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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published July 15, 2014

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2014 spring waterfowl surveys reflect mostly good to excellent breeding populations

USFWS survey shows highest US waterfowl population in 59-year history

MADISON - Waterfowl breeding populations in 2014 are mostly good to excellent in Wisconsin and North America, according to recent surveys by state, federal and Canadian wildlife officials.

The surveys were conducted by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The USFWS survey showed the highest North American duck population estimate in the 59-year history of the survey.

"While some recent variations in state level waterfowl surveys are difficult to interpret overall, we have excellent news regarding waterfowl populations in North America," said Kent Van Horn, DNR migratory waterfowl biologist. "Population data is good to excellent across North America with good wetland conditions to support promising local and continental duck and goose populations."

The full report is available by searching the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for "waterfowl breeding population survey [PDF]."

In addition to Wisconsin's breeding population study, two additional sources of information regarding yearly waterfowl breeding conditions are used to determine fall season structure.

A cooperative survey organized by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources provides annual data on Canada geese. Roughly 60 percent of Wisconsin's regular goose season harvest is supported by Canada geese nesting in northern Ontario.

A final piece of supplemental information is provided by the USFWS through their breeding waterfowl survey for the northern U.S., Canada and Alaska.

Ducks

Waterfowl breeding areas in North America showed mostly good to excellent conditions in 2014. The quality of duck breeding is expected to be high overall. Wetland conditions were on the rise in all regions of Wisconsin's breeding waterfowl survey - this should provide good brood rearing habitat. However, widespread flooding, a late winter and irregular migration timing impacted survey conditions and created challenges in generating state population estimates.

The four most abundant ducks in Wisconsin's fall hunting harvest make up close to 75 percent of the total harvest and include mallards, wood ducks, green-winged teal and blue-winged teal. Van Horn notes that many of the mallards and wood ducks harvested in Wisconsin come from birds that breed in Wisconsin, while about two-thirds of the blue-winged teal harvested in Wisconsin are raised in other prairie regions. Most green-winged teal migrate into Wisconsin from boreal forests in Canada.

"The recent trend of wet conditions, increasing duck numbers and liberal regulations is very exciting," said Van Horn. "Many older waterfowl hunters have experienced years with drought, shorter seasons and low breeding populations -- with the help of many agencies, conservation organizations and hunters, we have placed ourselves in a position to enjoy great hunting all over the continent."

In Wisconsin, the spring waterfowl survey provided mixed results, with a total breeding population estimate of roughly 395,000 ducks. This estimate shows a decrease from 2013 and is below the long term average.

"These are population estimates, not exact counts, so changes of 20 percent (whether an increase or decrease) may not reflect any real change in the actual population and are best viewed as trends," Van Horn said.

The trend in the total breeding duck population in Wisconsin has been relatively consistent the last ten years in the range of 500,000 total ducks. The mallard and wood duck portions of this state total have provided more stable contributions, while the blue-winged teal and "other duck" survey estimates have been more variable.

Mallards are the number one duck in the fall bag, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the total fall duck harvest in Wisconsin. The 2014 continental mallard population estimate of 10.9 million is the second highest on record. The Wisconsin mallard population estimate of 159,000 is statistically unchanged from 2013 and consistent with a stable trend experienced over the past ten years.

The second most abundant duck in Wisconsin, registering at close to 20 percent of the total fall harvest, is the wood duck. The 2014 breeding population estimate of 104,000 is similar to 2013 and consistent with a stable trend experienced over the last ten years.

The continental blue-winged teal estimate of 8.5 million was the third highest for that species, while the 2014 Wisconsin blue-winged teal breeding population estimate of 34,000 is down from 2013. A trend in the state population estimate for blue-winged teal for the last 10 years is not clear, due to challenging survey issues and high annual variation in population estimates.

Conservation funding and the efforts of Wisconsin's waterfowl hunters have protected and managed wetland and upland habitats crucial to the maintenance of these breeding duck populations statewide.

Canada Geese

The 2014 Wisconsin breeding Canada goose population estimate of 126,000 was similar to 2013 and the average spanning the last decade. Wisconsin's resident breeding Canada goose population may be stabilizing at 120,000 after a long term increase.

"We expect a healthy Canada goose population this fall, particularly for the Early September Canada goose season (Sept. 1-15 with a five-bird daily bag limit), which makes up one-third of our total statewide goose harvest" said Van Horn.

