March 29, 2011
EDITORS' NOTE: The Annual Spring Fish and Wildlife Rules Hearings are open to all Wisconsin citizens. They are a trademark of Wisconsin's ethic of citizen involvement in natural resources management decisions. Please consider running a notice and area locations of these hearings in your community events section as well as in your outdoors sports and recreation sections.
MADISON - Citizens across Wisconsin have an opportunity to share their opinions on proposed changes, present new ideas in the management of Wisconsin's fish and wildlife resources and elect Conservation Congress delegates at the 2011 Department of Natural Resources Annual Spring Fish and Wildlife Rule Hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress annual county meetings.
The hearings and meetings will be held starting at 7 p.m. April 11 at locations in every Wisconsin county (pdf). Department of Natural Resources staff representing fisheries, wildlife and law enforcement will be available before the start to answer questions related to the spring hearing questionnaire.
The dual annual hearing and meeting is a keystone in Wisconsin's history of providing opportunity for citizens to share their opinions on proposed changes or new ideas in the management of Wisconsin's fish and wildlife resources.
"The Spring Fish and Wildlife Rules Hearings are a uniquely Wisconsin tradition," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Government works better with broad citizen input. I hope many Wisconsinites will dedicate their Monday evening to attending and providing input on a range of fish, wildlife and environmental proposals that help shape and define Wisconsin."
This year the questionnaire contains 85 questions. Thirty-eight of these questions are rule change proposals from the department, and the remainder of the questions are advisory questions proposed by the Wisconsin Conservation Congress or the Natural Resources Board.
During the DNR hearing portion, citizens will be allowed to vote on changes to fish and wildlife rules proposed by the DNR and the Natural Resources Board.
All votes recorded are advisory only and are presented to the Natural Resources Board at their May meeting in a summary of public opinion.
Adjustments to waterfowl hunting zones have generated much discussion in recent seasons but federal rules only allow states to change zones every five years. The department is now asking for indications of preference on potential zone changes designed to provide additional late season duck hunting days in areas of later freeze-up while minimizing the loss of mid-fall hunting opportunities elsewhere
Proposals related to turkey hunting would extend each spring turkey hunting period by two days creating 7-day periods and renew the fall turkey hunting season extension in Turkey Management Zones 1 - 5. Deer hunters will be interested in a proposal to eliminate the archery deer hunting season closure during the traditional November firearm deer hunt and in an advisory question asks if citizens favor lowering the age at which anyone can use a crossbow from 65 to 55.
Still other rules proposals would repeal blaze orange requirements in any future elk season unless a firearm deer season is open and would add September hunting days to any future elk season. Five elk harvest tags will be issued to state license hunters when the population reaches 200. In response to the reappearance of cougars in Wisconsin, another question asks if landowners should be allowed to shoot cougars caught in the act of attacking a domestic animal.
Proposals aimed at increasing the number of bigger walleyes in southern Wisconsin waters and the number of bigger musky statewide are among the top fisheries questions at the Spring Hearings.
The current walleye bag and size limits on many southern Wisconsin waters would change under a proposal aimed at providing anglers more walleye and bigger walleye, simplifying regulations, and boosting naturally reproducing populations of this popular game fish.
Southern Wisconsin fish managers are seeking public opinion on their proposal to change the current default walleye bag and size regulations. The change would address heavy fishing pressure that removes many female walleyes from the population before they have been able to spawn for the first time. DNR fisheries surveys over the past 20 years have shown significantly better walleye populations on lakes with more restrictive length and bag limits, fish managers say.
"Our goal is to make walleye fishing better," says Ben Heussner, the Waukesha-based DNR fisheries biologist leading the issue. "Lakes that already have the 18-inch minimum length limit and a daily bag limit of three have shown increases in yield, size structure, abundance and natural reproduction. We feel this regulation will more adequately protect walleyes from overharvest."
Minimum size limits for musky statewide would increase from 34 to 40 inches on 600 musky waters under a proposal developed by DNR's musky committee with input from musky clubs and other anglers.
"Our goal is to provide bigger muskies and we'll do that by better matching the biological potential of the fish and lakes to the regulation," says Tim Simonson, musky committee co-chair. Simonson says DNR data suggests that growth potential for muskies exceeds 40 inches on nearly all Wisconsin musky lakes, but that 60 percent of the fish harvested are less than 40 inches. The result is there are fewer bigger fish left in the population to reach their full growth potential, or contribute to reproductive success much beyond their first few years of adulthood.
Audio slide shows and brochure providing more information on these proposals can be found online on fisheries spring hearings questions page of the DNR website.
The Natural Resources Board has placed two advisory questions of its own on the ballot asking citizens if they favor requiring the use of non-toxic shotgun ammunition for all hunting/shooting activities on department managed lands (with the exception of department shooting ranges) and if Wisconsin should ban deer baiting and feeding ten days before and during the traditional 9-day firearm deer season.
During the Wisconsin Conservation Congress portion of the meeting, citizens will have the opportunity to nominate and elect local delegates to represent their local interests on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. They will also be able to express their support or non-support for ideas that could change fish and wildlife management policy.
"Citizens have the opportunity to weigh in on natural resources issues that may affect them. The congress asks these questions to gauge the public's support, or lack there of on any given issue," said Ed Harvey, chair of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. "It is a true grassroots process that empowers the citizens of this state to shape natural resources policy."
Citizens may also initiate changes to fish and wildlife policy by introducing ideas as resolutions at their local meetings. The congress is a legislatively created advisory body to the Department of Natural Resources and state Natural Resources Board.
While written comments are not accepted on WCC advisory questions, citizens may submit written comment on the DNR proposed rules. Written comments on the proposed hunting and trapping regulations should be submitted via U.S. mail to Scott Loomans, DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707. Written comments on the proposed fishing regulations may be submitted via U.S. mail to Kate Strom-Hiorns, DNR Bureau of Fisheries Management, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707. Written comments must be postmarked no later than April 11, 2011.
The spring hearings questionnaire listing and discussing items scheduled for consideration during both the DNR and WCC portions of the evening is available on the Spring Rules Hearings pages of the DNR Web site or by contacting any DNR Service Center or by calling Kari Lee-Zimmermann (608) 266-0580.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kari Lee-Zimmermann (608) 266-0580