NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 3,892 days

ARCHIVED Weekly News Published December 20, 2011

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Snowmobile trail openings is local decision

MADISON -- Snowmobilers are urged to use winter's slow start to prep their sleds, take a safety course and stay off the trails until local officials declare the season open.

Conservation wardens in the northern and west central counties report what little snow has fallen so far this early winter is gone. And the early ice cover remains thin and not strong enough to support a human being or a vehicle.

Another good prep move to do now while you wait for the trails is to complete a snowmobile safety class. A list of the upcoming classes can be found on the Department of Natural Resources website.

Conservation Warden Gary Eddy, also the DNR snowmobile administrator, understands the first significant snowfall will be hard to resist for the sport's enthusiasts. However, he says it is important to stay off the trails until the announcement due to land-use agreements between landowners and snowmobile clubs.

"Snowmobilers who ride on trails before they are declared open may unintentionally cause problems," Eddy said. "It could be possible to unknowingly cause some damage or violate the land-use agreements, and that could result in a trail closing for all."

Diane Conklin, DNR snowmobile trails grant manager, says most agreements allow for the trails to open by Dec. 1. However, there are other factors that are used.

"Snow, standing crops and weather conditions can dictate the actual opening date which is announced by county officials," Conklin said.

Other factors used to determine the opening include frozen ground conditions, temperature, trail preparation and grooming by snowmobile club volunteers statewide.

Eddy says snowmobilers must have permission to ride on private property off the trails. "If you get the permission to ride, that's fine. However, you'll need a high degree of caution because the terrain may be rough and hazards such as ditches, farm equipment and rocks may be hidden under the snow."

Snowmobile trail information can be found through county snowmobile coordinators, park and recreation officials, local snowmobile clubs, local chambers of commerce and on the Snow Conditions Report on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism web page, [www.travelwisconsin.com] (exit DNR).

Wisconsin ranks among the top states in providing snowmobile trails. DNR provides nearly $6 million in grants annually to maintain more than 18,700 miles of trails in the state, Conklin said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary Eddy - (608) 267-7455

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Snowmobile safety classes available in classroom, online

MADISON - Snowmobilers can help make sure Wisconsin's snowmobile season is a safe one by completing a Department of Natural Resources snowmobile safety course. The courses are taught by certified instructors who provide information about machine safety, responsibilities, ethics, laws and mechanical functions.

Department of Natural Resources snowmobile safety administrator Gary Eddy says the course is beneficial to all ages, but it is a requirement for anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1985 and older than age 12 to operate a snowmobile in Wisconsin.

Those who successfully complete the course receive a certificate that must be carried by snowmobile operators who meet the age requirements while operating the sled. Operators must present the certificate to a law enforcement officer upon request. It also should be noted the age requirement does not apply if the snowmobile is operated on lands owned or leased by the operator's parent or legal guardian.

Customer ID number required

All Wisconsin recreational safety students must have a Wisconsin DNR Customer ID Number to take any recreational safety class.

To get your number, you may call the DNR Customer Service at 1-888-936-7463 or stop at a DNR Service Center for assistance. /p>

Class times, fees

The snowmobile safety course fee is $10 and takes eight hours. The course includes six hours of classroom work and an optional two hours of hands-on snowmobile operation or ride simulation. Anyone age 11 and older may take the course. Please note the safety certificate earned with completion will not become valid until the student turns 12.

Class times and locations vary. People can check the upcoming safety education course calendar on DNR website to find the nearest course.

People who are at least age 16 can complete the course online. There are two online options:

"Make this upcoming snowmobile season safe and enjoyable by completing this important safety course," Eddy says. "Do your part to make the trails safe for all."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary Eddy - (608) 267-7455

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Draft watershed plans, impaired waters list now available for comment

MADISON - Two of the three products Wisconsin is required to submit to the federal government assessing the condition of its lakes and rivers are available for public comment through Feb. 20, 2012.

The products -- Wisconsin's proposed list of waters that do not meet water quality standards and a group of plans for maintaining or improving water quality in 24 of 330 watersheds across the state -- also are the subject of a Jan.5 webcast set to begin at 1:30 p.m. More information on the webcast and submitting public comments is found below.

The 1972 Clean Water Act requires states every two years to assess whether their waters meet the national goals of supporting healthy aquatic communities, habitat for wildlife and opportunities for fishing and swimming. States are to publish a statewide water quality report, develop an "Impaired Waters List" of lakes and rivers that do not meet state water quality standards, and submit plans for maintaining and improving water quality in a certain number of watersheds every cycle.

25 waters removed, 32 added to Impaired Waters List

DNR is proposing to remove 25 lakes, beaches and rivers from the 2012 draft impaired waters list, often referred to as the 303 (d) list, because their water quality has improved and now meets federal standards. The proposed removals, or "de-listings" reflect recent improved stream habitat and recent bacteria concentrations at those beaches, according to Aaron Larson, the DNR water resources management specialist who coordinates the impaired waters list. A list of the waters being removed and added (pdf; 38kb) is available on the DNR website.

