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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published March 17, 2015

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50 years of rail trails in Wisconsin celebration kicks off with June 6 event

Elroy-Sparta State Trail first rail to trail in the nation

MADISON - Fifty years ago Wisconsin became the first state to convert an abandoned railroad corridor into a recreational trail -- the Elroy-Sparta State Trail -- initiating a "rails to trails" movement across the state, nation and the world.

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 7 photos

View the slideshow of historic photos from the Elroy-Sparta State Trail.

The Department of Natural Resources will be working with Friends of Wisconsin State Parks (exit DNR), local Friends Groups and other organizations to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the rail trails program in Wisconsin this year. The celebration will commence with a ceremonial ribbon cutting on the Elroy-Sparta State Trail at the Kendall Depot, on Saturday, June 6, which is also National Trails Day.

Since the establishment of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in 1965, Wisconsin has developed an additional 40 state trails (36 of them rail trails) extending more than 2,000 miles. Nationwide there are more than 1,900 rail trails spanning more than 22,000 miles, according to the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

The kickoff celebration takes place on National Trails Day, which is also the first day of Free Fun Weekend in Wisconsin, when trail passes, park and forest admission stickers, fishing licenses and out-of-state ATV passes are waived for the weekend. The celebration in Kendall is being coordinated by the Friends of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail and the Sparta Chamber of Commerce. A trail ride with participants starting at multiple communities along the trail is planned to converge at the Kendall Depot for a ceremonial ribbon cutting and rededication of the trail. Food and refreshments will also be available from local service clubs.

"We are encouraging rail trails across Wisconsin to join in the celebration with their own events any time in 2015. We're very proud of our state trails, but there are other rail trail providers in Wisconsin and we'd love for them to join in the fun of celebrating 50 years," says Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator for the DNR Bureau of Parks and Recreation.

Trails can have a significant economic impact for local communities, with a recent DNR and University of Wisconsin study [PDF] finding that, on average, individual trip spending of visitors to state trails was more than $90 per day.

Along with being the first railroad corridor converted to a trail, the Elroy-Sparta State Trail is also nationally known for its scenic beauty, historic depots and its three tunnels, the longest of which is three-quarters of a mile.

People interested in participating can keep abreast of activities by searching the DNR website for "trail news." Groups interested in organizing events on National Trails Day or throughout the year as part of the 50th anniversary of rail trails in Wisconsin are encouraged to contact Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator, at 608-266-2183 or

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator, 608-266-2183 or Paul Holtan, DNR parks, forests and recreation public affairs manager, 608-267-7517



It's trail tournament time - vote for your favorite Wisconsin Rail Trailblazer

The 400 State Trail is one of the trails featured in the Wisconsin Rail Trailblazers DNR facebook contest.The 400 State Trail is one of the trails featured in the Wisconsin Rail Trailblazers DNR facebook contest.

MADISON -- Wisconsin is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the rails to trails program in the state this year and the public is invited to join in the celebration with a friendly Wisconsin rail trail competition on Facebook.

On June 6, National Trails Day, the Department of Natural Resources and Friends of Wisconsin State Parks will kick off a celebration of 50 years of rail trails with a ribbon cutting and rededication of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail hosted by Friends of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail and local community organizations. The Elroy-Sparta was the first rail trail conversion in the nation in 1965. June 6-7 is also Free Fun Weekend in Wisconsin, when trail passes, park and forest admission stickers, fishing licenses and out-of-state ATV passes are waived for the weekend.

DNR Facebook fans can join in a friendly "Wisconsin Rail Trailblazers" contest among the next 16 trails that were established after the Elroy-Sparta. People can vote once a day for their favorite trail and help them advance to the championship.

"The Elroy-Sparta is truly the granddaddy of rail trails not just in Wisconsin but in the nation, so with deference to its prestigious status we are starting the contest with the next 16 rail trail conversions in Wisconsin," says Brigit Brown, DNR state trails coordinator. The 16 trails are broken down into the following four geographic brackets (date indicates year established):

Bearskin State Trail - 1973
Tuscobia State Trail - 1966
Gandy Dancer State Trail - 1990
Red Cedar State Trail - 1973

North central
Ahnapee State Trail - 1970
Great River State Trail - 1986
Buffalo River State Trail - 1976
Chippewa River State Trail - 1990

South central
La Crosse River State Trail - 1978
400 State Trail - 1988
Hillsboro State Trail - 1988
Wild Goose State Trail - 1986

Glacial Drumlin State Trail - 1984
Sugar River State Trail - 1972
Military Ridge State Trail - 1981
Pecatonica State Trail - 1974

To take part in the fun, go to the DNR Facebook page ( beginning Wednesday, March 18 and click on the "State Trail Contest" tab. Then, click on one state trail in each matchup and fill out the short form at the bottom. The trails with the most votes move on to the next round, culminating in one trail being named the winner.

