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NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 379 days

Weekly News Published - June 6, 2017 by the Central Office


Newport State Park designated as International Dark Sky Park

ELLISON BAY, Wis. - Newport State Park, Wisconsin's only wilderness state park, has now also become the first state park in Wisconsin to be designated an International Dark Sky Park, one of just 48 parks in the world to earn the designation.

The dark sky at Newport State Park.
The dark sky at Newport State Park.
Photo Credit: Denny Moutray

Located on the western shore of Lake Michigan on the northern tip of Door County, Newport has a dark sky that offers excellent nighttime viewing with an unobstructed view of the eastern horizon. As a designated wilderness park, the 2,373-acre park offers only backpack camping and has minimal developments beyond the park office, picnic area and trails.

Based in Tucson, Ariz., the International Dark-Sky Association is a non-profit organization founded in 1988 that is dedicated to protecting the night skies for present and future generations. The association advocates for the protection of the night sky, educates the public and policymakers about night sky conservation, promotes environmentally responsible outdoor lighting and empowers the public with the tools and resources to help bring back the night.

The idea for applying for the designation began four years ago when Ray Stonecipher, a local Door County amateur astronomer, approached Hefty about seeking the designation. The park also received assistance from supporting partners including the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society and the Newport Wilderness Society.

The association has program guidelines that outline specifics for Dark Sky Park designation, which included sky meter readings from 14 locations with the park, conducting astronomy education programs and developing a light management plan.

The association board unanimously approved Newport State Park as an International Dark Sky Park on April 27, joining the ranks of Big Ben, Glacier and Grand Canyon national parks. Only 13 other state parks in the United States have received the designation.

"In a modern world that is accompanied by ever increasing levels of nighttime illumination, a truly dark sky at night is rare and unique," said Michelle Hefty, park superintendent.

"From lighting projects to community education and outreach, our commitment to protect our dark sky is a priority we take seriously," said Beth Bartoli, Newport State Park naturalist who helps conduct astronomy programs at the park. "We never tire of seeing that 'aha' moment on the upturned faces of our visitors as they gaze toward the heavens."

The park will host a dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 22 when an official International Dark Sky Park sign will be placed in the park. The ceremony will feature talks by members of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society and Newport Wilderness Society as well as state and local officials. The ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. at the park shelter and is open to the public with light refreshments served afterword.

"The prestigious Dark Sky Park designation opens the park to local, regional, national and international astronomical clubs and societies, increasing tourism, especially ecotourism. Obtaining this honor will accord national and international recognition to Newport State Park and the Wisconsin State Park System," said Ben Bergey, Wisconsin State Park System director.

More information on International Dark Sky Parks can be found on the International Dark Sky Association website (both links exit DNR). For more information about Newport State Park, search the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website,, for keyword "Newport."



Jump into summer fun this June at Wisconsin state park system properties

MADISON - Visitors to Wisconsin state park system properties can jump into the start of summer this June by camping, getting fit, taking a day trip or exploring paddle watersports and then sharing their experience with others through social media.

Jump in to fun this June at a Wisconsin state park system property.
Jump in to fun this June at a Wisconsin state park system property.
Photo Credit: DNR

Throughout June the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will feature activities and events visitors can participate in at a state park property on its Facebook page and Twitter account. Park visitors are encouraged to share their own experiences using the hashtag #WIstateparks.

Each week will have a different focus, beginning with the wide variety of camping opportunities in the state park system, from modern campgrounds to primitive backpacking campsites, and bicycle and water access campsites. There will also be camp cooking suggestions.

Other weeks will focus on tips to "get moving at parks" with activities for health and fitness at park properties, day-tripping suggestions for different parks around the state, and the wide variety of paddle sport water activities available at park properties.

To participate, follow the suggestions on the DNR Facebook Page and Twitter account Links for both can be easily found in the footer of the DNR website,



Public comments sought on Forestry Exploration Center draft management plan

[EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release was previously issued to media in southeastern Wisconsin.] 
Comments accepted through June 27, 2017

MADISON - The public comment period for a draft management plan for the Forestry Exploration Center, located in Milwaukee County, is open for public comment through June 27, 2017.

