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2010 DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES HIGHLIGHTS
December 21, 2010
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Here were some of the key natural resources highlights for Wisconsin in 2010.]
Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program enters its third decade -- More than 580,000 acres have been preserved for public use over Stewardship's first 20 years; better than 90 percent is open for public uses like hunting, hiking and nature study. Purchases include new properties, improvements and trail links. The legislature bolstered the commitment to Stewardship by raising the bonding authority from $60 million to $86 million annually for the 10-year period that began July 1, 2010.
Forty years for cleaner air - This year, Wisconsin residents have good reason to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act. A mercury pollutant rule has the state's major utilities on track to reduce their mercury emissions and reduce multiple pollutants including nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Businesses, home owners, local governments, commuters and others are committed to become more energy efficient to further reduce emissions and benefit from the savings. This year a pilot program allowed individuals to specify counties, when receiving air quality notices, instead of receiving statewide notices.
Green Tier double participants -- Green Tier, a program that provides incentives to businesses and communities to move beyond environmental compliance, address unregulated problems and restore natural resources, sustained momentum in 2010 with the number of participating facilities more than doubling, (42 in December 2009 to 86 in December 2010) and now representing 43 businesses in the program. Participants in the programs range from very large to very small manufacturers, units of government from special districts to school districts to incorporated units and also include farms, service organizations and many other entities. Green Tier ventured into new relationships through charter provisions that were expanded when the law was made permanent by the legislature. One highlight of 2010 was the signing of the Green Tier Legacy Communities Charter, an agreement signed by DNR, five communities and five non-governmental organizations. The charter recognizes and brings together local leaders interested in sustainable growth to share ideas, technologies and policies that will enable communities to help Wisconsin reach environmentally-sustainable economic growth. Two pilots will focus on water issues and will address the full range of local water resources issues by integrating wastewater, stormwater, drinking water, wetlands, and other water issues in a holistic, watershed based manner. Under another provision of the Green Tier law, 16 independent colleges and universities have used compliance audit provisions to complete the most comprehensive environmental review and improvement program undertaken thus far under the law, having made myriad improvements to assure environmental protection.
Environmental cleanups -- In 2010 the Remediation and Redevelopment program provided $1.5 million in DNR Brownfield Assessment Grants to assess contamination at abandoned or underused properties in 26 communities across the state, which help jump start the redevelopment at these brownfields; to date the program has helped assess more than 1,600 acres of contaminated property in 205 Wisconsin communities. Additionally, seven communities received more than $600,000 in environmental funding to assist with cleanup work at closed industrial sites through its Wisconsin Plant Recovery Initiative Program, a statewide effort to expedite the cleanup at recently closed factories and plants and return them to economic vitality. To date the program is working with communities and companies on 53 plant closings that may have environmental issues. Through the Wisconsin Sustainable Cleanups Initiative a project was set up to install 44 solar panels at the Refuse Hideaway landfill near Madison to run collection and gas release systems. The Remediation and Redevelopment program also awarded the 100th voluntary party certificate of completion to the AxleTech International manufacturing firm in Oshkosh. The certificates help clarify future liability at contaminated properties that businesses and communities willingly clean up, as long as they receive state oversight and follow all environmental laws.
Shoreline protection rules receive significant public input -- Earlier this year, state shoreland development rules were updated to better protect lakes and rivers, while allowing property owners more flexibility on their land. These improvements were made after more than 30 public hearings, more than 70,000 public comments and hundreds of hours of research. The final rules offer a workable set of guidelines that allow property renovations, guide new development and encourage buffers and naturalized shorelines for better habitat and pollution prevention.
E-Cycle gets the waste out -- It is now easier for people to recycle or donate unwanted electronics. E-Cycle Wisconsin provides a list of collection sites across the state. Wisconsin's electronics recycling law, passed in October 2009, bans the disposal of a wide range of consumer electronics in state landfills and incinerators and creates a statewide electronics recycling program, under which electronics manufacturers pay to recycle a certain amount of electronics. This year we celebrated 20 years of recycling law in Wisconsin.
