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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published September 25, 2012

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State Natural Areas protect some of Wisconsin's best natural landscapes

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Listen to Thomas Meyer, a conservation biologist with DNR's State Natural Areas program, on The Larry Meiller Show live from 11-11:45 a.m. Sept. 26 on these WPR Ideas Network stations or online. If you miss the show, you can still listen to the archives (all links exit DNR).]

MADISON - The nation's first statewide natural area protection program turns 60 this year and wears it well, Wisconsin's top land official says.

Six hundred fifty-three designated State Natural Areas preserve 358,000 acres of prairies, forests, and wetlands that are among the best of their kind left in Wisconsin and are a vital refuge for endangered plants and animals, says Kurt Thiede, administrator of the Department of Natural Resources' land-related programs.

"The 60th anniversary is a time to celebrate with citizens and partners and to recognize the hard work done so far," Thiede says. In addition to DNR, 51 other agencies, organizations, local governments, land trusts and private citizens have designated State Natural Areas on their own lands, and such sites account for one-third of all State Natural Areas.

"We led the nation in recognizing the importance of safeguarding these natural treasures for future generations and for wildlife," Thiede says. "Ninety percent of our endangered plant species and 75 percent of our endangered wildlife species live on State Natural Areas. And these sites preserve some of the best of Wisconsin's natural landscapes for our children and grandchildren to enjoy."

Most of these areas are open for public access including fishing, hiking, cross country skiing, hunting and trapping and allow people to pursue these activities in some of the state's most unique and special natural places, Thiede says.

State Natural Areas are the topic of this month's featured web page highlighting another important milestone in 2012, the 40th anniversary of the state's endangered resources law. Find this month's feature on DNR's website by typing in the keyword "ER 40." Preceding months' features can be found by clicking on the numbers on the right hand corner of the web page.

Legislation passed in 1951 and work began in 1952 to establish the State Natural Areas program. Parfrey's Glen in Sauk County was the first site designated as a State Natural Area. Sites receiving these designations are protected in perpetuity through a special kind of agreement, according to Thomas Meyer, a conservation biologist with DNR State Natural Areas program.

Lands and waters with the State Natural Areas designation are among the best remaining examples of the varied natural communities represented in Wisconsin at statehood, from the rolling prairies and oak savannas in the south, to the barrens and sand hills in central Wisconsin, to the pine forests and boggy wetlands in the north, Meyer says.

The State Natural Areas Program owes much of its recent success to working in close partnership with other conservation organizations, Meyer says. "Funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grant Program has allowed even the smallest of Wisconsin's land trusts to buy natural areas in their neck of the woods," Meyer says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Thomas Meyer, 608-266-0394

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Waterfowl stamps help fund habitat projects in Wisconsin and Canada

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated with a corrected figure for the amount hunters contributed through the puchase of waterfowl stamps in the last year. The correct firgure is $509,864.

FITCHBURG, Wis. - Revenue from the sale of Wisconsin waterfowl stamps funded 19 waterfowl habitat projects in Wisconsin over the last year, as well as additional major projects in Canada benefitting migratory waterfowl that pass through the state, according to wildlife officials.

Hunters contributed $509,864 through their purchase of waterfowl stamps for these projects in the last license sales year. Thirty-six additional stamp-funded projects are either underway or are on the drawing board.

"Purchasing a state Waterfowl Stamp or Federal Migratory Game Bird Stamp is a great way to support waterfowl and wetland wildlife conservation here and in Canada," said Jason Fleener, wetland ecologist in the Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Wildlife Management. "The funds not only benefit waterfowl populations for hunting purposes, they also benefit non-game migratory birds and other wildlife, and provide water quality improvements and flood control. Many birds that migrate through Wisconsin in spring and fall mate, nest and raise their broods on Canadian wetlands."

Waterfowl hunters must purchase a Wisconsin Waterfowl Stamp along with their license to hunt waterfowl in Wisconsin. Non-hunters can also purchase the stamps without purchasing a hunting license and in this way also contribute to waterfowl and associated wildlife conservation efforts.

"People can purchase a stamp at any DNR license sales location. Hunting licenses indicate that a stamp fee has been paid. Hunters or stamp collectors desiring an actual stamp for collection purposes can get one at a DNR Service Center during open service hours, or contact the DNR at 1-888-WDNRINFo for more information.

Funds are shared between Wisconsin and Canada

Through the 2012 duck and goose hunting seasons, approximately 100,000 Wisconsin hunters will have purchased a state waterfowl stamp with a conservation patron license or a small game hunting license. Revenues from the waterfowl stamp sales are set aside in an account dedicated to habitat improvement and protection projects benefitting migratory game birds and associated wildlife.

