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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published August 31, 2010

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Looking for a last-minute campsite? Wisconsin state forests are unsung 'gems'

MADISON - For many campers, the Labor Day weekend marks the last camping opportunity of the summer and Wisconsin state parks and forests are generally bustling with campers.

While many reservable campsites at parks and forests are already booked for the weekend, people looking for a last-minute campsite for the Labor Day weekend or beyond may want to look for a non-reservable campsite, the majority of which are located in Wisconsin's northern state forests.

People interested in camping Labor Day weekend can check the campsite availability on the Wisconsin State Parks and Forest reservation website. Labor Day weekend reservations are for a minimum of three nights and must include Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening. Reservations must be made at least two days in advance, so Wednesday September 1 is the last day reservations can be made for the holiday weekend. In Thursday, September 2, any reservable sites not booked are available first-come first serve.

But more than 1,500 of Wisconsin's 4,600 state campsites are not reservable and are only available first-come, first serve. Most parks have only a small number of non-reservable sites, and they often fill up by Thursday for the weekend. State forests have the largest numbers of non-reservable sites, mostly located in the northern state forests campgrounds: Black River State Forest in Jackson County, the Brule River State Forest in Douglas County, the Flambeau River State Forest near Winter, Governor Knowles State Forest near Grantsburg, Peshtigo River State Forest in Marinette County, and the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest (the most popular of the state forests).

Campers can check with state park or forest offices for current availability, but they will not hold sites for callers. If space is not available at a state park or forest, staff may be able to offer suggestions for other nearby campgrounds.

"Wisconsin's state forests are unsung 'gems' when it comes to camping," notes Angela Jacobs, a forest recreation specialist with the Department of Natural Resources. "It isn't difficult to understand why Wisconsin's state parks are popular with campers. But the state forests also have facilities for campers and can offer outdoor enthusiasts a great experience, and are often less crowded than some of the more popular parks and forests in the more southern areas of the state."

Camping amenities at the state forests will vary, with many forest campgrounds offering more rustic experiences. State Forest campgrounds can be found on the DNR website.

And while Labor Day generally marks the end of summer, Jacobs notes, "that doesn't mean the end to camping in the Badger State. Fall remains a very popular season for park and forest campgrounds as many people venture out to enjoy cooler weather and fall foliage, and the added benefit of fewer mosquitoes."

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Angela Jacobs - (608) 266-5470

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Leave firewood at home -- keep Wisconsin's parks, forests and campgrounds healthy

MADISON -- For many people, a campfire is an important part of the camping experience. But the firewood that fuels that campfire could also be transporting harmful insects and diseases to the forested areas in Wisconsin, including state parks and campgrounds. Backyard or neighborhood trees could also be at risk.

"It's not uncommon to see campers bringing their own firewood from home," said Jane Cummings-Carlson, forest health expert with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "We have park visitors from all over the state and from across the country. The fact is we have no idea where all that firewood is coming from, and some of that wood might just be the source of our next big problem."

Pests and diseases such as the emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, oak wilt and beech bark disease are easily spread through infested firewood. Data shows that these pests and diseases have already killed millions of trees and have the potential to kill many more.

If a disease or pest is detected in an area, the state can require tree nurseries, logging, mills, and other wood industries to stop the movement or take steps to control the threat. Because people can move firewood many directions from many sources, it is typically a major way for invasive hitch-hikers to reach new areas. State forestry officials use education and regulations as safeguards, but ultimately the health of the trees depends on people choosing to keep firewood local.

Campers can take some simple steps to help protect the state's healthy forests:

  1. Leave firewood at home.
    • Only purchase firewood that has been certified by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture (DATCP) and treated to kill lurking threats from invasive hitch hikers. Find a list of certified firewood dealers online at: [www.emeraldashborer.wi.gov].
    • Or, buy firewood cut within 25 miles of your campsite and from within Wisconsin - it's the law on state properties unless the wood is WI DATCP certified. This new rule went into effect this year in an effort to further reduce the threat of damage by invasive species. Many properties offer firewood for sale, or private sellers have local wood available nearby.
  2. Burn all of your firewood at your campsite; do not take it with you to another destination.
  3. Reduce your need for open fires by cooking over gas or charcoal. Instead of an evening campfire, explore new night-time activities like star-gazing or viewing wildlife by flashlight.
  4. If your plans include staying at Federal, County, or private campgrounds, call ahead because regulations for acceptable firewood on these properties can vary.

