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Weekly News Published - February 6, 2018 by the Central Office

 

2017 a top year for State Natural Area habitat restoration

MADISON - Prairies, oak barrens and oak savannas and other imperiled natural communities on Wisconsin State Natural Areas got a big boost in 2017 and stand to get more of the same in 2018.

Thanks to warm and dry fall weather in 2017, success in securing grant money, strong partnerships, donors and volunteers, State Natural Areas containing these rare natural communities received a record level of management.

SNA crews, field ecologists and partners enhanced 12,500 acres by cutting brush, pulling and spraying invasive plants, seeding areas with native plants, and conducting many other management activities. Their greatest gains came from applying prescribed fire to the land to control invasive plant species and jumpstart growth of native wildflowers and other desirable plants.

"We had another very productive year in 2017 and that's good news for all Wisconsin wildlife," says Jim Woodford, field operations supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation program. "While this habitat management work may benefit non-game species like Karner blue butterflies or eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes, it benefits game species as well. Our work controls invasive species, perpetuates oak on the landscape, a key resource for many game and nongame species, and maintains and restores some of Wisconsin's best remaining habitats."


State Natural Areas - Prescribed Fire 2017

State Natural Areas feature outstanding examples of Wisconsin's native natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites and are often the last refuge of many rare plants and animals. Prairies and oak savanna are among the natural areas getting the most attention. They once covered each more than 5 million acres in Wisconsin and now less than one-tenth of 1 percent remain.

"These are our most imperiled natural communities and they simply take more work to sustain," says Matt Zine, a field supervisor for State Natural Area crews in southern Wisconsin, where most of these communities exist. "We are very pleased with our hard-working crews - through good partnerships with other DNR programs, we got a lot of work done in 2017."

DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation Program employs 20 limited term staff stationed in seven geographically based work crews to manage State Natural Areas and work cooperatively with other DNR programs to manage natural areas within state parks, forests and wildlife areas.

In 2017, State Natural Areas also benefitted from work done by 36 volunteer groups organized under the SNA Volunteer Program, and from work done under new and formalized partnerships.

For example, a new memorandum of agreement with four partners in the Chiwaukee Prairie Illinois Beach Lake Plain, a 4,000-acre complex of wetlands and prairies straddling the Wisconsin and Illinois border, now enables partners to coordinate and conduct restoration, management and outreach work across borders. This agreement allowed an Illinois partner to lead a 286-acre burn in fall 2017 on land including Chiwaukee Prairie State Natural Area in Wisconsin.

A new partnership, the Wisconsin Interagency Prescribed Fire Training Exchange, brought federal field staff to Wisconsin to get more experience conducting prescribed burns on conservation lands including State Natural Areas. The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin also helped to secure funds to manage several areas.

"We continue to expand our burning window and our work with partners to get as much work done as possible," Woodford says. "Our goal this year will be to do the same or even more restoration work to benefit these last remaining really, really good habitats."

Find state natural areas by county by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "SNA." Donate to the Endangered Resources Fund online or through filling in an amount on your Wisconsin income tax form to help get more work done on State Natural Areas.

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Winter volunteer workdays at State Natural Areas provide perfect opportunity to get outside and enjoy great scenery

MADISON - Now is your chance to get outside and get some exercise while exploring some of Wisconsin's most pristine public lands. Sign up for any of the nearly two dozen winter volunteer workdays scheduled at State Natural Areas throughout Wisconsin this winter.

Morning workdays are scheduled at many sites throughout the state, typically from 9 a.m. to noon, mostly on Saturdays. Volunteers need no training beforehand, but are provided equipment and training on site to complete the work, which typically involves helping cut, pile and burn brush or scattering prairie seeds on snow.

Enjoy camaraderie, exercise and great views at winter volunteer workdays at many Wisconsin State Natural Areas. - Photo credit: DNR
Enjoy camaraderie, exercise and great views at winter volunteer workdays at many Wisconsin State Natural Areas.Photo credit: DNR

Enjoy camaraderie, exercise and great views at winter volunteer workdays at many Wisconsin State Natural Areas.

"We have volunteer groups stepping up all over the state to care for Wisconsin's State Natural Areas and these winter volunteer workdays are a great way to warm up," says Jared Urban, who coordinates the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program for the Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation Program. "Participants can get some exercise and also get a great opportunity to see these special places and experience some great views."

State Natural Areas feature outstanding examples of Wisconsin's native natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites and are often the last refuge of many rare plants and animals. While nearly all state-owned natural areas are open for activities including hiking, nature photography, bird watching and hunting, they are largely undeveloped.

Among sites where people can lend a helping hand and volunteer are Observatory Hill in Marquette County, which famed naturalist John Muir explored as a child, Ridgeway Pine Relict, and several other sites with beautiful ice formations. Many sites feature majestic bur oaks that will really stand out against the winter landscape.

A list of workdays and flyers for each event can be found by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "SNA volunteers." Here, people can also sign up to receive email notices for workdays at state natural areas throughout Wisconsin. For more information regarding this volunteer program, contact Jared Urban via email at jared.urban@wisconsin.gov.

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Wisconsin Habitat Partnership Fund proposals due April 6

MADISON - A new Wisconsin Habitat Partnership Fund will provide $1 million to improve wildlife habitat and increase the amount of land accessible to the public for hunting, trapping and wildlife viewing.

Eligible projects include habitat restoration, enhancement, or management activities that benefit priority wildlife habitat and enhance the public experience in the outdoors. Eligible applicants include local units of government, tribes and qualified 501(c)(3) conservation organizations.

Project proposals are due April 6, 2018. Projects will be selected for funding in late April and awards will be issued mid-June 2018. For more information, including an application, search the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "Wisconsin Habitat Partnership Fund."

"The Wisconsin Habitat Partnership Fund is a great opportunity to partner with Wisconsin DNR to improve habitat for wildlife and provide for recreational opportunities," said Eddie Shea, DNR assistant wetland habitat specialist. "This program provides a mechanism to assist all of the great conservation partners who are working in innovative ways to address wildlife habitat needs across the state."

To receive funding, respondents must provide public access for hunting, trapping and wildlife viewing for a period based on the amount of funds awarded. The respondent or other project partners are responsible for 25 percent of the total project cost.

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Incidental take notice for Lafayette County

MADISON - A proposed Lafayette County bridge replacement project may result in the "incidental taking" of a rare frog under an authorization the Department of Natural Resources proposes to issue for the project. 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.

This project consists of the replacement of an existing bridge on Bethel Grove Road and will include grading, resurfacing and permanent signing. The project consists of 0.56 acres total of which approximately 0.2 acres is asphalt and gravel shoulder.

The presence of the state endangered Blanchard's cricket frog (Acris blanchardi) has been confirmed in the vicinity of the project site. DNR staff determined that the proposed project may result in the incidental taking of some frogs.

Department staff concluded that the proposed project will minimize the impacts to the species by adhering to conservation measures; 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 it is a part; and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the action.

The conservation measures to minimize the adverse effect on the endangered species will be incorporated into the proposed Incidental Take Authorization. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on the Blanchard's cricket frog are available by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for incidental take public notice or upon request from Stacy Rowe (608-266-7012 or stacy.rowe@wi.gov). The department is requesting comments from the public through Feb. 6, 2018 regarding project-related impacts to the Blanchard's cricket frog. Public comments should be sent to Stacy Rowe, Wisconsin DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921 or stacy.rowe@wi.gov.

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Contact information

For more information about news and media, contact:
James Dick
Director of Communications
608-267-2773