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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published July 26, 2011

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DNR Park offers learning and fun at Wisconsin State Fair

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated: the DNR will not be selling licenses at the Wisconsin State Fair this year. Computers will be available allowing customers to use the DNR Online License Center to buy licenses if desired.

MILWAUKEE -- If it's August in West Allis that means it's time for the Wisconsin State Fair, and for more than 60 years Natural Resources Park has provided fair visitors a bit of respite from the hustle and bustle of the Midway, cream puff lines, animal barns and exposition hall hawkers.

Located on the southwest corner of the fairgrounds, Natural Resources Park offers fair visitors a mix of family-friendly activities where they can learn more about Wisconsin's fish, forests and other natural resources through live displays, and participate in hands-on activities that are fun for all ages.

Video: State Fair

T-shirt printing is a popular activity at Natural Resources Park at the Wisconsin State Fair, Aug. 4-14.
[VIDEO Length 1:16]

"People come to see us at the state fair because they love our resources," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "It's the perfect venue for us to share ideas with citizens on how they can help protect and sustain the quality of our air, land, water, fish, and wildlife and involve them as partners in taking care of our resources. The state fair is a great opportunity for us to connect with the citizens we serve. Our employees enjoy it as much as the visitors."

This year the park will continue to feature the popular National Archery in the Schools Program activity area. Kids and adults of all ages and physical abilities can learn about the sport of target-style archery and practice with state of the art equipment. Also returning is the successful 'Passport to Fun' program with a new passport and program activities. Passport to Fun is geared toward children 6 to 12 years old and introduces them, and their families, to the outdoors and how they can help protect our environment and natural resources.

In the south building, a variety of Wisconsin fish species will be on display at the aquarium exhibit. Fisheries staff will be available to answer questions and provide information on Wisconsin's premier fishery and offer casting lessons each day from 3 to 5 p.m. in the activities tent.

People wondering what it would be like to work for a nationally recognized environmental and natural resources agency can stop by the career booth in the North Building and talk with staff about careers with the DNR.

A traditional State Fair activity for many families is T-shirt printing at the Natural Resources Park activities tent. Coordinated by the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, each day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. artists of all ages can decorate a T-shirt or other piece of material. The printing is free. T-shirts and reusable tote bags are available for $5 or you can bring your own.

Havenwoods State Forest will transport some of their resident reptiles and amphibians to the fair. Visitors can spin the Wondrous Wildlife Wheel and answer questions on Wisconsin's wildlife and learn about places to go to observe and appreciate the diversity of our wildlife.

DNR staff that monitors air quality will team up again this year with the National Weather Service to show visitors how to compare weather conditions and air quality. Learn how the experts forecast what to expect later in the day and tomorrow to help plan outdoor activities.

The Wisconsin State Fair opens Thursday, August 4, and runs through Sunday, August 14, at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis. More information is available on the Wisconsin State Fair website [] (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Greg Pilarski - (414) 263-8511



Fish contaminant levels decreasing in some waters

Mercury controls, PCB cleanups lead to progress

MADISON -- Wisconsin's commitment to cleaning up contaminated sediment and regulating mercury is paying off for anglers, as recent studies and the newly available 2011 fish consumption advice booklet show reduced contaminant levels in fish in some waters.

"The data we've collected over the past 40 years shows general improvements in mercury and PCB levels in many locations," said Candy Schrank, Department of Natural Resources fisheries toxicologist. "Studies using our data support assertions that fish respond to sediment clean-up and mercury emission reductions, and this is good news for anglers and for state and local economies."

Nearly half of Wisconsin adults say they fish, and sport fishing generates a $2.75 billion annual economic impact in Wisconsin, supports 30,000 jobs, and generates $200 million in state and local tax revenues.

DNR has been working for more than a decade with local communities to reduce the use of mercury-containing products, promote mercury recycling, reduce mercury spills and reduce air emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources.

Fish are the main source of mercury and PCBs in the human diet; both contaminants can harm developing fetuses and children and are also harmful for adults, Schrank says.

