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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published April 12, 2011

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Activities give people around state opportunities to celebrate Earth Day 2011

MADISON -- Wisconsin played a leading role in the original Earth Day on April 22, 1970, and an even bigger role in the 41 years that have followed.

Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson founded what became the nation's largest grassroots gathering to demand action to clean up and protect our air, land, water and wildlife. Learn more about "Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day: The Making of the Environmental Movement [] (exit DNR) on a website from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

While the original Earth Day was largely a combination of festival, political and academic discussions, and coalition building, in subsequent years much of the focus has been on hands-on opportunities for people to get involved with protecting or restoring natural resources in the area where they live.

In Wisconsin, people will have multiple opportunities for hands-on work at local parks, forest, trails and nature centers.

Work*Play*Earth Day!

The statewide organization Friends of Wisconsin State Parks, has organized the third annual Work*Play*Earth Day! to give people a opportunity to celebrate Earth Day 2011 by helping Wisconsin State Parks and Trails get ready for the busy summer season.

Volunteers can join DNR staff, local friends group members, and people from nearby communities for a day of getting their hands dirty helping repair and improve park and trail facilities, then taking time to have some fun enjoying those facilities.

Some of the work volunteers will help out with include planting trees, raking campsites, repairing picnic tables, cleaning-up trails, and pulling invasive species.

When the work is done, volunteers join staff in hiking or biking park trails, visiting nature centers or interpretive displays, or enjoying any of the recreational opportunities available at the different parks.

Each work day will run from approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but the schedule may vary slightly at each location. Volunteers should wear work boots or athletic shoes, long pants and bring their own work gloves. Lunch and snacks, donated by area businesses, will be served at many locations.

Advanced registration is free, but required. People can register through the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks website [] (exit DNR).

Work*Play*Earth Day 2911 events are scheduled for April 16 at Red Cedar State Trail and Big Food Beach State Park; April 23 at Mirror Lake and Kohler-Andrae state parks; April 30 at Peninsula and Harrington Beach state parks; May 7 at Whitefish Dunes and Hartman Creek state parks; and May 14 at Kinnickinnic State Park. For more information contact: Jenna Assmus -(608) 264-8994 or by email at

In addition to the Work*Play*Earth Day events, there are many other activities and work days scheduled at state park, forest and trail properties around Wisconsin. People can also check with local chambers of commerce, or conservation and environmental clubs for other activities.

From its inception, Earth Day has been grass-roots driven, with many groups organizing their own local activities. This makes it very difficult to compile any all-inclusive list of Earth Day activities around the state, but the Department of Natural Resources and many of the friends groups that have formed to assist specific properties have organized many events.

The following is partial list of Earth Day 2011 activities.

2011 Earth Day related activities

Thursday, April 14

Friday, April 15,

Saturday, April 16

Monday, April 18

Tuesday, April 19

Wednesday, April 20

Thursday, April 21

Friday, April 22, Earth Day

Friday & Saturday, April 22 & 23

Saturday, April 23

Saturday, April 30

Sunday May 1

Saturday, May 7

Saturday, May 14



Council Grounds State Park, Fox River State Trail closed due to storm damage

MADISON - Council Grounds State Park and a portion of the Fox River State Trail have been closed to visitors as crews clear debris, complete damage assessments and make repairs after severe storms passed through the state on April 10.

The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado moved through Marathon and Lincoln counties and another was confirmed in Winnebago and Outagamie counties. They were among 10 reported across the state.

Council Grounds State Park is located one mile west of Merrill in Lincoln County. The park will be closed for at least three to five days and maybe longer based on the damage assessment.

"We will work to reopen Council Grounds as soon as possible," said Dan Schuller DNR's director of state parks and trails. "We apologize for any inconvenience the closure may cause but visitor safety is always our first priority and we must be certain visitors will be safe when they visit the park."

The Fox River State Trail runs along the Fox River from Green Bay in Brown County south to Hilbert in Calumet County.

Brown County Facility and Park Management, which maintains the Fox River State Trail in Brown County, reports a section of the trail between Lasee Road and Wrightstown Road is closed until further notice. Heavy rains washed out a trail section and culvert near Lasee Road. Crews will conduct necessary repairs the week of April 18. Visitors should plan trail outings accordingly since there will be no marked detour routes.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Schuller (608) 266-2185.



