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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published May 28, 2013

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Successful Germann Road fire response due to years of training and multi-agency coordination

If there were those of you who didn't know the Department of Natural Resources fights forest fires, I'll bet you do now after the news out of Douglas County earlier this month.

Thanks to the rapid, effective response of a multi-agency team, the 8,000-acre wildfire that ignited on May 14 in very windy, dry conditions was fully contained in about 30 hours.

DNR employees highly trained in wildfire suppression and public safety led the team of local, county, state, federal and even Canadian agencies in quickly, aggressively and safely fighting the fire that forced evacuations and threatened lake communities.

How can we find "success" in a tragedy such as this? No one was injured or killed during this dangerous wildfire. Our employees have undergone hours of training and refresher exercises based on national standards. They, in turn, have provided training to local fire departments and public safety workers.

In fact, the most recent wildland fire training for the Douglas County area was held March 27. Less than two months later, these same crews were successfully applying that training while they battled the Germann Road Fire.

The fire, one of many on that hot and windy day, was reported by three different fire towers on May 14 at approximately 2:45 p.m. Eleven minutes later, DNR crews were on scene. During the first few hours the fire spread fast leaping treetop to treetop. Soon, it was a 5-mile long fire that jumped a county highway and then State Highway 27. Suddenly, a major shift in wind direction had crews changing their tactics. Every curve the fire took, the DNR fire crews and team responded with confidence to cut it off.

The DNR-led ground attack coordinated 40 fire departments with 23 tractor plows, four bulldozers, and 16 fire engines. From the air, the DNR coordinated the use of resources we have under contract plus planes from Minnesota and Ontario, both of which are partners of ours in the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact, through which we assist each other during forest fire emergencies. We were also aided by the Army National Guard who provided two of its Blackhawk Helicopters with buckets. Nearly 200 DNR staff from across the state and from several different department programs, led by the Division of Forestry, were marshaled to fight this fire and ensure the safety of our citizens

Yes, it is tragic that 17 homes were lost among the 47 structures burned in in the fire. But, we saved 77 structures. And through our aggressive suppression efforts and years of work developing relationships and training with local fire departments and other emergency response agencies, educating homeowners about ways to reduce the risk of wildfires destroying their home, and positioning resources in areas of greatest risk, we were together able to limit the extent of this tragedy.

DNR wildland fire experts were on the fire scene this week, studying the remains of burned and saved structures. We will use this opportunity to study the effects and develop lessons learnedóboth internally with DNR staff and with the public so we are even better prepared for the next wildfire.

Last week I talked with a gentleman who told me how thankful he was to the DNR and to "my" employees. But, I told him the DNR workers are not my employees. They are your employees, because we are YOUR DNR.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Cosh, DNR spokesperson 608-267-2773



Map of family-friendly hikes, other tools help make the most of June 1-2 "free fun"

MADISON -Free fishing clinics, loaner fishing equipment and interactive maps showing easy family-friendly hikes and organized ATV rides are among the tools aimed at helping Wisconsin residents and visitors make the most of free outdoor fun on June 1-2.

On these days, Wisconsin residents and visitors can fish for free, hike or bike state trails for free, and ride public ATV trails for free. On Sunday, June 2 only, they can enjoy free admission to state parks and forests.

More information on the free activities, places to go to enjoy them, can be found on DNR's website, and search "free fun."

Family-friendly hikes

A new interactive map helps guide people to dozens of easy trails or trail segments suitable for families with young children and for those looking for shorter, flatter trails featuring lots to look at. Some of them are located on state trails, which are free on both June 1-2. Others are in state parks, where admission to the state parks is free only on Sunday, June 2.

"These trails are easy enough for the whole family to enjoy and they'll take you past some beautiful scenery," says Brigit Brown, Department of Natural Resources trail coordinator. "Serene waterfalls, cool old railroad tunnels, the vast expanse of Lake Michigan, and the mighty Mississippi - these are just some of the awesome sites along the Wisconsin state trails we've highlighted here on the map."

Free fishing clinics and fishing equipment for loan

Theresa Stabo, DNR aquatic education director, says the free fishing weekend is a great opportunity for beginners to learn how to fish.

"We have places to take kids and beginners fishing and people there to help them get started on this life-long activity that connects them to each other and their natural resources," Stabo says.

Dozens of free fishing clinics are scheduled over the two-day weekend, some of them at state parks and others sponsored by conservation groups, civic groups, or local parks and recreation departments.

"Many of our partners are offering clinics to people of all ages to welcome those adults who may have missed the boat when they were kids," Stabo says. "And those clinics geared for younger children require a parent to accompany them. That way the parent will learn right along with the child and [be able to] continue fishing as a family activity long after Free Fishing Weekend has come and gone."

Most of the fishing clinics will provide the fishing equipment (some for loan, some for keeps), instruction and bait necessary.

Basic fishing gear is also available at 50 DNR locations so people can try out fishing without committing to buying the equipment. She encourages people to check the list of loaner sites and arrange to pick up equipment from those DNR offices that are open only during weekdays. About half of the 50 loaner sites are stationed at state park offices, which are open on the weekends. Equipment at those sites is available on a first-come, first serve basis.

The tackle loaner locations, a list of the free fishing clinics and a list of places to take kids and beginners fishing can be found on the Free Fun page of the DNR website.