Laws creating the account specify that 67 percent of the money be used in Wisconsin for developing, managing, preserving, restoring and maintaining wetland habitat and for producing waterfowl and ecologically related species of wildlife. The Wisconsin Waterfowl Association was a recent recipient of funds to restore wetlands on public and private lands.

"The utilization of duck stamp dollars for these projects is a great example of hunter's' hard-earned money going right back into the resource," said Don Kirby, Wisconsin Waterfowl Association executive director. "These segregated funds, used for their intended purpose, produce a very real result, and impact, on the species that hunters pursue, as well as many others. Duck stamp funds are a key funding source for Wisconsin Waterfowl Association's wetland restoration programs."

Waterfowl-stamp-funded projects benefit local economies. Funds are often spent to hire local contractors to carry out construction work on dikes, ditch filling, scrapes and water control structure installation. Some funds also support DNR staff wages to plan and implement habitat projects. Other funds are spent on equipment operations, supplies, travel related to specific projects. Several waterfowl stamp projects receive cost-sharing from sources such as federal and private grants, tribes, and conservation organizations.

The remaining 33 percent of the stamp revenues must be spent in Canada for breeding habitat for waterfowl that migrate through Wisconsin.

The funds are awarded to non-profit organizations to carry out the work. Ducks Unlimited, Inc. has been a major recipient of these funds in recent years.

Ducks Unlimited has partnered with Ducks Unlimited Canada to carry out the work. In the last year, $173,501 from Wisconsin was sent to DU Canada to carry out waterfowl habitat restoration projects in the Prairie and Aspen Parkland regions of Manitoba. These regions are one of the most productive duck breeding areas on the continent, and most non-U.S. banded ducks harvested in Wisconsin originate in Manitoba.

These funds were leveraged by funds from other states and North American Wetlands Conservation Act funds for a total of $2,134,004 in the last year. An annual report from Ducks Unlimited Canada is sent to Wisconsin and other states that have contributed funding.

"Wetland protection and restoration programs are a primary focus of the funding," said Canadian Dave Kostersky who manages funds received from Wisconsin and other states.

"DU Canada accomplishes this through conservation easements, land purchase and land cover programs with farmers in the highest duck density areas of the region. Most dabbling and diving duck species benefit including mallards, gadwall, blue-winged teal, canvasback, redhead and lesser scaup."

Every two years, DNR wildlife managers, non-profit organizations and local units of government may write project proposals and apply for waterfowl stamp funding. Then, the Wisconsin Migratory Game Bird Committee reviews the project proposals and ranks them. Final selections for project funding are based on the rankings, project eligibility, and available funding in the biennial waterfowl stamp budget.

Projects in priority waterfowl production habitat areas, such as southeast and northwest Wisconsin are typically ranked higher. Projects designed to restore drained or degraded wetlands, and projects for major maintenance of wetland infrastructure also typically receive higher rankings. As most Wisconsin breeding ducks require upland habitat for nesting, projects that emphasize protection or management of grassland and prairie habitat are also critically important to Wisconsin duck populations.

Wisconsin projects highlighted

As Wisconsin waterfowl hunters and wildlife watchers head out to their favorite hunting and wildlife viewing areas, they may wish to take note of some habitat projects that have been completed over the years.

Wetland restorations on public and private lands

To date, three projects have been completed in Fond du Lac, Outagamie, and Rock counties by the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association this year. These three restorations will result in nearly 80 acres of prime restored wetland habitat, with shallow seasonal waters creating ideal conditions for duck breeding activities, increased forage sources and resting places for migrating birds. Wetland restorations bring water levels to or above the soil surface on lands that have been drained as a result of past agricultural practices. The Wisconsin Waterfowl Association will be combining waterfowl stamp funds with contributions from members and other funding sources on additional projects.

Duck Creek Dike Repair - Germania Wildlife Area, Marquette County

This project repaired a damaged low-head dike which drained the 15-acre Duck Creek impoundment. A local contractor was hired to repair the dike with work completed in fall 2011. The dike held strong against heavy rains in May 2012 which flooded the impoundment and spilled over the designed emergency rock spillway. Drought conditions in summer 2012 lowered water levels and parts of the impoundment remain dry today. The site is located on the northeast side of Germania Wildlife Area along Duck Creek Road.

Wolf River south pool renovation - Navarino Wildlife Area, Shawano County

This project was completed in December 2010. Local contractors were hired to renovate 0.9 miles of degraded dike along the Wolf River South Pool. The dike maintains a 132-acre impoundment. The renovation will ensure long-term conservation and human safety benefits. Managers will be able to control water levels to benefit waterfowl and other wildlife. The site is located just south of the Wolf River on the east side of Ashley Road.

