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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published October 9, 2012

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General permit now available for small projects impacting wetlands

MADISON - A general permit that streamlines and shortens the wetland permitting process for some residential, commercial and industrial projects impacting wetlands is now in effect, state wetland officials say.

The statewide general permit -- or "GP" -- is the first of its kind required under a new law passed earlier this year by state lawmakers. It enables people who have a project resulting in the unavoidable filling of up to 10,000 square feet of wetland -- just under one-quarter of an acre -- to get their permit decision more quickly if the project meets the standards and conditions in the general permit, according to Cami Peterson, Department of Natural Resources wetland policy coordinator.

"The general permit simplifies the permit process for projects that can't avoid small amounts of wetland fill," she says. "By avoiding and minimizing wetland impacts, and designing their project to meet the GP standards and conditions, a property owner can qualify and get their permit decision within 30 days."

Previously, all landowners wanting to pursue projects that involve wetland fill were required to seek an individual permit and lengthier environmental review.

The general permit for smaller projects identifies the location, design, and construction standards and other conditions any project must meet to qualify for the general permit, and to ensure that minimal environmental effects occur. The general permit is valid statewide for 5 years. When property owners' projects are covered under the general permit, DNR is required to issue a decision within 30 days.

Projects that involve more than 10,000 square feet of wetland fill or do not meet the GP standards and conditions continue to require a wetland individual permit, which has a longer process time, a higher permit fee, and require wetland mitigation and a higher level of environmental review, Peterson says.

The general permit, more information about eligibility for the permit and how to apply for coverage can be found by searching the DNR website for wetland permits.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Cami Peterson (608) 261-6400



2012 Wisconsin ring-necked pheasant season opens Oct. 20 at noon

MADISON - The longtime and popular tradition of pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2012 pheasant hunting season opens statewide at noon on Saturday, Oct. 20. The season will run through Dec. 31.

Several other seasons also open that day including bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse in the southern zone, sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge. Like pheasant, bobwhite quail and Hungarian partridge open at noon. Ruffed and sharp-tailed grouse open with the start of legal shooting hours.

Hunters should check the Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations booklet for rules and season structures for the game species they will pursue.

"Pheasant hunting really provides an outstanding outdoor experience, and one that complements our other upland bird hunting opportunities in Wisconsin very well," Walter says. "There's just something pretty magical about following a good dog through thigh-high grass, working toward a rooster's flush. It gets hunters out into landscapes and habitats they may not otherwise experience, during a great time of year when leaves are turning and winter's just around the corner," added Walter.

Pheasants are among the most sought-after game birds in North America, and populations do best in the agricultural landscape of southern Wisconsin provided there is habitat present in sufficient quantities to meet their food and cover needs throughout the year, according to Scott Walter, Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist.

Walter says hunters should look for areas that contain adequate winter cover, such as cattail marshes and dense brush, intermixed with cropland, hay, and idle grasslands which provide food and nesting cover. It will be important for hunters to identify areas with high-quality habitat, concentrating their hunting efforts in those areas.

During the 2011 pheasant hunting season, an estimated 44,886 hunters went out in search of pheasants and reported harvesting 178,722 birds. The top counties for harvest included Fond du Lac, Dodge, and Polk.

Bag Limits

On Oct. 20 and 21, the daily bag limit is one cock and the possession limit is two. For the remainder of the season (Oct. 22 through Dec. 31), the daily bag limit is two cocks and the possession limit is four. Some public hunting grounds offer both hen and rooster pheasant hunting, which requires a free permit and tags, and some properties also have 2 p.m. closure times. The 2 p.m. closure restrictions are only in effect on weekdays from Oct. 22 through Nov. 3. A 2012 Pheasant Stamp is required to hunt pheasants statewide.

Pheasant Stocking Program

This fall, DNR wildlife biologists plan to release about 54,000 game farm pheasants on 70 public hunting grounds. This is an increase from 2011 when 51,000 game farm pheasants were stocked in those same areas. In addition, pheasants raised by conservation clubs through the Day-old Chick Program [] also will be released this fall on both designated public hunting grounds and private lands open to public pheasant hunting. Hunters are reminded to be polite and notify the landowner before hunting on private property open to public hunting as part of this program.