According to Van Horn, two populations of Canada geese represent most of the geese in Wisconsin during the fall. Wisconsin's locally breeding Canada geese represent over 90 percent of the goose harvest for the early season from Sept. 1-15 and about 40 percent of the harvest during the later regular goose season.

Most of the remaining 60 percent of regular season goose harvest is supported by a second population of Canada geese that breed along the Hudson Bay coast in northern Ontario. Although Wisconsin shares this population with other states, it is unique in that these birds comprise over half of the state's annual harvest. In neighboring states, like Minnesota, locally breeding birds comprise the majority of harvest. This breeding population of Canada geese appears to be at normal levels, with an estimated 2014 breeding population of 323,099. These data are similar to estimates in 2013 and the long term average.

Overall, 2014 looks to be an excellent year for duck and Canada goose populations. With survey data now available, federal and state biologists are conducting analyses and harvest projections to help form hunting season structure in the coming weeks. As a part of this process, DNR staff will meet with state, federal and provincial agencies at the Mississippi Flyway Council meeting in late July. Following the council meeting and USFWS Regulations Committee meetings, these organizations will use further coordination to guide 2014 waterfowl hunting regulations.

For more information, please visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "waterfowl."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent Van Horn, DNR migratory game bird ecologist, 608-266-8841

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Comments sought on Lake Michigan fisheries management plan update

MADISON -- State fisheries biologists are revising the long-term fisheries management plan for Wisconsin's Lake Michigan waters and invite the public to provide input during a second round of public review. Lake Michigan has seen drastic ecological changes in recent years and the new plan will guide fisheries management through the next 10 years.

"We listened to what the public said during an initial public input session and incorporated some of those ideas along with our own thoughts in this draft 10-year plan," said Brad Eggold, Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Now, it's time to see whether we are on track with the expectations and desires of the public. We're planning a second round of meetings in early August to give stakeholders additional opportunities for input."

All of the meetings will run from 6 to 8 p.m. and are set for:

The Wisconsin DNR manages Lake Michigan fisheries in partnership with other state, federal and tribal agencies and in consultation with the public, particularly sport and commercial fishers. The draft 2015-2024 Lake Michigan Integrated Fisheries Management Plan focuses on five areas or visions for the future:

"Over the last 10-year planning cycle, we have made good progress and accomplished much of what we set out to do in our previous plan," Eggold said. "We've managed chinook salmon populations to fuel a decade of fantastic fishing. Supplies of trout and salmon for stocking have been enhanced following renovation of the Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery while sturgeon and musky stocking also has improved. In addition, we've removed some barriers to fish passage and constructed a natural fish passage on the Milwaukee River."

However, over the last decade Lake Michigan has undergone major ecological changes and is less productive due to the arrival and proliferation of the exotic quagga mussel. These small freshwater mussels remove large quantities of plankton as they filter the water, short circuiting the food chain and ultimately leaving less for prey fish to eat while negatively impacting some important fish species such as yellow perch.

Beyond the difficulties caused by invasive species, an additional challenge is the need to maintain, update and operate the state's fish production system, including renovating the Kettle Moraine Springs State Fish Hatchery in Sheboygan County, which produces all the steelhead rainbow trout stocked in Lake Michigan.

"Given the challenges and opportunities before us, input from anglers and others is critical in developing a plan that keeps Lake Michigan healthy and reflects the interests of sport and commercial anglers," Eggold said.

People who are interested in commenting can find the draft plan and summary information by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "Lake Michigan Plan." In addition to providing verbal comments at the public meetings, written comments can be sent to a special email address created for the plan: DNRLakeMichiganPlan@Wisconsin.gov. Written comments also can be mailed to: Brad Eggold, Department of Natural Resources, Great Lakes Water Institute, 600 E. Greenfield Ave., Milwaukee, WI, 53204.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Eggold, Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor, Bradley.Eggold@wisconsin.gov, 414-382-7921; Michael Donofrio fisheries supervisor, Michael.Donofrio@wisconsin.gov, Jennifer Sereno, communications, 608- 770-8084; Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov.

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Wisconsin drinking water systems still top-notch

Health-based violations remain low, with 96 percent of systems reporting no violations

MADISON - Wisconsin public water supply systems continued their excellent record of serving water that met all health-based standards in 2013, a recently released report shows.

In addition, 32 communities received low interest loans or grants from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to help upgrade water treatment plants, pipes and other infrastructure to improve drinking water safety.