Each person casting a vote will be entered in a random drawing for a prize package consisting of a 2015 Wisconsin state park sticker, a 2015 Wisconsin state trail pass and a three-year subscription to Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. Entrants can vote once per day from March 18-April 7. The winning trail and the winning entrant will be announced on Wednesday, April 8.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: on state trails, contact Brigit Brown, 608-266-2183 or Paul Holtan, DNR parks, forests and recreation public affairs manager, 608-267-7517; for Facebook questions contact Trish Nitschke, DNR social media coordinator, 920 360-3252



DNR opens public comment period on scope of sand mining report

MADISION - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is inviting the public to provide input on the agency's most recent effort to assess the latest scientific, natural resource and socio-economic information relating to industrial sand mining and its infrastructure.

"The department is conducting a strategic analysis on industrial sand mining in order to provide quality, factual information to the public and decision makers," said Dave Siebert, Environmental Analysis bureau director. "We welcome the public's input in helping us determine what should be considered in the analysis."

The public comment period for the scope of the strategic analysis runs through April 20, 2015. Information about the analysis and the proposed topics to be covered can be found by searching the DNR website for industrial sand mining strategic analysis. The public is also invited to complete an online input form to provide feedback on topics they believe should be included in the analysis. In addition, information relevant to the strategic analysis may also be submitted.

In addition to submitting comments through the website, written comments and pertinent data may also be submitted to: Chris Willger, WDNR, 1300 W. Clairemont , Eau Claire, WI 54701; or at

The strategic analysis is intended to update information provided in a 2012 DNR document Silica Sand Mining in Wisconsin. Siebert noted the department intended that report to be a dynamic document that would be updated as new, significant information became available.

In January the Natural Resources Board approved a department proposal to conduct the strategic analysis. Siebert said that in addition to the current comment period, the public will have an opportunity to review and provide comments on a draft of the strategic analysis later this year.

For more information search the DNR website for keywords "sand mining."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Siebert, Bureau of Environmental Analysis and Sustainability, 608-264-6048; Bill Cosh, Communications, 608-267-2773



MacKenzie Center's Annual Maple Syrup Festival April 4

Visitors watch maple syrup being boiled in a kettle.Visitors watch maple syrup being boiled in a kettle.
[EDITOR'S ADVISORY: this news release has been updated to indicate the Friends of MacKenzie pancake breakfast at the festival is not all you can eat. We regret the error.]

POYNETTE, Wis. - People can see demonstrations of how to tap a maple tree for sap and how to make syrup, and take guided tours of the sugar bush at the MacKenzie Center's annual Maple Syrup Festival on April 4.

The festival also includes interpretative talks about how Native Americans and pioneers made maple sugar and syrup compared to the current methods used in at the MacKenzie sugar bush. This year representatives from the Ho-Chunk Nation will attend to share their maple syrup traditions.

The festival runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the MacKenzie Center near Poynette. Maple Syrup Festival is hosted by the Friends of MacKenzie and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

"This is a great way to celebrate the beginning of spring," said Ruth Ann Lee, educator at the MacKenzie Center. "It is a wonderful event to learn about the sugar maple tree and the unique process of making maple syrup in our Wisconsin climate."

Participants will have the opportunity to watch home-made ice cream being churned with an antique engine; listen to live, old-time, country music; and take a horse-drawn wagon ride. In addition, the wildlife area, which includes animals native to Wisconsin, and the historic exhibits on the property will be open.

A pancake breakfast, sponsored by Friends of MacKenzie will be served from 8 a.m. until noon at the Main Lodge. The cost is $7 for those 12 years old and older, and $5 for people aged 3 through 11. Refreshments, maple products, and souvenirs will be sold by the Friends of MacKenzie. The Friends will also draw the winners for their raffle at noon.

