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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published April 23, 2013

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Wildfire Prevention Week is a good reminder to "check again!"

MADISON -- Think your fire is out? State wildfire control officials would like to make sure you check again! Wildfire Prevention Week is April 21-27 and the theme is to encourage the public to double-check for hot coals left behind from debris piles, campfires, or ashes dumped from cleaning out woodstoves or fireplaces.

Yard clean-up is an annual tradition for many landowners this time of year and a common practice is to dispose of their leaves, brush, and pine needles by burning debris piles. Debris burning continues to be the number one cause of wildfires in Wisconsin.

"In 2012, we found that of the 345 reported debris fires, 13 percent of those were caused by individuals who obtained a proper permit, but then failed to extinguish their fire before leaving," says Catherine Koele, wildfire prevention specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Initially, these were legal debris fires, but overnight the embers, rekindled, escaped and caused a wildfire on the following day."

Many responsible debris burners obtain proper permits, conduct their burn, but neglect to make certain their fire is out before leaving. Oftentimes, that fire still contains smoldering embers. Anyone responsible for failing to extinguish a fire before leaving or allowing a fire to escape and become a wildfire is subject to citations and liable for all suppression expenses and damages.

"Embers left behind from debris piles can remain hot for days, even weeks," says Koele. "These wildfires could have been prevented if people would take the time to make certain their fire is out."

Fire control officials recommend using plenty of water, stirring the ashes with a rake or shovel and repeating the steps until cold.

Along with fire control officials, DNR air quality and solid waste programs all encourage people to consider alternatives to burning debris, such as composting and mulching yard waste; however, if burning is the only option, a burning permit is required any time the ground is not completely snow-covered in DNR Protection areas. Permits are required so that people burn only legal materials under safe conditions.

It is illegal in Wisconsin to burn trash including plastic, household garbage or treated or painted wood - because of its environmental risk. It's also illegal in the state to burn recyclable materials such as glass, plastic, metal containers and clean paper.

Another common fire cause is related to ash dumping in the outdoors from cleaning out fireplaces or woodstoves. DNR fire control officials typically see a rise in improper ash disposal fires this time of year with cooler temperatures at night and many folks continuing to use wood heat devices to keep warm.

The "Think your fire is out?" campaign will run for two-years and includes radio and TV advertisements, flyers, display banners, restaurant placemats, newspaper ads, and other promotional materials. The outreach material will be distributed throughout the spring during Wisconsin's peak spring fire season.

For more information on today's fire danger or burning permit restrictions, visit enter keyword "fire."

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



'BIG Tree' planting to mark Arbor Day on Capitol Square

Smokey Bear to plant oak at Capitol Park

MADISON -- Capitol Park will grow a little greener at an open-air event on the 130th celebration of Wisconsin's Arbor Day on April 26 when a swamp white oak will be planted as part of a public lawn party made possible by several Wisconsin organizations and a local business.

"Trees are among Wisconsin's most beautiful natural resources," Gov. Scott Walker states in his special Arbor Day proclamation, noting the economic, environmental and recreational benefits of this natural resource. "Trees can reduce the erosion of our precious topsoil by wind and water, cut heating and cooling costs, moderate the temperature, clean the air, produce life-giving oxygen, and provide habitat for wildlife."

Several Wisconsin groups have joined forces to make this year's Arbor Day event at the Capitol Square a really "BIG" event by planting a swamp white oak as an important step in the continuing rehabilitation of the Capitol Park. The swamp white oak is considered a native species to southern Wisconsin and will be planted on the lawn between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and South Hamilton Street.

Sponsors for the Friday event are: Wisconsin Nursery Association, The Bruce Company of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Arborist Association and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Division of Forestry.

Smokey Bear will kick off the event with "Tree Cheers" at 11:45 a.m. joined by students from Tiffany Creek Elementary school from Boyceville.

Madison-based musician Ken Lonnquist will lead the crowd in songs celebrating the many benefits of trees.

People who can't make it to the square during the noon hour on April 26, can still celebrate this annual day. Learn how by searching the DNR webpage for "Arbor Day."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laura Wyatt, DNR urban forestry specialist, 608-267-0568; Joanne Haas, public affairs manager, 608-267-0798



Proposed expansion, improvements at High Cliff State Park topic of public meeting

MADISON - Expanding High Cliff State Park, relocating the boat launch to provide better access to Lake Winnebago, and constructing a new educational and interpretive building are among the improvements recommended over the next 10 to 15 years in a draft master plan revision for the park that will be the subject of an upcoming public meeting as part of the public comment review period running through May 10.