Walleye bag limits adjusted for Ceded Territory lakes

MADISON -- Daily walleye bag limits have been adjusted on 539 lakes in the Wisconsin Ceded Territory in response to harvest declarations made by six bands of Chippewa in Wisconsin, the state Department of Natural Resources has announced. These bag limits are effective between May 7, 2011 and March 4, 2012, inclusive.

There will be a three walleye bag limit for sport anglers on 226 lakes, a two-fish daily bag limit on 311 lakes, and a 1-fish daily bag limit on Potato (Rusk County) and Grindstone (Sawyer County) Lakes.

"We strive to work together with the tribes so they can exercise their court-affirmed rights while maintaining recreational opportunities for sport anglers and a healthy, sustainable walleye fishery for future generations of all of our respective constituencies," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.

Most off-reservation Chippewa tribal harvest takes place during the spring spearfishing season. Tribal spearers typically have harvested walleye from 170-180 lakes annually, regardless of the number of lakes initially declared. DNR will review tribal harvest following the spring spearfishing season and may revise bag limits upwards on lakes lightly or not speared. An administrative rule passed by the state Natural Resources Board in 1998 allows the department to adjust initial bag limits to reflect actual spring spearing harvest and projected summer harvests.

The adjusted walleye bag limits are available in portable document format on the fishing regulations pages of the DNR website. They will also be posted to the fishing regulations page of the DNR Fishing Wisconsin Web site and are being published as an insert to the 2011-2012 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations. Lakes not listed are subject to the regulations printed in the regulations pamphlet. Anglers should check the regulations for special size and bag limits that are in effect on specific waters.

Of 234 lakes declared by the Lac du Flambeau Band, 224 will have a daily bag limit of three walleye for sport anglers, while 10 lakes and chains will have a daily bag limit of 2 walleye. Those lakes are: Turtle-Flambeau Flowage (Iron County), Bearskin, Minocqua, and Squirrel Lakes, Willow Flowage, and the Tomahawk Lake Chain (Oneida), and Big St. Germain, Plum, Squaw, and Trout lakes (Vilas)

An on-going agreement with the Lac du Flambeau giving the Band authority to sell fishing licenses in return for making declarations at a level that allows a three walleye per day recreational angler bag limit was altered this year to accommodate tribal requests to harvest more fish. The Band declared 10 lakes at the two-bag level.

"That negotiated change assured that the thee-bag agreement would be maintained on the majority of lakes the Lac du Flambeau traditionally spear. Further, the band has promised that it would not select any lake for a two bag two years in a row. We believe that on balance, the agreement is good for the northern tourism interests and the tribe," Stepp said.

As part of a 1983 federal Appellate Court decision affirming Chippewa off-reservation hunting, fishing, and gathering rights, the six bands of Wisconsin Chippewa set annual harvest quotas for off-reservation lakes in the Wisconsin Ceded Territory. As part of court agreements, the Department of Natural Resources reduces bag limits for recreational hook and line anglers in lakes declared for harvest by the Chippewa bands to assure the combined tribal and recreational angler harvest does not jeopardize the ability of walleye to sustain its population in any lake.

For background information on Chippewa treaty rights, a description of the management and monitoring system used to ensure the long term viability of fisheries in the Ceded Territory, and to see data collected as part of that monitoring system, including walleye population estimates and creel survey summaries for all game fish, see the DNR Bureau of Fisheries Management Internet pages regarding the joint tribal and recreational fishery in the Wisconsin Ceded Territory.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurel Steffes (608) 266-8109 or Joe Hennessy (608) 267-9427



Chinook harvests up 47 percent in 2010, outlook good for '11

MILWAUKEE -- Lake Michigan anglers had a banner year of chinook fishing in 2010, with favorable winds and other factors helping to increase harvest 47 percent, state fishery officials say.

"It looks like our chinook salmon harvest by Wisconsin anglers was really good in 2010," says Brad Eggold, the Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor for southern Lake Michigan, who just completed analyzing surveys of what anglers caught on that water in 2010. "I don't see any reason that 2011 would not be another solid year."

Eggold found that anglers harvested 315,294 chinook salmon from Lake Michigan in 2010, up from 214,621 in 2009 and 256,796 in 2008. More good news for Wisconsin anglers: they accounted for the bulk of the lake-wide haul.

