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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published January 22, 2014

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Natural Resources Board approves rules to implement Deer Trustee Report for 2014 season

MADISON - The Natural Resources Board approved today emergency rules to begin implementing Deer Trustee Report recommendations on the ground, authorizing a new deer program and regulations that will be in place prior to the 2014 deer hunting season.

"This is a major milestone in the Deer Trustee Report implementation process and the future of deer management in Wisconsin," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Throughout the process, DNR has been the ears while partner groups, tribes, and the public have been the voices. This has been no small feat, and many thanks go to all who have provided input - and to DNR staff who have continued to move implementation forward. We have embraced this opportunity to build on our strong deer management foundation, and look forward to implementing the rules in cooperation with deer hunters, landowners, and other partners."

The rules revise deer hunting season frameworks, management units, and revise antlerless deer hunting permits. The rule provides additional opportunities to evaluate herd size and impacts in counties in addition to using population models to estimate the size of the herd, simplifies state park deer hunting regulations, and establishes a Deer Management Assistance Program. Not all provisions will be in implemented in time for the 2014 season. Some are delayed until 2015. The permanent rule hearings and Board approval will occur in 2014, so that it can be implemented in time for the 2015 season.

For an executive summary of the Deer Trustee Report rule package, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "deer trustee report."

"The Deer Trustee Report rule package is a culmination of the recommendations of Dr. James Kroll, a robust public outreach effort involving volunteer action team implementation proposals, surveys, online feedback, 35 public hearings, conservation roundtables, and stakeholder feedback," Stepp said. "This is Wisconsin's deer herd, not the DNR's, and these rules are reflective of Wisconsin's desires for enhancing deer management in the state."

The implementation of the approved rules will involve public outreach to inform hunters, landowners and others about changes and opportunities prior to deer season. From here, the department will proceed with development of draft permanent rules with anticipated public review and Natural Resources Board action in 2014.

For more information, please visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "deer trustee report."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Hauge, DNR wildlife management bureau director, 608-266-2193; Eric Lobner, Deer Trustee Report implementation coordinator, 608-235-0860

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Conditions ripe for an exciting sturgeon spearing season

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: DNR experts will be on hand to answer all your questions about sturgeon next Tuesday, January 28, 2014. The chat begins at 12 noon. You can join the conversation by going to the DNR website dnr.wi.gov and clicking on the chat graphic, or by visiting the DNR Facebook page (facebook.com\WIDNR) and clicking the "Cover it Live Chat" graphic on the top.

FOX VALLEY, Wis. - Some very big fish - with the heft of heavy weight boxers - are cruising below the thick ice of Lake Winnebago as the 2014 sturgeon spearing season approaches.

And this frigid winter, while it's been wreaking havoc on motorists and pedestrians, is setting the stage for what could be a record-busting year for spear fishermen. The season opens at 7 a.m. Feb. 8.

Ryan Koenigs, Winnebago sturgeon biologist for the state Department of Natural Resources, said water clarity is the most important factor in predicting spearing success, and when it was checked recently, visibility extended 12 to 14 feet below the surface throughout much of the lake.

"Fisheries staff is forecasting an above average harvest if these conditions hold," Koenigs said.

Spearing hours this year will shift a half hour forward on the clock, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., with fishermen having until 2 p.m. to register any sturgeon harvested that day.

Arctic weather has capped Lake Winnebago with ice more than a foot thick, making travel conditions safer for fishermen who use vehicles to transport fishing shacks and gear. Ice conditions can change rapidly, however, and veteran sturgeon hunters know to check them daily.

Still, DNR fisheries staff believes the 2014 season has the potential to enter the history book with large fish.

"A record 9.5 percent of the sturgeon harvested from Lake Winnebago during the 2013 season weighed in excess of 100 pounds," Koenigs said, "and we have routinely observed fish larger than 200 pounds in recent spring surveys."

Moreover, eight of the 11 largest fish ever harvested from the system have been registered during the past four years, including the state-record, 212.2-pound lake sturgeon harvested in 2010. And that's not the biggest bruiser around. A DNR fisheries crew captured and tagged a 87.5-inch, 240-pound sturgeon in April 2012, and that fish was not harvested in 2013.

A total of 11,823 licenses have been sold for this spearing season, 11,355 for Lake Winnebago and 468 for the upriver lakes of Butte des Morts, Winneconne and Poygan. This is down 6.1 percent from sales in 2013 but still ranks as the fourth largest number of licenses ever sold.