Mercury is naturally occurring in the environment and also comes from human sources. It enters waters and is converted to a toxic form that's easily absorbed by fish and other aquatic organisms, and in turn, by people that eat the fish. PCBs are man-made chemicals once used in a variety of manufacturing processes but now banned; they remain in sediments and accumulate in fish and other organisms.

Several big reduction efforts took effect in 2010: utilities were required to reduce mercury emissions by 40 percent by Jan. 1, 2010; ERCO Worldwide, which owns and operates a chlor-alkali plant in Port Edwards that until 2009 was responsible for about 20 percent of the annual mercury emissions reported in Wisconsin, voluntarily moved to a new technology that eliminated mercury emissions from its manufacturing processes and a new law effective Nov. 1, 2010, bans the sale of mercury containing devices including fever thermometers, barometers, toys and thermostats, according to Martin Burkholder, lead staff on mercury for the air management program.

Wisconsin and the federal government have worked with a variety of responsible parties, committing significant resources toward removing PCB-contaminated sediments from rivers and harbors that historically received wastewater discharges from paper mills and other operations that used PCBs.

In March 2011, Gov. Scott Walker travelled to Little Lake Butte des Morts to announce that successful remediation had reduced PCBs in walleye (pdf), sediment and water significantly to levels that would have taken 15 to 20 years to achieve if nothing had been done.

Other stretches of the Lower Fox where remediation efforts are ongoing, or have been planned but not yet started, still carry advice ranging from "don't eat" to "limit to one meal per month" depending on the species.

"What we're doing is working and we need to keep at it until all of our waters are fishable and swimmable," says Ken Johnson, DNR's top water official.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Candy Schrank (608) 267-7614; Marty Burkholder (608) 264-8855



Updated fish consumption advisory available online and in DNR offices

MADISON -- Wisconsin's updated fish consumption advice for 2011 is available online and printed copies are available at Department of Natural Resources service centers and regional offices.

DNR, in consultation with the Department of Health Services, examines new data, along with data from recent years to re-evaluate the fish consumption advice every year and issue an updated copy of Choose Wisely: A Health Guide for Eating Fish in Wisconsin" [PUB-FH-824, PDF 2.85MB].

Wisconsin has one set of consumption guidelines covering all inland waters that recommends: women of childbearing age and children 15 and under to limit their meals of panfish to one per week and game fish to one per month (with the exception of musky, which they should not eat). Men and older women are advised to limit their game fish meals to one per week with the exception of musky, which they should eat no more than once a month.

There are certain waters that carry their own specific, more stringent advice because fish from those waters are found to have higher levels of either mercury or PCBs, according to Candy Schrank, Department of Natural Resources fisheries toxicologist. In 2011, as in past years, the changes have occurred on the list of waters based on data collected by DNR and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2008-2010.

Specific, more stringent advice was removed for two waters -- Neshonic Lake in La Crosse County and the Upper Fox River from Swan Lake to Portage due to declines in PCB levels in fish, and advice was relaxed on the Lower Fox River reach from Little Lake Butte des Mortes to the De Pere dam, reflecting improvements since the PCB-manufacturing ban and remediation efforts on that river segment.

On the other end of the spectrum, four new waters have been added to the list needing specific, more stringent advice: Silver Lake in Barron County, Moose Lake in Sawyer County and Diamond Lake in Taylor County and a stretch of the Black River in Jackson County have been added due to higher concentrations of mercury. The additions do not mean contaminant levels have gotten worse, but that recent data confirmed the need for more stringent advice, Schrank says.

Minor changes to advice were made for four other lakes, relaxing advice on Butternut Lake in Price/Ashland counties and Lake Noquebay in Marinette County, and strengthening advice on the Brule River Flowage in Florence County and Turtle Flambeau Flowage in Iron County, Schrank says.

Dr. Henry Anderson, chief medical officer from the Department of Health Services, encourages people to read the advice and see if the waters they fish carry more specific recommendations than the general statewide safe eating guidelines.

"Fish are healthy for people to eat because they are low in saturated fat, high in protein and some species contain high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids," Anderson says. "But people should follow the fish consumption advice to reduce their exposure to environmental contaminants, and should consider keeping and eating the younger, smaller fish and letting the larger fish go."