"Total chinook salmon harvests reported by all agencies in Lake Michigan was 531,170 fish. Wisconsin angler harvest comprised 60 percent of the total, so we did extremely well in 2010," Eggold says. "It looks like it was very good fishing on our side of the lake in 2010 with favorable wind conditions throughout most of the summer.

"If we get westerly winds and cooler water like we did in 2010, we're going to see good harvests of salmon and trout in 2011."

The 2010 harvest is lower than the average chinook harvest in the preceding five years (344,077) but is much higher than the average from 1988-2001.

Eggold says that the chinook salmon may have benefitted from a large number of young alewives produced in 2010; recent years have seen smaller year-classes of the invasive species. Because of the smaller year-classes of alewives and the overall decrease in the forage base, all the agencies around the lake reduced chinook salmon stocking starting in 2006. "This lakewide reduction in stocking looks like it was a good move and is paying off with better chinook growth and survival," he says.

DNR and counterpart agencies cut stocking levels by 25 percent to better match the number of predators in the lake with the declining forage base. In 1989 the estimated combined lake-wide biomass of four forage species in Lake Michigan hit a peak of around 770 million pounds, most of it bloater chubs. Today, the total is less than one-seventh that.

In the 1970s, the prime suspect in the decline of native species was alewives where today quagga mussels and zebra mussels are usually blamed for changes in the ecosystem, according to U.S. Geological Survey research.

The invasive mussels feed on plankton at the base of the food chain. Quagga mussels are considered even more damaging than zebra mussels because they can live in a wider range of water temperatures, water depths, and they feed most of the year, even in winter when zebra mussels lie dormant.

The lake-wide stocking reduction is also showing up in improved condition of the chinook handled at the Strawberry Creek egg collection facility during fall, according to Scott Hansen, DNR fisheries biologist in Sturgeon Bay.

"The lake-wide reduction in stocking has taken full effect now and it seems to be working," he says. "We've started to see the weights creep back up again."

The condition stayed about the same or was slightly down from 2009, but is still significantly better than in 2007, "when we hit historical lows for weight at age for females," Hansen says.

The average weight for 3-year-old-plus females in 2010 was 5.9 kilograms, down slightly from 6.08 kilograms in 2009, but up from 2007's 4.87 kilograms.

Fish hatched in the same year the stocking reductions started taking place are now leaving the fishing through harvest or through natural mortality. With fewer mouths to feed, the existing forage base is stretching farther.

Sport angler harvest results, also called "creel survey results" are available for other species caught from Lake Michigan on the Lake Michigan management reports pages of the DNR website.

Get e-mail updates with weekly Lake Michigan fishing reports

Anglers interested in fishing Lake Michigan can see what's biting when by signing up for free e-mail updates from the DNR or by directly visiting the Lake Michigan Outdoor Fishing Report.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Eggold (414) 382-7921; Scott Hansen (920) 746-2864



Fewer deaths again end state's snowmobile season

New night speed limit law, volunteer instructors help trend hit six years

MADISON, Wis. - For the sixth consecutive year, Wisconsin ends its snowmobile season with fewer fatalities.

Department of Natural Resources Snowmobile Administrator Gary Eddy credits the trend to a new permanent speed limit law for night drivers, law enforcement efforts, outstanding snowmobile safety instructors and unpredictable temperatures.

Wisconsin recorded 17 snowmobile fatalities this season - down from 21 during the 2009-10 season.

"This was the first year for the permanent night time speed limit of 55 miles per hour," Eddy said. "That has been proven to be effective in the past, which is why it was made permanent."

Enacted in May 2010, the permanent speed limit for snowmobile operators is in effect from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise. The speed limit had been a temporary regulation. The nighttime speed limit had been in place on a temporary basis since 2006.

"During past snowmobile seasons, many of the fatal accidents happened at night and were related to speed," Eddy said.

Since the 55 mph nighttime speed limit has been in place, Eddy said the state's snowmobile season fatality rate has steadily dropped in spite of good snow conditions. "It is a proven fact that speeds greater than 55 at night significantly reduce your ability to react in time to avoid collisions with fixed objects or make curves.

Law enforcement and educational efforts by wardens and local law enforcement agencies also aided in the reduction, Eddy said.

"The unsung hero during a safe snowmobile season are the hundreds of volunteer snowmobile safety instructors who host courses, and work hard to make sure operators and riders make safety part of their winter outings," Eddy said. State law requires all snowmobile operators born on or after Jan 1, 1985 to complete a snowmobile safety course."

