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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published September 20, 2011

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Fall color season set to unfold beautifully

New Forest Action Plan aims at protecting Wisconsin's colorful forest resource

MADISON -- Many Wisconsin residents enjoy the beauty of our forests, especially during the next two months as the showy fall colors begin in the Northwoods and move through the state to southern Wisconsin. And a plan, recently completed by a wide variety of groups interested in Wisconsin forests, outlines a pro-active approach to managing and protecting the 16-million acres of forests in Wisconsin so future generations can also enjoy the beauty of this resource.

Although multiple factors - including weather during the growing season, just before the fall season as well as during the color show - influence the intensity, Wisconsin forests are noted for being among the best in the nation for fall color, according to Kirsten Held, Forestry Outreach Specialist for the Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry.

"The wet spring and excellent growing conditions earlier this year meant good foliage growth and this bountiful leaf cover bodes well for the 2011 fall color season that is beginning in the Northwoods now," Held said.

And the weather this past week also bodes well for a spectacular autumn show, Held added.

"Fall days filled with bright sunshine followed by cool nights create the most vibrant red fall color displays," according to Held. "These weather conditions cause lots of sugars to be produced by the trees and trapped in the leaves, leading to the production of anthocyanins and giving leaves of some species the brilliant shades of red, purple and crimson."

"Now we just need good weather for the fall color viewing - sunshine to illuminate the leaves and reflected light to showcase the incredible colors and no high winds so the leaves remain in place as long as possible."

It's hard to think about Wisconsin without envisioning forests and the many benefits they provide according to Rebecca Gass, a DNR forest planner who coordinated development of a new Forest Action Plan.

"Forests provide the basis for many rural communities in Wisconsin where forest products and tourism are mainstays of local economies and have a compatible coexistence," Gass said. "Forest-based recreation - including viewing the fall beauty - is estimated to contribute $5.5 billion to the Wisconsin economy through travel-related and equipment expenditures."

The Forest Action Plan offers solutions to the many challenges facing Wisconsin forests so they can continue to provide the wide array of social, cultural, ecological and economic benefits, including the income generated by visitors enjoying the fall color display.

"The Forest Action Plan proposes Wisconsin-specific strategies to ensure that future generations will also have healthy forests to enjoy," Gass said. "With the forestry community working together, Wisconsin will continue to have a rich and diverse forest resource to provide a show-stopping colorama every autumn."

Held adds that 2011 is both the International Year of Forests as well as the International Year of Chemistry - a perfect combination when applied to the extraordinary fall display in Wisconsin forests and the chemical reactions in the trees to produce the colors.

Everyone can play a role in protecting the forest now and for the future, according to Held.

"As you are recreating in Wisconsin forests and enjoying the fall beauty, remember to be careful with your campfires," Held said. "You can also follow simple steps to ensure that you are not spreading invasive insects, diseases and plants to our valuable forests, such as buying your campfire wood locally and cleaning off your shoes, vehicle and equipment before leaving the forest."

More tips for how you can help protect the forest and other strategies in the Forest Action Plan can be found on the DNR website.

Also, a new trail guide app for Wisconsin's most-visited state property - the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - can help visitors view the fall colors on this property. Visit to access this free iPhone app through the North Lakeland Discovery Center at Manitowish Waters.

For an up-to-date status report on Wisconsin's fall color, visit the Fall Color Report on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kirsten Held, Forestry Outreach Specialist, 608-264-6036



Discovery of two aggressive aquatic invasive plants underscores need to clean boats

Plants found in popular Mississippi River waterfowl area

BUFFALO CITY, Wis. -- The recent discovery of two aggressive invasive plant species in a popular Upper Mississippi River waterfowl area underscores the need for waterfowl hunters to clean their boats and take other steps to avoid accidentally spreading invasive plants and nonnative species that can threaten waterways and future hunting opportunities, state and federal wildlife officials say.

Water lettuce
Water lettuce.
WDNR Photo

Water hyacinth
Water hyacinth.
WDNR Photo

"This is the first time we've found these two species of invasive water plants in Pool 5," said Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Winona District Manager Mary Stefanski. "We are hopeful that none of these plants will survive if we get a cold winter, but we still need boaters to be vigilant."