This draft management plan includes proposed improvements for accessibility and education, including:

The Forestry Exploration Center [EXIT DNR] is a non-profit organization dedicated to forestry education in Wisconsin. The FEC and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have a public/private partnership to make this 50-acre property in Wauwatosa a model of sustainable forestry and educational outreach.

For more information and to provide feedback, visit, search keywords "master planning" and select "tier 3 management plans."

Tier 3 property management plans are classified as minor actions under Natural Resources Chapter 150.20(1 m)(k) of the Wisconsin Administrative Code and do not require an environmental analysis.

Comments and/or questions related to these draft plans can be directed to Shelley Warwick, DNR planner, at 608-266-2698 or via email at by June 27, 2017.

Specific questions regarding the Forestry Exploration Center can be directed to Mike Sieger, DNR Forester, at 262-594-6209 or via email at



Wisconsin ruffed grouse survey results indicate an increase in breeding grouse

MADISON - Roadside ruffed grouse surveys [PDF] completed in spring 2017 showed statewide drumming activity increased 17 percent from 2016, based on data collected to monitor breeding grouse activity.

For complete survey results, visit and search keywords "reports."

"An increase in breeding grouse activity hopefully will mean an increase in grouse nesting and brood rearing, which could mean more grouse for hunters to pursue this fall," said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Survey Coordinator Brian Dhuey. "Ruffed grouse populations are known to rise and fall over a nine to 11-year cycle, and the last peak in Wisconsin's cycle occurred in 2011 - survey results suggest that we have passed the low point in the population cycle and have started the increasing phase, which should continue the next few years as the grouse population moves toward the next peak."

Roadside surveys to monitor the number of breeding grouse have been conducted by staff from the department, U.S. Forest Service, tribal employees, and numerous grouse enthusiasts and volunteers since 1964.

The survey results showed a 17 percent increase from 2016 levels. The northern and southwest regions showed increases, while the southeast and central regions remained stable or showed small declines. While increases in the southwest part of the state were the largest by percentage, this area is not within the primary range for grouse. The increase in activity in southwestern Wisconsin follows near historic lows, and likely would not significantly add to grouse abundance in the state.

Results from the 2017 survey show that grouse populations in both the southwest and southeast region remain well below historic levels. According to Mark Witecha, a DNR upland wildlife ecologist, maturation of southern Wisconsin's forest community and the resulting loss of dense, brushy areas that grouse need for cover has resulted in lower numbers of regional grouse in recent decades.

"Ruffed grouse rely on dense, young forest cover resulting from disturbances such as fire and logging," said Witecha. "Beyond actively managing state-owned lands, Wisconsin DNR is working to provide suitable grouse habitat through an extensive collaborative effort known as the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership. The Partnership provides technical and financial assistance for young forest management on private lands, benefitting ruffed grouse and other wildlife species by helping maintain healthy and diverse forest communities."

For more information regarding grouse hunting in Wisconsin, search keywords "ruffed grouse hunting."

Young Forest Partnership
Video Credit: DNR

To learn more about managing habitat for ruffed grouse and other wildlife species, search keywords "young forest."



Enroll in Wisconsin's Deer Management Assistance Program and improve habitat for deer and other wildlife populations

MADISON - Wisconsin's Deer Management Assistance Program continues to grow with the addition of 189 new properties in 2017 and a total enrollment of 268,000 acres across the state.

Interested landowners, hunters and land managers are encouraged to join over 1,200 current DMAP cooperators managing habitat on the property they own or hunt.

Video Credit: DNR

Applications may be submitted at any time. Landowners and hunters are encouraged to apply now to receive immediate access to informational resources, including:

"DMAP cooperators are highly satisfied with the program and really enjoy the interaction they receive with professional biologists and foresters," said Bob Nack, Department of Natural Resources DMAP coordinator. "Managing habitat for wildlife on private land improves wildlife populations for everyone to enjoy."

Another benefit open to all DMAP cooperators is a series of annual regional workshops held throughout Wisconsin. DMAP cooperators enjoyed workshops focused on deer ecology and research findings in spring 2017, and four more workshops are scheduled for summer 2017. Topics include invasive species management, how to conduct a timber harvest and habitat improvement strategies for small properties. These workshops also include a tour of a property enrolled in DMAP with professional biologists and foresters.