New Hunting Mentorship Program is a hit -- This law allows people interested in experiencing hunting, including those age 10 and older, to hunt under controlled conditions and under the close supervision of a mentor. By working together, many statewide conservation organizations, the DNR and legislators have made this the safest mentored hunting law in the country. This law gives seasoned hunters a chance to give something back -- to do for someone today what someone else did for them years ago -- introduce them to the hunting experience.
Ballast water exchange requirements - Wisconsin has started regulating oceangoing ships arriving in its Great Lakes waters to stop the flow of invasive species in ballast water. Wisconsin is also pushing treatment technology that will provide the greatest level of protection possible against releasing aquatic invasives from ballast water. Starting January 1, 2012, new oceangoing ships must treat their ballast water to reduce, contain and make harmless the number of live plants, animals and organisms. Wisconsin, other Great Lakes states, the federal government and the shipping industry have jointly supported the Great Ships Initiative, a research effort designed to find the most cost-effective treatment technology for freshwater shipping on the Great Lakes.
Phosphorus rules tackle a long-standing problem - Wisconsin is respected nationally for its efforts to reduce pollution. The state took another major step in that direction this year when the Natural Resources Board and then the legislature approved new rules to reduce phosphorus and other nutrients in state waters. The end result should be cleaner water, improved public health and healthier fisheries and wildlife.
Vigilance to identify and control invasive species - Surveys at Wisconsin boat landings in summer 2010 show that 96 percent of people say they are following a new law to prevent the spread of Eurasian watermilfoil and other aquatic invasives. We've set up a comprehensive program to identify and then curb new invasive species before they can get a foothold in Wisconsin. Local groups across the state have taken advantage of a tripling of grant funding opportunities to set up local programs to control invasives and stop their spread by many innovative means. Web users can find statewide data by county on boat inspection efforts, boater compliance and special projects to prevent or control invasive species.
Web redesign - Our customers told us our website needed improving, so we are working to better meet your needs. For starters, we have improved our search engine to help people find the information they need. We have been removing outdated information and are providing features like real-time news updates and links allowing you to easily subscribe to specific information.
Other major news items for 2010
- Bear harvest permits to increase 22 percent over 2009 - Wisconsin wildlife biologists have upped the number of available black bear harvest permits by 22 percent over 2009. A population research study cooperative effort between the University, the DNR and the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association indicated that the state's bear population was higher than previously thought. Accordingly, wildlife officials increased permit levels last year based on the increased population estimate and have done so again for the 2010 bear hunting season.
- DNR and spearers happy with 2010 sturgeon spearing season - OSHKOSH - Spearers took 1,820 fish during the 2010 sturgeon spearing season on the combined lakes of the Winnebago pool which includes Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes -- Poygan, Winneconne, and Butte des Morts - before the season closed on Thursday after six days. Sturgeon history was made on the first day of this season when the all-time record sturgeon, a 212.2-pound, 84.2-inch female, was speared on Saturday by Ron Grishaber of Appleton. It was a record weight not only for Lake Winnebago, but also set new sturgeon spearing record for Wisconsin.
- Hunters register 329,103 deer in 2009 - MADISON - Hunters registered 329,103 deer for the 2009 deer hunting seasons. This includes a total antlerless harvest of 191,715 and antlered (buck) harvest of 134,156. The grand total includes 3,232 deer recorded as unknown. The 2009 archery buck harvest was up 19 percent over 2008 at 41,402 making it the fourth best archery buck harvest in history. Archers accounted for 31 percent of the total buck harvest in 2009. This was up from the 2008 archery buck harvest which accounted for 25 percent of the total buck kill. Gun buck harvest declined by 11 percent last year from 103,845 in 2008 to 92,754, the 29th highest gun buck total on record.
- Predator impacts on deer are goal of research efforts to begin in 2010 - MADISON - Scientists with the Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin will launch an ambitious, multi-year field research effort to better understand the impacts predators such as wolves, bears, coyotes and bobcats have on white-tailed deer in Wisconsin.
- Natural Resources Board raises deer population goals - MADISON - The state Natural Resources Board has approved revisions to proposed overwinter population goals for white-tailed deer, raising this management benchmark to a statewide target of nearly 800,000, which is an 8 percent increase over current levels. The board, meeting in Madison March 16, approved increases in population targets in 43 of Wisconsin's 131 DMUs. The new goals were developed at the request of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee after the committee heard testimony on hunter dissatisfaction with the number of deer seen and harvested during the 2009 gun deer season. The legislative committee did not accept a previous proposal to raise population targets in 13 deer management units.