Pool 5 is by Buffalo City and encompasses river miles 750 to 739.

Bob Wakeman, who coordinates aquatic invasive species prevention and control efforts for the Department of Natural Resources, urges hunters to check their boats, trailers and other equipment before they launch and after they're done for the day.

"Please take a few minutes to inspect your boats and equipment, remove any plants and animals, and drain water from your boat and equipment," he says. "These steps will prevent the spread of these new invasive plants, and will also help contain other aquatic invasive species and diseases that may be present."

DNR Water Guards and wardens will be checking boats at popular landings in the area and across the state, educating hunters about the rules and enforcing them. "The waterfowl hunting community is an important partner in the effort to prevent the spread of invasive species in Wisconsin's waterways," says DNR Chief Warden Randy Stark.

And DNR was working with the River Alliance of Wisconsin to post signs at boat landings (pdf; 629kb) in the area to alert hunters to the presence of water hyacinth and water lettuce in Pool 5 of the Upper Mississippi River.

Water lettuce and water hyacinth are two innocuous sounding invasive plants with outsized impacts: as few as 25 individual plants can expand to cover 10,000 square meters of water surface in one growing season, nearly enough to cover Lambeau Field twice. This expansion creates a thick, impenetrable mat of vegetation that prevents waterfowl from foraging.

Stefanski also notes that another invasive plant, purple loosestrife, has been spotted in larger than normal amounts along the river this year. She believes this is because many of the beetles that normally feed on the loosestrife and keep them under control may have died over the winter due to cold weather and high water. "We plan to release more of the beetles next summer to hopefully get the population of loosestrife back under control," she says.

Here is how hunters and others enjoying Wisconsin's outdoors can help protect their hunting, fishing and the state's natural resources from invasive species.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:Bob Wakeman, DNR (262) 574-2149; Mary Stefanski, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (507)-494-6229



Successful bear hunters reminded to submit rib bones for population study

MADISON - Successful black bear hunters are reminded that state wildlife researchers are asking them to provide scientists with a section of rib bone from their bear for analysis as part of an ongoing black bear population estimation survey.

This most recent three-year project to develop a second Wisconsin bear population estimate is based upon a "mark-recapture" technique. The first estimate was initiated in 2006 and completed in 2008 as part of a cooperative research effort between the Department of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association. This second mark-recapture estimate will estimate the size of the bear population across its primary range in the northern and central parts of the state. The first phase of the current project, the "marking" phase, has been completed.

Results of a similar survey were reported in 2008. This second round of sample collection is being done to support and verify the findings of the first study, which showed Wisconsin's black bear population to be larger than previous surveys, using different techniques, had suggested.

Marking bears

"A primary component of this phase was the deployment of food baits in April and May," said DNR bear researcher, Dave MacFarland. "The baits consisted of peanut butter and marshmallows mixed with tetracycline, a compound that is detectable in bone tissue. These baits were placed in wooden boxes that were constructed and donated by the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association. The boxes are accessible by bears and are designed to discourage use by other animals."

More than 600 volunteers and DNR staff deployed and monitored 3,317 baits across 32 counties this spring, 940 of which were consumed by bears. Each consumed bait results in a "marked" bear as the tetracycline leaves a telltale ring visible in a cross section of the rib bone. "This was well within the number of marked bears we were seeking," added MacFarland. "This should ensure a solid estimate upon completion of the study. The map shows just how well the survey area was covered (pdf; 866 kb) and is a testament to the hard work put in by volunteers and DNR staff to benefit bear management in Wisconsin."

The population estimation project is now entering the critical second phase, the collection of rib samples from successful bear hunters. Ribs will be analyzed to look for tetracycline exposure. The resulting data are incorporated into population models to estimate the number of bears in the state. Good participation from hunters is critical to the studies success.