ATV/UTV event listings

An interactive map on the Wisconsin ATV Association website shows 10 listings of events or rides to help get in on the free wheelin' fun. (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Theresa Stabo on fishing 608-266-2272; Brigit Brown on trails 608- 266-2183



Three Wisconsin businesses honored with clean air awards

MILWAUKEE - Three Wisconsin businesses were honored recently by the Wisconsin Partners for Clean Air for their voluntary efforts to improve air quality.

The awards were presented last week during the 2013 Clean Air Extravaganza at the new UW-Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health. The Clean Air Extravaganza is an event to celebrate the accomplishments of Wisconsin businesses and organizations that are improving air quality by reducing emissions from their facilities and fleets, improving energy efficiency, providing employee commuter options and developing ways to educate the public about air quality issues.

Sue Bangert, Department of Natural Resources deputy director for the Air, Waste and Remediation and Redevelopment (AWaRe) Division, presented awards to the following organizations.

The WPCA is a coalition of more than 250 businesses, community organizations, schools and government agencies committed to improving air quality through voluntary action.

You can view more details of the award recipients on the Wisconsin Partners For Clean Air website (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jessica Lawent, 414-263-8653



DNR hydrogeologist named recipient of 2013 Rebecca Wallace Memorial Award

MADISON -- Department of Natural Resources hydrogeologist and medical waste coordinator Barb Bickford is this year's recipient of the Rebecca Wallace Award. DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp presented the award to Bickford at the May 22, 2013 meeting of the Natural Resources Board in Madison.

Barb Bickford Wallace award
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp (far left), along with Wallace's sons Spencer and Mitch, were on hand to present the Rebecca Wallace Award to Barb Bickford.
WDNR Photo

The Natural Resources Board created the Rebecca Wallace Memorial Award in 1997 following the death of Wallace and her husband in an automobile accident. At the time of her death, she was chief of the agency's runoff management section. Each year the award recognizes a DNR employee making the greatest contribution toward improving relationships with stakeholders or toward mentoring department staff. The Wallaces were survived by three young sons.

Chosen by her peers as the embodiment of the Wallace Award, Bickford is DNR's medical waste coordinator, managing the infectious waste program and providing technical assistance on a wide variety of healthcare waste issues. An employee of the Bureau of Waste and Materials Management, she joined the agency in 1981.

Noted for providing excellent customer service, Bickford's nominations referred to her ability to invite cooperation and trust with both the regulated community and the public, encouraging them to reduce and better manage pharmaceutical wastes.

Bickford was instrumental in founding Wisconsin Healthcare for a Healthy Environment, or WH2E, an organization that brings together healthcare professionals, waste vendors, consultants, suppliers and regulators to resolve common problems. Among her many and noted accomplishments, Bickford also initiated a collaborative project with UW-Extension and a local hospital, to create a web-based resource for reducing pharmaceutical waste in healthcare facilities.

Healthcare professionals within Wisconsin and nationwide have sought out Bickford as a mentor for her insight and opinion on healthcare-related environmental issues. The following endorsement of her nomination came from a private sector supporter:

"I was impressed with her dedication to environmental issues and her willingness to mentor those of us in healthcare who wanted to lessen our environmental footprint. All these many years she is still inspiring me and lighting the way for hospitals."

In addition to her busy professional life, Bickford volunteers with the Girl Scouts, leads a support group at the Dane County Jail, and heads up youth mission trips and wilderness canoe trips with her church.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp (far left), along with Wallace's sons Spencer and Mitch, were on hand to present the Rebecca Wallace Award to Barb Bickford.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Andy Morton, 608-275-3203 or Barb Bickford, 608- 267-3548



Lincoln County trout stream habitat project may result in incidental take of rare turtle

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Wisconsin's endangered species law (s. 29.604, Wis. Stats.) requires the Department of Natural Resources to notify the public when it proposes to authorize the incidental taking of a state endangered or threatened species. ]

MADISON - A habitat improvement project on a Lincoln County stream may result in the "incidental taking" of a turtle listed as a state threatened species under a permit the Department of Natural Resources proposes to authorize for the project. Incidental take refers to the unintentional loss of individual endangered or threatened animals or plants that does not put the overall population of the species at risk.

Department of Natural Resources fisheries staff plan an in-stream habitat improvement project on Spring Creek in Lincoln County. The project includes approximately 1,400 feet of stream habitat improvements, including brushing, bank improvements, channel shaping and boulder, rock and woody habitat placement to improve habitat for trout.

The presence of the state threatened wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) has been confirmed in the vicinity of the project site. DNR staff determined that the species is likely present due to the presence of suitable habitat and that the proposed project may result in the incidental taking of some turtles. However, they concluded that the proposed project will minimize the impacts to the species by adhering to conservation measures; is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence and recovery of the state population of this species or the whole plant-animal community of which they are a part; and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the action.

The conservation measures to minimize the adverse effect on the threatened species will be incorporated into the proposed Incidental Take Authorization. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on the wood turtle are available by searching for "incidental take" on the DNR website and clicking on the tab for public notices or upon request from Rori Paloski at 608-264-6040. Public comments will be taken through June 11, 2013 and should be sent to Rori Paloski DNR Bureau of Endangered Resources, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Rori Paloski, 608-264-6040


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Last Revised: Tuesday, May 28, 2013

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