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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published July 3, 2012

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DNR continues to be proactive with fire safety message

Restrictions still in effect for several southern Wisconsin counties

MADISON - Emergency burning restrictions continue to be in effect for 11 counties in southern Wisconsin until significant precipitation occurs. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has primary wildfire prevention and suppression responsibilities and the authority under state laws to implement emergency burning restrictions in 43 counties, including the 11 currently under those restrictions.

DNR Wildfire Protection Areas
DNR Wildfire Protection Areas

For 29 counties, including many southern and southeast Wisconsin counties, primary responsibility for wildfire prevention and suppression lies with local units of government and they have control over emergency burn bans.

The DNR is encouraging local municipalities outside the restricted area to take all the necessary steps to avoid any fire in the outdoors. The fire danger remains at "high" or "very high" throughout the southern half of Wisconsin and there is no significant precipitation in the forecast.

Many area municipalities are implementing their own burn bans or cancelling organized fireworks events due to the very high fire danger. Other government organizations are issuing fire safety advisories in hopes of preventing any human-caused fires. A model ordinance for local governments is available on the DNR website.

"Since implementing these restrictions, we've had numerous inquiries from fire departments, county emergency management and various town officials outside the restricted area wanting to know how they can help," said Trent Marty, director of DNR's Bureau of Forest Protection.

For areas outside DNR Protection, fire prevention and suppression efforts are delegated to the local town chairs and fire departments. Marty states, "it's important that we continue to work together and use the tools available to us to properly advise the public of the seriousness of the situation."

Last year, the DNR launched a website that makes daily updates to the fire danger in every county throughout Wisconsin. The DNR also has model burning ordinances and burning permit templates available for local use. "This situation has generated a lot interest by local governments who currently do not have any burning restrictions in place, to seriously think about things for the future."

Currently, all of Crawford, Richland, Sauk, Columbia, Marquette, Green Lake and portions of Iowa, Grant, Dane, Adams, & Juneau counties are impacted by these emergency burning restrictions. Emergency burning restrictions apply to the designated areas that are outside incorporated cities and villages in these counties.

Under DNR restrictions, burning of any combustible material outdoors is prohibited until further notice. This applies burning in barrels, debris piles, grass or wooded areas, campfires (except developed campgrounds in a metal fire ring), fireworks, smoking or disposing matches, ashes, or charcoal briquettes in the outdoors.

For the most current fire danger information throughout Wisconsin and a detailed look at the areas under Emergency Burning Restrictions, visit dnr.wi.gov keyword "fire" and select the county of interest. Otherwise, residents and tourists are encouraged to contact their local DNR office or local fire department, town or municipal officials for more information on local fire restrictions.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Manwell, DNR Office of Communications, 608-264-9248

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Breeding waterfowl numbers "about average" in an unusual spring

Early spring creates staggered duck breeding and migration schedule

MADISON - The spring 2012 waterfowl breeding picture was marked by an early spring, unusual weather, and dry conditions, which state wildlife officials say, created a challenge to survey breeding ducks in 2012. Despite that difficulty they say breeding waterfowl numbers appear to be "about average."

"Overall, wetland numbers this spring were down but in Wisconsin our abundant permanent water contained in 15,000 lakes reduces the impact of dry conditions on the ducks," said Kent Van Horn, Department of Natural Resources migratory waterfowl biologist. "Some areas have good wetland conditions while other areas are still very dry. But despite those dry conditions across important duck breeding areas in Wisconsin, this spring, the total breeding duck numbers in Wisconsin appear to be near the average of the last 10 years. 2012 should provide fair to good duck production across Wisconsin. Summer rains will be particularly important this year to maintain brood rearing habitat."

Wisconsin's warm weather in March triggered an early duck migration and breeding activity among mallards and Canada geese. However, in April a return of cold temperatures stalled the breeding activity of blue-winged teal and the migration of other duck species through Wisconsin. As a result, the spring waterfowl survey was initiated earlier than normal on April 23 in order to have the best count of breeding mallards; blue-winged teal that were still in migration through the state were counted.

Wisconsin had a dry, mild winter and entered a March where temperatures were 14 to 16 degrees above normal. Winter precipitation was 25 percent below normal which provided fewer temporary and seasonal wetlands when ducks arrived in Wisconsin this spring. However, rain did come in some northern and central state areas and the spring (March- May) rainfall was 15 percent above normal statewide, which filled seasonal wetlands in some regions.