"DMAP workshops are a great opportunity to network with other conservation-minded people," said Nack. "DMAP cooperators share a common goal of promoting the principles of land stewardship and sharing their experiences with others."

For more information regarding DMAP and to apply, go to and search keyword "DMAP."



County Deer Advisory Council application period open until July 1

MADISON - Qualified applicants are encouraged to apply for County Deer Advisory Council seats before the application period closes for all counties July 1, 2017.

Council members meet annually to review deer management data, gather public input from citizens and provide recommendations to the Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Board regarding deer management decisions in their county.

Councils include representatives in the following areas of expertise: agriculture, forestry, tourism, transportation, hunting, land management and local government. Both hunters and non-hunters are encouraged to apply for vacancies, but applicants must have experience or involvement with at least one of these seven stakeholder categories. A majority of council members have expressed satisfaction with their overall CDAC experience.

"We are making all council seats available to new applicants," said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR deer and elk ecologist. "Many people who sat in those seats for the past few years are reapplying, but we're giving other interested folks the opportunity to compete for any seat. Those selected will serve for three years and during that time will have a great deal of responsibility in helping manage deer in their county."

Councils were established in 2014 and have successfully incorporated public input into recommendations on county-specific deer population objectives and herd management strategies. In doing so, council members review and consider a variety of metrics on deer herd trends, impacts to habitat and various human-deer interactions.

For more information regarding CDACs and to find the application, visit and search keyword "CDAC."



Blue-green algae bloom season is on the horizon

MADISON -- Those heading out to lakes and rivers are reminded to be on the lookout this summer for blue-green algae blooms on water bodies across the state. Some blue-green algae are capable of making toxins that can cause illnesses for people and animals who accidentally ingest or inhale water containing algae, or have prolonged skin contact with the algae.

"Blue-green algae are in all lakes and rivers in Wisconsin, but they only become a problem when they form nuisance-level growths, called blooms, on some water bodies," said Gina LaLiberte, DNR's statewide blue-green algae coordinator. "Actively growing blooms are usually green and have a 'pea soup' appearance, but blooms may also appear as blue, white, red, or brown scums that may be foamy or in mats."

Video Credit: DNR

While not all cyanobacteria produce toxins, the presence of blue-green algae blooms in lakes, ponds or rivers may indicate a potential health hazard, LaLiberte said.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, common symptoms of exposure to toxic blue-green algae blooms include rashes, gastrointestinal ailments and respiratory irritation. People experiencing symptoms that may be due to blue-green algal exposure should contact their health care provider or the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Public health officials encourage people to avoid swallowing any water and to always wash off after swimming in any lake, pond or river. Dogs should always be rinsed off with clean water to remove algae from their coat. If people have any doubts about the appearance of water, they should stay out. They should ensure that children and pets do not swim in or drink water with an algae bloom.

People are also encouraged to help out by reporting blue-green algae blooms and potential blue-green algae-related illnesses in both people and animals to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services by calling 608-266-1120 or filling out an online survey at (exit DNR).

Animals have a higher risk of dying after exposure to blue-green algal toxins because they are smaller in size and may ingest large amounts of toxins from drinking lake, pond, or river water or licking algae from their coat. Symptoms in dogs can include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or even seizures. If your animal shows any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Blooms tend to grow when there is a lot of sunlight, water temperatures are high, and there is little wind. In Wisconsin blooms typically peak from July to September.

DNR will host an online blue-green algae chat June 14 at noon. Participants can log on and ask a panel of experts from DNR and the Wisconsin Division of Public Health questions about blue-green algae and ways to stay safe this summer when spending time on the water. To participate, visit the DNR home page,, and click on the graphic or search the phrase "ask the experts." You can also join the conversation via our Facebook page at and clicking the "Ask the Experts Chat" tab at the top of the page.

More information is available by searching the DNR website for "blue-green algae."

Additional information about the health effects associated with blue-green algae can be found at (exit DNR).



Dame's rocket blooming; easy steps encouraged to control its spread

MADISON -- Throughout Wisconsin the invasive plant known as dame's rocket has started blooming and state invasive species experts are encouraging gardeners to take steps to prevent its spread and to follow rules prohibiting the sale, giveaway or planting of this invasive plant.