At the same time, 32 waters are proposed to be added to the impaired waters list for the first time because of documentation that they exceeded numeric standards for phosphorus, mercury, bacterial contamination and recoverable zinc and copper, he says. Waters where phosphorus was the problem pollutant also had to be showing signs of biological impairment such as excessive algal growth or lack of insects sensitive to pollution to be listed as impaired.

And additional pollutants are added for 19 waters already on the impaired waters list; in 18 of those cases, those waters are found to exceed standards for total phosphorus. The impaired waters list includes more than 700 lakes, rivers, impoundments or streams.

Tim Asplund, acting chief of DNR's water evaluation section, says the new listings don't mean that water quality has suddenly decreased in these waters since the 2010 impaired waters list was submitted, but likely reflect a combination of factors: new data submitted for consideration, new phosphorus standards that for the first time set numeric criteria for how much of this nutrient can be in lakes and rivers, and new methodologies for weighing whether to add or remove a water from the list, he says.

"The process of listing waters as impaired is a constantly evolving, changing process because the science and assessment methods are constantly evolving," Asplund says. "Some of these waters may have been impaired for a long time but we now have more clear parameters to make listing decisions, and in many cases, more information."

For the 2012 process, data was evaluated from monitoring conducted by DNR, the U.S.Geological Survey and county health departments, as well as from groups that submitted data including the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Centerville Cares, the Silver Lake Management District and the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council.

For water bodies identified as impaired, DNR develops analytical models called Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, that set pollution reduction goals, identify sources of pollutants, and recommend best management practices. When monitoring shows that the waterbody is again meeting water quality standards, the water body is removed from the Impaired Waters List, Asplund says.

Water condition information also available for 23 watersheds

The assessment process results in updated, detailed water condition information for 23 of Wisconsin's 330 watersheds each year. This year, the Mukwonago River, Kinnickinnic River, Big Roche A Cri River, Waupaca River and Coon Valley Creek watersheds are among the draft plans available, according to Lisa Helmuth, who coordinates watershed plans and related assessments.

A watershed represents all of the land that drains to a particular lake or stream.

While detailed plans for only these watersheds are being submitted at this time, DNR has also compiled and put online a wide array of information about thousands of other waters. People can use DNR's new Search your Water! tool, which provides easy online access to available monitoring data and descriptions of projects that have occurred on or near the water.

Where to submit comments on the Impaired Waters List, 24 watershed plans

The online web presentation about the impaired waters list and the watershed plans is set for Jan. 5. People are asked to register online to participate.

Comments on the Clean Water Act Condition Summary and Watershed Plan Updates may be submitted via e-mail through Feb. 20, 2012, to lisa.helmuth@wisconsin.gov or to Wisconsin DNR, Watershed Planning/Helmuth (WT/3), PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

Comments on the proposed Impaired Waters List may be submitted via e-mail through Feb. 20, 2012, to DNRImpairedWaters@wisconsin.gov or to Wisconsin DNR, Water Evaluation Section

(WT/3), PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE IMPAIRED WATERS LIST CONTACT: Aaron Larson (608) 264-6129; Tim Asplund (608) 267-7662

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE OVERALL ASSESSMENT CONTACT: Susan Sylvester (608) 266-1099; Lisa Helmuth, lisa.helmuth@wisconsin.gov, 266-7768;

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Partners' investment, commitment to restoring streams pays off

MADISON -- Wisconsin now proposes to make official what anglers and residents along two streams in Buffalo County and a third in Dane County have experienced in recent years: the water quality in these waters has improved and trout fisheries are taking hold.

Eagle Creek and Joos Valley Creek in Buffalo County, and German Valley Creek in Dane County, are proposed to be removed from Wisconsin's impaired waters list, the payoff from years of partnerships and investment by government, private landowners and conservation groups to keep soil and manure on the land and out of the water -- and to restore in-stream habitat.

"What better story is there than saying that together we've restored these streams that were once mud holes and are now functioning viable trout streams?" says Jim Amrhein, the Department of Natural Resources water quality biologist in southern Wisconsin who formally submitted the proposal to remove German Valley Creek from the Impaired Waters list.

"We're so lucky to live in a county (Dane County) willing to put dollars toward this kind of effort. We now have anglers from Iowa and Illinois coming here, spending their money and supporting Wisconsin jobs, and saying that they're happy to have these new smaller, but less crowded trout waters to fish on."

German Valley Creek

In the 1970s, the 7-mile long German Valley Creek, a spring-fed creek with its headwaters southwest of Mount Horeb, was suffering from habitat degradation due to erosion from farm fields and stream banks, and from manure from barnyard runoff. It had never been considered to have potential to be a trout water, but was dominated by fish able to tolerate warmer temperatures and lower water quality, according to Dave Marshall, another water quality biologist involved in the project.

.But starting in the mid- 1980s, federal, state and local governments worked to enroll farmers in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which paid farmers to take highly erodible land out of production. By the 2000s, more than 20 percent of the land in the watershed was enrolled in CRP, less polluted runoff was entering the stream and more rain water and melting snow was soaking into the ground. Consequently, stream flow improved and water temperature in the creek dropped.