Variation from year to year in wetland conditions and breeding ducks is part of the natural cycle in the world of wetland wildlife. Wetlands need dry periods to maintain long-term productivity and ducks are able to adapt to changing wetland conditions among years and across the continent. Conservation dollars and efforts of waterfowl hunters over the decades have protected and managed wetland and upland habitats important to breeding ducks. Protection of these areas even in dry years provides the setting for good duck responses when the rainfall increases during wet years.

Annual surveys lead to season structure

Three primary sources of information on annual waterfowl breeding conditions are used to determine the fall hunting season structure for Wisconsin, according to Van Horn.

"We've completed the annual Wisconsin Breeding Waterfowl Survey, which is very important since a large proportion of the ducks harvested in Wisconsin are raised in Wisconsin," Van Horn said. "The full version of the report is available on the waterfowl page of the DNR website, under the Management Information tab."

A cooperative survey of Canada geese, the Mississippi Valley Population (MVP) Breeding Survey, organized by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has also been completed.

The final piece is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service breeding waterfowl survey for the northern United States, Canada and Alaska. That information is expected in the next few weeks and will form the framework for the 2012 fall hunting seasons. Only preliminary wetland data is available at this time.

Ducks

Waterfowl breeding areas in parkland and prairie Canada for spring 2012 were drastically different from the widespread excellent conditions in 2011. Most areas were in fair to good condition with only a small area in southeast Saskatchewan rated as excellent. Spring habitat conditions for the Dakotas and Minnesota were also drier than the wet conditions of last year. In North Dakota, the 2012 wetland count was 57 percent below 2011 and 6 percent below the long term mean.

However, following the excellent duck production of 2012 there were still abundant ducks on the landscape. The 2012 total breeding duck estimate of 4.8 million for North Dakota was 16 percent higher than 2011 and 112 percent above the long term mean. Minnesota had a very dry early spring and survey numbers showed a 37 percent decrease in wetland numbers from 2011, but spring rains following the survey filled many wetlands and created flooding in some areas. The Minnesota total duck estimate of 479,000 was 32 percent lower than 2011 and 33 percent below the state's long term mean

In Wisconsin, despite overall dry conditions in late April and early May and challenges related to survey timing, the total estimated breeding ducks were similar to last year and the average for the last 10 years. The total breeding duck population estimate for 2012 was 521,079, which was similar to the 2011 estimate of 513,746 and the average of the last 10 years at 545,240.

The four most abundant ducks in Wisconsin's fall hunting harvest are mallards, wood ducks, green-winged teal, and blue-winged teal. Van Horn notes that many of the ducks harvested in Wisconsin come from birds that breed in Wisconsin, in contrast to other states in the flyway, which rely more heavily on birds raised in the prairies or boreal forests of Canada.

The 2012 total mallard population estimate of 196,950 is similar to the 2011 estimate of 187,862 mallards and 8 percent above the long-term average (39 year). Mallards contribute to nearly 40 percent of the state duck harvest in Wisconsin. Overall the breeding population of mallards in Wisconsin has leveled off near 200,000 in recent years depending on annual wetland conditions. For 2012 hunters should expect average production and fall mallard numbers.

The second most abundant duck in the fall harvest is the wood duck and breeding wood duck populations continue to provide an encouraging outlook for ducks in Wisconsin. In 2012, the population estimate for wood ducks of 106,626 is 36 percent above the long-term average.

The 2012 blue-winged teal breeding population estimate of 105,791 is near the long term average for breeding blue-winged teal in Wisconsin. However, the 2012 blue-winged teal estimates should be interpreted with caution since the teal arrived early in March but then their migration and breeding activity stalled when cooler temperatures returned in April. The 2012 teal numbers likely include a higher than normal proportion of migrating teal which were passing through Wisconsin to more northern breeding areas.

While blue-winged teal populations have recently been at some of the highest continental population levels in more than 50 years of surveys, their breeding population in Wisconsin is much lower than during the early 1970s. A continued commitment to grassland conservation which is important for blue-winged teal nesting habitat is important to the future of blue-winged teal in Wisconsin. Based on the 2012 wetland habitat conditions and estimated breeding population we expect fair to good blue-winged teal production this year but it will depend on June-July rainfall to continue to provide adequate brood habitat.

Canada geese

"We expect good Canada goose hunting opportunities this fall, particularly for the Early September Canada goose season (September 1-15 with a 5 bird daily bag limit)," says Van Horn.

"There are two different populations of Canada geese that represent most of the geese in Wisconsin during the regular fall hunting season. The average over the last several years has shown the hunting harvest split roughly 50:50 between these two populations during the regular hunting seasons," Van Horn said.