High Cliff State Park is a 1,195-acre property located ten miles east of Appleton on the northeast shore of Lake Winnebago in Calumet County. The park is situated on the Niagara Escarpment, a dolomite ridge that parallels the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago and extends northeasterly to Door County. It is this 223 foot high ledge, with a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding countryside, which gives High Cliff its name.

Year-round attendance at the park is near 417,000 making High Cliff Wisconsin's fifth busiest state park. The master plan for the property was last updated in 1982.

The current draft plan proposes expanding the park to provide enhanced ecological, economic, and social value for the property and region. If the boundary expansion were acquired in its entirety, the property would encompass approximately 3,015 acres and would connect High Cliff State Park to Calumet County Park.

Land for the expansion would only be purchased from willing sellers. Because it is unlikely that all tracts within the boundaries would be available for acquisition simultaneously, and some may never be, expenditures would be spread over a considerable span of time. Lands purchased for addition to High Cliff State Park would likely be acquired using Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funds or a similar bonding fund.

Other recommendations in the plan include additional camping opportunities, including a redesigned group campground and additions to the modern family campground. The plan also proposed separating the equestrian and bike trail and developing a new trail along the Lake Winnebago shoreline.

The plan recommends implementing the proposed improvement projects in three phases, with the rate of development depending upon available funding and the approval of the proposed improvement projects as part of the Department of Natural Resources overall capital development process.

The total cost of all three phases of the proposed park improvements is estimated at approximately $11.3 million distributed over a period of 10 to 15 years or more.

The plan is available for review by searching the DNR website for "High Cliff" and then clicking on the tab for Maps/publications and selecting the link for "High Cliff master plan in progress." The plan is also available at the park headquarters.

Public involvement has been an integral part of the planning process that began in 2009 with adoption of a public involvement plan, outlining the process, procedures, and tools used throughout the planning process to encourage public awareness, interaction and input. The Department of Natural Resources worked with local towns, non-governmental organizations, citizens, and businesses to create the High Cliff State Park Draft Master Plan. Public meetings were held in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

There will be a public meeting to present the draft master plan and listen to comments from the public about the future for High Cliff State Park on Tuesday, May 7, from 4-6:30 p.m. at the Sherwood Community Center, W489 Clifton Road, Sherwood. Public comments will be accepted until May 10, with Natural Resources Board approval later this year.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Carolyn Morgen, High Cliff State Park State Park Superintendent, 920-989-1106, extension 223



Wardens issue 2-minute warning to early-season boaters

Kewaunee County boat flip is real-life alert about spring water temps

MADISON -- Two minutes - that's about all the time people have before they lose their ability to move their muscles and save themselves if they fall out of a boat or kayak into cold spring water.

"This time of the year is particularly dangerous for water fans anxious to enjoy boating, fishing and kayaking soon after the ice melts," said Roy Zellmer, conservation warden and boating safety administrator with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "An important thing everyone who enjoys Wisconsin's rivers and lakes must remember is this: the water temperature does not rise as fast as spring temperatures."

And, Zellmer adds, someone's chances of survival of an early season boat flip into icy waters get even worse if they failed to wear a life jacket.

A real-life reminder occurred at 6:30 a.m. on April 19 when four anglers were dumped into Lake Michigan as their boat capsized in waters just north of Algoma in Kewaunee County. The four were rescued by another fishing vessel and taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for hypothermia. Marine Warden David Allen, who says the boat has since washed up on shore, is handling the investigation.

Zellmer says hypothermia can occur when the body's temperature drops below 95 degrees. "The loss of body heat results in loss of dexterity, loss of consciousness and eventually loss of life," Zellmer says. "Water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air.

Boaters can take these steps to ensure their safety to have a safe time boating in cold water:

Zellmer says the physical shock of cold water can cause cardiac arrest or cold-induced gasping.

"If your mouth is underwater when this gasp occurs, drowning is the most probable outcome," he says. "If you know you are about to fall into cold water, cover your face with your hands. This helps you to avoid gasping water into your lungs.

"If you do fall in, get back in the boat if possible. The more of your body that is out of the water -- on top of an over-turned boat or anything that floats -- the less heat you will lose. See professional medical care as soon as possible even if the victim has seemingly made a complete recovery."