"Brown trout, mottled sculpin and American brook lamprey moved in there," Marshall recalled. "It was telling us it wanted to be a trout stream."

That got people, particularly landowners along the stream, excited and Dane County applied for state grant funding to help restore streamside and in-stream habitat. DNR worked with the county on the projects and with Trout Unlimited. The fish response to in-stream habitat work has been modest but steadily increasing through time, state fisheries biologists report.

"These projects show the perfect sequence: fix the watershed, then fix the habitat, and you'll see rewards," Marshall says. "It's good these waters are coming off the list."

Joos Valley and Eagle creeks

In Buffalo County, the story was much the same.

"We began working with the farmers, placing electrical fencing above the creek streambanks in the pastures to keep the cows out and creating crossing areas," according to Tom Schultz, Buffalo County conservation technician.

"We also used DNR priority watershed money to cost-share with farmers for manure storage areas," he says. When several farmers felt they couldn't afford their share of the storage structures, the Fountain City and Alma Rod and Gun Club chipped in funds to help decrease the farmers' cost.

Once the cows weren't trampling the streambanks, the county began work to help stabilize the banks and prevent stream bank erosion. Volunteers from the rod and gun clubs helped install hundreds of structures in the creeks to provide cover for trout.

The result is now a well-documented water quality success. A 17-year long collaborative study between DNR and U.S. Geological Survey documented vast improvement in water quality: an 89 percent drop in suspended solids, 77 decrease for total phosphorus, and 66 percent for ammonia nitrogen on Eagle Creek, and similar statistics for Joos Valley Creek, according to Roger Bannerman, DNR water resources management specialist and a co-author of the USGS report.

Trout populations seem to be responding in Eagle Creek, according to Dan Hatleli, DNR fisheries biologist in Black River Falls.

Right now, Eagle Creek is classified as a Class III trout water, which means it requires stocking to provide a significant harvest, and does not provide habitat suitable for trout to survive throughout the year.

But a 2011 survey of upper Eagle Creek found young brook trout, indicating natural reproduction, and a habitat restoration project along the creek will help the fish. Crews restored 3,515 feet of stream bank this year through a project funded by revenues from the sale of the trout stamps anglers must buy to fish inland waters for trout, and federal Natural Resources Conservation Service funds.

Some bank stabilization and habitat structures were placed in Joos Valley Creek in 1991 and 2001, and trout have been found during DNR surveys in some years but not others. The prolonged drought has likely had an impact, but biologists are hopeful the trout will return.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jim Amrhein - (608) 275-3280

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Volunteers sought to assist with deer research project

MADISON - Wisconsin wildlife researchers are seeking people interested in wildlife research to volunteer in assisting in the live capture of deer. This will be the second year for each of two Department of Natural Resources deer research efforts; a five year study of adult deer and a three year study of fawns.

Captured deer will be fitted with radio collars and ear tags in an effort to learn more about causes of death in deer and the impact of predators on deer populations. The projects are described in a short series of Wisconsin Public Television interviews.

Researchers also ask all hunters who may have shot a collared or ear-tagged deer during the recently completed nine-day gun deer hunt to please call in using the number on the collar or ear tag and report their harvest if they have not done so already. They'll be asked a few questions about the details of their kill and asked to return the collars, which are valuable and can be reused on newly captured deer.

"This is important information for the study," said Christopher Jacques, DNR research scientist, "as it will give biologists a more complete understanding of the number of deer killed by hunters compared to all other causes of death."

Jacques says volunteers are vital to the success of this effort.

"Last year, our first year of this project, got off to a great start thanks to the more than 400 volunteers who donated their time and energy," he says. "Capture season has already started and anyone from hunters to wildlife students to folks interested in wildlife management and research are welcome. We also hope to hear from landowners in the study areas who would consider giving us access to their property to set up traps."

People can learn more about the projects and sign up online through the DNR website or by contacting Jacques at (608) 221-6358.

Deer will be captured using box traps, net traps and drop nets.

"Last season we also used a helicopter to capture deer from the air," said Jacques. "This is a proven technique in many parts of the country. We found it to be difficult and stressful to the animals here in Wisconsin leading to higher than normal mortality for this technique. People we've talked to and worked with on this project are concerned with these deaths so we've decided to not use the helicopters this year and use ground capture techniques only in 2011-12. If ground capture is not successful we may need to consider helicopter capture in the future."

Volunteers will work with researchers to remove deer from the traps, record basic information on sex and age, in some cases take blood and parasite samples, fit radio collars and ear tags and release them. If captured does are found to be pregnant, they will be fitted with implant transmitters that will signal when fawns are born in the spring. New born fawns will be located at the time of birth and fitted with radio collars.

Collars emit a mortality signal at the time of death so researchers can locate and attempt to determine the animal's cause of death whether it's from hunters, environment, disease, vehicles, predators or other causes. The information will be used to fine tune population estimating techniques.

