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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published April 19, 2011

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Longtime DNR manager named to lead agency's Water Division

MADISON - A 32-year veteran of the Department of Natural Resources has been appointed to lead the agency's Water Division staff, who work to provide safe drinking water, keep lakes, rivers, and streams clean, conserve habitat for fish and wildlife, and sustain and improve fisheries in a state where nearly half the adults say they fish.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp announced the appointment of Ken Johnson today, praising him as an excellent career employee she needs on her management team.

"Ken's knowledge of water program on-the-ground implementation and management will be invaluable as we streamline permitting to accommodate shrinking government resources and efforts to grow jobs while enhancing environmental protection," Stepp said.

As administrator, Johnson will oversee more than 600 professional staff working in drinking and groundwater, fisheries management and surface waters programs across the state.

Johnson, a civil and environmental engineer with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, began his career with DNR in 1976 working on northeast Wisconsin public and private drinking water systems to help carry out the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

In 1977, Johnson joined DNR's central office in Madison where he reviewed and processed hydrologic and hydraulic analyses of bridges, dams and other water resources projects. Johnson left DNR to serve as a consulting engineer in the mid-1980s but returned in l985 to serve as deputy chief of the Water Regulation permit program. He was promoted to Lower Rock River Basin Leader in 1996 and then promoted to Water Leader in 2005. In that job, Johnson supervised about 100 employees working in all phases of DNR's water programs in south central Wisconsin.

Johnson succeeds Bruce Baker, who retired last month after 40 years of government service. Johnson begins his new position immediately.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Ken Johnson (608) 264-6278



Public tree planting ceremony at State Capitol April 29 Arbor Day

'Tree Cheer's with Bucky Badger and Smokey Bear

MADISON - Bucky Badger, Smokey Bear, Alice in Dairyland, and other dignitaries will join 66 fourth and fifth grade students from Charles Lindbergh Elementary in Madison at this year's Arbor Day BIG TREE planting at the State Capitol.

The ceremony will take place at the corner of the King Street Walkway and Pinckney Street at the Capitol Park in Madison. Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp will officially open the festivities, accompanied by the students reading aloud the Governor's 2011 Arbor Day and Forest Appreciation Week Proclamation. Christine Lindner, the 63rd Alice in Dairyland, will share the story of her favorite tree. Tree cheers with Bucky Badger and Smokey Bear will rally the crowd before the ceremony.

A 20-foot burr oak tree will be planted. The sapling will join elders of its species growing in Capitol Park, some as old as statehood itself, 163 years. The tree is being donated to the people of Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Nursery Association and The Bruce Company of Wisconsin, Inc. is supplying the planting equipment and planting the tree.

Local area songster Ken Lonnquist and students will sing. This tree is the seventh Arbor Day tree planted on the Capitol. It marks the 139th anniversary of Arbor Day and the 128th year of its continuous celebration by Wisconsin school children. The planting is part of the continuing rehabilitation of Capitol Park and its restoration to landscape architect John Nolan's 1918 design.

"As part of the urban forest canopy, this tree will provide shade, habitat and fresh oxygen, and serve as a reminder that the actions we take today will benefit the generations that follow," said Paul DeLong, chief state forester,

The ceremony is hosted by the DNR Division of Forestry with additional contributions from the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association, the Wisconsin Tree Farm Committee, the Wisconsin Nursery Association and the Wisconsin Arborists Association.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Genny Fannucchi, Forest Resource Education & Awareness Specialist, Division of Forestry (608) 267-3120.

[SPECIAL MEDIA ADVISORY: Share the Earth Day-Arbor Day spirit, listen to and view Wisconsin children singing the Arbor Day tree planting song;



With spring wildfire season underway, burning permits needed and easier to get

April 17-23 Wildfire Prevention Week in Wisconsin

MADISON - Wisconsin residents are beginning spring cleanup around their yards and with peak wildfire season underway, it's more important than ever for people to get the proper burning permits first. This year, the Department of Natural Resources makes it even easier to get the necessary burning permits by issuing them over the phone and via the internet.

Smokey Bear
Smokey wants you to help prevent forest fires by getting a permit before you burn debris.
WDNR Photo

April 17-23 has been designated as Wildfire Prevention Week in Wisconsin and the upper Great Lakes region by the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact. The compact is made up of the states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba, which have created a formal association in order to promote effective prevention, pre-suppression and control of forest fires in the upper Great Lakes region.