If someone is not able to get back in a boat, they should limit body movement, and not swim unless they can reach a nearby boat or floating object. Swimming lowers your body temperature and even good swimmers can drown in cold water.

Instead, Zellmer says people should "assume the heat-escape-lessening-position" (H.E.L.P.). Begin by crossing your ankles, then cross your arms over your chest, draw your knees to your chest, lean back and try to relax.

For more information search the DNR website for "boat safety."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Todd Schaller, conservation warden/ recreation enforcement and education section chief, 608-267-2774; Joanne Haas, public affairs manager, Bureau of Law Enforcement, 608-209-8147.



Cold weather delays sturgeon spawning

GREEN BAY -- This year's unseasonably cold weather has the sturgeon population holding tight on its annual spawning run, putting sturgeon guards on ice for the time being. Typically, peak spawning of the prehistoric fish takes place between April 15 and May 1.

"What the fish really need to begin spawning is water temperatures between 54 and 60 degrees," explained Sturgeon Biologist Ryan Koenigs. "The later it gets in the season, the more likely they are to spawn in water a few degrees colder."

The delay means those who volunteered to guard the sturgeon during their spawning activities will likely need to find new times for their watch. The sturgeon guard program began in 1977 as a way to prevent poachers from illegally taking the fish.

"The sturgeon guards are so important to preserving the population of lake sturgeon we have," explained Conservation Warden Carl Mesman, who helps coordinate the guard program. "We've already canceled guard shifts through April 26. This late spawning season means we could very well need guards into the first few weeks of May."

Sturgeon guards protect a portion of shoreline in 12 hour shifts. Anyone interested in taking part can do so by calling our customer service line seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. at 1-888-936-7463 or by going online at and searching for "sturgeon guard".

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ryan Koenigs - 920-303-5450



More than 1,000 students participate in archery in the schools tournament

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. -- Results have been posted for the 2013 Wisconsin state tournament for the National Archery in the Schools Program held earlier this month at Wisconsin Rapids.

"The tournament just keeps getting better," said Dan Schroeder, a natural resources educator and the tournament's coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. "We had more than 1,000 student archers competing this year and many of them shot their best scores ever at this event."

The tournament has been so successful - the number of schools in the competition has grown by 261 percent in just three years - it has outgrown its current venue in Wisconsin Rapids and will move to Wausau West High School for the 2014 tournament, to be held April 5-6.

"This year's event was the best to date," Schroeder said. "We could not do it without the support and dedication of our amazing volunteers. Among them is Renee Ann Arndt, who handled all the registrations and results for this year's tournament. With 47 schools, that is a Herculean task. And she never stopped smiling."

Schroeder said the tournament owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the city of Wisconsin Rapids and the staff at East Junior High School where the annual competition began eight years ago and has grown and thrived each year.

With the larger facilities in Wausau, tournament officials can add 20 targets to the shooting range and can space out the competitors more comfortably, with each shooter occupying 30 inches on the shooting line. This falls in line with standards for national and international tournaments.

There will also be more room for vendors and for extra attractions. At this year's tournament, for instance, Ray Howell and staff from Kicking Bear - which introduces young people to the outdoors at weekend camping events - showed visiting students how to throw a tomahawk and have it stick into the log target.

"We are excited about the potential for growth as NASP continues to grow in Wisconsin, and more and more schools offer the program ," Schroeder said.

More information is available by searching the DNR website for keyword "NASP."

Results from this year's tournament can be found at: (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Daniel Schroeder, NASP coordinator, at 608-235-4619 or Renee Ann Arndt, tournament organizer, at 608-343-6171.



Preliminary Ceded Territory bag limits posted at boat landings and available online

MADISON - Preliminary bag limits announced earlier this year for walleye caught in the Ceded Territory will not be printed in volume by the state and distributed but will be posted at public boat landings and available for download from the web, state fisheries officials say.

DNR will, however, print and distribute in volume the final bag limits set after tribal spearing has occurred and sport fish bags are updated. Those finalized limits would be in effect for the rest of the 2013-14 game fishing season, which ends March 2, 2014, according to Mike Staggs, Wisconsin's fisheries director.

"Anglers planning to fish for walleye in the Ceded Territory can find the preliminary bag limits posted at public boat landings," he says. "And those who want a personal printed copy for their tackle box are encouraged to wait until it's closer to the May 4 opening day and then download and print off a copy from our website or go to a DNR service center and ask for a copy."

