MADISON - Anglers and other outdoors enthusiasts are invited to share their ideas about improving fishing access and management of state lands in Wisconsin's Driftless Area at nine public meetings in March.
People attending the meetings also will be able to see a decade's worth of information showing fish populations in the affected streams, view maps of existing public access, and learn how climate change is projected to impact the future distribution of trout and bass throughout the Driftless Area, the western and southwestern portion of the state that escaped the last glacial period and as a result is characterized by rugged topography, springs, cold-water streams and rock outcroppings.
"We want to hear from anglers what influences where they like to fish and what makes a high quality angling experience," says Paul Cunningham, the Department of Natural Resources fish specialist who co-leads the effort. "We've laid out the best science-based data and models available and want to get the public's perspectives on how best to apply this information so that we spend our limited dollars and staff time wisely."
The public meetings are part of a long-term master planning process for more than 200 properties that will guide DNR's habitat management and land acquisition efforts in the Driftless Area over the next 15 years. Most of the properties are narrow strips along some of the most desirable trout and smallmouth bass fishing waters in Wisconsin, says Steve Hewett, who leads the DNR fisheries management section.
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.
As a first step in the development of the master plan, DNR staff created a background report describing the streams, the size and abundance of trout and bass in different watersheds, the relative resilience of streams to climate change and a host of other issues. The background document uses a "report card" format that grades each of the 94 watersheds in the Driftless Area on a range of different topics. The report is available on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, by searching for "master planning" and clicking on the Driftless Area link.
The Driftless Area is recognized as a premier trout and smallmouth bass fishery and draws people from throughout the Midwest who also enjoy the beautiful scenery and other recreational opportunities, Hewett says. Long-term planning for fish management is challenging because the environment is constantly changing, from how land is used to long-term changes in the climate.
The meetings all run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the following locations:
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Hewett, 608-267-7501 or John Pohlman, 608-264-6263