DNR fire control and local fire departments have already responded to more than 100 wildfires in 2011.

Statistics show that burning permits, if used appropriately, are an important tool in wildfire prevention and encourage the public to burn safely. Under current law, people living in DNR fire protection districts who want to burn legal materials (e.g. leaves, brush, and pine needles) must first get written permission and then call or check online on the day of the planned burn for any daily restrictions.

Written burning permits can now be obtained online through the DNR website with a valid email address or by calling 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876) from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. A customer service representative will issue the permit over the phone. It will be delivered by U.S. mail or by email.

Customers also can continue to visit their local ranger station or emergency fire warden for permits. All permits are good for the calendar year and free.

Tips for safe burning

The public is reminded it's illegal to burn plastic, recyclable paper, cardboard, garbage, asphalt, treated or painted wood, rubber or oily substances, or structures of any kind (barns, sheds, homes, etc.) with the annual DNR burn permit.

Burning should be the last alternative; consider composting and avoid burning if at all possible. If you do burn debris, forestry officials suggest the following safety tips:

"Extra precautions are needed during this time of year to avoid starting a wildfire. The dry ground cover from last fall catches fire easily. DNR and many local municipalities have regulations that limit burning activities in an effort to reduce the number of wildfires," said Trent Marty, Director for Bureau of Forest Protection for the DNR.

On average, people cause more than 1,500 fires that burn more than 3,000 acres every year in Wisconsin. Wildfires are most often caused by burning debris, arson, and when hot equipment or sparks ignite dry materials. Statistics show that more wildfires occur during March, April and May than in other months. The spring wildfire season ends when leaves emerge on trees and grasses green up.

Find more information online on DNR burning permits and the current statewide fire danger in Wisconsin.. For recycling or composting ideas visit the alternatives to burning web page of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Catherine Koele, wildfire prevention specialist - (608) 266-2359



Bears emerging from dens; take steps to avoid nuisance problems

MADISON - As winter melts into spring and black bears start emerging from their dens, homeowners statewide are encouraged to take precautions to reduce the potential for problems with these hungry bruins.

Because natural food sources are limited at this time of year, bears are often attracted to bird feeders, garbage cans, grills, or other common things found in yards, says Mike Zeckmeister, Department of Natural Resources northern wildlife supervisor.

"Black bears are normally very timid and avoid contact with people however, bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food and can become a nuisance," he says. "Taking steps to remove any food attractants will greatly reduce the likelihood of having problems with bears."

Highly habituated bears can be dangerous and may need to be euthanized. Preventing the problem in the first place is the best solution for bears and people alike, Zeckmeister says.

"When bears become less fearful of humans and humans do not respect bears as wild animals there becomes a problem," he says. "When we have to resolve this problem it is usually too late and the bear loses."

It is illegal to intentionally feed bears in Wisconsin. But people also should not feed bears unintentionally by allowing a food source to be accessible to bears near their home. Bird feeders are a common bear attractant, especially in the spring, and unsecured garbage cans or dumpsters are also potential problems.

Wildlife biologists encourage residents to follow these steps to avoid attracting bears:

  • Don't knowingly feed a bear;
  • Completely remove bird feeders, even during daytime hours. Bears are active during the day and may cause problems even if the feeders are out only during that time.
  • Reduce garbage odors by rinsing food cans before putting them in recycling containers or garbage cans;
  • Compost vegetable scraps;
  • Keep meat scraps in the freezer until garbage day and if possible, keep garbage cans in a closed building until the morning of pick-up. Commercial dumpsters should be locked;
  • Keep pet food inside or inaccessible to bears even during daytime hours;
  • Keep barbeque grills and picnic tables clean.
  • If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise to scare it away. Then back away slowly or go inside and wait for the bear to leave. When scaring the bear away, make sure it has a clear escape route. Never corner a bear.

    If the bear found food such as bird feed or garbage one or more times, it will return to the spot. When food is no longer available the visits will eventually stop. Bears will periodically check sites where food was once available so it may take several days to weeks before the bear will quite visiting a site one the food source has been removed.