Dames rocket.
Dames rocket.
Photo Credit: Nisa Karimi

Dame's rocket is regulated as a "Restricted Invasive plant" in Wisconsin, making it illegal to buy, sell, give it away or plant it. The flowering plant has spread from garden beds to woodlands and other natural areas. Because of the high number of seeds produced by each plant, dame's rocket can often spread rapidly and out-compete native wildflower populations.

"Many gardeners enjoy having dame's rocket in their garden because it has pretty, aromatic flowers," says Kelly Kearns, invasive plant specialist with the Department of Natural Resources.

"We encourage landowners to control it on their property by pulling the plants from the soil. If you do want to keep dame's rocket in your yards, however, you may do so but please help reduce the spread by removing the flower stalk when the flowers begin fading."

By removing and destroying all seed pods before the seeds start to drop, gardeners can maintain the plants without furthering the spread of an invasive plant species, Kearns says.

Dame's rocket looks very similar to a native garden species, phlox, but there are two simple tricks that gardeners can use to tell these two plants apart: counting petals and examining the leaves. "Dame's rocket has four petals on each flower and phlox has five," Kearns says.

Additionally, phlox has opposite leaves instead of the alternate leaves found on dame's rocket. Like the related garlic mustard, dame's rocket overwinters as a large green rosette, sending up a flowering stalk in the spring. Early spring and late fall are good times to spot and control these rosettes.

Gardeners can also help control the spread of dame's rocket by pulling the plants from the soil, taking care to remove the entire root system to ensure that the plant cannot re-sprout. If the plants have flowers, the removed material can be bagged and sent to a landfill or burned in order to prevent the spread of seeds.

Kearns says that it can take several years to suppress populations due to seeds in the soil that will grow in future years.

For more information on dame's rocket and other invasive species in Wisconsin, search the DNR website,, for invasive species.



Report: Volunteers kick their work into high gear on state natural areas in 2016

MADISON - The number of volunteers groups helping care for state's natural areas has doubled in the past year and the groups have benefitted seven times as many acres as the previous year, according to a recently released report from the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program.

Thirty-six groups devoted 5,820 hours in 2016 at 43 state natural areas, sites that represent some of Wisconsin's best remaining prairies, oak savannas, wetlands and lakes. Their efforts directly impacted 3,514 acres and represented $139,736 in value.

Those totals are up significantly since 2015 when 18 volunteer groups devoted 3,181 hours at 26 sites and impacted 467 acres.

Volunteers at Genesee Oak Opening State Natural Area in Waukesha County helped gird aspen as part of efforts to restore the site to an open wetland with scattered oak trees.
Volunteers at Genesee Oak Opening State Natural Area in Waukesha County helped gird aspen as part of efforts to restore the site to an open wetland with scattered oak trees.
Photo Credit: DNR

"The volunteers we have are amazing and we are excited to see their growing impact," says Jared Urban, who coordinates the volunteer program. "They are doing physical labor that is challenging and very important to keeping natural areas healthy. They are making a difference on the landscape, one acre at a time and having fun doing it.

"Thank you to all the volunteers who donate to our program, we are grateful for what you do!"

Urban started the State Natural Area Volunteer program in 2011, and new groups have been forming to help supplement work done by state SNA work crews. Volunteers' work ranges from addressing threats to natural areas by controlling invasive species, which ranges from pulling or spraying garlic mustard, to cutting down and burning buckthorn and honeysuckle, to spraying Phragmites. As well, volunteers help establish new plants in prairies and oak openings by collecting and planting seeds.

The annual report highlights examples of work being done at the different sites, features photographs and testimonials from volunteers on what they do and why. It salutes the 2016 "Steward of the Year," Zach Kastern of Whitewater, whose efforts have benefitted state natural areas in the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest.

The report also introduces new efforts underway at several state natural areas including Hardscrabble Prairie in Lafayette County, Observatory Hill in Marquette County, and Sugar River Wetlands and Waubesa Wetlands in Dane County. The February 2017 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine highlighted one such new effort in "Preserving pine relicts a prescription for good health."