Sample collection materials and instructions were provided to hunters who received Class A bear permits. Rib samples should be collected near the vertebrae, cleaned of all soft tissue, placed in the baggie provided and submitted to the registration station. Hunters can also mail their rib sample directly to Dave MacFarland, Wisconsin DNR, 107 Sutliff Ave, Rhinelander WI 54501.

"This research is a great example of what a partnership can accomplish," said Tom Hauge, director of the DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management. "The project and population estimate simply wouldn't have been possible without DNR staff, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, and committed volunteers working together for the conservation of Wisconsin's black bears. We want to thank all who have helped with phase one of the project and to all the hunters that are helping by submitting rib samples."

Phase three of the project will be a second year of rib sampling from the 2012 bear harvest to maximize the 'recapture' of marked bears. The laboratory analysis of the ribs will be completed during winter 2012-13 and final a population estimate will be calculated. When completed, the population estimate will calculate the size of the bear population for the surveyed area as of September of 2011.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: David MacFarland - (715) 365-8917 or Tom Hauge (608)266-2193



Could your home survive a wildfire?

New DNR video showcases simple steps one homeowner took that saved his home

MADISON - Homeowners who live in or near storm-damaged areas in northwest Wisconsin (pdf) are urged to act now to protect their homes from wildland fires. State wildfire experts say with so many trees on the ground and drying, the potential is there for intense fires in 2012.

The Department of Natural Resources has recently completed a nine-minute video on the effectiveness of the Firewise program. The video features an Adams County homeowner whose "Firewise" house survived being overrun by the 3,400 acre Cottonville fire while neighbors all around him lost theirs.

When wildfires happen in Wisconsin, they cause great damage. But, by following a few basic protection tactics, you can safeguard your rural home and buildings.
[VIDEO Length 8:48]

The department has created a storm recovery web page listing resources available to homeowners for help with clean up. The page also features a home protection strategy developed by wildfire experts called, Firewise. People who have questions about dealing with storm-downed trees can also call the DNR call center at 1-888-WDNR-INFo (1-888-936-7463) for information seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and talke with a live customer service specialist.

"Homeowners who spend the time and energy to make their property Firewise will not only reduce the risk of a wildfire destroying their home or their neighbor's home, it will also make it easier and safer for firefighters to protect homes in the event of a blaze," said DNR's Firewise program coordinator, Jolene Ackerman.

How Firewise works

"Key to the effectiveness of Firewise is an assessment of your property and the fire hazards within an area of 100 to 200 feet around buildings," said Ackerman, "an area called the 'Home Ignition Zone'."

The DNR has a Home Ignition Self Assessment brochure (pdf) to get homeowners started.

"When beginning the Firewise process, start with the buildings on your property," says Ackerman. "Clear debris off roofs and out of rain gutters. Prune all tree limbs, especially conifers (or evergreens), within 10 feet of roof edges. Don't forget to keep decks swept off and clean out areas under them that have built up debris. Accumulated dead vegetation supplies the fuel for a flying ember to smolder and ignite a fire.

"Next, remove all flammable materials from within 3 to5 feet around building foundations. This means removing annuals and cutting back perennials as they die-off in the fall. Remove excessive amounts of mulch and anything flammable that may be stored next to your siding.

"Clear fallen leaves, brush, and dried grass for 30 feet around buildings. Remove dead and dying trees and broken off limbs. Prune conifer branches to a height of 6 feet. Keep this 30-foot area maintained throughout next spring's fire season. Store firewood and other combustible materials at least 30 feet away from the house and other buildings and clear a space at least 10 feet around them.

"Next, look at the vegetation in the zone that extends 30 to 100 feet beyond buildings. Remove as many fallen branches and trees as you can this fall. Start with the pines as they are considered to be the most flammable tree type in our state.

"Move this material to a local brush collection site or have it chipped on your property. Burning should be your last option. If you decide to burn, start piling the material now and wait to burn it when the ground is completely snow covered. Keep piles small and burn early in the winter rather than late winter to minimize the chance that embers could still be smoldering and flare up when the snow melts.