    If you encounter a bear while in the woods - stay calm, don't shoot the bear or approach it. Give it space, walk away and watch from a distance. Do not approach sows with cubs.

    DNR partners with U.S. Department of Agriculture -Wildlife Services to handle nuisance bear complaints. People who require assistance with a nuisance bear should contact the Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for southern Wisconsin and 1-800-228-1368 for northern Wisconsin.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Koele (608)266-2151 or Linda Olver (608) 261-7588



    Report black bear and bobcat sightings

    MADISON - People can help state wildlife officials monitor and document the expanding distribution of black bears and bobcats in the state by reporting observations through an online reporting form.

    "As spring arrives and wildlife become more active and people get out-of-doors more, we encourage hunters, hikers and others enjoying the outdoors to report when they see black bears and bobcats," says Becky Roth, DNR biologist at Spring Green.

    Black bears and bobcats are commonly found in the northern and central forest regions of Wisconsin and much of their populations still live in these forested counties. However, recent range expansion by both species has led to more frequent sightings in southern counties, Roth said.

    Biologists have been tracking evidence of bears in the southern third of the state, an area that is outside of their normal range as shown in this bear distribution map. The public is encouraged to report these bear sightings, tracks, scat, claw marks or hair through the online site or call their local wildlife management office. Past efforts by the public have allowed the DNR to produce a map of black bear sightings in Southern Wisconsin.

    June is the breeding season for bears in Wisconsin and "most bear sightings we receive in southern counties occur during late May and June when sub-adult bears, mostly young males, are forced out of breeding territories up north and disperse long distances in search of new habitat. But we have already been receiving reports this month," Roth says.

    The wooded hills, coulees, creeks and river bottoms southwestern Wisconsin's Driftless area provide abundant food and cover for bears as well as potential winter den sites, so it's possible that wandering bears will find it to their liking and some may decide to stay.

    "Although we've had a few instances in past years when bears have stayed around southern counties through the summer, most leave the area and presumably return north as the breeding season ends," she says.

    Last year, however, we were getting reports of sows with cubs and sows with yearlings which resulted in continued bear sightings throughout the summer. This is because female bears with their young cubs or yearlings are less likely to move long distances over a short time period.

    The DNR is also looking for help in collecting evidence of bobcats. The public is encouraged to report all bobcat observations, tracks, or scat from all parts of Wisconsin. As of September 2010, Wisconsinites reported more than 100 bobcats via the online bear and bobcat observation site. Using information from wildlife managers, personal correspondence, and the online reporting form, a map of bobcat sightings has been produced.

    "Citizen monitoring has proven to be a valuable tool in resource management and an opportunity for interested citizens to contribute to our knowledge of wildlife and habitat trends," said Brian Dhuey, DNR's wildlife surveys coordinator.

    The DNR also asks people to email any photos taken of the black bear or bobcat to wildlife management; this can be done directly from the reporting form.

    "Trail cameras that have been placed in the woods as scouting tools are oftentimes a good source of photo evidence. This is especially valuable for bobcats, as they are secretive animals and tracking their distribution is often times difficult," Dhuey says. Previous photos can be viewed on the DNR's trail camera gallery.

    Other endangered or rare animal sightings can be reported using the DNR Bureau of Endangered Resources Rare Mammal Observation form. Use this form to report sightings of wolf, moose, cougar, lynx, wolverine, marten, or Franklin's ground squirrel.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Becky Roth (608) 588-3432; Brian Dhuey (608) 221-6342; Brad Koele (608)266-2151



    Lake Michigan Water Trail draft plan topic of two open houses

    MADISON -- The public is invited to share their comments on a proposed 450-mile water trail along the Lake Michigan shoreline during an open house April 28 in Milwaukee and another one May 3 in Green Bay.

    The draft plan would establish the new Lake Michigan Water Trail network along the Wisconsin shoreline of Lake Michigan from the Michigan border at Marinette to the Illinois border south of Kenosha. When finalized, it will be the second longest trail in the state, behind the 1,000-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

    A water trail is a route along a waterbody for people using small beachable boats like kayaks, canoes, day sailors or rowboats. Water trails are linked by shoreline facilities that support water travel and the variety of natural, cultural and historic resources a traveler encounters along the way.

    There are currently eight other established water trails in Wisconsin.

