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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published February 28, 2012

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Wildlife officials seek to reverse declining tax check-off donations

MADISON -- Private donations to fund state efforts to protect and restore rare wildlife have dropped in Wisconsin and elsewhere in recent years, spurring state wildlife officials to encourage more Wisconsinites to consider consider making a voluntary donation to the Endangered Resources Fund when filling out their 2011 state income tax form.

"We encourage you to "look for the loon" on your state income tax form and make a donation to the Endangered Resources Fund," says Laurie Osterndorf, who leads Wisconsin's endangered resources program. "Private donations are critical to conserve rare species and keep others from declining. Every dollar you give is matched by a state dollar up to $500,000, so even a small donation can make a big difference."

The tax check-off is found in the "donations" section on state income tax forms, which are due April 17 for individuals and can be filed online.

Private contributions to Wisconsin's Endangered Resources Fund are crucial for work to protect and restore rare plants, wildlife and state natural areas, and to the $1.2 billion annual economic impact, 17,166 jobs, and $111 million in state and local tax revenues generated annually by wildlife watching activities in Wisconsin, according to "Wildlife Watching in the U.S.: The Economic Impact on National and State Economies."

Private donations have accounted for anywhere from one-quarter to 40 percent of funding every year for endangered resources work since the fund was established about a quarter century ago, Osterndorf says. Such donations not only bring in a state match, but are critical because there is not a more stable, dedicated funding source as there is for management programs for game animals such as deer, turkey and fish. The management of game animals is funded largely through the sales of state hunting and fishing licenses and receives federal dollars in proportion to the number of licenses sold every year.

In recent years, voluntary donations for endangered resources through state income tax check-offs has dropped in Wisconsin and the majority of other states that rely on such contributions. A July 2011 study by a University of Georgia researcher found that the bulk of funding responsibilities rests on the states' shoulders, that 32 states responding to the survey used tax check-offs to secure nongame funding, and that total donations declined from 2004 to 2008.

Minnesota had the highlight levels of nongame check-off funding across all years in the study, averaging $1,159,082 per year. In the most recent year for which figures are available, Wisconsin citizens donated $310,206 in 2011 through the tax check-off, down from $410,277 in 2007.

The prospect of private donations continuing to decrease is particularly worrisome because of the matching provision, Osterndorf says. For each dollar Wisconsin citizens give through the tax check off or a direct donation, the endangered resources fund receives $1, up to a maximum of $500,000 from the state General Purpose Fund.

If 100,000 people each gave $5, or rounded up to the nearest $10, Wisconsin could raise the $500,000 in private donations needed to secure the full match of state dollars available from the general purpose fund, she says.

Private donations go directly toward funding endangered resources work and do not pay for overhead or administrative costs, Osterndorf says. "Your donation to Wisconsin's Endangered Species Fund through the check-off on your state income tax goes directly to work to conserve endangered resources. It's an important investment you can make now for future generations," she says.

Wisconsin's endangered species law became effective 40 years ago and the state has been a leader in restoring species to the skies, water and forests, in pursuing innovative partnerships and approaches to protecting listed species' habitat and in managing animals that are rare but not listed as threatened or endangered. Learn more about these successes -- and challenges ahead -- through DNR's Celebrating 40 years of protecting Wisconsin's natural heritage web feature.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Osterndorf (608) 267-7552

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Wisconsin Public Radio teams with DNR to highlight rare wildlife

MADISON -- The successful restoration of bald eagles, trumpeter swans and other rare species under the state's 40-year-old endangered species law will be featured in a year-long series on Wisconsin Public Radio's The Larry Meiller Show.

The show, part of the Ideas Network on Wisconsin Public Radio, is teaming up with the Department of Natural Resources to highlight these comebacks and current challenges as part of celebrations the 1972 state law protecting rare plants and wildlife.

The series begins Feb. 29 with an update on cave bats, the latest additions to the state's endangered and threatened list, from David Redell, DNR bat ecologist.

Check the latest page of DNR's Celebrating 40 years of protecting Wisconsin's natural heritage web feature for the time, date and guests featured in the current month.

"We're very pleased to have Wisconsin Public Radio explore the state's endangered species law and the great Wisconsin success stories it helped make possible," says Laurie Osterndorf, who directs DNR's Endangered Resources Bureau and who also will appear on the first segment airing Feb. 29.

"We're also excited to highlight the people behind these comebacks and to talk about the challenges ahead for safeguarding our rare wildlife and special places."

The Larry Meiller Show can be heard on public radio stations carrying the Ideas Network. [exit DNR] The segments on endangered resources topics will run from 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. on his show.

