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January 28, 2014

MADISON - Lakefront property owners statewide can now more quickly and easily create "fish sticks" habitat near their shoreline to benefit fish and improve fishing, state fisheries and habitat protection officials say.

A new streamlined permit available from the state and an easy step-by-step guide for fish sticks are now available on the Department of Natural Resources website to help foster the projects, which involve placing trees in shallow water and anchoring them on the shore.

""Fish sticks" projects are paying off in northern Wisconsin lakes by providing more critical habitat for fish and insects, birds, turtles and frogs," says Scott Toshner, the Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist who worked with partners on "Fish Sticks" projects that placed hundreds of trees in the Eau Claire chain of lakes in Bayfield and Douglas counties.

"More people wanted to do this same kind of thing on their own shoreland property so DNR created this general permit and a step-by-step guide to make the process easier for them."

Fallen trees provide shelter and feeding areas for a diversity of fish species and nesting and sunning areas for birds, turtles, and other animals above the water, Toshner says. "Nearly all fish species use woody habitat for at least one portion of their life cycle," he says.

"But fallen trees have been removed from the water in many areas. "Fish sticks" add to the natural complexity of the near-shore area by restoring woody habitat that was removed during shoreline development."

Interest in Fish Sticks projects to restore this woody habitat has been growing throughout Wisconsin and the region, says Martye Griffin, the DNR waterway science policy coordinator. DNR responded by converting the existing general permits for fish habitat projects (Fish Crib, Half-Log, Spawning Reef, Wind Deflector and Tree Drop) to a statewide general permit, and added standards for fish sticks.

The new general permit allows property owners on lakes to have a streamlined permitting process to submerge groups of trees near their shoreline, Griffin says.

"The streamlined permit process is less costly and can be reviewed in less time," he says. It also allows for fish sticks sites constructed in later years and by different property owners on the same lake to "add on" to an existing approved permit without a new application fee - something the DNR has never done before, he says. Even though an 'add on' site may not require an application fee, the sites are still reviewed the same way as a new site.

The general permit identifies the location, design, and other standards and conditions these beneficial projects must meet to qualify for the general permit and to ensure minimal impacts to public rights in the waterway.

Step-by-step guide

In addition, DNR created a new, step-by-step guide for landowners who are interested in developing a fish sticks project. "It provides instructions to plan and complete a project, including equipment needed, site suggestions, and potential funding sources."

More information on the general permit and to access the fish sticks guidance documentis available by searching the DNR website for "Fish Sticks."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Toshner, 715-372-8539 Ext. 121; Martye Griffin, 608-266-2997

Last Revised: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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