One population, called resident giant Canada geese, nests in Wisconsin. The 2012 Wisconsin breeding Canada goose population estimate of 145,386 is down 17 percent from 2011 and is 62 percent above the long-term (25 year) average. The 2012 data on resident breeding Canada geese, however, should be interpreted with caution because we know they were well into their nesting period by the time of the survey which may have reduced their detectability. The early and warm spring generally results in better Canada goose production and field reports indicate that goose broods are 1-2 weeks older than normal at this time of year and survival looks good.

By federal rule, the Early September Canada goose season harvest must remain more than 90 percent giant Canada geese that nest in Wisconsin or adjacent states. The season is scheduled early to target this population.

The second Canada goose population is the Mississippi Valley Population, which is made up of slightly smaller birds that nest along the coast of Hudson Bay in northern Ontario and migrate through Wisconsin and other Midwestern states. The 2012 breeding population estimate is 268,891 is similar to the 2011 estimate of 269,840. This would suggest that the MVP breeding population remains about 25 percent below the long term average. The total MVP population estimate, which includes non-breeding birds, is up slightly from 2011 at 402,844. Spring phenology and habitat suggest that Canada goose production in northern Ontario should be about average.

Overall, 2012 appears to be a generally average year for duck and Canada goose populations, Van Horn says. However, this is one of the most difficult years to interpret the survey results because of the unusual weather conditions this spring. Of course, each hunter's waterfowl hunting success in the fall depends more on their scouting and fall water and weather conditions than it does on the spring breeding numbers.

Final continental numbers will not be available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until mid-July. Once these data are available, Wisconsin DNR staff will meet with other state, federal and provincial agencies at the Mississippi Flyway Council meeting at the end of July. After this series of meetings, state biologists will have a clearer picture of how the population data will impact the 2012 waterfowl hunting regulations.

The Mississippi Flyway Council

The Mississippi Flyway Council, which is made up of waterfowl specialists and wildlife directors from the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan will meet later this summer to analyze survey data and make recommendation to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on waterfowl hunting regulations before the federal agency establishes a framework under which states and provinces can set waterfowl hunting seasons.

Following the flyway council meeting and after the USFWS sets a season framework, public hearings on Wisconsin's proposed waterfowl seasons will be held in late July and early August. The final Wisconsin seasons will be set by the state Natural Resource Board at its Aug. 8 meeting in Germantown.

"As we do each year, the public will have opportunities to provide input on waterfowl hunting season during our meetings and hearings," said Van Horn. "These public meetings are also a great opportunity to hear the latest on waterfowl management and population status. We'll take the public input to the Natural Resources Board along with a season structure proposal for approval."

DNR's proposed waterfowl seasons will be available at the end of July. They will be available by searching for waterfowl on the DNR website. The public can send comments on the proposal to the Assistant Migratory Game Bird Ecologist before midnight on Thursday, August 2.

Comments on the seasons should be sent to James Christopoulos, DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921 or by email to: james.christopoulos@wisconsin.gov

The following meetings on the status of waterfowl populations and possible season structures will be held:

Pre-Flyway Meeting

Post-Flyway Meetings

Public Hearing Locations

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent Van Horn - (608) 266-8841

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Teachers get WET to help their students learn about Great Lakes water issues

GREEN BAY -- Classes may be out for the summer but a group of teachers from across the state are grabbing test kits and hitting the water as part of the Department of Natural Resources' Lake Michigan Watershed Field Experience course. The course is taught by DNR educators in partnership with local water experts.

W.G. Jackson
More than two dozen educators spent last week in Green Bay learning about Great Lakes water issues, including a day aboard the W.G. Jackson.
WDNR Photo

More than two dozen educators spent last week in Green Bay learning about water issues in the Great Lakes and their Wisconsin tributaries. Nearly every day involved classroom study as well as a field trip.

"The trips give teachers the chance to perform duties like stream monitoring and water quality testing, while learning how to take those experiences back to the classroom to teach children," explained Kim Anderson, DNR natural resources educator. "Teachers receive Project WET and Great Lakes In My World curriculum guides to help them plan lessons around water issues."

Project WET stands for Water Education for Teachers, a national program administered in Wisconsin by DNR educators.

Water samples
Samples were taken from the bottom of Lake Michigan to see what life is living on the lake floor.
WDNR Photo

Michele Hilbert, who teaches in the Milwaukee Public School District said, "I comprehend more deeply how our individual choices and public policies affect our watershed. Because of this course I am better able to guide my fifth graders' understanding."