There are two study areas. One in northwest Wisconsin in the vicinity of Winter in Sawyer County and an east central area mostly in Shawano County.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Christopher Jacques - (608) 221-6358

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Winter aeration on Barron, Burnett, Polk and Washburn county lakes creates open water

BARRON - Several lakes in Barron, Burnett, Polk and Washburn counties will have sections of open water resulting from aeration systems used to sustain aquatic life, according to the Department of Natural Resources. The systems are operated by governmental units or lake groups and cause areas on the lakes to remain ice-free.

"These systems," said Brian Spangler, DNR fisheries technician, "add oxygen to the water all winter and help prevent winterkill of fish and other organisms."

Snowmobilers, anglers, and other lake users should use caution on these lakes because of open water. The open water areas, as required by state statue, must be clearly marked -- DANGER - OPEN WATER, WARNING - ICE HOLES, or DANGER - THIN ICE -- and cordoned off using fence posts connected by rope with reflective tape or reflectors. The "fencing" must be at least 30 inches from the surface and no more than 54 inches high.

The lakes with public access that have aeration systems include:

DNR officials note that modifications are being made to the aeration system on the north end of Barron County's Prairie Lake to accommodate relocation of a bog island and extra caution should be taken.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Spangler, DNR fisheries technician, 715-637-6861

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A look back at natural resources issues, highlights of 2011

January

Draft study of health effects of silica in outdoor air available

MADISON -- The public had an opportunity to review and comment on a draft study by state air quality officials on the possible health effects of exposure to silica in the outdoor air.

Silica is a compound made up of silicon and oxygen atoms and can be both naturally occurring and man-made. It is present in the environment in both crystalline and amorphous forms; only the crystalline form is of concern as an air pollutant. Ambient sources of silica include mining and rock crushing, construction, foundries, glass manufacturing, abrasive blasting, or other uses of sand and quartz.

Green Tier program sees impressive expansion in 2010

MADISON - Participation in a unique Wisconsin program that rewards businesses and organizations for their commitment to superior environmental performance has increased to 46 participants, with the number of participating facilities more than doubling from 42 in December 2009 to 86 in December 2010.

Growth of the Green Tier program has been dramatic since the program was created in 2004, according to the 2010 biennial Green Tier report by the of Natural Resources.

DNR deer research effort to begin in Shawano and Rusk county areas

MADISON -Researchers set out to capture 60-90 adult deer each in the Shawano and Rusk County areas with nets from a helicopter, transport each deer to a processing area where scientists, biologists and volunteers will weigh, sex, age, take blood samples, install radio transmitters and ear tags, assess body condition and perform ultrasounds, and release the deer. Radio transmitters will allow deer to be monitored until the deer dies. Bucks were monitored mainly for cause of death. Does were monitored for cause of death and whether or not they deliver fawns.

February

Wisconsin businesses gain access to top green and gold strategists

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Wisconsin businesses gained access to some of the nation's leading strategists on how to improve their bottom line and their environmental performance through a new council of businesses, investment experts, academics, nongovernmental organizations and government agencies.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is a founding member of the newly formed Stewardship Action Council, an organization dedicated to promoting and improving sustainable and socially responsible business practices, and to recognizing those companies and organizations publicly committed to those goals.

More than 9,000 permits available for the 2011 black bear season

MADISON - More than 9,000 permits will be available for the 2011 black bear season, about the same as the previous year.

A bear population study completed in 2008 estimates Wisconsin's bear population at at least 22,000. DNR biologists set the recommended 2011 harvest quota at 5,235 bears, which is the same as 2010's quota. That quota is based on the population estimate, the state's bear population goal of 13,000, hunter success rates, harvest, bait station visitation rates, nuisance complaints, agricultural damage, and public input.

52 fish over 100 pounds speared in first three days of sturgeon season

OSHKOSH - Big fish and challenging travel conditions were the story during the first three days of the Lake Winnebago System sturgeon spearing seasons.

Through the end of spearing hours Monday, 881 fish system-wide had been harvested, with 52 of them, or 5.1 percent, weighing more than 100 pounds, according to Ron Bruch, Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor.

That included the 185-pound, 80.2-inch female registered at the Calumet Harbor Station and a 172.7-pound, 76.9-inch female registered in Oshkosh on opening day.

Wolves increase predation on Wisconsin livestock in 2010

MADISON - An increase in wolf depredations to livestock in 2010 supports a Department of Natural Resources request to the U.S. Department of the Interior for delisting of the gray wolf in Wisconsin, say DNR officials. The full report is available online.

Forty-seven farms had confirmed depredations on livestock in 2010 compared to 28 in 2009. This coincides with 2010 when the department's ability to remove problem wolves was the most restricted since 2002, due to court actions preventing lethal control.

UW-Stevens Point study points to improved trout population statewide

STEVENS POINT -- Wisconsin brook and brown trout populations statewide have generally increased over the last 60 years, according to a new University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point analysis of state trout surveys.

The study found an overall increase in the catch per stream mile of trout, and in trout in all the size ranges examined, in fisheries surveys conducted since 1950.

March

2011 Winnebago System spearing season runs 16 days

OSHKOSH -- A record number of fish weighing more than 100 pounds, a full 16-day season, and difficult travel conditions were the stories during the 2011 Winnebago System sturgeon spearing season that wrapped up Feb. 27.