Horicon Marsh cattail control - Horicon Wildlife Area, Dodge County

This is an ongoing project to treat and kill stands of invasive cattails mechanically and with aerial applications of herbicide. The project began in 2011 with the treatment of 123 acres of various cattail patches throughout the wildlife area. Additional treatments recently concluded in 2012. The goal is to kill cattails to open up pockets of water and regenerate native vegetation within the marsh for the benefit of breeding, brooding and migrating birds. Additional funding for the project has been supported through a grant with Ducks Unlimited. Treatment areas can be found along Main Ditch, Clark's Ditch, Burnett Ditch, and other areas throughout the Wildlife Area south of Dike Road.

Crex pump house outlet tube replacement - Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, Burnett County

Recently, a metal outlet tube connected to a pump house was replaced. The pump house on Crex Meadows Wildlife Area controls the flow of water on a 12,000-acre marsh. The tube was replaced due to rust and weakening of the old tube, which threatened the stability of the dike road and functionality of the pumping system. Proper control of water levels through the pump house throughout the year enables optimum breeding and migration stop-over conditions for waterfowl, and allows proper vegetation management of wild rice and other plants that waterfowl depend on. Finishing touches on the project are currently being done to stabilize the road before the impoundment is at full pool. The site can be accessed east of East Refuge Road on Main Dike Road.

Farm Bill biologist program

Revenue from the sale of three Wisconsin wildlife stamps (waterfowl, pheasant, turkey) helped fund six Farm Bill biologists to carry out Farm Bill and other conservation programs in Wisconsin. Coordination of these programs is also funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Pheasants Forever. Farm Bill programs, such as the Wetland Reserve Program and Conservation Reserve Program provide assistance to farmers and other private land owners to manage their lands for soil and water conservation and wildlife habitat.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jason Fleener at (608) 266-7408

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Youth deer hunt to be held Oct. 6-7 statewide

Youth hunters must be mentored or accompanied by adult

MADISON - A statewide youth deer hunt will be held the weekend of Oct. 6-7 in Wisconsin. The hunt is designed to give youth hunters ages 10-15 an opportunity to hunt deer and gain valuable hunting experience at a time when other hunters are not authorized to hunt deer with a firearm.

Since 2009, hunters ages 10 through 15 have been able to participate in the youth gun deer hunt, which is open to both resident and non-resident youth hunters.

The hunt is open in all deer management units, except state park units and areas where permits are not issued by the Department of Natural Resources. The bag limit is one buck with a gun buck deer carcass tag, plus an additional antlerless deer per antlerless deer carcass tag valid for the DMU or a junior antlerless deer tag, which is valid statewide. Archery deer hunters are required to wear blaze orange clothing whenever any gun deer hunt is open, including during the youth deer hunt.

Youth hunters do not have to have a hunter safety certificate, but are subject to certain restrictions depending on their age.

Youth ages 10 and 11 and youth ages 12 through 15 years who do not possess a hunter education certificate can participate if they are "mentored" by an adult who is within arm's reach at all times during the hunt. Only one firearm, bow or crossbow may be possessed jointly between the mentor and youth who is age 10 or 11, or who has not completed hunter education, if participating in the youth gun deer hunt.

Youth ages 12 through 15 who possess a hunter education certificate can participate if they are accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older. To "accompany" means the adult is within both visual and voice contact of the youth. Adults accompanying youth hunters may not "gun hunt" for deer during the youth hunt, but may possess a bow or gun and hunt for a game species that is open for them to hunt at that time. The adult does not have to be a licensed hunter or a hunter education graduate to accompany one or two youth hunters who are at least 12 years old and have completed a hunter education course.

An adult may not accompany more than two youth hunters during the youth gun deer hunt at any given time.

More information on the requirements for mentoring or accompanying a youth deer hunter can be found in a Youth Hunt Rules and Regulations [PDF] factsheet available on by searching for "youth hunt" on the DNR website and then clicking on the link below Youth Deer Hunt.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Warnke - 608-576-5243

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Hunter Challenge 2012, new hunter recruitment pilot project

Wisconsin's hunters are committed to the sustainable use of wildlife, which they back up by contributing a lot of funding and volunteer efforts toward conservation in Wisconsin.

And it goes well beyond license and permit revenues. Hunting in Wisconsin generated $1.4 billion in retail sales in 2006 and supported more than 25,000 jobs. With about 700,000 hunters, that means every 28 hunters support one job in Wisconsin.