In the meantime, the popularity of the upriver lakes fishery continues to grow as a record 5,863 people applied for an upriver lakes license (of which 500 licenses were authorized for purchase through a lottery system). Interest in this fishery has more than doubled since the current lottery system was implemented 2007.

The harvest caps are the same as they have been the last two years - 400 juvenile females, 828 adult females and 1,200 males.

Spearers - now able to transfer upriver lakes spear licenses to youngsters aged 12 to17 - can do so by filing a transfer-of-license form at least 15 days before the 2014 sturgeon spear fishery, which means by the end of business this week.

The deadline for purchasing a spearing license was Oct. 31 with two exceptions: Wisconsin residents who turn 12 (the minimum age) between Nov. 1, 2013, and the final day of the 2014 spearing season and Wisconsin residents serving in the Armed Forces who are home on leave during the 2014 spearing season.

For more information and updates on the season progress, search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keywords "sturgeon spearing."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ryan Koenigs, DNR senior fisheries biologist, 920-303-5450 or Ed Culhane, DNR public affairs manager, 715-781-1683

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Researchers resume search for signs of white-nose syndrome in Wisconsin bat caves

MADISON - State bat scientists are going underground starting this week to see if Wisconsin's bat caves and mines continue to be free of white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease that has killed millions of bats in the eastern U.S. since 2007. They also are asking the public to keep an eye out above ground for any signs of sick or dead bats.

"We need help from the public to save Wisconsin bats," says Paul White, a Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist. "Bats are an important part of our ecosystems and provide Wisconsin farmers up to $1.5 billion in natural pest control every year.

"Please be on the look-out for and report unusual bat behavior like finding dead bats at summer roosts in January and February or observing bats flying outside in January and February." Information on how and where to report bats can be found on the Wisconsin Bat Program website (exit DNR).

White-nose syndrome is named after the powdery white fuzz that can develop on hibernating bats' noses, ears and wings after infection with the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. The disease causes bats to wake more often while they are hibernating, thus burning up the critical stores of fat they need to make it through winter, he says.

So for the fourth year in a row, White and his colleagues will be looking in caves and mines for signs of the fuzzy white fungus.

"We remain cautiously optimistic that we will avoid the disease again this year, but are prepared for what happens if we find white-nose syndrome," says White.

"Fall (2013) swabbing results yielded good news in that we did not detect the fungus responsible for white-nose syndrome, so our hibernacula continue to have a clean bill of health," he says.

"But we remain on high alert because of the last years' discoveries of the fungus in Minnesota and white-nose syndrome in Illinois."

DNR's pro-active approach in managing and monitoring for white nose syndrome WNS continues to serve as a strong model for other states, White says. DNR added four cave bat species to the state threatened species list, providing them protections and focusing management efforts; put in place administrative rules that give the department authority to manage bats and establish disease prevention and control options; have built working relationships with landowners of mines and caves and helped them take actions to keep the disease at bay; and have pursued outreach efforts ranging from enlisting volunteers to monitor bat roosts or build bat houses or just enjoy the "Bat Festival" educational event -- set for Oct. 4 this year at the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee.

"It's hard not to look at Wisconsin on the WNS map and ask, "why haven't they found WNS yet?" White says. "We would like to think management efforts such as pre-screening cave/mine visitors to minimize the risk of human transmission of the fungus, along with raising awareness of bat importance, has afforded us another year that Wisconsin can remain WNS free."

Read Cave Drama in the February 2013 issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources to learn more about WNS and check out the latest edition of the Wisconsin Bat Program's newsletter, Echolocator [PDF] (exit DNR), to see how citizens are going to bat for bats, or search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keyword "bats."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul White 608-267-0813 Heather Kaarakka, 608-266-2576; Jennifer Redell, 608-267-0281

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State Endangered and Threatened Species List revisions take effect

MADISON -Fifteen native birds, plants and other animals have been removed from Wisconsin's endangered and threatened species list effective Jan. 1, 2014. Some have rebounded as a result of protections and management efforts to increase their populations, while others were found to be more numerous than originally thought after targeted survey efforts.

Eight other species, including the black tern, the federally endangered Kirtland's warbler, and the upland sandpiper, have been added to the list because they are considered to be in jeopardy now or in the near future. Five invertebrates -- the beach-dune tiger beetle, ottoe skipper, a leafhopper, an Issid planthopper, and fawnsfoot mussel, were added as well to the list.

"This revised list recognizes our success in working with citizens to restore some rare species and gives others the protections and management focus they need to survive and be part of the natural heritage we leave for our children and grandchildren to enjoy," says Erin Crain, who leads the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Bureau.

