daily. This influences the fire danger, most often communicated on Smokey Bear fire danger adjective level signs. Fire danger signs levels range from Low to Extreme.

"The signs describe the potential for a fire to start and spread and the intensity at which a fire will burn in the wildland," said Koele. "Our hope is that the public will take note of these signs, check our website or hotline and adapt their behavior and act responsibly."

"With the warmer weather, people are outside doing clean-up around their yards, collecting limbs, brush and other yard debris and opting for burning as a means of disposal. The best way to prevent a wildfire is to get a burning permit and follow the rules," Koele said.

Research has shown that more than 75 percent of all debris-burning caused wildfires in Wisconsin are caused by people who failed to obtain a proper burning permit. The remainder of those debris-caused fires resulted from those who had a permit, but neglected to follow the rules outlined on the permit. Anyone found responsible for causing a wildfire is liable for all suppression costs and potentially any damages.

Obtaining a DNR burning permit is easy, fast and free and more information can be found at DNR.wi.gov by searching "burning permit." For the average customer, it takes less than two minutes to go online and apply. It's good for the calendar year and the permit can be instantly emailed to the customer's inbox.

DNR Fire Protection Areas
DNR Fire Protection Areas

In DNR Protection Areas, permit holders are authorized to burn vegetative materials, such as leaves, brush and pine needles. Permits are designed so that burning is done safely with minimal wildfire risk. Some areas of the state are not regulated by the DNR, so it's important to check with local municipal or fire department officials for any ordinances or other burning restrictions.

Burning debris should always be the last alternative. Always consider alternatives such as composting, recycling or leaving leaf and woody debris in the woods for wildlife habitat. Not only can burning cause a wildfire, it also adds pollutants to the air.

Burning trash in Wisconsin is illegal. It is also illegal 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.

Customers can obtain DNR permits online 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 to hear the legal burning hours and size limitations or if burning has been suspended for the day.

"There are only about a dozen or so days out of the year when we recommend holding off or restrict outdoor burning. The key is identifying those critical days and holding off until conditions improve," said Koele. "A good rule of thumb to follow is to wait until things are green and lush or ideally, hold off until next winter when the ground is snow-covered."

For more information on burning permits and the current fire danger in Wisconsin, visit the DNR website and search keyword "fire."

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Rare songbirds and prairies to benefit from donations

MADISON - Two of Wisconsin's rarest natural resources - a tiny songbird fighting off extinction and prairies - will benefit from a recent $25,889 donation from the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin to the Department of Natural Resources.

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 9 photos

The donation will fund activities by DNR Natural Heritage Conservation staff to recover Kirtland's warbler, a songbird on the federal endangered list that nests only in Wisconsin and a few other places, and other migratory birds that stopover in Wisconsin. It also will benefit state natural areas including two large remnant prairies. Prairies are among Wisconsin's most rare landscapes; at statehood, Wisconsin had over 7.7 million acres of native prairie but today only about 8,000 acres remain.

Ruth Oppedahl, executive director of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, said the donation represented "an investment in our state's conservation legacy. We are thrilled to be able to help provide the ongoing support necessary to care for these precious public lands and to help continue the progress in restoring Kirtland's warblers."

The state Natural Resources Board accepted the donations at its Feb. 24, 2016, meeting in Madison.

Natural area donation will benefit species and wild Wisconsin

The Foundation donation to state natural areas will help pay for DNR crews to conduct prescribed burns, control invasive species and take other measures to preserve Cedarburg Bog, Lower Chippewa River, Spread Eagle Barrens and Young Prairie state natural areas.

An anonymous couple with a special interest in Wisconsin prairies gave the Foundation the money for two of the natural areas.

"In this time of funding shortfalls for natural resource protection, DNR scientists have stressed the importance of protecting large blocks of land to maximize the effect of limited funds," said the couple in a statement sent to DNR. "We feel that contributions from private citizens can make a difference toward that end."

The couple's donation will benefit Young Prairie State Natural Area, near where they spent time hunting and hiking while growing up, and the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area, where they have more recently explored by canoeing, biking, hunting, and helping with prairie restoration projects.

"Both of these areas provide large expanses that are reminiscent of pre-European settlement conditions," the couple said. "This not only benefits plant communities and wildlife that need large spaces, but also give us a "wilder" experience on our visits."

Rare birds get wind beneath their wings

The $9,000 donation toward Kirtland's warblers will help DNR staff and partners continue work to listen and look for the birds, monitor nests where breeding sites have been found, set traps to keep cowbirds, birds that lay their eggs in the nest of other birds, away from the warblers' nests and maintain and expand the 5- to 20-year-old jack pine habitats required for nesting.

Last year was a banner year for such efforts in Wisconsin as the birds recorded their highest fledging success in the state, the lowest predation and cowbird parasitism rates recorded in the state, and located a new breeding site in Adams County. Wisconsin is important to recovery of the bird; until 1995 the bird was found almost exclusively in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan and was struggling to recover from a steep decline in populations in the 1960s.

The$4,200 donation to the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative will allow continuing efforts to work with private and public landowners to manage their lands to benefit migratory birds that stop over in Wisconsin to rest and refuel.

"These donations from the Bird Protection Fund are critical for the recovery of Kirtland's warblers and to reach more landowners with information about how they can make their properties more hospitable to migratory birds," says Owen Boyle, who leads nongame species management for DNR. "Birds are an essential part of Wisconsin and we're grateful for the continuing support from the Bird Protection Fund and the Foundation to keep them on our landscape and in our skies."

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New fishing line recycling program underway

MILWAUKEE -A new Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program is underway, in Wisconsin to encourage anglers to "reel in and recycle" their used fishing line.

Fishing line recycling boxes are now available at nine DNR offices.
Fishing line recycling boxes are now available at nine DNR offices.
Photo Credit: WDNR

Recycling boxes are now in place at nine Department of Natural Resources service centers throughout the state. These include Milwaukee, Waukesha, Fitchburg, Ashland, Green Bay, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Rhinelander, and Oshkosh. The Berkley Conservation Institute provides the postage-paid collection boxes at no charge. Full boxes are mailed back to the institute where the line will be melted down into raw plastic pellets to make new products like tackle boxes, spools for fishing line, toys, and fishing habitat structures.

Recycling monofilament fishing line is important, according to state wildlife officials, who say that when disposed of improperly, the line can cause entanglement and ingestion issues for wildlife, problems for swimmers and divers, boat propellers and the environment. More information about two-year pilot recycling program can be found by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "recycling monofilament fishing line."

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Broad Incidental Take Permit and Authorization revised for activities with no or low impact to endangered resources in Wisconsin

MADISON - Certain activities related to telecommunications facilities would be added to a Broad Incidental Take Permit and Authorization for No or Low Impact Activities, under revisions the Department of Natural Resources is proposing for the permit. Certain vegetation management activities would also be consolidated and definitions used in the permit would be added and revised.

A number of activities that have no or low impact on endangered or threatened plants and animals are covered by this broad incidental take permit and authorization. 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 or Low Impact Activities was originally approved in 2013 and is revised on an annual basis. This 2016 revision will serve to include new no and low impact activities as well as to consolidate duplicate activities and clarify activity descriptions and definitions of terms.

The Department has 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. The Department has 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, dnr.wi.gov, for incidental take public notice or upon request from Melissa Tumbleson at 608-267-0862 or Melissa.tumbleson@wi.gov. Public comments will be taken through April 14, 2015 and should be sent to Melissa Tumbleson, Wisconsin DNR Conservation Biologist, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921 or at the above email address.

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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