Spearers harvested 1,426 fish, close to the average of 1,405 since the harvest cap started in 1999, but the fish were bigger than they've been since the 1950s.

Volunteer instructors, hunters' dedication behind fatality-free gun-deer season

MADISON - Hunting history repeated itself in Wisconsin 2010 - and the head of the state's hunter education program is looking for a repeat performance in 2011.

Wisconsin ended its 2010 gun-deer season free of hunter fatalities -- last seen in 1974.

The 2010 hunting success story has a lot to do with the effectiveness of the state's volunteer instructors of hunter safety education programs and hunters themselves for their dedication to safety.

No traces of Asian carp found in Milwaukee waterways

MILWAUKEE -- No traces of Asian carp DNA have been found in water samples collected from major Milwaukee waterways, according to the University of Notre Dame researchers who did the sampling.

The researchers notified the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources of the results in a letter last week. The DNR provided boats and boat operators to help collect the water samples from the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic rivers and nearby creeks and ponds in November 2010.

Sturgeon Guards: Protectors of Wisconsin's oldest and largest fish

At some point in mid April, giant lake sturgeon from the Winnebago lakes begin their spawning run up the Wolf River, just as they have each spring for the past 10,000 years.

State fisheries biologist have closely managed Winnebago's lake sturgeon population, and it has become the largest and healthiest in the world, and one of the few viable, self-reproducing populations anywhere. It is a global treasure and its value is beyond calculation.

For decades these ancient fish have been guarded during their spawning run, day and night, by volunteers. These are the members of Wisconsin's Sturgeon Guard who put in 12-hour shifts on the banks of rivers to protect the spawning fish from poachers.

April

DNR introduces streamlined water quality permit process for large-scale dairy operations

MADISON - As part of its ongoing effort to streamline permitting processes and free up more staff time for inspections and compliance checks, the state has issued a standardized water quality protection permit now available to large-scale dairy operations.

The "general permit" is available to operations with up to 4,000 milking cows and would require them to meet the same protections that are now contained in the individually written permits such operations have. Other large-scale operations that house other animals such as sheep, chickens and turkeys would continue to require an individual permit.

Work*Play*Earth Day events a chance to help out and enjoy state parks

MADISON - People help Wisconsin State Parks and Trails get ready for the busy summer season while helping celebrate Earth Day 2011 by participating in the third annual Work*Play*Earth Day! Events being sponsored by the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks Volunteers joined Department of Natural Resources staff, local friends group members, and people from nearby communities for a day of getting their hands dirty helping repair and improve park and trail facilities, then taking time to have some fun enjoying those facilities.

Council Grounds State Park, Fox River State Trail closed due to storm damage

MADISON - Council Grounds State Park and a portion of the Fox River State Trail were closed to visitors as crews clear debris, complete damage assessments and make repairs after severe storms passed through the state on April 10.

The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado moved through Marathon and Lincoln counties and another was confirmed in Winnebago and Outagamie counties. They were among 10 reported across the state.

Chinook harvests up 47 percent in 2010, outlook good for '11

MILWAUKEE -- Lake Michigan anglers had a banner year of chinook fishing in 2010, with favorable winds and other factors helping to increase harvest 47 percent, state fishery officials say.

Anglers harvested 315,294 chinook salmon from Lake Michigan in 2010, up from 214,621 in 2009 and 256,796 in 2008. More good news for Wisconsin anglers: they accounted for the bulk of the lake-wide haul.

Fewer deaths again end state's snowmobile season

MADISON, Wis. - For the sixth consecutive year, Wisconsin ends its snowmobile season with fewer fatalities.

Wisconsin recorded 17 snowmobile fatalities this season - down from 21 during the 2009-10 season.

2011 marks 75th anniversary of well code to protect private drinking water supplies

MADISON -- With nearly 1.7 million Wisconsinites drinking water from private wells and another 3 million reliant on groundwater from public water wells, the 75th anniversary of the construction code governing private wells is something all Wisconsinites can raise a glass to, state drinking water officials say.

The Wisconsin Well Code, established in 1936, sets standards for well construction, including the distances required between the well and septic tanks, sewer lines, farm feedlots, manure pits, buried fuel tanks, fertilizer and pesticide storage sites and other potential sources of contamination.

May

Survey gives Wisconsin bats a clean bill of health

MADISON - A statewide survey of known bat wintering sites in Wisconsin showed no sign of white-nose syndrome, a fungus that kills bats by invading their skin and depleting their energy reserves during winter hibernation.

The invasive fungus currently exists in 18 states and four Canadian provinces and has been linked to the death of more than one million bats since 2007. White-nose syndrome (WNS; scientific name Geomyces destructans) has been confirmed within 190 miles of Wisconsin, well within the dispersal range of Wisconsin's most common bat species, the little brown bat.

Grass carp discoveries concern Wisconsin fisheries officials

MILWAUKEE -- They aren't the fish that leap out of the water and knock out boaters nor the ones that can reach 100 pounds, but the discoveries late last month of grass carp in the Milwaukee River and in the Lower Wisconsin River are very concerning, state fisheries officials say.

