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March 13, 2012

Crane hunt, recycling, wetlands, motor trolling, year-round fishing

MADISON - Hunting for sandhill cranes, restoring recycling funding to local communities, allowing year-round fishing and statewide motor trolling, and removing local wetland permitting authority are among the natural resources topics citizens can weigh in on April 9 during the annual spring hearings at locations statewide.

Attendees also will be able to share their suggestions for meeting Gov. Scott Walker's call for recommendations to simplify hunting, fishing and trapping rules and to reduce barriers to getting more people outside to hunt, fish and trap.

"The spring hearings are a great chance to let us know the direction you want the state to go on a broad range of natural resource issues," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Our job is to be the listener and not the teller."

There are 72 public meetings, one in each county throughout the state, starting at 7 p.m. April 9. They are hosted by DNR and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the agency's main advisory board for natural resources rule making. A list of meeting locations and a booklet with the questions attendees can vote on is available on the DNR website (search keywords "spring hearings") and at DNR service centers.

The informational hearings have four main parts for attendees: electing county delegates to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress; voting on DNR fisheries and wildlife questions; voting on resolutions from citizens and advisory questions from Congress members, and finally, new this year, participants can share their ideas at a town hall aimed at meeting the governor's request.

DNR questions now advisory under Act 21

This year, DNR questions are advisory only, reflecting changes made as a result of Act 21, a law passed in 2011 that changes state agency rule-making processes. Now, questions on specific rule proposals will be presented in odd-numbered calendar years; under Act 21, review of state rule changes by lawmakers is now limited to when the Legislature is in session.

Fishing issues bulk of DNR questions

In 2012, DNR questions pertain to hunting, fishing and trapping, with the bulk of questions aimed at gauging attendees' sentiments on how to simplify fishing rules, now contained in six separate regulation pamphlets.

"The governor asked us to look at simplifying our regulations so we are asking some questions to generate discussion of longstanding tools we've used to manage fish populations and fishing," says Mike Staggs, DNR fisheries director. "Our fisheries questions are general proposals so we know the way that anglers want us to go."

Attendees, for example, can weigh in on whether to allow year-round fishing if DNR finds that closing seasons for certain species for part of the year -- traditionally done now on most waters -- is not biologically necessary to protect fish populations.

They'll also be asked whether to adopt a single statewide musky season, instead of having different seasons for the state fish in northern and southern Wisconsin.

Other questions would allow anglers to weigh in on whether motor trolling is allowed statewide, and if DNR should eliminate separate stamps and tags required for inland or Great Lakes trout fishing and pursuing sturgeon and instead roll those costs into the annual license fee.

Among the wildlife questions being asked are ones seeking permanent adoption of a two-period bobcat hunting and trapping season with permit applicants being required to select either the early or the late season; updating licensing requirements for hunting guides; and, expanding open water hunting opportunities for waterfowl.

Congress questions cover a broad range of natural resource topics

This year, as every year, study committees of the Conservation Congress have proposed questions to get feedback from the public on a wide variety of issues. The questions range from asking if people support legislation authorizing a hunt for sandhill cranes, to restoring recycling funding to local communities, to changing which level of government has responsibility for construction erosion and wetland permitting.

All Congress advisory questions are a result of citizen resolutions that were presented and supported at the previous year's spring hearings, as well as Congress study committee proposals, says Rob Bohmann, who chairs the Conservation Congress.

"It's important to recognize the process by which citizens have an impact on the rule-making process," Bohmann says. "Now more than ever it's important for the citizens of Wisconsin who care about the environment, fishing, hunting, trapping and other outdoor pursuits, to be an active participant in shaping the future of how we're able to protect and enjoy Wisconsin's resources."

Bohmann encourages people to stay for the Town Hall and provide ideas and feedback to help shape into recommendations to the governor on how to simplify regulations and eliminate barriers to hunting and fishing participation. People not able to stay for this session can submit written comments on the form in the questionnaire booklet and turn those in.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Sharon Fandel - 608-261-0767 or Lisa Gaumnitz - 608-264-8942

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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