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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published May 7, 2013

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Safe Boating Week: Life jackets worth your life to wear every week

MADISON -- It's the preventable death that haunts survivors. That's what National Safe Boating Week is all about - making the life-saving habit of putting on a life jacket every time you board a boat.

"Safe boating means making it a habit to put on your life jacket - and making sure everyone in your boat has one on, too - before you turn the key and pull your boat from the dock," said Roy Zellmer Department of Natural Resources conservation warden and boating law administrator. "The belief you will be able to get the jacket on as you fall over the boat's side for whatever reason is unrealistic."

National Safe Boating Week, May 18 - 24, is the last full week before the much celebrated Memorial Day weekend, which typically kicks off the summer recreational and boating. And Wisconsin is well known to the boating community thanks to its 15,000 lakes and 84,000 river miles enjoyed by nearly one million state boaters and thousands of visiting tourists ranking Wisconsin in the top 5 nationally for registered boats.

Zellmer said of the 23 boating fatalities in Wisconsin last year, 18 were drowning and only two of the victims were wearing life jackets. From 2007-2011 there were 67 people who drowned in boating incidents in Wisconsin and 91 percent of them were not wearing lifejackets.

"This mirrors the national statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, which show over the past few years that 90 percent of all boaters who drown were not wearing a life jacket," Zellmer said. "Wearing a life jacket is one of the simplest ways to save lives while boating. Having a life jacket with you, but not wearing it is like not wearing your seatbelt in a car - by the time you realize you need it, it's too late to put it on."

Life jacket regulations - canoes and kayaks included

The U.S. Coast Guard and Wisconsin laws require vessels less than 16 feet in length to be equipped with one Type I, Type II, Type III or Type V personal flotation device, more popularly known as a life jacket, for each person on board.

"This also covers canoeists and kayakers," Zellmer says. "Each must carry a wearable life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board."

Vessels 16 foot or more in length must be similarly equipped and there also must also be at least one Type IV -- or throw-able -- PFD for the boat.

In order to be an acceptable, Zellmer says, each PFD must meet these recommendations listed below.

PFDs come in a variety of shapes, colors and materials. Some are made to be more rugged and last longer while others are made to also protect the wearer from cold water.

To view the different types of U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, search the DNR website for "PFD."

"No matter which PFD you choose, make sure you get the one that's right for what you plan to do, what type of vessel you are going to use and the anticipated weather conditions," Zellmer says. "Always look for the United States Coast Guard approval number on any PFD you buy."

Stay sober, get safety smart - and get your life jacket

Zellmer says National Safe Boating Week also is a good time to review other important safety items for boaters. These include:

"Mixing alcohol with a high-speed motor on a watery track is a recipe for disaster," Zellmer said. "We would like to make 2013 the safest boating season ever. We can do it if everyone follows safe boating practices."

For more information about boating in Wisconsin, search the DNR website for "boat."For more information about boat safety classes, search the DNR website for "boat safety." To view video segments on boating safety, visit the DNR YouTube Channel Recreation Safety playlist (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Roy Zellmer, DNR conservation warden/boating law administrator, 608 212 5385 Joanne M. Haas, Public Information Officer, Bureau of Law Enforcement, 608-267-0798

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Fawn research continues to address survival concerns, with help of volunteers

MADISON - This past winter, hundreds of volunteers helped state wildlife researchers in capturing and placing radio collars on yearling and adult deer. Now researchers would like help locating and radio collaring newborn fawns during May and June.

"Most fawns are born during the last week of May and first week of June, which is a short time frame to meet our goal of getting radio collars on 80 fawns," said Jared Duquette, Department of Natural Resources ungulate research ecologist.

"Mother deer do not make our job easy," explains Duquette. "They typically hide their fawns in thick vegetation or in expansive grassy fields where the fawns are naturally camouflaged and remain motionless. We have to do a lot of walking to find them and rely on strength in numbers with our volunteers. It's a lot of fun to find these little guys, and helps us get key information on fawn survival."