The preliminary bag limits, and all fishing regulations, can be found by searching the DNR website, for "fishing regulations" and clicking on the link for Ceded territory walleye bag limits - initial - 2013-14 [PDF]

And as always, DNR call center staff are a great resource for general information about fishing regulations.

The Call Center is available seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call toll-free 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463). Open a chat session available from 7 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Bilingual services are available.




More than 140,000 pounds of donated venison goes to food pantries statewide

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: CORRECTION -- This news release has been updated with a correction on the amount of ground venison distributed from the deer donation program. There was 140,000 pounds of venison distributed.

MADISON- An increasing number of hunters and meat processors from all around the state donated their deer and volunteered their time to provide venison to people in need in 2012.

More than 3,000 deer were donated through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources deer donation program, which were then processed and distributed to food pantries statewide.

Participation in the donation program was up 8 percent over 2011, likely a result of increased hunter turnout.

"This year was a success thanks to the generosity of participating hunters, meat processors and volunteers alike," said Noah Balgooyen, DNR Wildlife Damage Program biologist. "Over 140,000 pounds of ground venison was distributed to Wisconsin families in need of food assistance."

Since the program started in 2000, hunters have donated over 80,000 deer, totaling more than 3.5 million pounds of venison. The program relies on cooperation with counties across the state, USDA-Wildlife Services, and community programs such as Hunt for the Hungry and Target Hunger Venison Donation program who help organize the donations, the processing, and ultimately the delivery to food pantries.

For more information about the DNR's deer donation program and how you can help, search the DNR website for keywords "deer donation."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Noah Balgooyen, DNR wildlife damage program biologist, 608-266-5230



Most opportunities for Work*Play*Earth Day events over next two Saturdays

MADISON -- The next two Saturdays will offer people the greatest number of opportunities to participate in a Work*Play*Earth Day event as a dozen state park properties hosting the activities.

Mirror Lake Work*Play*Earth Day
About 30 people showed up for Mirror Lake State Park's Work*Play*Earth Day event April 13 despite cold rain. Here volunteers painted and assembled picnic chairs.
Photo courtesy of Friends of Mirror Lake State Park

Activities planned this year include planting trees and shrubs, making memorial benches, removing invasive plants, painting picnic tables and other structures, trail repair, raking and cleaning up leaves, picking up litter and getting campgrounds ready for the camping season.

Each work day will run from approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The schedule may vary slightly at each location. Volunteers should wear work boots or athletic shoes, long pants and bring their own work gloves. Advanced registration is free and encouraged. People can register through the park, forest, trail or recreation area where they would like to volunteer.

When the work is done, volunteers join staff in hiking or biking park trails, visiting nature centers or interpretive displays, or enjoying any of the recreational opportunities available at the different parks. The events are sponsored by the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks and individual friends groups for the properties.

"The weather is supposed to be wonderful this coming weekend and we hope that holds true for the following weekend too," says Patty Loosen, state parks friends group coordinator.

The following park properties will be holding events:

Saturday - April 27

Saturday - May 4

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Patty Loosen, 608-264-8994 or Paul Holtan, DNR parks and recreation public affairs manager, 608-267-7517



Early catch-and-release trout season closes at midnight Sunday

MADISON - Warmer, drier weather forecast for parts of Wisconsin will allow trout anglers to sneak in a few more week days and a full weekend of trout fishing on many inland waters before the early catch-and-release season closes at midnight Sunday, April 28.

The closing date is incorrectly listed in the Guide to Wisconsin Trout Fishing Regulations, 2013-2014.

Most trout streams are open to early fishing with the exception of most Lake Superior tributaries and most streams in northeast Wisconsin; check the current trout fishing Regulations pamphlet on the fishing regulations page of the DNR website for specific waters. Anglers are not required to use barbless hooks but must use artificial lures and flies.

Online maps and interactive maps trout waters easier to find and provide other information to increase anglers success. The maps, along with other information to help find easy public access to trout waters and some new places to fish, are available by searching on DNR's website,, for inland trout fishing.

Trout populations have generally increased statewide, and the number of fish in all sizes examined have increased, since 1950, according to a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point analysis released in 2011 and discussed in "A Trout Treasury," an April 2011 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine article.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Karl Scheidegger - 608- 267-9426


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 23, 2013

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