"Wisconsin's water systems continued their exemplary performance over the past year while making important progress to safeguard our water for the future," said Jill Jonas, director of DNR's drinking water and groundwater bureau. "This record of achievement reflects an exceptional level of public and private collaboration as operators work to implement the latest science-based practices into their daily system management."

In 2013, 96 percent, or 10,908 of 11,409 public water systems, met all health-based standards. These systems had no water samples exceeding health-based standards for regulated contaminants. That's the same proportion as in 2012 and for most of the last decade.

However, 2013 did bring a concerning increase in the number of systems with an unhealthy amount of nitrate found while testing. In all, 56 public water systems exceeded the nitrate standard in 2013.

Nitrate is found in fertilizer, manure and other wastes and nitrate levels above 10 milligrams per liter in drinking water are a concern for human health. Infants and women who are or may become pregnant should not consume any water that exceeds this standard and all people should avoid long-term consumption of water with high nitrate levels.

Public drinking water systems routinely test for nitrate. If nitrate levels exceed the standard, the smallest public water systems -- motels, restaurants, parks, taverns, churches and campgrounds -- must post a placard indicating that the sensitive population of women and infants should not consume the water. These small system operators also must provide bottled water upon request. All other categories of public water systems must treat their water for nitrate or provide an alternative source if they exceed the standard.

Despite the challenges related to nitrate levels, overall violations for health-based standards remained low; the number of all public water systems with water samples testing high for one or more contaminants was 4.4 percent, or 504 systems. Of these, the smallest systems had the highest number of violations, accounting for about 75 percent of health-based violations. Bacterial violations again ranked as the most common health-based violation, followed by violations for nitrates and radioactivity.

A violation of a maximum contaminant level standard does not mean that people who drank the water experienced adverse health effects. It means users were exposed to what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined to be an unreasonable risk of illness, or that the system failed to treat its water to the extent required.

32 communities receive low-interest loans or grants

In 2013, 32 communities received more than $44 million, primarily in low-interest loans. Low interest loans can provide a cost savings of up to 30 percent to communities, enabling them to address drinking water health risks more quickly and cheaply.

Among the participating communities:

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act. This landmark law is the primary federal law safeguarding drinking water and the water used every day and in homes and businesses. To learn more, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "Safe Water on Tap: 40 Years of the Safe Drinking Water Act."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Elmore, public water supply section chief, Steve.Elmore@wisconsin.gov, 608- 264-9246, Mark Nelson, water supply specialist, Mark.Nelson@wisconsin.gov, 608- 267-4230, Jennifer Sereno, communications, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov, 608- 770-8084.

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Town of Dunbar landowners receive 2014 District 7 Tree Farmer of the Year award

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated to correct information that this award was presented by the Wisconsin Tree Farm Program for the organization's District 7 Tree Farmer of the Year award. An announcement will be made soon of the statewide Tree Farmer of the Year award. We regret the error.

APPLETON -- Two tree farmers from Dunbar, Wis., have been recognized for their longtime efforts to promote good stewardship and a healthy forest on their land.

Alfred "Alfie" and Ethelyn Tewel received the Wisconsin Tree Farm Program annual Tree Farmer of the Year award for the organization's five-county District 7. . The award was presented to the Tewels their hard work over the years to keep their forested land healthy and productive at a Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association meeting recently held in Amberg.

2014 Wisconsin tree farmers of the year
Alfred "Alfie" and Ethelyn Tewel received the 2014 District 7 Tree Farmer of the Year award.
WDNR Photo

"Each year we want to recognize those landowners who go the extra mile to keep their properties healthy by investing time, care and using best management practices," says Jim Ivacko, DNR forestry technician. "The Tewels are a great example of how working together, we can ensure healthy forest growth and forest products for the future."

The Tewel's have owned and managed their 80 acres of land for more than 50 years after inheriting it from Alfie's parents. During the late 1950s, Alfie and his father planted 51,000 red pine seedlings on about 40 acres. Over the years it has been enrolled in various conservation programs, and in 1991 it was entered into the Managed Forest Law program to help manage its growth and sustainability over time.

Since taking over the land, Alfie has done all of the timber cutting himself. He first thinned the pine in 1988, and has continued harvest ever since following his management plan. From planting to harvesting, he and his wife continue to play an active role in all aspects of management. Even today at the age of 77, Alfie can be found operating his chainsaw during harvest time.