Recent surveys and studies have shown that 83 percent of all Wisconsin adults eat fish, with some people exposing themselves to unsafe amounts of mercury by eating too much of the wrong kind of fish. Panfish, young fish and light tuna have lower amounts of mercury while canned white tuna, swordfish, and game fish like musky and walleye have more.

Video about fish consumption advice now available in Hmong, Spanish

New this year, Hmong and Spanish versions are available of a two-minute video about Wisconsin's fish consumption advice.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Candy Schrank (608) 267-7614; Dr. Lynda Knobeloch (608) 266-0923



'Fishtory" a new place to read, report tall fish tales

MADISON -- A North Carolina tourist braves 49 degree weather and horizontal rain to fish Wisconsin in June. "I froze my tail off, but it was worth it"! he says after a memorable catch.

A Green Bay father introduces his 2-year-old daughter to fishing and both get more than they bargained for.

A Hillsboro man starts a fishing club for middle and high schoolers who need a place to belong.

And a fish tag finds its way back to DNR's Fitchburg office 20 years and 18 inches after biologists put the tag in the fish.

These are some of the stories shared by anglers who fished in Wisconsin this summer. They are fishing histories, or fishtory, that tell why so many people who live in Wisconsin or visit here spend time on the water.

And they are the start of a new feature on the DNR website: Fishtory.

"Every angler's got a story," says Karl Scheidegger, a DNR fish biologist and leader of the DNR's fisheries outreach team.

"Every year, more and more people have sent us photos and stories with their fishtories," he says. "We wanted to share their stories and encourage others to create their own on Wisconsin's waters."

Scheidegger encourages anglers to send their photos and stories in to DNR so they can be posted on the Fishtory page for everyone to enjoy.

'Every fish has a tale' giveaway

Some of the stories shared on DNR's new web feature, Fishtory, came from anglers who pledged to take someone new fishing and shared their story with the DNR. By taking DNR's online pledge and sharing their story, these anglers are entered into a giveaway drawing for fishing-related prizes that runs through the end of September.

The grand prize winner will receive a personalized custom-carved fish sculpture; other fishing prizes will be given to two other lucky prize winners. Their names will be drawn and announced in early October.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Karl Scheidegger (608) 267-9426



Operation Deer Watch 2011 helps biologists monitor deer populations

MADISON - Wildlife researchers are asking hunters and wildlife watchers to continue sending in summer deer observations during August and September.

In 2010, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources launched Operation Deer Watch, a new summer deer observation effort involving outdoor enthusiasts and hunters. Summer deer observations have been part of DNR deer management program for more than 50 years but until last season only staff observations and those of other resource and law enforcement professionals were recorded.

The number of deer seen with and without fawns are indicators of annual deer herd production. Data from Operation Deer Watch will be used with DNR observations to help determine the fawn-to-doe ratio. The vast amount of observation data that citizens can provide will help the wildlife biologists effectively and accurately monitor Wisconsin's deer reproduction.

"We ask that you continue to participate in this important survey by taking the time to document information about your summer deer observations," said Brian Dhuey, DNR wildlife surveys researcher. "The results from Operation Deer Watch become more meaningful as we gather many years of summer deer observations and can monitor production trends."

The department is interested in sightings of bucks, does and fawns. Last summer, Operation Deer Watch generated more than 4,000 observations. A total of 9,662 deer were observed by 1,378 individual observers during August and September 2010. The statewide estimate for the 2010 fawn-to-doe ratio using Operation Deer Watch data was 89 fawns per 100 does.

To participate in the survey, go to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website and keyword search "operation deer watch." Once on the web page, watch the video survey instructions and then click on the link to the survey to record your sightings. A tally sheet (pdf) is available to record information about deer observations when people do not have access to computers.

Dhuey says it is important that all information be filled out for each observation.

"Please ensure that the date, deer management unit, and the type and number of deer observed are recorded, without this information the data are of little value," he says.

The survey period begins August 1 and continues until Sept. 30. A report summarizing the results of your 2011 deer observations will be produced at the end of the survey period and sent to all individuals who enter their email address on every observation form.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Dhuey at (608) 221-6342 or Jes Rees at (608) 221-6360



Still time to report summer game bird brood observations

MADISON - The Aug 20 end date for the 2011 summer game bird brood survey is approaching and wildlife managers urge hunters and wildlife watchers to continue sending in reports.

