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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published May 6, 2014

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Drinking Water Week - Think before you drink and celebrate the Amazing!

Every day of every week millions of Wisconsinites will experience something amazing and likely never think twice about it. They'll turn on their faucets, drink from a water fountain, bake bread or brew beer and seemingly without effort, be provided with safe drinking water. That's amazing!

And that's why we celebrate National Drinking Water Week. This year, it's also the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the primary law safeguarding the water we drink and use every day in our homes and businesses.

In Wisconsin, we are fortunate that water is plentiful and that, with very little effort, literally turning on your tap, we have water that is safe.

Our state has more public water systems than any other state - more than 11,400 and growing. Year in and year out, 96 percent of these systems have provided water that meets all health-based standards. None of their water samples contained contaminants above the standards set to protect our health.

Results like this don't happen without the concerted efforts of many men and women who work behind the scenes to deliver safe water -- local operators, county health officials, public utilities, state drinking and groundwater staff, association staff, testing laboratories and consultants, to name a few.

It's people like the local operators who worked long, hard hours and weekends to keep water mains from bursting as the harsh winter lingered on. It's Lee Boushon, who has worked for more than 35 years at DNR to assure that water systems are designed correctly, operated correctly and monitored properly and on time to keep you safe. And it's Dave Lawrence, whose Wisconsin Rural Water Association provides training to thousands of operators and then shows up to help them find solutions when crises arise.

Without them and without safe drinking water, our lives and our livelihoods would be much different.

Nearly 1 billion people in the developing world walk on average 3.5 miles to get water to drink. And when they get it home, they can't be assured it will be safe to drink.

Now think about the water that comes from your tap and fuels your business.

Think about how much that time savings and confidence means to our daily lives and to the success of your business. Think about how difficult things are when our water service is disrupted.

Take the time and think about how valuable and how precious safe drinking water really is. Read over our special multi-media Web page saluting the progress made under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

And then take the time to thank the people who work in the drinking water industry for their dedication and hard work. Let's raise a glass in celebration and appreciation for those who work behind the scenes and in the trenches to make the amazing possible - Safe Drinking Water.

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

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Wisconsin moves into first place in number of public water suppliers

National Drinking Water Week a time to reflect on gains and the way forward

MADISON - Forty years after the Safe Drinking Water Act, Wisconsin has more public water suppliers than any other state and is a leader in providing safe water to sustain citizens and leading industries, state environmental officials say.

"The changes in how we deliver, test and disinfect water in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the United States is a tremendous success story," says Jill Jonas, who leads the Department of Natural Resources Drinking and Groundwater program.

"Generally, you can travel anywhere in Wisconsin and in the United States and feel confident about drinking a glass of water. That wasn't the case 100 years ago. You weren't assured of the water's safety, and it had a tremendous impact on our public's health," she says.

In 1910, for instance, Wisconsin's State Board of Health reported an incidence of waterborne typhoid fever in Wisconsin at a rate of 105 cases per 100,000 population.

Wisconsin had 11,409 public water supplies in 2012, surpassing Michigan with 11,044. Public drinking water systems provide at least 25 people drinking water for at least 60 days out of the year and range from municipal water suppliers to the state's largest cities to the churches, schools and taverns that provide water to their users.

Even as their numbers have grown in Wisconsin and they are required to monitor for more contaminants, Wisconsin's public water systems have maintained an exemplary track record of delivering safe water, Jonas says.

In 2012, the latest year for which figures are available, 96 percent of these public water systems had no water samples exceeding health-based standards for regulated contaminants.

"That's a real credit to the local operators, the state staff, the association members and everybody else who has a role in providing safe drinking water," Jonas says. "We often take our drinking water for granted because of the work they do day-in and day-out so that all we have to do is turn on the tap."

Jonas chairs the federal council that provides recommendations to EPA on issues related to the national drinking water program.

She says that as much progress as has been made under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the nation and citizens will need to embrace new and better ways to meet the challenge of providing safe water in the future.

"The Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act really did make significant improvements in our water quality but protecting sources of drinking water is the key for the future. There are tens of thousands of potential contaminates and we're never going to be able to use the approach we're using now. There is no way to keep up."

Jonas says that in Wisconsin and nationally, water officials are working on how to better connect regulatory tools and incentives so that they encourage practices that benefit both surface waters, like lakes and rivers, and drinking water supplies.

