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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

June 2004

Readers Write

The Exotic Bittersweet
Good Grounds & Good Reading
Bluebird Plans
Youth Conservation Camps
Is it a Red Squirrel?
UPDATES: PDBEs, Benefits of Environmental Regulations
Share Your Hunting & Fishing Traditions

The Exotic Bittersweet

smbitter.jpg - 3472 Bytes I read with interest the February 2004 article about bittersweet. Having recently moved from Wisconsin to Iowa, I have been excited to discover new trees, flowers and shrubs in the woods of northeastern Iowa. We have several areas of bittersweet in the fencerows of our 80-acre farm. Just down the road from us is Backbone State Park. Unfortunately bittersweet has virtually taken over several areas in the park. Its vines twist and spiral around immature tree trunks four to eight inches in diameter and literally choke them to death. It grows to the tops of some large trees that are 30-80 feet high and bushes out, blocking light from the leaves and needles of trees. It is a beautiful sight in autumn if you are a craftsperson, but demoralizes those of us who would like to see the trees mature. For that reason, the plant is well named: bittersweet! Hopefully those who manage the forests of Wisconsin will keep an eye on this beautiful, but potentially destructive, plant.

Harry Blobaum
Strawberry Point, Iowa

Bittersweet continues its spread here as well. In fact the specimen pictured on page 2 of our February issue was the non-native variety (Celastrus orbiculatus) that is sold in nurseries and is now considered invasive rather than the native form (C. scandens). The native bittersweet only has berries growing on its terminal growth, not sprouting along the vine. Both are shown here. As our Native Plant Management Biologist Kelly Kearns notes, the non-native species is currently not widely known as an invasive, but where it has spread from ornamental plantings it can cover the forest floor, climb up and girdle trees, then continue climbing and shade out the trees from above and make them vulnerable to wind fall. This plant is frequently sold in garden centers, often just under the name "bittersweet," or sometimes mistakenly labeled as "American bittersweet."

Good Grounds & Good Reading

Living in the Midwest all my life, I was totally unaware of the agricultural needs of coffee growing (Good grounds for conservation, February 2004) nor were we cognizant of the differences in the taste and quality of shade-grown vs. full-sun coffees. Considering that probably close to 100 percent of your subscribers are environmentally friendly and most likely to be sympathetic to the quandary migrating birds face in finding forested retreats, perhaps you might have provided names and addresses of some of the retail outlets where we can purchase some of this elusive brew. Creating a bigger market for shade-grown coffee and letting the market work would be the most efficient way to vote with our dollars for saving forested habitat in Central America.

Sandy Sawyer
Oak Creek

We considered listing coffee retailers offering shade-grown coffee (and cocoa), but backed off for a few reasons. We couldn't find a comprehensive list and the markets regularly change their suppliers. Coffee roasters and purveyors handle different coffees over time and many specialty coffee shops list for customers which of their products are shade-grown, fair trade and organically grown. We also discovered that many organizations that are securing brand names for specific coffee plantations and cooperatives are small businesses that only sell beans to small regions in our country. We gather there is something of a storm brewing among coffee importers to set standards that ensure everyone labeling their coffee, tea and cocoa as "shade-grown," "fair trade," or "organic" meets the same criteria before the products are certified.

We suggest visiting small coffee shops or searching the Web using key words like "shade-grown coffee retailers in Wisconsin." We found several vendors that retail their products at specialty coffee shops, neighborhood markets and some of the larger supermarket chains.

I consider your magazine to be in general of high quality, informative and attractive. On this occasion, I was especially interested in the article on coffee production and found "Good grounds for conservation" to be excellent.

I thought I had seen your magazine on sale at newsstands but could not find it at my local bookstore or other retail outlets.

Richard Kinch

We received many nice letters about the coffee story and will keep an interesting blend of issues on tap for readers. We encourage subscriptions rather than newsstand sales as a means of containing costs for all our readers. Newsstands are a good way to reach new customers, but the costs per copy for unsold issues are substantial. We're thankful to subscribers who have recommended us as a good read and a bargain. Readers might also find that doctors' offices and libraries would be pleased to share your old copies with an even wider group of readers.

Bluebird Plans

We read your past stories about bluebirds and would like the plan for the bluebird house that you described in the April 2001 issue. Is it still available?

Norbert and Theone Seipel

Those plans are still available. Diagrams and instructions were printed on our letters column in the August 2001 issue and we would gladly forward that diagram. Please include a stamped self-addressed envelope for each copy and mail your request to Bluebird Plans, WNR magazine, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.

Youth Conservation Camps

Just a note that the photo of a Youth Conservation Camp that appeared in 100 years of Wisconsin Forestry in the February 2004 issue isn't that old. Though the YCC program lasted for decades, this picture was taken in the summer of 1981. The young man kneeling is Mark Randall, then a wildlife technician working out of the Plymouth office and now a DNR biologist in Oshkosh.

The youth camps were great educational programs that were victims of budget cuts. Summer banding of flightless young ducks was an education in itself, but lots of hard work. During the end of June and early July we would form lines and walk through potholes to drive the ducks into drive nets. Wood ducks were difficult to drive and typically dove under the water, usually escaping rather than swimming into the nets.

Dale E. Katsma
DNR Wildlife Biologist

Is It a Red Squirrel?

Your squirrel-hunting article in October 2003 prompted me to write. A reddish squirrel often visits my bird feeder. This past fall a new one appeared that is the same one (species) we saw at Copper Falls State Park earlier this year. I believe it is called a pine squirrel. He gathers pine cones, chews them down to the core and also appears to eat pine needles off our disposed of Christmas tree. He is the size of a large chipmunk with a red stripe down his back. Is this the correct name?

Marge Schildbach

Your description sure sounds like a red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) to us,that are typically found in boreal forests or in coniferous patches farther south, like in Jefferson County. The size and feeding habits match the patterns and habits of this diminutive, feisty squirrel.


Elevated PBDE Levels Found in Mothers and Infants

Blood samples from 12 Indiana mothers and from the umbilical cords of their newborns found levels of PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl esters) at 20 times the levels found in Scandinavian women and babies tested as part of a long-term study. (See our February 2003 story, A smoldering issue.)

"We've suspected that bloodstream concentrations of PBDEs have been going up," said Professor Ronald Hites of the University of Indiana's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, who led the research. "It's troubling. We're just not sure what it means yet for people's health."

Previous studies of Scandinavian mothers, babies and U.S. adult blood donors from the 1980s showed much lower PBDE levels in these groups and the discrepancy has not been explained. PBDEs were widely used as flame retardants in electrical circuit boards, furnishings and children's clothing.

While PBDEs have been shown to cause a variety of health problems in rats, no conclusive studies showing the chemicals' effects in humans have been conducted.

Benefits of Environmental Regulations Outweigh Costs

According to an October report from the Office of Budget and Management released by the White House, the amount of money spent by businesses and the public to comply with federal regulatory policies – especially environmental policies – is overshadowed by the economic benefits that result from those expenditures.

The OMB report estimated the total annual costs for complying with 107 major federal mandates over a 10-year period to range between $37 billion and $43 billion. The estimated annual benefits gained as a result of the rules ranged from $147 billion to $231 billion.

Share Your Hunting and Fishing Traditions

Remember to send in funny stories or favorite memories of the traditions and superstitions that make your deer camp, hunting group and fishing trips fun. Send notes of up to 200 words by June 30th to: Outdoor Traditions, Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.