Hunters can check the Pheasant Stocking on State Properties map or check the 2012 Pheasant Stocking Information Sheet [PDF] to identify public hunting grounds slated for pheasant stocking.

More information on the 2012 pheasant population outlook is available as part of the 2012 Fall Hunting & Trapping Forecast [PDF]. See the 2012 Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations for additional details.

Wild pheasant populations

For the fourth time in the past five years, results from the 2012 Rural Mail Carrier (RMC) pheasant survey showed a decrease in the number of pheasants seen during the April survey period. The counties with the highest number of pheasants seen per 100 miles driven were Lafayette, Fond du Lac Polk, Pierce, and Dunn.

Results from the 2012 Spring Pheasant Crowing Count Survey indicate that rooster abundance is essentially unchanged from 2011. However, survey results showed considerable variation, as some areas showed large increases in the number of roosters heard while others showed large decreases.

Conditions were good for pheasant production this spring and summer.

"Cold, snowy winters and wet springs from 2008 through 2011 were hard on Wisconsin's wild pheasant population," says Walter. "We'll see some rebound due to good weather for production this spring and summer, but long-term population growth will be limited by habitat availability, and we're seeing many acres of quality grassland and wetland habitat returned to agricultural production."

Pheasant Hunting Opportunities through the Mentored Hunting Program

2012 marks the fourth year of the Mentored Hunting Program, which allows hunters age 10 or older, born on or after Jan. 1, 1973, to obtain a hunting license and hunt without first completing Hunter Education, provided they hunt with a mentor and comply with all of the requirements under the program.

For additional information and the requirements of the program, visit the Mentored Hunting Program page of the DNR website.

"Pheasant hunting's popularity reflects the fact that it's simply a wonderful outdoor activity, for both experienced and novice hunters alike," said Walter. "I hope everyone gets out there this fall. With the cool fall breezes, leaves changing color, good friends by your side, and perhaps a few pheasants, everyone can expect to reap the ultimate reward from their days afield - good memories and great companionship."

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Scott Walter, Upland Wildlife Ecologist, at (608) 267-7861 or Krista McGinley, Assistant Upland Wildlife Ecologist, at (608) 261-8458



Mulch and compost this fall to protect air quality and enrich your lawn and garden

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated with a correction. There are no state air quality rules that prohibit leaf burning, but outdoor burning may be regulated by local ordinances.

MADISON - Fall is one of the most beautiful times to enjoy Wisconsin's outdoors and is also a great time to mulch and compost leaves and other yard materials to help protect public health and maintain Wisconsin's natural beauty, state recycling officials say.

"Mulching leaves and composting yard materials allow residents to protect the state's air quality and public health," says Brad Wolbert, Department of Natural Resources recycling and solid waste chief. "They reduce disposal and landfill costs for residents and local governments and relieve communities of the environmental hazards of burning."

State fire rules limit the burning of yard materials in Wisconsin and a growing number of communities also have local rules in place that further restrict or completely prohibit burning yard materials.

"Using leaves for mulch and compost can also enrich the health of lawns and gardens and save money on fertilizer," Wolbert says. "Municipalities save money on collecting yard waste."

This fall, manage leaves, branches, grass clippings and other yard trimmings with one of the following easy methods.

For more tips on fall yard care, visit DNR's website and type search for fall composting.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Brad Wolbert, 608-264-6286



Plan approved to reduce phosphorous pollution in Red Cedar River system

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. -- A milestone has been reached in the decades-long effort to free Tainter and Menomin lakes - and the Red Cedar River that forms them - of the noxious algal blooms that impair these Dunn County waters.

Years of research, monitoring and detailed analysis have culminated in a federally sanctioned blueprint, called a TMDL, to restore the Red Cedar so that once again these waters will be safe and inviting for swimmers, report officials with the state Department of Natural Resources.