For example, practices that reduce contaminants found in commercial fertilizers, septic systems, animal waste and other sources from reaching lakes, rivers and groundwater will benefit our drinking water, she says. And addressing these practices on a local scale can be far more cost effective than paying for a multi-million dollar treatment plant to remove them from drinking water.

"What we've achieved so far is good news. We have to keep moving in that direction," she says. "We have so much groundwater and surface water we are truly fortunate. It's a gift not seen anywhere else in the world. So we have a responsibility to protect that as best we can."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jill Jonas, 608-267-7545

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Report: vast majority of lakes supporting fishing and swimming

Volunteers, technology, help deliver clearer picture of water quality in Wisconsin waters

MADISON - A dedicated corps of citizen volunteers and improvements in databases and technology have enabled Wisconsin to check the health of more lakes than ever before, with more than two-thirds of the assessed lakes and rivers found to support the fishing and swimming they should be able to support, a newly released report shows.

"Thanks to the hard work and innovation by our staff, scientific partners and citizen volunteers, we have a clearer picture than ever of the health of Wisconsin's waters," says Susan Sylvester, who leads DNR's water quality programs.

"There is good news: most of the waters assessed are supporting the fishing and swimming they're expected to support," she says. "We will continue to work with local governments and partners to improve and protect these waters while focusing on those lakes and river segments where monitoring showed they are impaired."

Under the federal Clean Water Act, Wisconsin and other states must submit every two years to the federal government a report that summarizes current water quality conditions and describes the states' programs for monitoring those waters and for protecting and improving them.

Brian Weigel, who lead's DNR's water evaluation section, says that Wisconsin's 2014 Water Quality Report to Congress assesses a significantly greater number of waters than ever before. DNR staff, partnering scientists and citizen volunteers collect water samples and assess populations of fish, insects and other aquatic life to gauge the health of individual waters and to represent waters as a class. More than 1,200 volunteers collected data on 800 lakes; their information was used in conjunction with satellite imagery to predict water clarity on lakes that otherwise would not have been monitored.

"Wisconsin's creative approach to assessing its waters is recognized as an 'act to follow' among other state agencies," Sylvester says. "Wisconsin has an abundance of waters - more than 15,000 lakes, and 88,000 river miles, for starters, and our assessments help us understand where we are now, what we need to continue to improve, and trends we need to watch for the future."

The 22-page executive summary of the online report highlights the range of water quality monitoring and assessments DNR does for different purposes. Some waters are randomly selected for monitoring to help build a representative sample of lakes; others are targeted for monitoring because DNR suspects there might be potential problems because of historical pollution, as with harbors or along major industrial rivers.

Highlights include:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Weigel, 608-266-9277

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Catch the wildflower show at State Natural Areas and State Parks

Explore on your own or enjoy 10 guided walks at state parks

MADISON - Just in time for Mother's Day, Wisconsin's wildflowers are starting to put on a show.

Wisconsin State Natural Areas and state parks and forests are great places to see these colorful harbingers of spring, whether to explore at leisure or during the 10 guided wildflower walks offered at state parks in coming weeks.

"Wildflowers thrive in these areas that have been largely undisturbed, so just about any of our State Natural Areas are a great place to find wildflowers," says Thomas Meyer, conservation biologist who works with State Natural Areas.

Wisconsin has 673 State Natural Areas that protect forests, prairies, and wetlands and the incredible diversity of plants that call them home.

Meyer has created a slide show that highlights six sites that offer good viewing, but says that flower lovers will be in luck at just about any property.

Those State Natural Areas are:

  • Tellock's Hill Woods in Waupaca County;
  • Eureka Maple Woods in Monroe County;
  • Rush Creek in Crawford County;
  • Port Wing Boreal Forest in Bayfield County ;
  • Frog Lake and Pines in Iron County;
  • Genesee Oak Opening and Fen in Waukesha County;
  • Moonlight Bay Bedrock Beach in Door County
  • State Natural Areas are specially designated sites that preserve nearly 400,000 acres and are vital refuges for endangered plants and animals: 90 percent of Wisconsin's endangered plant species and 75 percent of endangered wildlife species can be found on State Natural Areas.

    Two-thirds of these State Natural Areas are owned by DNR in trust for the citizens of Wisconsin; 51 other agencies, organizations, local governments, land trusts and private citizens have designated State Natural Areas on their own lands. Most of these areas are open for all the outdoor sports and allow people to pursue these activities in some of the state's most unique and special natural places.