The weather also played a role. "The season was up and down for a while with two mid-season warm-ups that took the trails down to nothing in most areas of the state," Eddy said. "Still, there were good riding opportunities for all to enjoy."

More than 220,000 snowmobiles are registered in Wisconsin where operators use 25,000 miles of groomed trails.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary Eddy, Warden/Snowmobile Administrator - (608) 267- 7455 or Joanne Haas, Office of Communications - (608) 267-0798



Warden Fell's public relations skills net honors

Annual Conservation Congress award goes to Barron County warden

RICE LAKE, Wis. - Conservation Warden Russ Fell has been selected to receive the 2011 Conservation Congress Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in recognition of his collaborative conservation efforts in the communities he serves in Barron County.

"Russ has exhibited great initiative in developing a well-rounded program within his administrative area - including a tremendous public relations program," DNR Chief Conservation Warden Randy Stark said. "Russ also is very involved with his local law enforcement agencies and has become a household name in his administrative area."

Warden Fell
Warden Russ Fell (middle) with a novice hunter, her mentor and the bear they harvested in Barron County in 2010.
WDNR Photo

The honor comes from the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the state's citizen advisory group that acts as the liaison between the public and the Department of Natural Resources.

Fell is a regular on the local speaker network, appearing at civic group meetings, the Barron County Fair and local radio shows discussing safety and other natural resources issues. Fell also was featured prominently in American Hunter, a nationally distributed magazine's story about deer hunting called, "Opening Day with a Warden."

His work with youth also is impressive, serving as a youth mentor in learn to hunt events in Barron and other nearby counties. He also collaborates with people in the community to hold the annual shooting sports youth day at the Rice Lake Rod and Gun Club.

The local Walleyes for Tomorrow Program recently benefitted from Fell's work in raising and stocking extended growth walleyes as well as fish habitat projects on local waters.

"Russ also is held in high regard by his fellow wardens and contributes to maintaining the progressive reputation of the warden service," Stark said. "He regularly helps his colleagues outside of his Barron County area, is a field training officer, firearms instructor, and spends a lot of time instructing at the DNR recruit academy in Tomah."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Zebro, Regional Warden - 715-635-4093 or Joanne Haas, Office of Communications - 608-267-0798



2011 Laboratories of the Year recognized

New Holstein
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp with the small registered laboratory award winners from the New Holstein WWTP: Cathy Stepp, Kevin Nett, Don Lintner, left to right

MADISON - Two registered laboratories have been recognized by the Department of Natural Resources for the quality of work they perform in helping the state protect the quality of Wisconsin's environment.

The DNR Laboratory of the Year award is presented each year to a small and a large registered facility. The recognized laboratories are those that have demonstrated a commitment to continually evaluating and improving their procedures to produce the best data possible.

The New Holstein Wastewater Treatment Plant received the 2011 Small Registered Facility Award and the Fond du Lac Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility was the recipient of the 2011 Large Registered Facility Award.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp presented the awards at the March Natural Resources Board meeting in Madison.

"Having high quality data to make resource management decisions is critical to the department's mission," Stepp said.

The New Holstein Wastewater Treatment Plant was nominated for its outstanding efforts, extra quality control samples, and detailed recordkeeping.

Fond du Lac lab
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp with the large registered laboratory award winners from the Fond du Lac Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility: Cathy Stepp, Richard Graham, Autumn Fisher, James Kaiser, left to right

The Fond du Lac Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility was nominated for its excellent quality systems and quality control results. This facility discharges an average of 7 million gallons per day into Lake Winnebago and had zero deficiencies found at their last on-site evaluation.

The recognized laboratories were chosen for the award from more than 240 registered laboratories in Wisconsin.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Trainor, DNR Audit Chemist, 920-662-5475



Midwest Wolf Stewards to meet in cable

CABLE, Wis. -- The Midwest Wolf Stewards, a group that has met annually since the late 1980s to discuss wolf conservation in the Great Lakes region, will have its annual meeting at Lakewoods Resort in Cable on April 28-29.

Wolf status, management and ongoing research within the Great Lakes region of United States and Canada will be discussed at the meeting. The highlight of this year's meeting will include a workshop on genetics and taxonomy of wolves in the Great Lakes Region, and a keynote speech by Dick Thiel, recently retired wildlife educator and the first wolf biologist for the Wisconsin DNR.