Most of the teachers taking part have a science background and teach students ages five to 18.

On their first day, the group traveled to Manitowoc and boarded the research vessel W.G. Jackson. Once on board the group collected water samples from both the harbor and out in the lake. They look at water clarity, oxygen levels, and organisms from the lake floor.

Two days later they found themselves in waders in Duck Creek in Brown County, taking water samples in search of life in the creek bed. The creatures they found help determine the health of the watershed.

Creek sampling
Teachers use nets to collect sediment and life from the bottom of Duck Creek.
WDNR Photo

"This hands-on experience really gives these teachers an idea of what it's like for their students doing these projects," Anderson said.

"Activities like this are a great springboard for further questioning and analysis. I have a running list of lessons I plan to incorporate next year," explained Hilbert.

This watershed educational opportunity was made possible thanks to a B-WET grant DNR received from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). DNR was one of 12 groups across the Great Lakes to receive this grant.

While teachers were learning in Green Bay, another group was doing the same in Milwaukee. A third course will take place in Kenosha August 6-10. For more information about the DNR's water education programs, visit the DNR website at dnr.wi.gov and search for "Project WET."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Anderson - 608-261-6431; Carrie Morgan - 608-261-6431; or Trish Ossman - 920-662-5122

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New program helps kids learn about outdoor activities

GREEN BAY - Summer time is a great time to get out and enjoy the benefits of Wisconsin's outdoors. But outdoor recreation specialists say it can be tough for some kids to know where or how to begin.

Young boy fishing
Fishing was one of the outdoor activities offered to kids from the Green Bay Boys and Girls Club.
WDNR Photo

That's where a new program comes in. More than two dozen kids from the Green Bay Boys and Girls Club spent an afternoon at the Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve last Friday.

BB gun shooting
Boys and Girls Club members learned safe firearms handling at the BB gun range.
WDNR Photo

"They learned about the outdoor activities Wisconsin has to offer, improving their understanding and appreciation of our natural resources, and making good stewards of our environment," explained Andy Lundin, a conservation warden with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Students made their way around five hands-on stations designed to help them discover fishing, hunting, boating, navigating with a compass, identifying invasive species and plants, and learning about the different careers in natural resources.

"The goal here is to give these kids an overview of what's out there. Many may have never been in a kayak or a canoe, grabbed a fishing pole, or learned how to identify plants," Lundin said.

This is the first year of the program which is a cooperative effort among the Wisconsin DNR, Brown County Parks Department, and the Green Bay Wildlife Animal Sanctuary.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Andy Lundin - 920-662-5434 or Trish Ossmann - 920-662-5122

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Natural Resources Board to consider wolf season at July special meeting

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has released its final proposal for Wisconsin's fall 2012 wolf hunting and trapping season. The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, the policy-making body for the Department of Natural Resources, will meet at 9 a.m. on July 17 in the Spruce/Sands room at the Holiday Inn Convention Center, 1001 Amber Ave., Stevens Point, to consider the rule.

Information on the hunting season proposal can be found on the DNR website dnr.wi.gov search for keyword "wolf."

A wolf hunting season was approved by the Wisconsin State Legislature earlier this year. The board will review final implementation plans for the first year of that hunt.

The public is welcome to attend and comment on DNR's season proposal, including the total harvest goal for 2012; the number of permits to be made available; the number and location of hunting zones; wolf trapping techniques; wolf depredation reimbursement guidelines and administration; and emergency season closure criteria.

The 2012 wolf hunting season proposal is a temporary framework, known as an emergency rule. Over the next two years, DNR will be working with the many groups that have an interest in the season to develop a more permanent wolf hunting season framework.

The public must pre-register to testify no later than 4 p.m., Thursday, July 12, 2012. Time per speaker will be limited to assure all registered have a chance to speak.

For consideration by the board, written comments also must be received by 4 p.m., Thursday, July 12, 2012. To register to testify, please contact Laurie Ross at (608) 267-7420 or via e-mail at laurie.ross@wisconsin.gov. Written comment must be e-mailed to the Natural Resources Board at DNRNRBcomments@wisconsin.gov or mailed to Laurie Ross, NRB Liaison, WI DNR - AD/8, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kurt Thiede, DNR Lands Division administrator, 608-266-5833

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Farmers warned of dangers of applying manure on cracked, dry soils

MADISON - With record hot and dry weather this year allowing deep, wide cracks to develop in many farm fields, state agriculture and natural resource officials are urging farmers to inspect fields for such cracks and take other precautions when spreading manure to reduce the risk of manure entering drain tiles and winding up in lakes, streams and groundwater.