A TMDL, which means total maximum daily load, establishes the amount of phosphorus a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards designed to support human recreation and great fishing. In the case of Menomin and Tainter lakes, the EPA-approved plan calls for a 65 percent reduction in the amount of phosphorus flowing into the Red Cedar basin each day.

"This is a lofty goal and an immense task," said Paul Laliberte, the DNR water quality manager who supervised this TMDL. "It will not happen overnight. No one entity can accomplish it. Our best hope is in the partnerships we and others are forming, bringing university experts, county conservationists, municipal officials, land owners, DNR staff and citizen groups to the same table."

Phosphorus is a naturally occurring nutrient found in soils, livestock manure and commercial fertilizers. It reaches streams as polluted runoff from farms and urban landscapes and in discharges from wastewater treatment plants. Phosphorus fuels the growth of plants, including algae. In excessive amounts, especially during warm weather, it can feed noxious blue-green algal blooms, which contain a range of toxins and can lead to human health problems. Dogs, less likely to avoid direct contact with green water, are at greater risk.

In the worse cases, unfortunately common in Tainter and Menomin, unsightly mats of blue-green algae throw off foul odors and make the water body uninviting. The city of Menomonie closed its public beach years ago.

The Red Cedar basin drains 1,893 square miles in the rolling hills of west central Wisconsin and includes all or part of eight counties. This rural watershed is primarily agricultural, supporting dozens of small municipalities and thousands of farms.

The TMDL, in detailing the amounts of phosphorus the basin can safely absorb, also identifies the reductions needed from each of the various sources.

Achieving these reductions in a vast watershed with thousands of sources is a daunting, but by no means impossible, undertaking.

"Years of work lay ahead of us," Laliberte said, "but for the first time, the people of the Red Cedar basin have the tools they need to move forward."

New phosphorus water quality standards, which will determine permit levels for municipal and industrial point dischargers, and new standards for phosphorus runoff from agricultural fields are two of these tools.

Innovative strategies have been developed for point source dischargers so they can comply with new phosphorus limits in the most cost-effective manner possible. These include "adaptive management" and "water quality trading." Both allow a point source discharger, such as a municipal wastewater plant, to achieve compliance by finding ways to reduce phosphorus from other point sources or from non-point sources, such as individual farm fields that for various reasons, including topography, contribute a disproportionate share of phosphorus pollution.

A TMDL report was prepared and recently approved for the St Croix Basin as well, aimed at reducing phosphorus inputs to Lake St. Croix.

And in both the Red Cedar and St. Croix watersheds an exciting new project turns to farmers for leadership in the war on phosphorus pollution. It targets "subwatersheds" in Pierce, Polk, St. Croix and Dunn counties.

A project coordinator will be hired by the University of Wisconsin-Extension, based at UW-River Falls. The coordinator, along with county conservationists from the four counties, will organize farmer-led councils to guide all aspects of the project. The councils, using the Wisconsin phosphorus index, will conduct a farm-by-farm inventory to find the fields losing the highest levels of phosphorus. The councils and county conservationists, with support from DNR, will work with farmers on these high-loading fields to determine the financial incentives and farming practices that will profitably reduce runoff.

After decades of work on runoff, DNR watershed experts, university agriculture agents and county conservationists have reached consensus on the critical need for citizens to become local leaders in the next era of reducing pollution and meeting water quality goals.

"If enough people get involved, and enough partnerships are formed, we will see the day when the Red Cedar runs clear," Laliberte said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul Laliberte - 715-839-3724 or Ed Culhane, Office of Communications - 715- 781-1683



Warden, volunteers join to rid Lower Wisconsin River of dangerous steel debris

SPRING GREEN, Wis. -- A 1930s photo provided the only clue Conservation Warden David Youngquist had about the wicked, twisted steel beams that rose like claws from the Wisconsin River only to slither below the water's surface into eerie silent darkness.

"I can't believe no one was killed by it," Youngquist says of an ever-present danger that lurked for years near the Mazomanie beach island on the Wisconsin River, not far from his Spring Green station. Neither could Timm Zumm, the president of the all-volunteer Friends of the Lower Wisconsin River, also known as FLOW.