- DNR launches tip411 anonymous text program to report violations - MADISON - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has added a text messaging option to ways the public can report hunting, fishing, trapping, recreational vehicle and environmental violations. DNR is launching tip411, an internet based tool that enables the public to text message an anonymous tip to DNR. Hotline operators respond back creating a two way anonymous "chat."
- Catch and release fishing yielding larger muskies from Wisconsin waters - MADISON - Big muskies - really big muskies - await Wisconsin anglers this fishing season, based on what anglers reported catching and releasing last year. "This tells you what is coming," says Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Tim Simonson, referring to a graph he prepared showing that Muskies Inc. members reported catching and releasing 105 muskies 48 inches and longer in Wisconsin in 2009.
- Prolonged drought having severe impact on some northern lakes, flowages - SPOONER - Eight straight years of drought in northern Wisconsin is causing many people to ask what is happening to the fish, wildlife and recreation dependent on water. A 12-month drought cumulative effects scale -- known as the Palmer Drought Index -- shows below average precipitation again for 2010. The May index has northern Wisconsin in the moderate to severe drought category.
- 7 state fishing records fall in first five months of 2010 - MADISON - State fishing records are falling fast -- literally with a "thunk" -- as anglers have been hauling in a boatload of true lunkers. By June 1, seven new state fish records had been confirmed in 2010 in the alternate methods category. The fish ranged from 4 pounds to more than 200 pounds, and the longest stretched more than seven feet long. Six of the seven were taken with a bow and arrow, one with a spear, and one new record was only on the books for a month before it was eclipsed. A monster fish - a quillback-river carpsucker hybrid - has also been harvested in recent weeks from Wisconsin waters but didn't qualify for a record because the state no longer accepts records for hybrid fish.
- 47,539 turkeys registered in Wisconsin's 2010 spring turkey season - MADISON - Wisconsin hunters registered 47,539 turkeys during the 2010 spring turkey season. The registration total was a 9.6 percent decrease from the 2009 harvest of 52,581 birds. Zone 1 produced the highest overall turkey harvest at 15,120 birds, followed by Zone 3 with 10,953 turkeys. The best hunter success rate appears to be in Zone 2 with a preliminary success rate of 28.5 percent, followed by Zone 4 at 22.4 percent success.
- New email alert system to recent wolf activity available - MADISON - Dog trainers, pet owners and others interested in keeping track of recent wolf activity can now sign up for an e-mail or wireless service that will send an alert anytime wolves attack hunting dogs or pets. The new feature relies on an easy-to-use service called GovDelivery. From the DNR home page search for "dog depredation by wolves" and follow the simple instructions for subscribing to the alerts. It is possible to unsubscribe at anytime.
- New rules in place to control feral pigs, wolf-dog hybrids and mute swans - MADISON - Rules going into effect this summer are designed to prevent new introductions of three invasive species. Under the rules effective July 1, 2010,, people must have a license to possess wolf-dog hybrids, feral or wild swine, and mute swans in captivity. Also as of July 1, it is illegal to release any of these species into the wild and such releases can result in penalties of up to $1,142, as well as restitution costs for any damage caused by these animals.
- First sturgeon stocked from renovated Wild Rose Hatchery - WILD ROSE - Wisconsin's efforts to restore lake sturgeon to inland waters took a leap forward last week as the renovated Wild Rose Fish Hatchery sent its first sturgeon out the door to new homes in four Wisconsin waters. On July 7, DNR fisheries crews stocked more than 6,100 tiny sturgeon in the Baraboo River in Baraboo, returning the prehistoric species to that water for the first time since the 1800s, when dams built on the river, along with overfishing and water pollution, helped doom their populations.
- VHS test results in; fish disease has not spread inland - MADISON - The potentially deadly VHS fish virus did not spread to any inland Wisconsin waters that were tested for the virus in 2010, according to state fisheries officials. None of the fish that Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist collected from nearly 70 lakes and rivers this spring tested positive for viral hemorrhagic septicemia.