Wisconsin's Endangered Species Law protects listed species by making it illegal for people to kill, transport, possess, process or sell species on the Endangered and Threatened Species list. The list also helps focus state efforts and funding to protect and enhance habitats that benefit listed species and other rare species, says Terrell Hyde, the conservation biologist who coordinated the review process.

Public and private projects that potentially disturb habitat harboring endangered and threatened species are reviewed by DNR natural heritage conservation staff to provide recommendations for land managers to follow to avoid killing the species and to expand habitat, Hyde says.

The 15 species removed from the list include seven animals: the greater redhorse, a fish; the barn owl, snowy egret, and Bewick's wren; the pygmy snaketail, a dragonfly; and two reptiles, the Blanding's turtle and Butler's gartersnake.

While the Blanding's turtle no longer meets the scientific criteria for listing as Threatened, the population is vulnerable to harvest and collection, Hyde says. To address this, DNR recently started a new administrative rule process (ER-30-13) to add the Blanding's turtle to the protected wild animals list and on rules impacting possession limits.

Other species removed from the list are eight plants: the American fever-few, bog bluegrass, Canada horse-balm, drooping sedge, prairie Indian-plantain, snowy campion, yellow gentian, and yellow giant hyssop. These species were removed for one or more of the following reasons: determination that populations are stable or increasing; new information about the populations; a positive response to protection and management efforts; and/or determination the plant no longer exists in Wisconsin, Hyde says.

Prompted by public comment, one species originally proposed for delisting, the Hemlock parsley, a plant considered extirpated, was kept on the list until a thorough survey of recently discovered potential habitat is made, Hyde says.

Wisconsin has been a leader in protecting and restoring endangered species, and in fact passed the nation's first endangered species law in 1972, preceding the federal law. Among those endangered species whose populations have recovered in Wisconsin to the degree they have been removed from the list include bald eagles, which were removed from the list in 1997, and trumpeter swans in 2009. Learn more about these successes, and view videos, interactive timelines and more multimedia in DNR's 2012 web feature series on the 40th anniversary of Wisconsin's Endangered Species Law, or search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keywords "ET List."

FOR MORE COMMENT CONTACT: Terrell Hyde, 608-264-9255

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DNR tightens firewood rules to slow wood pests travel

MADISON -- The Natural Resources Board agreed today (Jan. 22, 2014) on rules for firewood movement onto state lands that will better reduce the risk of introduction of invasive pests and diseases.

"Firewood is the primary way many tree-killing invasive pests and diseases are being moved long distances," said Andrea Diss-Torrance, Department of Natural Resources forest health specialist. "By getting firewood near where you will use it or using certified firewood, everyone can do their part to prevent spread of these pests.

When pests and diseases that can move long distances in firewood become established near or in Wisconsin, the risk of them accidentally reaching our state lands on wood allowed onto state properties increases Firewood regulations have been gradually tightened in past years in response to new information and increasing risk from invasive pests and diseases, such as emerald ash borer, oak wilt and Asian longhorned beetle. This latest restriction will keep the level of risk of long distance introduction of invasive pests to Wisconsin state lands at a lower level.

The changes supported by the board are:

These changes will take effect for the 2014 camping season.

Wood certified by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection as being treated to kill infesting organisms would continue to be accepted onto any state property regardless of the distance of origin.

"As this change is part of a gradual process increasing caution to meet an increasing risk, we anticipate that it will affect only a small number of firewood vendors," says DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "State campground managers are also working to ensure supplies of good, reasonably priced firewood are available from vendors at or near campgrounds."

Homeowners, forest-landowners and others who value Wisconsin forests and the trees in their communities are encouraged to follow the prudent example set by state properties and get their firewood locally or buy certified firewood to prevent accidental introduction of invasive pests and diseases. For more information search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keyword "firewood."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Andrea Diss-Torrance - 608-516-2223

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Feedback sought on strategic analysis for Central Sands water resources

MADISON - To help find ways to sustainably manage groundwater and surface waters in Wisconsin's Central Sands region in the future, the state is launching an effort to collect, analyze and report the latest scientific, natural resources and socio-economic information relating to groundwater and surface waters in the eight-county area, state water officials say.

The strategic analysis aims to characterize the environmental effects of water uses and to consider alternative courses of action to protect groundwater and surface water resources, says Dan Helsel, who leads water programs in central and western Wisconsin for the Department of Natural Resources.