"We want to alert farmers to the dangers that applying manure to fields with deep cracks poses," says Andrew Craig, who leads Department of Natural Resources nutrient management efforts. "We encourage farmers to inspect their fields before applying manure and advise they either avoid spreading on such areas or take additional actions if they do spread manure."

Recommendations include working cracked soil with tillage before applying manure and having an emergency response plan and supplies in place so they can respond quickly if there are any problems are found.

"In past years with similar cracking, manure that's been applied to the surface or injected has flowed down these cracks and directly into tile drains and groundwater," says Sara Walling, resource planning and water quality section chief of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

In addition to potentially contaminating groundwater and surface water, farmers lose the nutrient value of the manure because it can move below the crop root zone.

Farmers and the nutrient applicators many of them hire will need to take precautions with any liquid manure they apply to the land, regardless of solids content, says Kevin Erb, UW-Extension conservation professional development and training coordinator. In a normal year, the risk is highest when manure solids content is less than 2.5 percent.

"Given how wide soil cracks are this year, however, taking precautions is strongly recommended with ALL liquid manure applications, regardless of solids content," Erb says. "Wider and deeper cracks mean we need to be more careful this summer."

Fields that were not worked this spring - i.e. wheat fields or hayfields being topdressed -- need to be looked at very carefully before application, Erb says.

He recommends farmers take the following precautions when applying manure under the current dry conditions:

Before applying

During and after application

More information can be found on the UW Extension Drain Tile Best Management Practices Web page (exit DNR) and a video showing steps to take before applying manure, and how to respond if an accident does occur, can be found on DNR's YouTube "Farm News" playlist.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Andrew Craig, DNR, 608-267-7695; Kevin Erb, UWEX, 920-391-4652; Sara Walling, DATCP, 608-224-4501

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New videos highlight how DNR brownfields and Green Tier programs aid businesses

MILWAUKEE -- For several years Department of Natural Resources employees have been working with local businesses to expand, create jobs and improve the environment.

DNR's hands-on role in job creation is highlighted in videos developed to showcase the state's brownfields and Green Tier partnerships with businesses and communities. The video, titled: "Wisconsin DNR Business Profiles," is being featured on the homepage of the agency's website beginning July 3 and available on the Business News playlist on the Wisconsin DNR YouTube channel.

"We want job creators to know how our agency can partner local businesses with local staff," according to DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "We encourage them to contact us early in the process, so we can help them grow their business and be an even greater asset to their communities by going beyond mere environmental compliance and by bringing vital businesses to neglected urban locations." The video features two Wisconsin businesses and a municipality:

Skana Aluminum-- This Manitowoc - based company cast and rolls aluminum coil. It began operation in 2010 when it took over the 55-year-old Mirro rolling mill after the company filed bankruptcy. The company received funding and consultation for environmental remediation, and more than 100 jobs have been created. Governor Walker toured the plant last September and praised it as a model for job creation.

Holsum Dairies, LLC. -- This Green Tier Level 1participant is home to two Grade A dairy farms, (Irish Dairy and Elm Dairy), located near Hilbert. Each farm cares for nearly 3600 milking cows and 400 dry cows at any one time. Owners have made great strides in water conservation and processing manure for energy and beneficial use.

Last May, Governor Walker signed an executive order directing the DNR to enhance its already existing Green Tier program to meet both environmental and economic development goals. Under the new Executive Order, the DNR will increase access to the program by providing ready-to-use models for specific business sectors. Also, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the DNR will proactively reach out to Wisconsin businesses in order to tout the benefits of the program.

Phoenix Park -The DNR partnered with the City of Eau Claire and Royal Credit Union to help redevelop a contaminated 12- acre downtown site. The agency provided grant assistance to aid the city in acquisitions and demolitions, establishing green spaces, bike trails, a riverfront park and amphitheater. Redevelopment of the blighted area lead to the creation of a bustling Farmer's Market and was the catalyst for $14 million in new construction that brought 200 jobs downtown.

"Taxpayers need to know that Wisconsin's economic vitality is no less critical to DNR than any other state agency," Stepp said. "At DNR, jobs and environmental protection do not compete with each other, they complement each other. This agency is going to continue to do its part to keep Wisconsin moving forward."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Allen Shea, Director, Office of Business Support and Sustainability, 608- 266-5896 or Marcus Smith, Regional Public Affairs Manager, 414-263-8516

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, July 03, 2012




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