Volunteers will be assigned to search teams working in the vicinity of Shiocton in Shawano County and Winter in Sawyer County. Each day, teams will comb targeted fawning areas - on foot - for a few hours to find the hidden newborns. Once found, fawns are fitted with expandable radio collars to monitor their movements and survival during their first year of life to assess causes of death, which can include malnutrition, environmental influences, vehicles, hunters or predators. If a fawn dies, the collar will emit a unique signal that researchers use to locate the animal to evaluate cause of death. The collars are designed to expand as the deer grows and eventually drop off as the animal reaches its first birthday.

Duquette said during 2011 and 2012 "thanks to the help of volunteers across the state, researchers had wonderful success capturing fawns." A total of 212 fawns, including 144 (94 radio collared, 50 ear-tagged) in the Shiocton area and 68 (60 radio collared, eight ear-tagged) in the Winter area, were captured.

Even those who don't join the fawn search can get involved in the predation and fawn recruitment study. "Fawns are often harder to find in the northern study area, due to lower deer density and greater expanses of woods. We'd appreciate if citizens could notify us if they see a fawn in the study area so we can meet our research goal," said Duquette. Anyone observing a fawn within a 10 mile radius of the town of Winter during May and June should contact researchers at (608) 219-0771.

For more information and to sign up as a volunteer search Deer Research on the DNR website.

Impact of predators on deer populations of special interest to hunters

Some hunters have questioned the fawn recruitment rates that wildlife biologists use to estimate deer populations. Recruitment is the proportion of fawns that survive to reproduce and it is a primary influence in deer population growth. At the end of this three year effort to monitor fawns, researchers hope to fine tune their population estimates based on the real-world data collected.

"Estimating fawn survival rate is vital to the accuracy of our deer population estimates," said Duquette. "This study can also tell us about the impact predators are having, whether it's black bears, bobcats, coyotes, or gray wolves."

Preliminary results from the study in 2011 and 2012 showed that most fawn mortalities had occurred by the end of August, mostly from predation. Fawn survival (up to 9-10 months old) was 62percent in the Shiocton area compared to 35 percent in the Winter area, though fawns in both areas had better survival in 2012 than in 2011. Fawn predation rates have been less in the east-central (41 percent) than in the northern (62 percent) study area, which Duquette said may be due to the greater diversity of predators found in the north. Other sources of mortality included vehicle collisions, starvation, and hunters.

"Predators have had the biggest impact on survival so far, but we know predation rates can change with underlying environmental influences, like a harsh winter, that make it harder for fawns to survive. So we're trying to look at how all these factors interact," says Duquette.

This research is possible only with the collaborative efforts of hundreds of Wisconsin citizens and groups such as the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Safari Club International and Whitetails Unlimited, the University of Wisconsin- Madison and UW-Stevens Point, the AFL-CIO Union Sportsmans Alliance.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jared Duquette - (608) 225-2951 or Bob Manwell - (608) 264-9248

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May is American Wetlands Month: Volunteers hop at chance to help frogs, turtles, salamanders

Wide variety of volunteer activities for those who love wetland "critters"

MADISON -- May is wetlands month and a growing corps of volunteers are pulling on their boots to help check the condition of wetlands and the frogs, shore birds and other creatures that depend upon them.

"We're seeing enthusiastic response from people who want to get out and get their boots wet," says Tom Bernthal, wetland monitoring and assessment coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "They are wetland lovers and these kinds of surveys give them something concrete to do to help support the critters that use wetlands."

Other opportunities for helping collect information about other wetland plants and animals and wetlands themselves are available through the Citizen-based Monitoring Network of Wisconsin (exit DNR), a group of more than 150 organizations that recruit and train volunteers to help report on the natural world around them.

The volunteer opportunities are particularly important at this time of year as state scientists seek help collecting information about seasonal wetlands and their inhabitants. Such wetlands may be dry most of the year except when snowmelt and spring rains fill them for a few vital weeks or months, Bernthal says.

Wood frogs, once they literally thaw at the end of winter, are often the first to arrive at ephemeral ponds in the spring. Their duck-like call has been heard in much of the southern half of the state for the last couple of weeks is just now beginning farther north where ponds are thawing, says Drew Feldkirchner, a DNR conservation biologist.