"A campsite surrounded by healthy, mature trees is basic to a quality camping experience, and so is having a campfire," said forest health educator Colleen Robinson Klug. "If we are going to enjoy both, we need to take some precautions to prevent introducing invasive pests and diseases to the parks and forests we love the most. By using wood from trees grown nearby, you help prevent such introductions."

For more information see the Firewood Facts, Rules & Advice page of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Colleen Robinson Klug, DNR Forest Health Educator at (608) 266-2172 or Andrea Diss-Torrance, DNR Forest Health Specialist, (608) 264-9247

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Commercial fishing net locations may soon change on Lake Michigan

New video, radio spots alert boaters to potential hazard posed by nets

MADISON - Boaters and anglers recreating on Lake Michigan in the Sheboygan and Manitowoc/Two Rivers area will want to keep an eye out in coming weeks for the flags and buoys that mark commercial fishing trap nets, as restrictions on where they can place those nets change after Labor Day.

"The nets may be moving after Labor Day when the restrictions end," says Wisconsin's Fisheries Director Mike Staggs. "We want to make sure that people are on the look out for the flags and buoys that mark the nets and avoid them, wherever they are. There's a lot of water out there. Let's share it safely."

Trap nets are large underwater nets used by commercial fishers to catch whitefish in the Great Lakes. They are preferred to gillnets and trawls because sport fish that are accidentally caught in the nets can be released alive, however, the nets can pose a potential risk to boaters and anglers because boat downriggers, fishing lines, and propellers can get caught in the nets or anchor ropes.

Commercial fishers do not set trap nets near Port Washington, Milwaukee, Racine or Kenosha harbors, but the nets have historically been set in other parts of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior from late spring into the fall.

In Zone 3, the area south of Sturgeon Bay, from June 29th through Labor Day, commercial trap nets are limited to two small areas: one south of Sheboygan harbor and one between Manitowoc and Two Rivers harbors. After Labor Day, trap nets may be found anywhere in that area. Commercial fishers can increase the number of nets they set from three each to 12 each after the time, but historically have decreased their fishing effort after Labor Day, Staggs says.

Commercial and recreational fishing are both authorized under state law and the Legislature's policy calls for DNR to manage for "an economically viable and stable commercial fishery and an active recreational fishery."

New efforts to alert boaters to commercial fishing trap nets

New informational tools are being used to help alert boaters and anglers to watch for, and steer clear of, flags and buoys that mark commercial fishing trap nets on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

"We want to create a safe and enjoyable fishing environment for everybody on the Great Lakes," says DNR Chief Conservation Warden Randy Stark. "A big part of that is awareness and vigilance, and we hope these new informational efforts by DNR and the National Weather Service will help do that."

Radio and television spots and a revamped web page, Trap Net Safety on the Great Lakes, are among the new outreach efforts from the Department of Natural Resources.

The Milwaukee/Sullivan National Weather Service Forecast Office has posted a Trap Net Hazards to Boaters (exit DNR) story on its web site [www.crh.noaa.gov], issued a Public Information Statement through its wideband network and recorded a public service announcement on its NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards stations serving our marine community from Sheboygan to Kenosha.

"The National Weather Service is pleased to partner with other government agencies including the Wisconsin DNR in spreading the word about potential hazards," says Marc Kavinsky, senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service Milwaukee/Sullivan.

The new materials supplement longstanding outreach efforts by UW Sea Grant, [seagrant.wisc.edu] (exit DNR) the DNR and fishing organizations that alert anglers and other boaters to watch for the flags and buoys that mark the commercial fishing trap nets and steer clear to avoid getting tangled in them.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Warden Supervisor Chris Groth (920) 662-5449; Mike Staggs (608) 267-0796; Marc Kavinsky, NWS, (262) 965-5063

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More than 2,000 observations reported so far to Operation Deer Watch

MADISON -More than 2,000 deer observations have been reported through the Operation Deer Watch program since it kicked off on August 1. The reporting period runs for two months, ending at sundown on Sept. 30

State wildlife officials are encouraging citizens to join the effort at any time by clicking the Operation Deer Watch button on the Department of Natural Resources website. Wildlife officials say all observations are valuable in helping them determine the fawn-to-doe ratio, an important consideration in population estimations.