The genetic workshop will feature talks by Tyler Wheeldon of Trent University in Ontario, Steve Fain of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Forensic Lab in Oregon, and Roland Kays curator of mammals at New York State Museum. The Midwest Wolf Stewards includes managers, administrators, researchers, biologists, naturalists, educators, and others representing conservation agencies, non-governmental organizations, and members of the public.

The Wolf Stewards meeting rotates around the three states of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and the Province of Ontario. Wisconsin last sponsored the meeting in 2007. The conference is open to the public and registration is $100. The conference will be held at Lakewoods Resort 8 miles east of Cable along County Highway M. Registrations can be done on line (exit DNR) through the Timber Wolf Alliance with the North Lakeland Discovery Center, [] (exit DNR). Hotel reservations for the conference are through Lakewoods Resort, [] (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Adrian Wydeven, Mammalian Ecologist, 715-762-1363



$75,000 donation of sunflowers to be planted for mourning doves

sunflower donation
Wildlife biologist Charlie Kilian with sunflower seed donated by Ducks Unlimited and Dow AgroScience. The $75,000 donation will be used over a two year span to attract mourning doves and benefit other species of Wisconsin wildlife.
WDNR Photo

MADISON -A donation of 250 bags of sunflower seed will be planted at numerous small fields across Wisconsin to support populations of mourning doves and other wildlife species.

The state Natural Resources Board accepted the donation valued at $75,000 from Ducks Unlimited and Dow AgroSciences at its March 23 meeting in Madison.

Each bag is sufficient for planting roughly 6 acres for a total of 1,500 acres of sunflowers and represents a roughly two-year supply at current planting levels.

"Donations of this kind are invaluable and greatly enhance dove hunting opportunities," said Ricky Lien, Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist at Plymouth. "Sunflowers are attractive to mourning doves but also are beneficial for many other species of Wisconsin wildlife."

Mourning doves are one of the most common migratory birds found in Wisconsin. They are particularly numerous south of a line running from Green Bay to Eau Claire. Biologists estimate that between 3 and 4 million doves migrate through Wisconsin each fall.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ricky Lien - 920-892-8756 ext 3045



Dutch oven cooking class offered

BABCOCK, Wis. - People interested in techniques for creating successful outdoor meals and cooking with Dutch ovens can attend a an outdoor cooking class Saturday, May 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center. The course is intended for any hunter, angler, camper, or troupe leader. It covers topics like cooking techniques, equipment, menu ideas and recipes. Lunch will be what the participants cook.

Registration is limited to the first 25 people who mail in their $25 per person fee by April 29. Persons desiring to stay overnight in our dorm either prior to or following the event may do so for a donation of $15 per person per night.

Checks should be made out to DNR-Skills Center. Include the name of each participant, and the address and daytime phone number of one person in each party. Participants may stay in the center's dorm on the night before or after the course for a donation of $15 per person per night. Send your registration fee to: Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center, PO Box 156, Babcock, WI 54413. Inquiries on the status of registrations may be sent via e-mail to:

The Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center is located 20 miles west of Wisconsin Rapids on County Highway X, 1 mile north of Highway 80 near Babcock, Wisconsin on the 9,000 acre Department of Natural Resources Sandhill Wildlife Area.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Sandhill Skills Center at: (715) 884-6333 or (715) 884-2437



Friends of Sandhill open house day April 30

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: The Friends of Sandhill have rescheduled their open house at the Sandhill Wildlife Area to Saturday, April 30.

BABCOCK, Wis. - The public is invited to join the Friends of Sandhill volunteers for a day of celebrating the Sandhill Wildlife Area and its rich history and ecology. The friends group will host an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 30. The even was rescheduled from a previous date.

The 9,150-acre Sandhill Wildlife Area was named for a series of gently rolling sandy ridges crisscrossing the property, which is located near Babcock, southwest of Wisconsin Rapids in central Wisconsin's Wood County.

The property features low, sandy uplands of oak, aspen and jack pine forests, large marshes, and many flowages. A small herd of American bison, white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, Canada geese, ducks, loons, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, shorebirds, songbirds, hawks, owls and furbearers find a home at Sandhill.

Bring your family and explore the trails by foot or bike, learn about the educational programs offered through the skills center and talk to volunteers and staff. Refreshments will be served, and locally made crafts will be for sale. For more information contact Vicki Palen at 715-652-2950 or by email at

More information about the Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center is available on the DNR website


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 12, 2011

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