"It was obvious from the first day working with Alfie that he was a very hands-on steward of his property," says Ivacko. "Having worked in the woods all his life, he takes great pride in managing and harvesting the timber responsibly while also promoting forest growth that is good for local wildlife."

Each year DNR forestry team reviews and selects landowners for the award who have enrolled their property in management programs such as MFL and others.

For more information search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov , for keyword "Managed Forest Law."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jim Ivacko, forestry technician, 715-324-5495

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Horicon Marsh Outdoor Skills Day August 9

HORICON, Wis. - Outdoor skills from birding and cooking to hunting and hiking will be taught by Department of Natural Resources staff and expert volunteers Horicon Marsh Outdoor Skills Day, August 9 from 1 to 4 p.m. No registration is required and the program is free to the public. All ages are welcome

"There will be something for everyone at this hand-on, family friendly event," said Liz Herzmann, DNR wildlife educator at Horicon. "Even if you don't plan on ever using some of the skills being taught at this event, it can be a great learning experience for anyone with an interest in the outdoors."

The Horicon Bowmen and the DNR are proud to offer the archery camp at this year's event. People of all ages can try archery using the National Archery in the Schools Program equipment. This is the same easy-to-use equipment dozens of schools all across Wisconsin use in their physical education programs.

Explore Bowhunting activities will prepare participants not only for bowhunting season but for all hunting seasons by learning and applying the skills needed to hunt wild game.

Watch a cast iron cook in action and taste delicious treats such as blueberry cobbler all made over the campfire.

Members of the Wisconsin Trappers Association will have a booth with pelts, traps and information for anyone who is interested in learning more about regulated trapping.

A master naturalist will help participants make their own walking sticks, learn about what you should bring on a hike and take a hike out on the marsh trails.

Certified Hunter Safety Instructors will be available with firearm action sets to show proper firearm use and safety.

An expert birder will be on hand to show the basics of binocular use and then put those skills to action on a bird scavenger hunt.

Wisconsin duck and goose calling championship judge, Todd Cook, will be on hand to teach and show the basics of duck and goose calling.

Experienced trout anglers will be available to teach fly tying for people interested in fly fishing for trout.

The Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center is located between the towns of Horicon and Mayville on Highway 28. For a detailed list of Horicon special events please visit the Friends of Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center website at www.horiconmarsh.org (exit DNR) or call 920-387-7893.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Liz Herzmann, wildlife educator, 920-387-7893 OR Bob Manwell, DNR communications, 608-275-3317

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Wisconsin wild turkey, pheasant and waterfowl stamp design contest entries on display at DNR Park at Wisconsin State Fair

MADISON - The public will have an opportunity to view the top three entries for the 2015 Wisconsin wild turkey, pheasant and waterfowl stamp design contest that for the first time will be displayed at the Wisconsin State Fair (exit DNR) from July 31 to Aug. 10.

Artists had from the end of February through July 21, 2014 to submit entries for the contest. Judging will take place in a closed session the following week. Following judging, the top three entries for each stamp category will be displayed in the Natural Resources Park at the Wisconsin State Fair. Department of Natural Resources staff will be on hand to discuss the history of each program, as well as the central role wildlife art has played in Wisconsin's habitat conservation efforts.

Funds from the sale of these stamps contribute to wildlife habitat restoration and management throughout Wisconsin.

After several years of displaying contest entries at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center in Baraboo, wildlife officials say the change in venue will allow a greater number of visitors to view the artwork. Increased visibility will help showcase the stamp program and its positive impacts on Wisconsin's wildlife. Visitation during the 11-day Wisconsin State Fair is close to one million people annually, with nearly 120,000 visiting the DNR Park.

All stamp contest applicants should review the contest rules carefully to ensure the eligibility of their entries. Artwork must meet the technical requirements specified in these rules in order to be properly processed and prepared for judging and possible display at the Wisconsin State Fair. Contest rules, entry forms and reproduction rights agreements for the 2015 design contest are available online. For more information, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov for keywords "wildlife stamps."

Artists and others interested in receiving email updates on the stamp design contests can sign up to receive occasional email reminders about contest entry deadlines, detailed event information and an announcement highlighting the winning artwork for 2015. From the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov click on the email icon in the footer of the page for "subscribe for updates for DNR topics" then follow the prompts and select the "Waterfowl, Wild Turkey, and Pheasant Stamp Design Contests" distribution list.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Krista McGinley, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist and wildlife stamp coordinator, 608-261-8458

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, July 15, 2014




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