    Wildflower walks at state parks

    Join state park naturalists and volunteers for wildflower walks or hikes at five state parks and one wildlife area in coming weeks. The walks and hikes are free but park vehicle admission stickers are required for entrance to parks.

    Wednesday, May 7 & 21, 2014

    Saturday, May 10, 17, 24 & 31 2014

    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    Sunday, May 11

    Saturday, May 24, 2014

    Sunday, June 8, 2014

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Thomas Meyer, State Natural Areas, 608-266-0394 or Paul Holtan, state parks, 608-267-7517

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    Grosbeaks Galore workshop May 31 in Ashland

    Workshop focuses on attracting migratory birds to a property

    ASHLAND, Wis. - A "Grosbeaks Galore -Birds on Your Landscape" workshop is now accepting registrations for the May 31 session in Ashland.

    The workshop is held at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center at 29270 County Highway G in Ashland and starts at 9 a.m., with check-in beginning at 8:15 a.m. The session, which costs $20, includes lunch and snacks, says Kim Grveles, a workshop coordinator and Department of Natural Resources avian biologist who coordinates the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative. Register at the Grosbeaks Galore website: grosbeaksgalore.wix.com (exit DNR).

    "This day-long workshop offers a unique opportunity to learn more about attracting migratory birds to your property," she says. "Come and enjoy our excellent speakers, exhibits, field tours and more. You'll be inspired to foster native habitat on your property and to promote an appreciation for the natural world in our neighborhood."

    Grveles says that Wisconsin landowners, particularly those in northern Wisconsin, Bird City committee members, municipal park volunteers and anyone with an interest in helping Wisconsin's migratory birds will enjoy the workshop.

    The keynote speaker is Laura Erickson, an avid birder since 1975, who has been a columnist for BirdWatching magazine, science editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and written seven books, including the National Geographic Pocket Guide to North American Birds and 101 Ways to Help Birds. Other speakers include Grveles, Bill Volkert, retired longtime DNR naturalist and educator at Horicon Marsh, and Vicki Piaskowski, an ornithologist and bird bander who has conducted research on birds in Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Belize, Central America.

    Attendees will participate in field tours covering topics including:

    Every spring and fall, tens of millions of migrating birds sweep through the Great Lakes region and stop at a variety of sites on their way to breeding grounds as far north as Greenland, the Arctic Ocean, and wintering grounds as far south as Argentina's Tierra del Fuego, she says. These stopover sites provide birds with critical food and shelter during migration. Loss of stopover habitats poses an ongoing threat to the health and stability of migratory bird populations in the Great Lakes region.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Grveles, 608-843-5729

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    Wisconsin schools take the Plastic Film Recycling Challenge

    MADISON - In 2014, Wisconsin students kept more than 8,000 pounds of recyclable plastic bags and film out of landfills by working together and harnessing the power of school pride.

    As part of the statewide Wrap Recycling Action Program, or WRAP, the Department of Natural Resources encouraged schools to take the annual Plastic Film Recycling Challenge. The challenge, hosted by the Trex Company, lets schools compete to see which one can collect the most recyclable plastic film.

    The material - including grocery and other retail bags, case overwrap and stretchy plastic packaging - is recycled to make wood-composite for porches, decks and other construction projects. This year 19 Wisconsin schools participated.

    More on plastic film recycling and the WRAP initiative can be found by visiting the DNR website dnr.wi.gov and searching for "plastic film."

    Spurred on by WRAP, efforts began in the city of Milwaukee last fall. The city served as a pilot site for building statewide plastic film recycling awareness. By engaging students of all ages and schools of all sizes, the challenge encourages young people to learn about the benefits of recycling plastic materials and rewards them for their participation.

    In Milwaukee alone, participating schools collected more than 7,300 pounds of recyclable plastic film. The most plastic film in pounds was collected at Bruce Guadalupe Community School, while Hawley Environmental School and St. Sebastian School were close runners-up. In the statewide challenge, participating schools collected more than 1,300 pounds. The most film in pounds was collected at Nuestro Mundo Community School in Monona.

    "It's been our most successful year yet and it's all thanks to the schools!" said Stephanie Hicks, Trex Materials Resource coordinator.

    All participating schools in 2014 won a birdhouse made from Trex products to reward their efforts. Hawley Environmental and Northeast Wisconsin Montessori each received a Trex Company bench for having recorded the highest amount of pounds per student in their respective zones.