    The draft Lake Michigan Water Trail Plan identifies gaps or zones where further public access is needed to complete this trail. These zones would be targeted to increase public land holdings along the shoreline. The plan also proposes developing a branding strategy that local communities and private affiliates can embrace as a Lake Michigan Water Trail Network, and provides for educational opportunities that will encourage the understanding of the Lake Michigan ecosystem.

    Participants at the open houses will have opportunity to review Lake Michigan water access points and associated facilities. During the open houses participants will be asked to review maps and information about a variety of water access points that could become part of a Lake Michigan Water Trail.

    The goal of the open houses is to gain more knowledge about water access points along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Staff from the Wisconsin State Park System, National Park Service and Bay Lake Regional Planning Commission will facilitate review input, provide maps and background information.

    Both open houses will run from 5 to 7 p.m., with a short presentation at 5:30 p.m. to provide background information:

  • April 28, Milwaukee - Milwaukee Public Library Bay View Branch, 2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
  • May 3, Green Bay - Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission Office, 438 South Jackson St.
  • People also can provide comments by regular mail, email or phone through May 13, 2011. For information, questions or to submit email comments can contact Jeff Prey, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, PO Box 7921, PR/6, Madison WI 53703 (608) 266-2182

    More information about this project is available on the Lake Michigan Water Trail page.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Prey, (608) 266-2182



    Catchable size trout delivered to dozens of waters statewide

    MADISON - Catchable size trout are being delivered to dozens of waters before the May 7 opening day of the regular inland season to provide trout fishing where it wouldn't otherwise exist.

    The trout are stocked in waters where the habitat is marginal and there is no natural reproduction. They are a small subset of the state's overall trout treasury -- more than 10,000 miles of classified trout water and trout populations that have generally increased statewide over the last 60 years.

    "We'll hope to complete most of the put'n take stocking by the opener or shortly thereafter, depending on conditions," says David Giehtbrock, statewide fish production manager. If the lake is frozen, they'll need to wait.

    The fish were raised at Lakewood State Fish Hatchery, Nevin State Fish Hatchery, Osceola State Fish Hatchery and St. Croix Falls State Fish Hatchery. Additional fish were raised and stocked through cooperative rearing agreements with fishing clubs, and about 70,000 fish were stocked in urban fishing waters, small lakes and ponds cooperatively managed with the local municipality and used as a place for fishing clinics and kids fishing.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Giehtbrock (608) 266-8229



    Garbage to Gardens: Compost Grows poster contest winner announced

    Get Started on Your Own Compost Pile Today

    MADISON - A Cedarburg High School junior submitted the winning design for a new poster contest aimed at encouraging people to compost waste from their homes.

    winning design
    Drew Wandschneider's winning design
    WDNR Photo

    Drew Wandschneider's design was selected as the winning image from more than 40 entries received from high schools across Wisconsin, according to Elisabeth Olson, recycling and waste reduction education and outreach coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources.

    The DNR announced the new poster contest in February, with the theme of Garbage to Gardens: Compost Grows. Wandschneider's design will be featured on the front side of a two-sided poster about composting. The second side will contain commonly asked questions, recipes for compost and other educational composting information. The poster will be inserted as a supplement to the June edition of the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine and sent to more than 80,000 subscribers. It also will be distributed statewide as an educational resource for schools, businesses, communities and individuals.

    The release of our Garbage to Gardens: Compost Grows poster will coincide with International compost Awareness Week, May 1-7. Compost Awareness Week, sponsored by the US Composting Council, seeks to educate citizens, businesses, schools and others on the importance of composting. To get started on your own composting pile, see the tips below:

    Keep it simple. Leaves make great mulch applied either in the fall or stored for use next year. It's easy to build or buy a simple structure for composting or to compost leaves in a pile with a little care. You can also mow leaves and let them and grass clippings enrich your lawn. Bury or till leaves into your garden to add healthy organic matter and nutrients to the soil.

    Mix it up. If you're composting in a pile or bin, the key to good compost is having a mix of "browns" (leaves, dead plants and small branches) and "greens" (grass clippings, green plants and vegetable food scraps). Try to layer these materials and keep the compost well mixed.

    Supply the basics. Compost needs fresh air and water to help microbes break the material down and prevent odors. If you compost in a covered bin, make sure to add some water. Turn the compost to make sure air gets mixed in throughout.