Grass carp are one of many Asian carp species that are causing problems in the United States, but they are not one of the three Asian carp species that may be making their way up the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal and in danger of colonizing the Great Lakes. Grass carp are plant eating machines that can rob lakes of the rooted plants that provide important habitat for native fish and wildlife, and leave behind so much fish waste that they can fuel excessive algae growth.

Federal officials announce renewed proposal to remove wolves from endangered species list

MADISON - Citizens had an opportunity to testify on the federal government's most recent proposal to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list in the western Great Lakes including Wisconsin.

The U.S. Department of Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on May 4, 2011 the publication of a new proposed rule for delisting wolves. The Fish and Wildlife Service will hold a 60-day public comment period on the new rule from May 5 through July 5, 2011.

Wild Wisconsin elk are expanding their range - with a little help from their friends

HAYWARD - This is the calving season for Wisconsin's small but growing elk herd and biologists with the state Department of Natural Resources, joined by a small army of volunteers, are busy searching the woods for newborns.

The search is expanded this year because a dozen of Wisconsin's wild elk, all young animals, were trapped this past winter and were moved to an "acclimation pen" 10 miles distant from the main herd as the crow flies.

June

Volunteer efforts show success in controlling garlic mustard

PRESQUE ISLE, Wis. -- Located on Wisconsin's border with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Vilas County, this "almost an island" town's name even sounds like an idyllic vacation spot.

But if not for the sharp eyes and determination of a few local residents, the area would have quickly lost some of its Northwoods charm as it became infested with garlic mustard, an exotic, invasive plant that has become all too well known in much of southern Wisconsin.

The rapidly growing plant with small white flowers and a strong garlic odor has infested woodlots around the state. Once garlic mustard gains a foothold, it spreads rapidly and crowds out native wildflowers and tree seedlings.

40,103 turkeys registered in Wisconsin's 2011 spring turkey season

MADISON - Preliminary estimates show that Wisconsin hunters registered 40,103 turkeys during the 2011 spring turkey season. A total of 210,059 permits were issued for the spring hunt, according to licensing officials.

This registration total shows a 16 percent decrease from the 2010 harvest of 47,722 birds. Wisconsin does not estimate statewide wild turkey populations but several long, snow-filled and cold winters (2007-2010) and recent wet (2008) or cold (2009, 2011) springs have provided the perfect recipe to nudge turkey numbers downward according to wildlife biologists.

Qualified bass tournaments can start culling starting June 14

MADISON -- Starting June 14, anglers fishing in permitted tournaments can cull, or sort, smallmouth or largemouth bass under a new law signed last month by Gov. Scott Walker.

The new law allows culling in Wisconsin but limits the practice to participants in a Department of Natural Resources-permitted bass tournament in which the bass are caught, held in a live well, and released to the water, according to Jon Hansen, the DNR fisheries biologist coordinating the tournament permit system. In an earlier pilot study in 2005 and 2006, culling bass was allowed in seven tournaments on an experimental basis. The new law does not allow culling for any species other than bass.

Breeding waterfowl numbers increase in most recent survey

MADISON - Above average spring rains have improved wetland conditions across Wisconsin and could lead to better local duck production, according to state waterfowl biologists.

Variation from year to year in wetland conditions and breeding ducks is part of the natural cycle in the world of wetland wildlife. Wetland numbers were relatively low in Wisconsin during 2009 and 2010 while wetland numbers were high in the prairies of the United States. As a result, breeding duck numbers improved from low in 2010 to above average in 2011.

July

3 million walleye stocked in Wisconsin waters

WILD ROSE, Wis. -- Nearly 3 million walleye, Wisconsin anglers' favorite fish, have been stocked in dozens of lakes and rivers waters over the last few weeks.

The fish, up to 2 months old and 2 inches in size, were harvested from the Art Oehmcke Hatchery in Woodruff, the Tommy G. Thompson Hatchery in Spooner, the Lake Mills Hatchery in its namesake community, and, for the first time in 20 years, Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery in Waushara County. Construction of new coolwater facilities at that century-old hatchery allowed fish crews there to return to producing walleye for the first time in a generation.

St. Louis River sturgeon restoration marks milestone

SUPERIOR --The four tiny black fish are humble looking -- seemingly all eyes-- but they hold the key to returning an ancient, human-sized fish to an ancestral water.

The inch-long lake sturgeon, found earlier this month during sampling on the St. Louis River, are the first documented young produced by lake sturgeon stocked from 1983 through 2000 by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

DNR review of Waukesha Great Lakes Diversion application starts

MADISON - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has determined Waukesha's application to use Lake Michigan water for its drinking water supply is complete, which begins the extensive state review process for the city's request.

The city has applied to DNR for an approval to divert water for public water supply purposes from Lake Michigan to an area that lies outside the Great Lakes Basin. Waukesha asserts in its application that it needs a new source of water to address both water quantity and water quality concerns.

Under international and national agreements signed in 2005 and subsequent implementing federal and state laws, diversions of Great Lakes water outside the basin are prohibited, with limited exceptions. Requests such as the city's must be reviewed and approved by the home state and by other Great Lakes states and provinces.