People also can listen live online [exit DNR] and can catch any shows they miss by visiting the archive. [exit DNR]

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Manwell, DNR (608) 264-8942; Judith Siers-Poisson, producer, The Larry Meiller Show (608) 263-6384

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Visit DNR display at Milwaukee Sport Show, March 7-11

WEST ALLIS - Outdoor enthusiasts will have an opportunity to meet Department of Natural Resources staff at the 72nd Annual Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show, see an aquarium full of native fish and the Wall of Shame, a display of impressive but illegally harvested bucks.

They'll also be able to buy new hunting and fishing licenses at the show, which opens Wednesday, March 7, and runs through Sunday, March 11, at the Wisconsin Exhibition Center at State Fair Park, 8200 W. Greenfield Ave. in West Allis.

"Because the focus of our agency is customer-driven, this is a great opportunity for the public to ask questions and engage with our staff," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.

DNR has been involved with the sports show since the days when the agency was called the Wisconsin Conservation Department. DNR's exhibit features a 600-gallon freshwater tank where visitors can view live bluegills, crappies, perch, largemouth and small mouth bass. Live reptiles and amphibians will be on display at the wetlands and waterways section.

As they have done for several years, wildlife managers will bring an array of wildlife pelts including beaver, badger, coyote, fox and wolf for youngsters eager to learn more about our furry friends. "This is definitely a 'please do touch' display," said Marcus Smith, DNR's regional public affairs manager who coordinates the exhibit.

Conservation wardens will be on hand to answer questions about law enforcement and rule changes. This year marks the return of the Wall of Shame. The display consists of 28 mounts of large bucks that were taken illegally throughout the state in the past 15 years. Each deer has a story that is summarized in a handout given visitors. Besides being an impressive display of Wisconsin deer, it stresses hunting ethics and that citizen cooperation is essential in holding poachers accountable for their actions.

Park rangers will sell park stickers and trail passes. Show visitors also can purchase their hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. License sales usually are a big attraction, especially since previous year licenses expire March 31.

"Customers have told us that buying their license from us at the Sports Show is a tradition," according to Smith.

The 1,800-square-foot DNR exhibit is located in the southwest corner of the exhibition center. About 20 DNR employees staff the exhibit daily. The hours for the 2012 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show are Wednesday, March 7, through Friday, March 9, from noon to 9 p.m. On Saturday, March 10, hours are from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. On Sunday, March 11 doors open at 10 a.m. and the show closes at 6 p.m.

Admission is $6.50 in advance and $8.00 at the door. Children under 12 are free when accompanied by an adult.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Marcus Smith (414) 263-8516

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Hunters register 5,433 birds in 2011 fall wild turkey hunt

MADISON - Wisconsin wild turkey hunters registered a combined 5,433 birds during the regular fall 2011 wild turkey season and the extended season in Turkey Management Zones 1-5.

The 5,433 registered birds compute to a success rate of 10 percent, a slight decrease from the 12 percent success rate for hunters during the 2010 fall season.

"The fall turkey season, along with our spring season, continues to provide important recreational opportunities for Wisconsin's hunters," says Scott Walter, upland wildlife ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources. "Hunters that pursue turkeys during both the spring and fall seasons are really treated to two very distinctive outdoor experiences, and get to enjoy turkeys during very different phases of their annual cycle."

Hunting turkeys in the fall is quite different than taking part in the spring hunt, where hunters use the breeding behavior of gobblers to call one into range, he says. Fall hunters learn that the key to success is to pattern turkey flocks, and locating roost sites and feeding locations in order to get close to turkeys.

The decline in harvest between the 2010 and 2011 fall seasons continues a downward trend in fall turkey harvest over the past seven years and likely reflects turkey numbers and hunting trends, Walter says.

"Certainly, the previous three winters have stressed turkeys, and recent wet springs have likely limited production," he says. "Long-term, turkey populations - and the number of turkeys hunters encounter in the field - will ebb and flow in response to weather conditions that determine production levels."

The fact that there are so many opportunities available to hunters in the fall also seems to have resulted in fewer hunters pursuing turkeys recently, with the number of fall permits sold declining steeply the past few years. This also has reduced the total number of birds harvested in the fall season, Walter says.

Not including Fort McCoy, the total number of permits available statewide for the fall 2011 season was 95,700, the same as in 2010. A total of 54,949 permits were sold, including 41,332 via the drawing with another 13,617 permits sold over-the-counter after the drawing had been completed.

Turkey permit levels for fall 2012 to be set this summer

Permit levels for the 2012 fall season will be set this summer once harvest data for the spring 2012 season is available and biologists can assess spring production levels, Walter says. Permit applications for the 2012 fall season are due August 1st, 2012

"Statewide, the population of turkeys remains strong," says Krista McGinley, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist. "Long-term, turkey numbers are primarily driven by the quality of habitat available and weather during the critical nesting brood-rearing period.