    Expand your horizons. Once you get started with yard materials, you can add in vegetable food scraps, some types of paper and other items. Recycling food waste like vegetable trimmings, tea bags, coffee grounds and eggshells is best done in a covered bin, again layering with brown material. Do not add meats, bones and dairy as these may smell and attract pests. Worms, especially red worms, in indoor bins are another way to recycle food waste.

    Compost and worm bins can be homemade or commercially manufactured. Inquire about compost bins with your local retailers, or search the Internet for "compost bins" to find instructions for making your own bin and to see a wide variety of manufactured bins. Local ordinances may apply to home composting. Contact your local officials to learn more.

    More information on composting is available online on the DNR website. More information can also be found on the UW-Extension website (search publications for "composting").

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Elisabeth Olson (608) 264-9258.



    Frog calling and identification adventure set at Sandhill

    BABCOCK, Wis. - People who want to learn more about Wisconsin's marshland frogs and toads can join herpetologist Dan Nedrelo on a night-time adventure finding frogs at Sandhill Wildlife Area, Saturday evening, May 14. The event will include a discussion of frog ecology and status, and then participants will search for and identify the croakers in their marshland boudoirs.

    Hip boots are required for this swampy soiree and are available upon request, and participants should bring their own meal and refreshments if desired.

    Registration is limited to 25 people on a first-come, first-served basis. Register by mailing in a registration fee of $20 per person by May 6.

    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 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 email to:

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

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



    Awards recognize urban and community forest friends

    MADISON - A Milwaukee Area Technical College instructor, retired city forester, community foundation, utility, four governmental entities, Forest County Potawatomi Tribe, three businesses and a Madison alderwoman have been recognized by the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council for their support of the state's urban and community forest resources.

    The Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council advises the Department of Natural Resources on the best ways to preserve, protect, expand and improve the state's urban and community forest resources.

    "The Urban Forestry Awards are a way to recognize and thank individuals and organizations for their work and dedication," said Kelli Tuttle, president of Bluestem Forestry Consulting and council chair. "The awards are also intended to help focus attention on a valuable community resource: the trees, plantings and habitat that are an integral part of Wisconsin's forest resource."

    Winners of this year's Urban Forestry Awards are:

  • David Liska, retired Waukesha City Forester, received the Lifetime Achievement Award;
  • Michael J. Wendt, instructor and instructional chair of the Milwaukee Area Technical College Landscape Horticulture Program, received the Distinguished Service Award;
  • Marsha Rummel, City of Madison Alder, recipient of the Elected Official Distinguished Service Award;
  • Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, City of Oshkosh-Forestry and Ranger Services Inc., received the Project Partnership Award for the Oshkosh Taking Root Fund;
  • City of Waukesha Forestry and We Energies received the Project Partnership Award;
  • Forest County Potawatomi Tribe, received an Innovations in Urban Forestry Award
  • Sustainable Resources Institute Inc. Executive Director Don Peterson, City of Oak Creek City Forester Rebecca Lane, DNR Forest Utilization and Marketing Specialist Terry Mace, and DATCP Plant Pest and Disease Specialist Anna Healy, received Innovations in Urban Forestry awards.
  • More information on the winners and their achievements can be found at Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council Annual Awards.

    The award recipients were announced earlier this year at the annual Wisconsin Arborist Association-DNR urban forestry conference in Green Bay. Award plaques and local recognition were provided at award ceremonies in the honorees' home communities.

    Nominations sought for 2012 awards

    "Now is an excellent time to look around and identify the individual, agency or organization whose respect for and work in support of their community's urban forestry resource should be recognized," said Tuttle.

    Detailed information for submitting a nomination can be found on the Urban Forestry Council Awards web page. Nominations and supporting materials must be completed by Dec. 30, 2011 to be considered.

    "One way to celebrate Arbor Day and Earth Day in Wisconsin is to spend some time in your community to enjoy the parks, trees and other plantings that make up your urban forest, and identify the people who are helping to nurture and preserve this often-overlooked resource," Tuttle said. "Now is a perfect time to nominate someone for an Urban Forestry Award."

    CONTACT: Laura Wyatt (608) 267-0568


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    Last Revised: Tuesday, April 19, 2011

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