Report: 96 percent of public water systems met health standards for drinking water

MADISON - Ninety-six percent of Wisconsin's public water systems served drinking water that met all health-based standards in 2010, exceeding the federal goal, according to a recently released report.

On average, Wisconsin residents pay $4 for 1,000 gallons of tap water; 10,990 of the 11,444 systems, or 96 percent, did not have a single drinking water sample that exceeded health-based standards for monitored contaminants. That equals 96 percent of the systems, and compares to the national performance goal of 95 percent.

Fish contaminant levels decreasing in some waters

MADISON -- Wisconsin's commitment to cleaning up contaminated sediment and regulating mercury is paying off for anglers, as recent studies and the newly available 2011 fish consumption advice booklet show reduced contaminant levels in fish in some waters.

Mercury levels in walleye and largemouth bass have dropped in Wisconsin and most of the rest of the Great Lakes region since the 1970s. The PCB advisory for smallmouth bass has been relaxed in the Lower Fox River from Little Lake Butte des Morts to the De Pere dam. In general, PCB levels in fish statewide are declining slowly since the U.S. ban on manufacturing of PCBs.

August

First year of black bear, bobcat online reporting site successful

MADISON - The first year of an online site developed to collect reports of black bear and bobcat sightings from citizens produced more than 800 reports. This information has been valuable in documenting presence and range expansion for both species, according to wildlife biologists.

Black bears have been reported in 51 of Wisconsin's 72 counties in 2011 via the online reporting site. Of those 51 counties, 23 lie in the rare or occasionally sighted areas on the black bear distribution map.

Golden shiner record falls for second time in one month

MADISON -- Anglers learn early that records are made to be broken.

Nine days after Maxfield JonasKrueger of Madison reeled in a new state record golden shiner, his record has been eclipsed by a younger angler. [EDITOR'S NOTE: The record for the golden shiner was subsequently broken two additional times later in the year.]

DNR firmly supports removing gray wolf from federal endangered species list

The Department of Natural Resources firmly supports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in delisting the wolf in the upper Great Lakes states. Wisconsin has exceeded its delisting goal eight times over and must have flexibility to manage problem wolves if any support for wolves by the public is to continue.

While the department is committed to long-term conservation of wolves in Wisconsin, it is critical that we be allowed to manage wildlife populations within our borders. Wisconsin has approximately 800 wolves; this is the most wolves ever counted in the state. Wolf numbers far exceed the federal delisting recovery goal of 100 wolves for both Wisconsin and Michigan, and are causing real problems.

2011 surveillance testing shows VHS has not spread to new waters

MADISON - VHS fish disease has not spread to new waters in 2011, a result state fisheries and invasive species officials credit to anglers and others following rules to prevent spreading the virus.

And they say those rules also will help protect against other aquatic invasive species and diseases, including the Asian carp recently caught in the Lower Wisconsin River and DNA detected in water samples in the St. Croix River.

September

2011 Wisconsin archery deer season to be longest in state history

EAU CLAIRE - The 2011 Wisconsin's archery deer hunt that opens September 17 will be the longest bow deer hunt in state history.

For the first time, bow hunting will be allowed during the regular nine-day gun deer hunt in November. As before, there will be no deer hunting on the Friday preceding the gun deer hunt. This single day will now separate the early and late bow deer seasons.

The 2011 archery deer season runs from Saturday, Sept. 17, through Thursday, Nov. 17 and then from Saturday, Nov. 19, the start of the gun season, through Jan. 8, a Sunday.

Duck season opens Sept. 24 with new Mississippi River zone

MADISON - Hunters looking forward to the opening of Wisconsin's 2011 duck season in the Northern duck zone and new Mississippi River Zone on Sept. 24 should find good numbers of ducks, according to state wildlife officials.

The season has a new Mississippi river zone, which was requested by duck hunters.

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

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.

October

Removal of contaminated sediment aims at improving Marinette harbor water quality

MARINETTE -- A Marinette harbor that was key in Wisconsin's historical development will be restored to good health through a state-city partnership to remove contaminated sediments and, officials hope, spark improvements in habitat, water quality, recreation and economic development.

The city and DNR have signed an agreement to remove more than 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from Menekaunee Harbor at the mouth of the Menominee River where it enters Green Bay.

Brewers hit a home run for tree planting and greening Milwaukee

MADISON - The Milwaukee Brewers recently donated 150 landscape-sized saplings to the Department of Natural Resources as part of the team's "Root, Root, Root for the Brewers" tree planting campaign. For every 20,000 tickets sold during the regular season, the team donated a tree to be planted on the neighboring state-owned Hank Aaron State Trail. The goal of the initiative was to offset the number of trees used to print the club's season ticket sales.

Rescued dogs helping determine Wisconsin bobcat population

MADISON -- Dogs rescued from shelters have been trained to detect the scent of the elusive bobcat in Wisconsin to help scientists determine how many of these North American mammals are at home in the Badger State's central region.