"We all want to sustain the viable use of our groundwater that supports local farms, industries and municipalities and at the same time protects our lakes and streams. We think this analysis will provide important information and understanding to help Wisconsin do that."

Information about the strategic analysis and the topics planned to be covered can be found on the DNR website. Helsel invites people to complete an online questionnaire to provide feedback on whether there are more topics that should be covered.

"We have an outline of the kinds of information we think should be included, but we want to hear from Wisconsin citizens on whether we're missing any major topic areas," Helsel says.

Written comments also may be provided and addressed to Dan Helsel, DNR, 910 Highway 54 East, Black River Falls, WI 54615. The questionnaire and comment period runs through Feb. 28, 2014.

Because of the complexity and scope of the issues, Helsel expects the strategic analysis will take well over a year to complete the analysis.

The Central Sands area spreads across eight counties and includes more than 300 lakes and more than 800 miles of trout streams. Because the area has sandy soils that drain quickly, stream flows and lake water levels are highly influenced by groundwater levels and use, Helsel says.

Regional groundwater uses include private and public wells and high capacity wells associated with agricultural lands, municipal water supplies, and commercial and industrial facilities. Stream flows and lake levels also may be affected by surface water ditching, draining, and other activities, Helsel says.

DNR is undertaking the strategic analysis for the Central Sands region for a combination of reasons, including heightened public awareness and environmental concerns associated with declining surface water levels and increasing groundwater withdrawals. There are more than 3,070 high capacity wells in the region, and in 2012, those wells pumped more than 98 billion gallons.

"There is a wealth of information available that we want to consider in an analysis that can inform future discussions and decisions on water management in the area," Helsel says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Helsel, DNR regional water leader, 715-284-1431

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Open houses set on Marquette County Ice Age Trail corridor alternatives

MADISON - The public will have an opportunity to review and comment on proposed corridors for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Marquette County at three upcoming open house meetings.

The National Park Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Ice Age Trail Alliance are holding the open houses to present alternative corridors for the trail, and to seek input and comments from county landowners and residents. There will also be presentations about Marquette County and the Ice Age Trail.

The Ice Age Trail was authorized as a National Scenic Trail by Congress in 1980 and a State Scenic Trail in 1987. When completed, the trail will meander over 1,200 miles through some of the finest glacial scenery in Wisconsin providing day walkers, backpackers, school children, and general outdoor enthusiasts with a premier hiking and educational experience. Today, approximately half of the trail is built.

To complete the trail, the NPS, DNR, and Ice Age Trail Alliance are working with county and local units of government, interested organizations and citizens, and landowners to establish a permanent route throughout the state, including Marquette County.

During the open house meetings, maps and aerial photos will be on display for review and comment. Representatives from the three organizations will be available to answer questions and explain each partner's role in the Ice Age Trail project. Presentations to explain the location of the alternative corridors will be given at each meeting along with a presentation on a special topic. The open house meetings will be held:

The purpose of the Corridor Planning Process is to determine a general route for the trail and actively involve the public in this decision making process. In 2012, the planning team conducted field surveys to identify and map features of outstanding geologic, biologic, cultural, and scenic significance to the trail and then defined wide areas that encompass these features. In May 2013, the partners held scoping meetings for the public and local officials to provide information about the Ice Age Trail and obtain input. Since that time, the planning team has created three possible alternative corridors for the trail based on significant features, trail user needs, and the input received during the public comment phase last spring.

After obtaining public comments and suggestions, the partners will analyze the alternatives and develop one preferred alternative that is approximately 2-5 miles wide with possible route options. This preferred alternative may be a refinement of one of the alternatives or some combination of the three, depending on information we receive during this public comment phase.

This will be followed by a final series of meetings for landowners and public officials to present the recommendations and the Draft Marquette County Corridor Plan and Environmental Assessment for review and comment. The Ice Age NST Corridor Planning Process for Marquette County is expected to conclude in 2015.

All participation in the Ice Age Trail is voluntary. For landowners who are interested in allowing the Ice Age NST passage across their lands, the partners can work with them either by direct purchase (fee simple or conservation easements) or through handshake agreements. Lands purchased for the Ice Age NST by public agencies or non-profit organizations may be eligible for funding assistance under the Wisconsin State Stewardship Program and Federal grant programs. The partners do not want to acquire all of the land within the corridor. The intention is to acquire an approximate 50-1,000 foot wide trail way for the Ice Age Trail. In some areas, more land may be desired to preserve outstanding resource features or to accommodate the wishes of the landowner. This width of trail way provides for a high quality hiking experience for the public while maintaining a buffer for neighboring landowners. All land transactions are made on a willing-seller basis only.