"Finally, clear fallen trees, shrubs, and limbs along your driveway. Keep tree limbs pruned 15 feet above your driveway to accommodate emergency vehicles, should one need to access your property. Remember - a firefighter cannot help save your home if they cannot get to it.

"These are just a few things you can do to protect your home and property. By taking action now, you are lowering the chance of losing your property to wildfire. Talk to your neighbors about the importance of preparing your properties now, before spring fire season. "

If you would like a Home Ignition Zone Assessment packet mailed to you, contact Jolene Ackerman (608) 267-7677, emailing, or by writing to her at Box 7921, 101 S. Webster Street, Madison, WI 53703.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jolene Ackerman (608) 267-7677



Night electrofishing surveys to begin on lakes

New video shows process to collect and assess fishery

OSHKOSH -- The mysterious lights cutting the night darkness on Wisconsin lakes in coming weeks will help shed light on future walleye fishing prospects.

State fisheries crews will be using electrofishing boats along the shoreline of Wisconsin's lakes to assess how well walleye that hatched this spring survived their first few months.

The process used to collect and assess the fish is shown in a new video, Winnebago Walleye Shocking. At the time the video footage was captured, Department of Natural Resources crews were looking for spawning walleye on the Winnebago system instead of the small walleyes they'll be looking for this fall.

video opens in a new window
Winnebago walleye shocking
[VIDEO Length 3:17]

The video is part of a foursome about Lake Winnebago's walleye fishery, one of Wisconsin's premier walleye fisheries, and how state fish crews and fishing clubs work to keep it healthy and an economic engine in the area. A 2006 study showed that walleye are anglers' favorite target on Lake Winnebago, and that fishing generates a total economic impact of $234 million and supports 4,200 jobs in the surrounding area.

Other new video segments show why the Winnebago walleye fishery is so important, how DNR and partners protect and restore habitat critical for walleye spawning, and catch up with fish biologists as they put radio transmitters in walleye to track where the fish move and when so they can better manage the species.

The night boom-shocking for young of the year walleye occurs when water temperatures drop below 65 degrees and is above 45 degrees, according to Kendall Kamke, fish biologist based in Oshkosh.

That's when the young fish start to head into the shore in search of warmer water and the bait fish plentiful in the shallow water.

Signs so far are that walleye hatched in the spring in Lake Winnebago have survived in good numbers; trawling surveys earlier late this summer to assess the overall health of the lake's fish species netted plenty of young walleye.

"We had abundant small walleye in the August round of trawling, so it looks like we'll have an above-average year-class," Kamke says. "How much above average we'll have to find out."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kendall Kamke (920) 424-7880; Ron Bruch (920) 424-3059



Machine able to mark 700,000 fish a key to keeping taps on Great Lakes salmon

New video shows machine in action

MADISON -- A new technology Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states are using will help assure chinook anglers will have a healthy supply of kings at the end of their lines in coming years.

A machine that can mark up to 90,000 fish in a day with a fin clip and a coded wire tag makes it easier, more accurate and more cost effective to discern which fish have been produced by hatcheries and which have been produced naturally, according to Brad Eggold, the Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist.

The machine is featured in a new video available on the DNR website.

Knowing the difference can help produce a more accurate count of how many fish are in Lake Michigan and other Great Lakes, and can allow states to adjust their stocking to keep the total number of fish in the lake in line with the available forage base, Eggold says. "The goal this year was to mark all the Chinook salmon stocked into Lake Michigan and Lake Huron."

Anglers also will be able to tell whether the fish they caught was hatchery-produced or produced in the wild. Hatchery fish processed by the machine have the adipose fin -- the fleshy fin on the fish's back in front of its tail -- clipped off.

The trailer containing the marking equipment is part of a cooperative effort by all of the state, tribal, provincial and federal fisheries agencies in the Great Lakes to mark more of the fish that are stocked into the Great Lakes.

The mass marking trailer, owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, marked 1.2 million chinook this spring at three Wisconsin fish hatcheries, according to Steve Fajfer, supervisor of Wild Rose state Fish hatchery, one of the three. The other hatcheries the trailer was used at were Kettle Moraine State Fish Hatchery and the Les Voigt State Fish Hatchery.