State natural areas protect the very best remnants of both the familiar, like northern hardwood forests and open bogs, to the unusual, like bedrock glades and Great Lakes dunes. They are hotbeds of diversity, home to 75 percent of the animals and 90 percent of the plants listed as threatened or endangered species.

Since Parfrey's Glen was designated the first state natural area in 1952, the system has since grown to 683 sites, two-thirds owned by the state and the rest by more than 50 partners ranging from the U.S. Forest Service to The Nature Conservancy and other land trusts. As often as not, they are part of larger properties such as state wildlife areas, state parks and national forests. Nearly all state natural areas are open to the public for hiking, hunting, bird-watching, nature study and photography, but most of them are largely undeveloped.



Horticulturist at Olbrich Gardens, Hayward area groups among 2017 Invader Crusader award winners

MADISON -- The lead horticulturist of Madison's Olbrich Gardens, the president of a nonprofit association working to control invasive plants, and the coordinator of volunteers helping to care for State Natural Areas are among the eight Wisconsin residents and two groups receiving awards for their significant contributions to education about and the prevention and control of invasive species in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Invasive Species Council will present Invader Crusader Awards in a ceremony June 8 at the MacKenzie Environmental Center in Poynette. The ceremony, which begins at 1 p.m., is among the activities marking June as Invasive Species Awareness Month.

Invader Crusader award winners, their hometowns, and a brief description of their contributions follow. More detailed write-ups can be found on the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council website (exit DNR).



Precision Machine celebrates Green Tier anniversary

ALGOMA -- Precision Machine Inc., a leader in value added machining, is celebrating four years in Wisconsin's innovative Green Tier program.

Precision Machine is participating in Tier 1 of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Green Tier program, which is designed to encourage new goal setting and innovation. "Precision Machine should be proud of its environmental leadership and its benefits to the community," said DNR Northeast Secretary's Director Jean Romback-Bartels. As part of the celebration, Bartels toured the company and met with their management and environmental committee.

Precision Machine Inc.'s environmental committee members and DNR staff celebrate Green Tier participation.
Precision Machine Inc.'s environmental committee members and DNR staff celebrate Green Tier participation. L to R: Dan Kroll (DNR), Linda Delorit (Precision Machine), Jean Romback-Bartels (DNR Secretary's Director), Amanda VanLanen (Precision Machine), David Reddemann (Precision Machine), Roberta Walls (DNR) and Jamie Spitzer (Precision Machine, President)
Photo Credit: Contributed

Green Tier encourages businesses and other organizations to voluntarily collaborate with DNR to move beyond compliance with regulations and to achieve superior environmental performance. To participate, an applicant must have a good environmental compliance record, commit to improving their environmental performance and implement an Environmental Management System.

EMS is a system companies use to implement their environmental policy and goals and also to evaluate their progress. Precision Machine's environmental policy commits the company to consciously make life, social and business related decisions that better the planet. This has led Precision Machine to set goals that help them understand aspects that are under their control.

"We not only wanted to do what was right for our customers, but we wanted to improve our community and the lives of our people," said Jamie Spitzer, President of Precision Machine. "Joining Green Tier has been a step in the right direction as it is helping us achieve our vision."

Spitzer said Precision Machine employees participated in a tree-planting project to help offset their carbon foot print. By planting 2,100 trees, the employees were able to triple the offset to the carbon footprint created by the production of their office paper.

Four years into the program, Precision Machine is finding continued value in using an EMS. Precision Machine identified several projects that would help lessen its impacts. By measuring results, the company is determining what efforts are making a difference and which aspects need tweaking.

Precision Machine's future plans include continuing to reduce energy and water consumption, as well as encouraging suppliers to take part in Green Tier and to help make the company more aware of impacts to the environment. Other initiatives include determining Precision Machine's carbon footprint and looking for ways to offset it, integrating all management systems, and evaluating the number of gallons of gasoline consumed company-wide.

In exchange for a commitment to superior environmental performance, DNR grants benefits to Tier 1 participants, including public recognition of participation, a single point of contact at DNR and the use of the Green Tier logo in marketing materials.

For more information on Green Tier and Precision Machine's involvement, visit DNR's Green Tier web page, or go to and search keywords "Green Tier."


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, June 06, 2017

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James Dick
Director of Communications