Roughly two years remain on a three-year joint research project involving the Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point that started because of increasing interest in this nocturnal, solitary, and secretive animal.

November

Rare southwestern birds show up in Wisconsin

HORICON -- Bird watchers are in their glory: the number of migrating water birds is building to its massive annual peak at Horicon Marsh, the Mississippi River and other flyway hotspots while southwestern U.S. birds are stopping by for a rare Wisconsin visit.

The past week was a special one for spying rare birds in the state, especially birds from the southwest. Birders have reported the first ever Inca dove -- enjoying a bird feeder at Concordia College in Ozaukee County. A Vermillion flycatcher has been spotted in Rock County, marking the sixth time this species has been reported in the state.

New firearm rules take effect on opening day of gun deer hunt

MADISON -- New legislation signed Friday by Gov. Scott Walker modifies state law concerning the manner in which long-barreled firearms, bows and crossbows can be transported in motor vehicles or placed in or on stationary vehicles.

The new law will be published in time to take effect Nov. 19, opening day of the traditional, nine-day, 2011 gun deer season.

DNR appoints Kevin Wallenfang as state's big game ecologist

MADISON - Kevin Wallenfang has been appointed as the state's big game ecologist. Wallenfang, 44, of Middleton, is expected to assume his new duties in mid-December.

A Wisconsin native hailing from Green Lake, Wallenfang holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and has worked in professional wildlife management for over 20 years. He is currently Wisconsin's Regional Wildlife Biologist for Pheasants Forever and also spent several years as a biologist and initiative director for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. He is not a newcomer to DNR as he previously held the position of assistant big game ecologist before his stints with Pheasants Forever and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

DNR prepares for deer hunt with launch of Facebook, Twitter and website changes

MADISON - With the opening day of the nine-day gun deer hunt right around the corner, the Department of Natural Resources unveiled new tools it's using to keep in touch with hunters this year.

The DNR launched its first Facebook page and Twitter account and laid out plans for special coverage on the DNR website.

Cougar hits Northwoods in time for annual gun deer hunt

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. -- A cougar ranging through west central and northern Wisconsin likely has tripped a trail camera for a third time, leading biologists to believe it is heading into the Northwoods just in time for the annual gun deer hunt.

State wildlife officials are asking hunters to report any sightings of the young, wild cougar. Based on the times and locations of the three photographs, it could be in the Flambeau State Forest or in heavily wooded Price County by now.

Preliminary count shows hunters harvested 226,260 deer during the nine-day season

MADISON - A call around survey of 600-plus deer registration stations all across Wisconsin completed today shows a preliminary harvest total of 226,260 for the just completed nine-day gun deer hunting season, up 3.6 percent from 2010. At the same time, hunters posted the second all around safest season on record.

The nine-day harvest numbers are preliminary and are expected to change before a final report is published in late winter. The total does not include harvest information from the archery, October antlerless gun deer hunt, muzzleloader, December antlerless deer gun hunt or late archery seasons. The preliminary nine-day gun harvest count in 2010 was 218,144 and in 2009 was 201,994.

Sights stay on safety during 2011 season

MADISON -- Wisconsin hunters who filled the woods for the nine-day gun-deer season did their part to play it safe, closing the season on Nov. 28 with no fatalities among the seven reported incidents for all 72 counties.

A shooting incident under investigation in Monroe County was declared a deer hunting incident on Nov. 29, bringing the total incidents for the season to seven. The Monroe County incident was confirmed after the DNR issued its preliminary season round-up showing a total of six incidents. The additional incident, which was a non-fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound, also changed the ranking of the season from tied with another year as the second safest to the third safest in Wisconsin's recorded history.

The safest season was in 2004 when there were four incidents and two were fatalities. The second safest was 2007 when the state had six incidents, of which three were fatalities.

December

DNR launches YouTube channel to showcase outdoor videos

MADISON - Wake up to Wild Wednesdays!

The Department of Natural Resources has launched a YouTube channel, WIDNRTV, and plans to post stories Wednesday mornings.

The videos will showcase Wisconsin's wildlife, outdoor recreation and natural resources and the DNR staff, organizations, citizens and businesses who protect, restore and enhance those resources.

Ice fishing gains 110,000 anglers over the last decade

MADISON - One hundred ten thousand people can't be wrong.

That's how many more Wisconsinites are ice fishing these days than a decade ago, according to results from a recently released national recreation survey.

An estimated 590,700 Wisconsinites 16 and over report they ice fish, up from 479,900 in 2000, according to the most recent National Survey on Recreation and the Environment. Department of Natural Resources staff are using results from the federally funded survey and other studies to develop its 2011-2016 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

State residents recycling millions of electronics through E-Cycle Wisconsin

MADISON -- Just two years after its start, E-Cycle Wisconsin has grown to be one of the most successful electronics recycling programs in the country, according to data compiled by the Department of Natural Resources.

From July 2010 to June 2011, E-Cycle Wisconsin registered collectors took in more than 35 million pounds of old televisions, computers and other electronics from Wisconsin households and schools. This is equal to 6.2 pounds per person, one of the highest rates among states with electronics recycling laws.

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, December 20, 2011




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