"Summer deer observations have always been part of our deer management program and the results for this first year effort involving the public have been great," said Brian Dhuey, DNR wildlife survey coordinator. "We've received reports from 120 of Wisconsin's 139 deer management units and we are receiving a lot of valuable information."

In past seasons, observation reports were collected during the months of July, August, and September from state, federal and other agency staff as they went about their summertime duties. Following recommendations of wildlife experts who were asked to review Wisconsin's deer population estimating techniques the month of July was dropped from the survey period.

Researchers are interested in sightings of bucks, does, and fawns. Over the past four weeks observers have reported 564 bucks, 497 unknowns, 1,226 does without fawns, 415 fawns without does, 493 does with one fawn, 456 does with two fawns, and 40 does with three fawns. Preliminary data shows the statewide fawn-to-doe ratio at 0.88.

To put this preliminary fawn-doe ratio into perspective, Jason Fleener, DNR assistant big game biologist, offers this analysis: "The 50-year statewide average is 0.86 fawns per doe, and the 10-year average is 0.84. Last years results include observations for the month of July, which tend to be lower than the months of August and September. Fawns become more visible as they become larger and spend more time with their mothers. It's too early to draw any conclusions about this year's productivity until the survey period has expired. The average fawn to doe ratio is highest in the month of August when fawns are larger, have spots, and are more easily observed."

Previous survey results from the DNR and federal officials can be found on the Wisconsin Wildlife Reports page of the DNR website (Click on the "big game" tab and then look under deer for summer observation reports.)

For people who are not familiar with deer biology, Fleener notes that deer are more reddish-brown during the summer months. They shed their summer coat in late summer or early fall and replace it with a thick, brownish-gray winter coat.

"Fawns also lose their spots by late summer or early fall so, if possible, take an extra minute to confirm your observations," Fleener said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Dhuey (608) 221-6342

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New hunting and trapping rules in effect for 2010 seasons

MADISON - Hunters and trappers looking forward to the 2010-2011 seasons will have some new rules to follow as they pursue their fall pastimes. Several of the new rules were requested and supported by hunters and trappers at the annual Spring Rule Hearings. Others have come to life in response to changing wildlife management needs and new technologies.

Most of the newer rules are found in the "What's New" section of the fall seasons regulations pamphlets and are also listed in a new fact sheet available online on the Hunting and Trapping Regulations page of the Department of Natural Resources website. A few of the newer rules were not finalized until after the paper copies of the regulations went to press but are updated on the DNR website. Hunters and trappers are encouraged to study the regulations pamphlets and check the DNR website under the type of game they intend to pursue to be sure they are aware of any new rules.

Hunters and trappers can also call the DNR Information (1-888-WDNR INFo) line 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. 7 days a week with questions.

A sample of new rules of interest to deer hunters includes:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Loomans - (608) 267-2452

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Oct. 1 deadline for 2011 DNR Urban Forestry Grant applications

MADISON - Wisconsin towns, villages, cities, and counties as well as tribal governments and non-profit organizations have until Oct. 1 to apply for matching state grants to promote urban forestry in their communities.

"The Urban Forestry Grant Program provides funding to help communities throughout Wisconsin develop their own sustainable urban and community forest management program," according to Candice Sovinski, urban forestry grant coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources.

Urban Forestry Grant Program funds can help communities manage their urban forests through a wide range of projects and activities. Previously funded projects include: urban forestry management plans, emerald ash borer preparedness plans, community tree and hazard tree inventories, vegetation ordinances, urban forestry tree boards and/or tree action groups, staff training; public awareness programs, tree planting and much more. The program requires grant recipients to match funding on a 50-50 cost-share basis. Approximately $502,000 in funds will be awarded as part of the 2011 grant cycle, according to Sovinski.

"This year, the grant program received an additional $150,000 in federal funds to help communities prepare for and respond to EAB," Sovinski said. "Emerald ash borere preparedness remains a top funding priority."

The deadline to postmark an Urban Forestry grant application is Oct. 1.

Detailed information on how to apply for the grants, along with links to application forms and guidelines, applicant requirements, and a list of previous grant recipients' funded projects is available on the urban forestry pages of the DNR website. Grant applicants can also contact their regional DNR urban forestry coordinators or Sovinski if they have questions about the program.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Candice Sovinski - (608) 267-3775

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 31, 2010




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