"We've got excellent turkey habitat across the state, this winter's been mild for turkeys and, given good production this spring, hunters should have an excellent opportunity to see turkeys and perhaps harvest a bird this coming spring and fall."

The number of permits available to hunters in each of the state's seven Turkey Management Zones is recommended by members of the Wild Turkey Management Committee, who consider recent trends in harvest, hunter success, and turkey reproduction, as well as hunter densities and field reports of turkey abundance, when deciding on final permit numbers.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Walter (608) 267-7861; Krista McGinley (608) 261-8458

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2012 sturgeon spearing season enters record books

OSHKOSH -- The 80th consecutive Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season is one for the record books and its fans, as they do in baseball, are already saying, "Wait 'til next year!"

"We had a slower than hoped for season with the poor water clarity and poor ice conditions keeping people off the ice and slowing the harvest, but the impression I got from talking to spearers is there's still a lot of happy people," says Ron Bruch, Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor for Oshkosh.

"We had the fifth and sixth largest fish ever recorded and more than 6 percent of the fish harvest were trophies. The Winnebago season ran the full 16 days, so people had a lot of opportunities to spear. And perhaps most importantly, nobody got hurt and we all demonstrated once again how vibrant and colorful our Wisconsin sturgeon culture is."

The 2012 Lake Winnebago season closed February 26 after running the full 16-days allowed by law; the Upriver Lakes season closed at the end of day Feb. 12 when the number of female sturgeon speared exceeded the trigger to close the season.

Across both seasons, spearers harvested 566 fish, with 36 of them weighing more than 100 pounds, or about 6.3 percent. Fish of that size are considered trophies, and their proportion of the harvest, normally about 1 percent of the harvest, has increased in recent years to 6 percent or greater. Find harvest breakdowns on DNR's 2012 Winnebago System Spearing web page.

Spearers are already making plans for 2013 as expectations are high with the robust population in the Lake Winnebago system and the high percentage of trophy sized fish in the population, Bruch says.

"The big question people are asking me is, will we automatically have higher harvest caps in 2013?" he says. "There's a good chance we probably will, but I can't say for sure until we get all the data in."

The Winnebago sturgeon management program has been so successful in maintaining harvests yet at same time allowing the sturgeon population to grow that harvest caps in recent years have been more than double what they were when harvest caps were first instituted in 1999, Bruch says.

"People realize, hey, we're in really good shape here, and when we do get a super clear year, we're going to have a great season," he says.

For a look at 10 daily features that ran highlighting aspects of the season and traditions surrounding it, visit DNR's 2012 Sturgeon Spearing Feature and click on the numbered boxes to see the different features.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron Bruch (920) 424-3059

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Deadline for invasive species poster contest is April 2

MADISON - Wisconsin fourth and fifth grade students have until April 2 to submit their poster design to increase awareness of invasive plants and animals affecting Wisconsin shorelines and wetlands.

The poster contest, with a theme of "Slow the Spread by Boat and Tread" is sponsored by the Wisconsin Council on Invasive Species in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources and Invasive Plants Association of Wisconsin. It's part of the partners' Invasive Species Awareness Month in June.

The first-, second- and third-prize winners will be honored during the Invasive Species Awareness Month awards ceremony at Olbrich Gardens in Madison on June 6, 2012, at 1 p.m. with other "Invader Crusaders" from around the state. The first-prize winner will receive a free family membership to the Natural Resources Foundation and a free field trip for the winner and their family.

Students' artwork will be prominently displayed at the Capitol during the month of June and on the Wisconsin Council on Invasive Species website.

To enter the contest, students are invited to create full color or black and white, original posters of invasive species, according to Chrystal Schreck, DNR invasive species outreach specialist. Entries may be done in crayon, marker, acrylic or poster paint. Computers may be used for the text.

A list of suggested plants and animals to be featured can be found online along with other contest details.

All submissions must be postmarked by Monday, April 2, 2012. If you have questions, please e-mail isam_wi@yahoo.com.

All entries become the property of the Wisconsin Council on Invasive Species and will not be returned unless a self-addressed, stamped envelope is included, Schreck says.

This contest is made possible by a grant from DNR to the Invasive Plants Association of Wisconsin.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Chrystal Schreck (608) 264-8590

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Editor's Note: Another Deer Hunter Forum Set

Editor's Note: Another Deer Hunter Forum has been scheduled for 2012 for southeastern Wisconsin and adjustments have been made to some meetings to allow them to go later into the evening to better meet local needs. A complete list of all 35 Deer Hunter Forums is available at:

The new southeastern Wisconsin meeting covers Walworth, Racine, Kenosha & Milwaukee counties, DMUs 77B-CWD, 77C-CWD, 77C, 77M. It is set for Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 5:30-8 p.m., Richard Bong State Recreation Area, 26313 Burlington Road, Kansasville

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Marty Johnson (262) 884-2391

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, February 28, 2012




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