Added to those benefits, hunting is just plain good for you. Being physically active outside with family and friends has been shown to result in less stress, a healthier lifestyle, and improved physical condition. Plus, a portion of your diet is free range, hormone-free, low-fat protein, adding to the healthy hunting lifestyle.

It's no wonder hunting is so important to our Wisconsin heritage. It highlights all things Wisconsin -- family, friends, conservation, food and jobs.

But, we're faced with an unfamiliar challenge: the total number of hunters in Wisconsin declined between 2000 and 2010 and studies predict that the decline in hunting participation will continue.

We are exploring new tactics for hunter recruitment in the 21st century. It's guaranteed not to be the same things that worked a generation ago, but two things seem fairly certain: First, it will be hunters leading the effort; and second, we need to broaden and shift the focus somewhat to adults and families who do not already hunt.

This is where you come in.

Check out the Hunter Challenge 2012 at the DNR website (search keyword "challenge" at dnr.wi.gov). There are maps that provide hunter numbers in three key age groups by county of residence. This will help you track progress in recruiting hunters in your community. This web page also includes new ideas for recruitment, goals for 2012 and a look at last year's results.

What you can do: Take the Hunter Challenge 2012. You can get your club to take the initiative and invite new hunters. How about your friends who may have stopped hunting recently? Invite them back and challenge them to mentor someone else. Can you and your group sponsor a Learn to Hunt event? How about inviting your kids' friends or your friends' kids to deer camp? To make it easier, new hunters pay only $5 for a license.

Work in your county. Make this a local effort. Make it a club challenge or a contest between the clubs in your county. Set a goal for your county. Plan your strategy. Implement the plan. Be the coordinator, the organizer. Make sure your goal is met.

Let's all get in the game and take the Hunter Challenge 2012.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Warnke - 608-576-5243

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States surrounding Lake Michigan agree to revised stocking strategy

MADISON - Wisconsin and other states surrounding Lake Michigan have agreed to a new stocking strategy to continue the outstanding salmon and trout fishing anglers have enjoyed on the big pond for the last decade, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp announced today.

"We've agreed with other states to adjust stocking levels to assure that great fishing continues well into the future," Stepp says. "Wisconsin is doing its fair share to balance the number of game fish predators with the available forage in the lake, which is the key to the success of the fishery."

Stepp says DNR will work with the Lake Michigan Fisheries Forum to hold a meeting over the winter with Wisconsin anglers. "We want to listen to anglers and work with them to distribute Wisconsin fish in a way that's fair and supports the great fishing so important to so many Lake Michigan communities."

Under the lake-wide strategy, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan would stock 1.7 million Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan starting in 2013, down from 3.3 million.

Wisconsin DNR has agreed to stock at least 723,700 chinook, down 38 percent from the previous stocking level. The adjustment will be made primarily in chinook stocking numbers, but Wisconsin and the other states can substitute other species in future years.

The new stocking levels take into account a decreasing forage base and an increase in naturally reproduced Chinook from Michigan tributaries that contribute to the lake-wide fishery but compete with stocked fish for food, says Mike Staggs, DNR's fisheries director.

"Most of the stocking adjustment is to offset increases in natural reproduction and lower forage abundance," Staggs says. "We expect the stocking adjustment will mean that the remaining fish will show better survival, and that the resulting increase in forage abundance should result in faster growth and bigger fish for anglers to catch."

Natural resource agencies from the four states and five tribes in Michigan came together two years ago when research showed a major decline in alewives, the primary forage fish for Lake Michigan trout and salmon, due to the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels.

The states worked with representatives from fishing clubs and other stakeholders and Michigan State researchers to develop new stocking options to better balance the forage base and number of predators. During those sessions and public meetings, the vast majority of stakeholders agreed on the need to adjust stocking to protect the forage species and ensure the long-term health of the Lake Michigan salmon and trout fishery, Staggs says.

Such stocking strategy adjustments in the past - in 1986, 1992, 1998 and 2006 -- have resulted in phenomenal fishing in the last decade for trout and salmon in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan, he says. Lake Michigan harvest data, stocking data, and more information about the stocking strategy can be found on the Lake Michigan Management Reports page of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Staggs, 608-267-0796; Randy Schumacher, 262- 894-3006; or Brad Eggold, 414-382-7921

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Trout and salmon egg collection facilities to hold open houses

KEWAUNEE - Lake Michigan trout and salmon are soon to start their spawning runs, offering "fintastict" opportunities to see first-hand how state fish crews give nature a hand in helping produce the next generation of fighters to test anglers on the big pond.