Zumm, who also lives in the Spring Green area, first spotted the large, rusty jagged steel beams and cables resting like a mine field when he was on the river about a decade ago. "I do quite a bit of paddling and am always on the lookout for stuff," he says.

Stuff would be too gentle of a word for debris that actually, as Zumm speculated, could have impaled a rider on an inflatable dragged behind a pleasure boat or flipped a canoe or kayak - or even have destroyed the watercrafts.

That all changed this late summer when the Department of Natural Resources warden, who covers the Spring Green area, collaborated with volunteers from FLOW, area business owners and other DNR staffers to pull the remaining 5 tons of this jagged steel and rusting cable from the water.

This strong-man project had been on the warden's must-do list since he first eyed the unbelievable mess in 1999. And with the lower river levels due to the drought, the time was right to move.

A clue from the '30s

There is no firm answer as to how this mangled steel ended up in the stretch of the river long known as one of the nation's most dangerous. It runs wild from the last dam at Prairie du Sac in Sauk County for more than 92 miles until it meets the Mississippi River on the state's most southwestern edge. Fallen trees, often invisible tree roots and brush, sandbars that form as fast as they dissolve and a quick current of sometimes 5 mph makes this river a challenge for all.

"I looked at a 1930s photo and saw the power line in this area," Youngquist says. "And there was a power pole was on the Mazomanie Beach Island. Over time, the current kept pushing this downstream."

Zumm found that 1937 photo showing this stretch of river - not far from Ferry Bluff -- that documented the utility line. "Or, I was thinking it could have even been a telegraph line," he said. Whoever cut the steel, whenever it was cut and why it was cut likely may never be known.

What does matter is the river has been cleared. "This was a huge success," Youngquist says of the removal operation. "It was a team effort."

An army of helpers

The first big push came in 2003 when Timm Zumm and other volunteers from the Friends of the Lower Wisconsin River worked with McFarlane's Hardware and Equipment store in Sauk City. Thanks to the use of the business's skid-loader, the group was able to remove about 2 tons that day - and thought they had removed 75 percent of the stuff. "Now, looking back, I'm sure I had that wrong. I think we only removed about 25 percent that year," Zumm says, basing his newfound calculations on the pile that formed after the final push in September.

That push by FLOW started in late August. A few days later on Sept. 5, Youngquist picked up the gauntlet with Dale Gasser and Cale Severson of the DNR fisheries program. Gasser and Severson brought back-up -- in the form of a 52,000-pound back-hoe. With this massive machine, they were able to pull more steel from the water and from the river's sandy bottom where it had taken root. It took about three hours to stack the steel like pick-up sticks on the sandbar. FLOW volunteers Jennifer Kerr and Roger Reynolds also helped with spotting steel and grabbing smaller pieces of the cable, steel and even some tires.

Next, Youngquist met with John Leightey of DNR Fleet to see what equipment would be needed to keep doing the job until the river was cleared. Simple! More muscle.

That muscle came in the form of a larger back-hoe that came with a clamp, a large hydraulic claw and tracks big enough to keep it atop the sand versus sinking into the wet foundation.

With that powerful machine operated by Patrick Kelly, the remaining steel was transported back to the parking lot where dumpsters were waiting to be filled with the steel. This took about five trips back to the parking lot to get all the steel off the sandbar.

In 90 minutes or so, they had pulled enough steel to fill four large dumpsters donated by Gauger Salvage in Arena. That was on Sept. 10 when the last of the 5.27 tons was removed from the water. "Bill Gauger of Gauger Salvage was great to work with and very willing to help out as much as he could with numerous trips to the property with the dumpsters," Youngquist says.

Zumm says timing was on their side. "We had to get it done when we did because the water levels were so low," he says. "I like to say the great river spirit was with us to allow us to get it done - and in a timely fashion."

Another plus? No one was hurt in the process of removing this dangerous material.

What could make this better? No debt. Gauger Salvage was able to cover the expenses through its sale of the steel. "That covered all the expenses and meant no impact to anyone's budget," Youngquist says.