The wood frogs are "explosive breeders" and typically deposit their egg masses communally in large aggregations before adults return to terrestrial habitats, he says. A single egg mass can contain up to 1,000 eggs.

Bernthal, who helped start the Wisconsin Ephemeral Ponds Project (exit DNR ), says that the volunteers searching seasonal wetlands in southeastern Wisconsin are gathering information that will help identify which are most important for producing frogs and salamanders. Training sessions were held earlier this spring by partners at the Riveredge Nature Center, Milwaukee county parks, UW-Parkside, and Concordia University-Mequon.

"We're looking for ephemeral ponds that are good sources for amphibian population because we need amphibians," Bernthal says. "They are such an important part of the food chain and some of the species are under pressure."

More information about Wisconsin's frog, salamanders and turtles, including videos and photos, can be found on the Herps of Wisconsin webpage.

Ephemeral wetlands are among more than a dozen kinds in Wisconsin, everything from forests along lakes and streams, to meadows -- even wet prairies and shrub thickets. Wetlands all share the following characteristics: water-loving plants, wet soils, and evidence of water.

Wisconsin had an estimated 10 million acres of wetlands before becoming a state in 1848. Over the decades, nearly half of those wetlands - or 4.7 million acres - were drained or filled to make way for farms, cities, roads and factories. Wetlands are now recognized for their importance as fish and wildlife nurseries, clean water filters, flood storage and recreational areas and are protected by state and federal rules and in some places, by local regulations or ordinances as well.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Bernthal, 608-266-3033

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Funds available to help municipalities with public water supply systems

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: Editor's advisory: May 5-11 is Drinking Water Week and DNR staff are ready to answer questions about drinking water, wells, and testing during a live chat on Wednesday, May 8 from noon to 1 p.m. To participate, visit the DNR home page, dnr.wi.gov, and look for the advertisement to enter the chat, or search the phrase "ask the experts." You can also join the conversation via our Facebook page at facebook.com/WIDNR and by clicking the "Cover it Live Chat" box at the top of the page.

Safe drinking water week underway

MADISON - Safe drinking water week, celebrated nationally May 5-11, 2013, arrives with good news for some financially strained Wisconsin communities facing projects to replace aging pipes and upgrade their drinking water systems.

In addition to offering loans with subsidized interest rates, the Department of Natural Resources will be able to offer some of the neediest communities funds that do not have to be paid back, state drinking water and environmental grant officials say.

"We have heard from the federal government that we will have some "principal forgiveness" available for the highest scoring applications submitted to us for 2014 funding," says Robin Schmidt, chief of environmental loans. "This is very good news for stretched communities facing public water supply infrastructure needs."

The deadline for communities to apply for 2014 Safe Drinking Water Loans is June 30.

Since 1998, DNR has provided subsidized interest loans to communities to help them plan, design, construct or modify public water systems, with 145 municipalities receiving loans totaling $423.95 million.

As part of the federal stimulus, the federal government provided Wisconsin and other states with additional money for infrastructure projects, some of which were to be principal forgiveness awards.

Since the stimulus program ended, the federal government continues to require a portion of the funds be awarded as funds that communities do not have to pay back. Principal forgiveness is based on the environmental score, the municipality's population and its median household income.

Those communities not receiving principal forgiveness but eligible for the subsidized loans can benefit significantly. Depending on market interest rates, the savings to communities from a lower interest rate loan can equal 20 to 30 percent compared to a market rate loan. Current loan rates for municipalities are 1.155 percent for the smallest and most needy municipalities or 1.925 percent for all other municipalities, Schmidt says.

Lee Boushon, DNR public water section chief, says that the subsidized loans and the principal forgiveness are an important part of helping communities provide safe water to their citizens.

Every four years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducts a survey of the anticipated costs of the investments that community water supplies must make in their infrastructure. The results are also used to help determine the amount of funding each state receives for its Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program, which funds the types of projects identified in the survey.