The eggs are collected at three facilities open to the public whenever Department of Natural Resources staff are processing fish, and two of the facilities along Lake Michigan have open houses in October for people to see egg-collecting demonstrations, to learn or tune up their casting and knot-tying skills, and to enjoy other free fun. Brief listings of those two events are below, with more details on each available on an open house page of the DNR website.

The third egg collection facility, Strawberry Creek Weir outside Sturgeon Bay, does not have an open house per se but all three facilities are open to the public during times when DNR crews are processing fish.

Egg-collecting is expected to begin at Strawberry Creek on Oct. 1, with DNR turning on pumps to supplement water flow there to help the fish reach the weir where DNR crews collect their eggs.

The vast majority of fish populations in Wisconsin are naturally self-sustaining, but Lake Michigan chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout are not self-sustaining in Wisconsin although Michigan streams are producing larger numbers of wild fish.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Besadny Facility: Mike Baumgartner (920) 388-1025; Strawberry Creek, Nick Legler (920) 746-5112; Root River, John Komassa (262) 594-6218

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Burning permit restrictions now based on fire risk

MADISON— Wisconsin wildfire control officials plan to implement a three-year pilot program that will allow fire managers to set burning permit restrictions based on fire risk. In Intensive Department of Natural Resources protection areas, burning had been prohibited on Sundays and legal holidays and burn times were restricted solely to evening hours.

The pilot program will provide fire mangers the option to allow burning on Sundays and legal holidays and daytime burning, from11 a.m. to midnight, when conditions are safe. If burning by the general public is unsafe due to fire weather conditions, fire managers will suspend burning on a given day.

"Historically, we have not allowed burning on Sundays and holidays or daytime burning in several counties. With the onset of the electronic burning permit system, we can shut down burning on a daily basis," says Catherine Koele, DNR wildfire prevention specialist.

"If we have several good soaking rain events over an extended time period and we feel conditions are safe for the public to burn, we can now authorize burning on these days and times. Our goal is to encourage the public to obtain proper permits and burn legal materials when conditions are safe."

Burning permits, if used appropriately, are an important tool in wildfire prevention. They encourage the public to burn safely in the outdoors and are proven to be effective in protecting lives, property and natural resources from the damages of wildfires. Burning permits are issued for the purposes of burning legal materials such as leaves, brush, pine needles and unrecyclable paper or wood. Trash burning is illegal and alternatives should be considered.

Prior to 2008, burning permits were issued by hand and they were valid for three days after issuance. In spring of 2008, the DNR unveiled an electronic burning permit system which allows customers to obtain an annual burning permit with daily checks to the phone or web for current restrictions on the day the customer wishes to burn.

Sunday burning was historically prohibited due to the misconception that many seasonal residents burned their debris or trash before heading back to their permanent residence; leaving the fire unattended and allowing the fire to escape. Statistics have now shown that the majority of the debris caused wildfires reported are caused by permanent residents (more than 79 percent in 2012 alone). And, those fires caused by seasonal residents never obtained proper burning permits anyway.

"Customers will still need to call the WIS-BURN hotline or check the current fire danger page of the DNR website each day prior to any burning to determine of burning has been suspended for the day, or if any additional time restrictions are in place," says Koele. "The fire danger changes daily so it's important to check each day before burning."

Burning will not be allowed prior to 11 a.m. under daytime burning restrictions with the annual permit unless the ground is completely snow-covered. Any burning prior to 11 a.m. will require a special permit issued at a local DNR ranger station.

Annual burning permits can be obtained over the phone by dialing 1-888-WIS-BURN [947-2876] or online. Only DNR fire wardens, DNR ranger stations and service centers will issue the written annual burning permits.

The pilot program will run for three years and end December 31, 2014. During this time, fire managers will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of these changes and feedback to determine if the new restrictions will continue into the future. For the most current fire danger and burning permit restrictions, visit dnr.wi.gov and enter keyword "fire."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Catherine Koele, Wildfire Prevention Specialist, 608-219-9075

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EDITOR'S ADVISORY: online chat Sept. 26 on Wisconsin's fantastic fall fishing

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: The Department of Natural Resources this Wednesday will host an online chat with Steve Hewett, DNR fisheries management section chief. Hewett will be online at 11 a.m. Sept. 26 to answer questions about Wisconsin's fantastic fall fishing for walleye, musky and Great Lakes trout and salmon. To participate, visit the DNR home page, dnr.wi.gov, and look for the advertisement or search the word "chat." Participants will be able to see the questions and answers as they happen.

For more information contact Ryan Marty, DNR Office of Communications, at 608-264-8976.

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 25, 2012




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