The MacKenzie Center is located 2 miles east of Poynette on County Road CS/Q. For more information search the DNR website,, for keyword "MacKenzie."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ruth Ann Lee or Chrystal Seeley-Schreck at 608-635-8112



Proposed statewide trolling rule unlikely to be in effect for fishing opener

MADISON -- A proposed rule to allow motor trolling on all inland Wisconsin waters is unlikely to be in place for the opening of the regular fishing season on May 2, officials from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday.

Current trolling rules
Click on image for map in PDF.

The rule, which has been approved by Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, must still undergo legislative review. Currently, trolling is allowed on one or more waters in 63 counties statewide and the proposed rule is meant to reduce confusion by extending the opportunity to all waters, said Tim Simonson, a DNR fisheries management specialist.

Trolling means fishing by trailing any lure, bait or similar device that may be used to attract or catch fish from a boat propelled by means other than drifting or rowing. Drifting or "row trolling" is allowed on all waters statewide.

In addition to simplifying the fishing regulations and bringing more consistency to statewide waters, Simonson said the proposed rule would reduce confusion that may occur when a technique called "position fishing" is used. Position fishing involves fishing from a boat with a line that extends vertically into the water while the boat is maneuvered with a motor.

Proposed trolling rules
Click on image for map in PDF.

Simonson said analysis of available data indicates no difference between casting and trolling as measured by the angling success or "catch rate" for muskellunge, walleye and northern pike. However, many anglers have expressed interest in having the trolling option more widely available.

The proposed rule, which includes a three-year sunset that expires on May 4, 2018, would allow anglers to trail at least one sucker, minnow or other bait or lure behind a moving motor boat, regardless of whether the occupants are casting other lures. It also would provide additional fishing opportunities for anglers who may have difficulty fishing by other methods and would eliminate the need for disabled anglers to apply for trolling permits.

Citizens who would like to be notified of future fishing regulations changes, including possible implementation of the proposed trolling rule, are encouraged to sign up for email updates by searching the DNR website,, for "fishing regulations." Clicking the mail icon on the right hand side of the page allows visitors to sign up for email updates on trolling and other fishing regulation topics.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Simonson, DNR fisheries management specialist, 608-266-5222,; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084,



Set your hook -- reel in the reward

DNR launches pilot advertising options for Wisconsin fishing regulations

MADISON - The Department of Natural Resources is inviting businesses, not-for-profits and others to take advantage of a "fintastic" offer.

The Bureau of Fisheries Management has launched a pilot, offering advertising options in the 2016-2017 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations pamphlet.

"It's an opportunity for partners to reach an audience clearly engaged in a beloved Wisconsin tradition, while recovering our costs for producing, printing and distributing the regulations," says DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "It's a win-win. Think about it. Almost 1.4 million anglers fish Wisconsin waters on average about 17 days a year, spending about $500 a trip. From those numbers, there should be a great opportunity to promote a product or distribute a message."

More than 800,000 copies of the fishing regulations are annually distributed directly to over 1,300 license vendors; to DNR central, regional, and service center offices; to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism; to major sporting goods retailers and at major regional sport shows.

For advertisers trying to reach the angling community, the timing is perfect. The regulations are available for the entire fishing season. Pamphlet distribution begins early in the year to capitalize on the angler's growing anticipation of the coming season. The regulation pamphlet is then kept and referred to throughout the year for season guidelines, bag and length limits.

"About three-quarters of the other states already offer advertising in their fishing regulations so it's nothing new," says fisheries biologist and pilot manager Karl Scheidegger. "Over the years, it's gotten more costly to print and distribute the publication. We've considered ideas that would help defray the costs of pamphlet development and advertising seemed to be a worthwhile approach. Plus the money that is collected from advertising reduces costs and allows more funds to go directly back into our fisheries program to make fishing better for Wisconsin anglers."

There will be a limited amount of space available for advertising in the regulation pamphlet. Advertising space will have a minimum price for a specific size, page, and/or location. Space will be awarded based on the highest offered price. All advertising copy will be subject to DNR approval.

Results from the pilot advertising project will be used by the department as it considers advertising opportunities in other state regulations and publications. People interested in the pilot program should contact Karl J. Scheidegger, fisheries biologist - outreach and marketing fisheries management, 608-267-9426 or


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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