While the river is clear of the long-forgotten steel, the best part of the story for Zumm is this: "It's another great example of what can be done when an all-volunteer group works with the DNR. I can't say enough good things about Warden Youngquist and how we all worked together."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Warden David Youngquist, 608-753-9079 and Joanne M. Haas, 608-267-0798



Public invited to take auto tour of Sauk Prairie Recreation Area

Oct. 20 tour scheduled of former Badger Army Ammunition Plant

FITCHBURG, Wis. - People are invited to take a free self-guided automobile tour of the newly created Sauk Prairie Recreation Area located 7 miles north of Sauk City on State Highway 12. The opportunity to tour the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant will be offered on Saturday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"We're excited to move ahead on this project and, with the public's help, begin planning the future of this remarkable piece of property and historical site," said DNR South Central Region Director Mark Aquino. "We are especially pleased to offer citizens this opportunity to tour what will from now on be known as the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area."

Maps will be available at the entrance directing people through the massive property, where DNR will manage 3,800 of the 7,354 acres. Stops along the way will explain the purpose and history of facilities, structures and operations on the site.

Two tour routes are planned: a short tour route is estimated to take 1 hours to complete; a long tour route will take about 3 hours. All visitors must exit the property by 4 p.m.

The Badger Army Ammunition Plant was constructed in Sauk County in 1942 and manufactured ammunition for the Army until it was closed in 1975. In 1998 the Army declared the property to be excess, and began the process to transfer it to other entities.

Master planning process underway

The creation of Sauk Prairie Recreation Area from an Army facility to a state recreation area calls for development of a property master plan, Aquino said. All properties managed by the DNR such as parks, forests, wildlife and fisheries areas, trails and recreation areas are operated in accordance to a property master plan. Master plans are developed in partnership with the public, local governments, business, tribes and others and contain property management and operational guidelines for the property for a period of up to 15 years at which time plans are reviewed and updated where necessary.

Aquino stressed that the opening of the property for the self-guided tour is not a step in the master planning process.

"This is purely an opportunity to see this property at a beautiful time of year. The Baraboo Hills should be alive with fall color and hopefully the weather will cooperate."

Stay up-to-date on planning

A property master planning process is underway for the 3,800 acres of DNR-managed lands on the 7,354 acre site. Anyone interested in participating in the master planning process can stay abreast of public meetings and review planning documents and proposals by watching the DNR website and searching the keywords, "Sauk Prairie Recreation Area." At the Sauk Prairie master planning page you can also sign up to have news on the plan development sent to your email by clicking on "subscribe to receive Sauk Prairie Recreation Area Master Planning news."

Comments on draft property analysis available online

In July 2012 a draft Regional and Property Analysis was made available to citizens who were invited to submit comments on the draft report. Nearly 400 individual comments were submitted and have been transcribed verbatim. All comments can be viewed on the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area page of the DNR website. A summary of comments is also available.

DNR is now working to analyze the public's comments and, based on those comments and the property's characteristics, develop a range of possible resource and recreational opportunities that DNR will seek public comments.

"We are committed to working with area residents, governments and businesses as we identify the features and future uses of the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area. We very much value the public's input as we develop this huge new area."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Aquino, 608-275-3262



Expect a short DNR Website outage on Oct. 13

MADISON - The Department of Natural Resources expects a short web outage around 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13.

In an effort to keep the network environment stable, secure and operating optimally, the Department of Administration will be performing an upgrade to hardware that connects the internet to all state agencies.

According to DNR's web manager, Chris Welch, "The upgrade will assure DNR's website will continue to serve you well in the future. The outage is expected to be about 5 minutes. If web users experience problems, we ask them to give it a few minutes and then try us again. We are committed to making the best website possible for you 24/7."

Customers needing immediate assistance during an outage can call DNR's Customer Call Center at 1-888-936-7463. DNR's call center is available to help customers on a wide range of services and questions seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. with live customer service representatives and live chats.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Welch - 608-266-9671


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, October 09, 2012

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