- DNA analysis confirms four cougars in state within last two years - MADISON -- A few drops of blood, preserved by an alert warden, proves that while one male cougar was tracking through St. Croix and Dunn counties this past December, another male cougar was moving near the Flambeau River, 125 miles to the north. This cougar, crossing a road, was spotted by a female bus driver east of Park Falls. Warden Dan Michels responded and followed the animal's tracks into a cedar swamp where he spotted tiny blood drops behind the cougar's tracks. He collected them in a test tube, froze the contents and submitted them for DNA analysis
- Steps underway to protect Wisconsin's bats from deadly disease - MADISON -- Wisconsin's four species of cave bats are under imminent threat from the always deadly disease known as white-nose syndrome. The state Natural Resources Board approved measures aimed at protecting bats before the disease gets a foothold in the state.
- Plan approved to guide state efforts to control CWD over next 15 years - WISCONSIN RAPIDS - A plan that will guide the state's efforts to manage chronic wasting disease over the next 15 years was approved unanimously by the State Natural Resources Board at its September meeting. "This new plan provides more specific actions and focuses on responding to disease outbreaks on the periphery of the known CWD area, said Davin Lopez, CWD project leader for the Department of Natural Resources.
- Rare albino musky caught in Rusk County - RUSK COUNTY - The musky Paul Parise boated on Oct. 6, 2010, from the lower Flambeau River in Rusk County is truly the rarest of the rare: a 51-inch albino musky.
- Upper Mississippi River now a "Wetland of International Importance" - TREMPEALEAU - The floodplain forests along the Upper Mississippi River, including more than 130,000 acres in Wisconsin, are now officially recognized as a global treasure. Their designation as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty aimed at protecting and promoting wetlands, was officially celebrated in a ceremony last week with international, state and local partners.
- Sale of mercury-containing devices prohibited in Wisconsin Nov. 1 - MADISON -- Mercury-containing devices may no longer be sold in Wisconsin under a new law that goes into effect Nov. 1.
- Deer hunters asked to submit deer, wildlife observations through online survey - MADISON - Hunting camp clocks are ticking away the hours to the opening of the 2010 gun deer season and with many deer hunters already in the woods bow hunting or scouting for the gun deer season, it's a perfect time to send in deer observations to the Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey. The online survey was started in 2009 following examples from other states and with suggestions from hunters that the hours they spend in the woods and the wildlife they observe are valuable for identifying trends in wildlife abundance and distribution. There is also a place to submit trail-cam photos of less common species that may travel through an area, setting off trail cameras.
- Hunters register a preliminary tally of 218,144 deer over nine-day season - MADISON - A survey of Wisconsin deer registration stations conducted by the state Department of Natural Resources has yielded a preliminary tally of 218,144 for the just-ended, nine-day November gun deer hunt, an 11 percent increase over the 2009 nine-day season. The opener was highlighted by good hunting conditions on opening day and no firearm-related fatalities for only the second time on record. Statewide, hunters registered 102,006 bucks (a 17 percent increase over 2009) and 116,138 antlerless deer (a nearly 7 percent increase over 2009). Gun deer license sales totaled 621,094 at the close of the hunt.
- 2010 gun deer season free of firearm fatalities for second time in state's history - MADISON - Wisconsin ended its 2010 gun-deer season free of hunter fatalities, a feat first and last seen in 1974. "No one was shot and killed while deer hunting this year in Wisconsin," said Tim Lawhern, Department of Natural Resources hunter education administrator and conservation warden. "This has happened once before in the state's history of gun-deer seasons. And that was 36 years ago."
- Large-scale effort underway to improve Wisconsin River water quality - WAUSAU, Wis. -- Water quality problems in the Wisconsin River are limiting recreational opportunities, hurting businesses and creating conditions that adversely affect public health, according to state environmental officials who say the primary problem is phosphorus and other nutrients that enter the river as runoff from agricultural fields, barnyards, urban storm water and wastewater discharges.
- 97 percent of public drinking water supplies meet all health-based standards - MADISON -- Good news was on tap: 97 percent of the 11,422 public water systems met all health-based standards for the water they served. "We're very pleased that Wisconsin utilities, DNR staff, and our other partners continue to do an exceptional job of providing safe drinking water for Wisconsin," says Jill Jonas, who leads the Department of Natural Resources drinking water and groundwater program.
Last Revised: Tuesday, December 21, 2010