More information is available on the NPS website www.nps.gov/iatr (exit DNR), DNR website dnr.wi.gov (search Ice Age Trail), and Ice Age Trail Alliance website (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brigit Brown, DNR 608-266-2180, NPS 608-441-5610 or Paul Holtan, Public affairs manager, 608-267-7517

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DNR hires new bear, wolf and furbearer researcher

MADISON - A new furbearer research scientist has joined the Department of Natural Resources to provide information for the management of wolves, bears, bobcats, otters and other furbearers across Wisconsin. Nathan Roberts will be located in the DNR Bureau of Science Services but will work closely with the wildlife management and natural heritage inventory bureaus to implement research projects and oversee ongoing monitoring programs.

"The goal of this position is to work with DNR managers and a variety of stakeholders to take an in-depth look at new methods and tools we can use to estimate the distribution and abundance of animal populations such as wolves," said Karl Martin, Wildlife and Forestry Research Section chief.

A five-year wolf project aims to improve the accuracy of population estimates and identify alternative methods to track population changes over time. Other projects focus on tracking bear and bobcat range expansion which will provide further input on annual hunting quotas and harvest zones.

Robert's previous research experiences include working with furbearers and carnivores at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and most recently with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Karl Martin, 608-224-7138, karl.martin@wisconsin.gov

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State council proposes actions based on DNR plastics recycling study

MADISON - The Wisconsin Council on Recycling has approved a set of recommendations designed to stimulate job creation and economic growth through increased plastics recycling.

Prompted by a 2012 study commissioned by the Department of Natural Resources, which indicated some $64 million worth of used plastics are landfilled in Wisconsin each year, the council coordinated a stakeholder process with the DNR in 2013 to identify specific actions that would divert plastics away from landfilling and direct them toward use as raw materials in manufacturing.

Participants in the collaborative process included a cross section of business leaders and recycling professionals and resulted in recommendations adopted by the council at a special meeting in the fall.

The council approved recommendations in the form of a coordinated set of projects. Examples include increasing recovery of plastic bottles at highly visible public events and sports venues; increasing awareness and opportunities to recycle discarded commercial plastic packaging, highly valued by manufacturers and processors; and increasing opportunities for recycling of agricultural plastics, thereby reducing potential release of toxic air emissions caused by illicit burning of these materials.

Recycling Council Chairman Rick Meyers noted that the council's initiative has garnered attention from Wisconsin companies involved in the plastics industry, as well as national trade associations and other state and local government agencies.

"The approach has been to target actions that can be successfully implemented now, within existing budgets and policies, and that are supported by the private and public sectors," said Meyers.

Some of the projects expand on existing initiatives and are already off to a strong start. For example, the DNR recently entered into a pilot project with plastics industry leaders to increase the recovery of plastic film, including bags and product wrap, from consumers at store drop-offs and from businesses, distributors and warehouses where plastic wrapping is heavily used.

The pilot project targeted the greater Milwaukee area, but under the council's recommendations will now extend throughout the state, working through community recycling programs, retail and other commercial establishments and national trade associations.

Future phases of the campaign may seek additional private and public sector investment to improve plastics recycling infrastructure.

Search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for "council on recycling" to find out more information.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Meyers, Wisconsin Council on Recycling, 414-286-2334

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State gas station operators get helping hand from DNR with 2014 compliance calendars

MADISON - Gas station operators in Wisconsin can use a handy calendar from the Department of Natural Resources to help them comply with state laws and regulations in 2014.

The agency's 2014 Gas Station Compliance Calendar [PDF] offers several helpful tools for operators, including highlighted regulatory changes, extra space for important record-keeping and fact sheets summarizing regulations.

"The calendar is a great DNR business tool," said Bart Sponseller, director for the department's Air Management Bureau. "It continues to be one of our more popular publications."

Sponseller added that this year's calendar highlights changes to the requirements for stage II vapor recovery operation and decommissioning, and the availability of DNR grant funding for removing stage II systems.

The department will mail the gas station calendars in late January. If operators keep their calendars on file for five years, they can serve as a gas station's official record.

The DNR offers two such compliance calendars - the agency has also published and mailed 2014-2015 calendars to dry cleaner operators. Copies of both calendars can be ordered by contacting the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program at 855-889-3021, or via email at DNRSmallBusiness@wisconsin.gov.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Lisa Ashenbrenner-Hunt, 608-266-8401

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Wednesday, January 22, 2014




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