    Milwaukee participants in 2014 included Bruce Guadalupe Community School, Craig Montessori School, Doerfler Elementary, Hawley Environmental School, Humboldt Park School, H.W. Longfellow School, MacDowell Montessori School, Milwaukee Environmental Sciences, Milwaukee Parkside, Rogers St. Academy, Ronald Reagan IB High School, Rufus King High School, St. Sebastian School and Starms Early Childhood.

    Statewide participating schools included Albany Elementary in Albany, Northeast Wisconsin Montessori in Cleveland, Nuestro Mundo Community School in Monona and Lake View Elementary and Madison Elementary in Madison.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION: Elisabeth Olson, 608-264-9258

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    Four Wisconsin Green & Healthy Schools honored as national Green Ribbon Schools

    MADISON - Four Wisconsin schools involved in the state's Green & Healthy Schools program have been honored as national Green Ribbon Schools. For the second year in a row, Wisconsin had more honorees than any other participating state.

    Green & Healthy Schools is a partnership program of the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Public Instruction [exit DNR] and the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education [exit DNR].

    Green Ribbon Schools is a U.S. Department of Education program that recognizes schools participating in activities that promote and encourage a healthy and environmentally friendly learning environment.

    The state's Green and Healthy Schools program supports and encourages schools to create safe learning environments and prepare students to understand, analyze and address the major environmental and sustainability challenges now and in the future. The schools provide resources, recognition and certification, and are recognized as Project Learning Tree GreenSchools! and eligible for additional funding and professional development opportunities.

    These four Green & Healthy Schools received Green Ribbon awards among only 48 schools recognized nationwide:

    Additionally, the Greendale School District was among only nine nationwide to receive the program's District Sustainability Award.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Cindy Koepke, 608-267-7622

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    2014 disabled gun deer hunt provides great opportunity for hunters with disabilities and interested landowners

    MADISON -- Sponsors and landowners interested in hosting a gun hunt for deer hunters with disabilities are reminded that the deadline to submit an application is June 1. The 2014 disabled hunt will take place Oct. 4 to 12.

    For an online application, search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keywords "disabled deer hunt." If sponsors do not have access to an online application, please contact Dan Kaminski, Assistant Big Game Ecologist, at 608-261-7588 for a physical copy. Sponsors are encouraged to own at least 60 acres of land and will be required to allow other interested disabled hunters to use their land during the disabled deer hunt.

    In 2013, 108 sponsors worked closely with landowners and made over 78,000 acres of land available to hunters with disabilities. These sponsors and landowners provided opportunities for over 260 disabled hunters to get out into the field and enjoy the outdoors.

    "The new online application created in 2013 helped to streamline the application process for both hunt sponsors, hunters and DNR staff," said Kaminski. "Disabled hunters are now able to see which properties are enrolled in the hunt sooner than in previous years. Our sincere gratitude goes out to all of the hunt sponsors, landowners and volunteers."

    A full list of hunt sponsors will be available on DNR's website after June 1. Sponsors are required to submit a list of participants no later than Sept. 1. A list of participating hunters can be submitted online. Interested hunters are encouraged to contact sponsors as soon as possible.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Kaminski, Assistant Big Game Ecologist, 608-261-7588

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    Statewide permit and authorization for grassland management may result in the incidental take of rare bird

    MADISON -- A broad incidental take permit and authorization for grassland and savanna management in Wisconsin would be revised to include the greater prairie chicken, under a proposal from the Department of Natural Resources that is open for public comment.

    The permit and authorization allows for the "incidental taking" of specific endangered and threatened species that may occur as a result of grassland and savanna management activities in Wisconsin. 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.

    The proposes to revise the Broad Incidental Take Authorization for Grassland and Savanna Management was originally approved in 2000 and has since been revised several times. This revision will update protocols for one threatened species: greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus).

    The disturbance caused by grassland and savanna management may result in some mortality, however grassland and savanna species are dependent upon management to set back natural succession and take is minimized by following protocols designed for each species. Department staff concluded that the grassland and savanna management activities covered under this permit and authorization would minimize impacts to the greater prairie chicken by adhering to conservation measures; is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence or appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and/or recovery of the state population of this species or the whole plant-animal community of which it is a part and the habitat that is critical to its existence; 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 Permit/Authorization. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on the greater prairie chicken are available by searching the DNR website for incidental take public notice or upon request from Rori Paloski at 608-264-6040. Public comments will be taken through June 5, 2014 and should be sent to Rori Paloski, Conservation Biologist, Wisconsin DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

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

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    Read more: Previous Weekly News

    Last Revised: Tuesday, May 06, 2014




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