In the most recent publicly available report, EPA found that the nation's 53,000 community water systems and 21,400 not-for-profit non-community water systems will need to invest an estimated $334.8 billion between 2007 and 2027.

Wisconsin's estimated need is $6.2 billion, the survey showed.

"Wisconsin communities and their partners have done an exemplary job in providing customers water that meets the safe drinking water act standards," Boushon says. "We must continue on a local, state and federal levels to continue to make timely investments in our water supplies to protect public health and the economy."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Lee Boushon, 608-266-0857

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Open houses will look at possible Ice Age Trail routes through Marquette County

MADISON - The public will have an opportunity at three open house meetings to review a study area of significant geologic, biologic and cultural features along with scenic views, public lands and facilities that could be included in a possible route for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail through Marquette County.

The National Park Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource and Ice Age Trail Alliance (Ice Age Trail partners) will hold three open houses as part of the corridor planning process for the Ice Age Trail through Marquette County. Maps and aerial photos will be on display and state and national park staff along with representatives of the Marquette County Parks and Rural Planning Department and Montello Historic Preservation Society will be available to answer questions.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail was authorized by Congress in 1980. When completed, the trail will be a footpath that meanders approximately 1,200 miles across the state of Wisconsin, tracing features left by the last glacier that swept over North America more than 10,000 years ago.

Each of the open houses will have a different featured speaker with a special presentation about Marquette County. The open house meetings will be held:

After obtaining public comments at the open houses meetings, the Ice Age Trail partners will develop alternative possible corridors for the Ice Age Trail through the county that include as many of the identified resources as possible. Additional meetings will then be held to get comments on the possible corridors for the trail.

The Ice Age Trail partners will then develop a corridor plan and, eventually, conduct environmental assessments prior to trail construction. The goal is to select one preferred corridor that is approximately 3 to 5 miles wide for possible routes for the trail. State and federal funds could then be used to acquire land or trail easements for the trail within this corridor from landowners on a voluntary basis.

For more information see the National Park Service Ice Age Trai and the Ice Age Trail Alliance websites (both links exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brigit Brown, DNR state trails coordinator 608-266-2183 or Mark Holden, NPS outdoor recreation planner, 608-441-5610

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DNR's Lawhern inducted into International Hunter Education Association Hall of Fame

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Tim Lawhern, who since 2011 has served as administrator of the Department of Natural Resources Division of Enforcement and Science, was inducted into the International Hunter Education Association Professional Hall of Fame at an awards ceremony last month.

"He (Lawhern) believes in the mission of the IHEA and has served hunting, hunters, volunteer instructors, the IHEA and the future of hunting with great passion and leadership," Dr. Charles Bruckerhoff of Connecticut wrote in his Hall of Fame nomination, noting volunteer hunter education instructors and association leaders already have noted Lawhern's service and leadership. "I know of no other person that is active in the IHEA today that has done so much to help promote its mission and that has served in so many capacities in that effort."

Lawhern, also the only person in the history of the association to serve twice as its president, called the induction a true honor. "I'm just an average man blessed with more opportunities than most and living an extraordinary life." Lawhern said.

A Wisconsin transplant from his native Tennessee, Lawhern grew up hunting. "I don't like to hunt. I love to hunt.

"It is one of life's most valuable disciplines - and it takes some patience! I believe I am better at everything I do because I have learned about myself through becoming a safe, knowledgeable and responsible hunter."

Lawhern earned his degree in education from Tennessee Tech University and then studied Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He joined the Wisconsin DNR about 24 years ago as a conservation warden, and spent 17 of those years as the administrator of the Hunter Education Program managing more than 5,600 volunteer instructors.

"Hunting in Wisconsin has continued to get safer and safer in recent decades. And with the outstanding work of our volunteer hunter education instructors, I was able to build upon our program in an application that can be replicated across this country and into other countries," Lawhern said, adding Wisconsin has the largest corps of volunteer instructors nationwide.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Joanne Haas, DNR law enforcement public affairs manager, 608-267-0798

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 07, 2013




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