Those fish were stocked out in Lake Michigan harbors in late May. In about two years, the fish will be big enough to be caught by anglers, and anglers will start seeing fish without the adipose fin, indicating those fish were produced at a hatchery.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Eggold (414) 382-7921



Two tools to help chinook anglers fish Lake Michigan tributaries

EAGLE, Wis. -- Interactive maps showing shore fishing sites in southeastern Wisconsin and real-time data tracking river water levels statewide are two information tools chinook anglers will want to consult while waiting for rain to trigger the kings on their spawning runs up Lake Michigan tributaries.

Chinook fishing
Chinook like this 34 pound, 8 ounce, 41.5 inch king Mike Cefalu caught July 19, 2011, on Lake Michigan out of Sturgeon Bay will soon be running up tributary streams.
WDNR Photo

Right now, the fish are gathering "or staging," in southern Lake Michigan harbors, as they ready for their spawning runs up tributaries like the Root and the Pike.

"They're out in the harbors now," Pfaff says. "Now it's all about rain. When it rains, it's going to get crazy."

In northern Lake Michigan, chinook are up in the tributaries.

Both information tools can be found on the Fall Shore Fishing page of the Department of Natural Resources website. Anglers also will find other resources to help them enjoy fall tributary fishing.

The interactive maps give driving directions, fish species, and a picture of the fishing location, all of which are within 60 miles of the state's largest city and home to the most anglers.

A downloadable companion brochure is available on the page as well, and contact information for how anglers can get a printed copy of the brochure.

U.S. Geological Survey real time water data for Wisconsin [] (exit DNR) can also be helpful to anglers. With the low water levels in tributaries right now due to lack of rain, almost any substantial rain event should trigger spawning migration runs of salmon and trout, says Ben Pfaff, a DNR fisheries technician in Eagle.

And as always, the Lake Michigan hotline, (414) 382-7920, provides up-to-date fishing reports and conditions.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Eggold (414) 382-7921



Report details overall condition and emerging threats to Wisconsin's groundwater

MADISON - Wisconsin's progress in protecting its groundwater resources in the past year and the overall condition and emerging threats to those resources are all detailed in the recently released annual report of the Groundwater Coordinating Council.

The report, which also contains recommendations for the future direction of protection activities, can be found online at the Department of Natural Resources website. The Groundwater Coordinating Council, or GCC, was formed in 1984 to help state agencies and the University of Wisconsin coordinate non-regulatory activities, exchange information on groundwater, and more efficiently and effectively leverage staffing and funding resources.

The report, which is required by law and is submitted to the Legislature, summarizes the council's, and agencies,' activities related to groundwater protection and management in fiscal year 2011, which ran from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011.

Jeff Helmuth, the hydrogeologist who coordinates the report, says that the report continues to reflect the fact that, "Work is still needed to address threats to human and ecosystem health like viruses and nonpoint sources such as nitrogen fertilizer and manure, as well as quantity problems caused by overuse."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Helmuth (608) 266-5234; Mary Ellen Vollbrecht (608) 266-2104

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DNR Secretary Stepp: "Wisconsin urgently needs wolf delisting"

Does not support recent federal "two wolf species" proposal

MADISON - Wisconsin's continued support for removing the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list in the upper Great Lakes states and Wisconsin's disagreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's conclusion that a newly discovered species, the eastern wolf, exists in the Western Great Lakes as a separate species, was conveyed in a letter signed by DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp to federal officials (pdf; 64 kb) this week.

"Farmers and dog owners are suffering intolerable losses from depredating wolves," said Stepp.

"We want to restate our strong disagreement with the USFWS conclusion that a newly discovered species, the eastern wolf, exists in the Western Great Lakes as a separate species or population. The western Great Lakes wolf population is of mixed genetics and should be treated as one population. They behave as a single species and should be delisted as a single species. This approach to delisting, if adopted, makes practical wolf management on the ground nearly impossible. We need a solid and defensible delisting proposal."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Cosh, DNR spokesperson (608) 267-2773


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Last Revised: Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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