Beginning June 12, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources asked Wisconsinites to record all game bird broods observations via an online reporting form.

"By recording broods of ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, turkey, bobwhite quail, gray partridge, prairie chicken and sharp-tailed grouse the state has another measure of brood production, which helps biologists make management decisions," said Brian Dhuey, DNR wildlife surveys researcher.

During the first few weeks of the 2011 survey period, the most frequently observed game bird species were turkeys (82 percent of observations). Of those observations, 32 percent of hen turkeys had a brood and the brood averaged 5.5 poults, or young turkeys. This is slightly ahead of last year's final count which found broods averaging 3.9 poults each. Biologists caution however that the 2011 data are preliminary and could change as young birds die during the remainder of the rearing season.

Ruffed grouse composed 13 percent of the game bird observations. Brood size for ruffed grouse was 6.3 young per brood. The remaining 5 percent of the reports are ring-necked pheasant observations. Of the ring-necked pheasants reported, 40 percent of the hens had a brood and the brood averaged 5.5 young per brood.

Observers recorded 62 percent of observations as complete counts; meaning all the young in the brood were counted. Additionally, observers recorded 130 lone turkey hens and three lone pheasant hens. The counties with highest reporting rates are Dane, Marathon, Rock, and Price.

"Please continue to enter game bird brood observations. No special effort is needed! Simply report the type of bird seen, the county it was seen in, and the number of hens and chicks seen on the online survey form," Dhuey said.

Observations can be recorded at the end of every day, or for times when you do not have access to the Internet and would like to keep track of your observations, a tally sheet (pdf) has been provided to help record sightings.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Dhuey at (608) 221-6342 or Jes Rees (608) 221-6360



Seven tips to save water and money this summer and beyond

MADISON - July's heat and humidity may tempt some homeowners to double up on lawn watering, but it's a great time to turn the faucet down and move in the other direction, state water conservation officials say.

"Summer's a great time to assess your yard and see what your options are for using less water while still maintaining those features that make your yard special or important to you," says Shaili Pfeiffer, a groundwater specialist with the Department of Natural Resources.

Some changes can be made immediately to reduce water use and maintain or improve healthy lawns and gardens. Other changes may require a little more planning and are best implemented over time, but can pay off big by saving on water and electricity bills while helping replenish groundwater supplies and creating a beautiful yard that attracts and feeds butterflies and birds, Pfeiffer says.

Here are seven steps for saving water, money and electricity this summer and beyond:

  1. Lawn watering: Homeowners who can't bring themselves to let their lawn go brown and dormant can protect their lawn while using water more efficiently by taking these steps:
    • Water your lawn with one inch of water weekly. Too much water or watering too frequently can damage the grass roots or create shallow roots.
    • Water early in the morning. Grass will get more of the irrigation water and less will be lost to evaporation.
    • Cut your grass no shorter than two inches. Taller grass requires less water and results in less evaporation.
    • Check the weather. No need to water if your area has had an inch of rain in the past week. If a rainstorm is forecasted for the next day or two, you can safely put off watering.
  2. Decrease lawn area: Convert lawn into garden beds that use less water. Look for places that are difficult to mow or where adding some varied plants will enhance your yard's visual appeal. Establishing circles around trees, borders along fences, houses, garages and paths are all good places to start. Replace the lawn with drought tolerant plants that won't need water after being established.
  3. Use native plants: Plants and shrubs native to Wisconsin come in beautiful varieties with choices to bloom throughout the season, adapted to varied soil types and light conditions and to Wisconsin's weather. Correctly matched to soil and light needs, once established, native plants will survive wet weather and drought conditions alike.
  4. Redirect downspouts to the lawn or a rain garden: Redirecting downspouts into a lawn or a garden allows some rainwater to soak into the soil and eventually reach the water table. This practice keeps water local and on your property as much as possible.
  5. Plant a rain garden: A rain garden is a specialized garden that uses water typically captured from a roof, and allows the rain to slowly infiltrate into the ground, contributing to groundwater supplies and reducing stormwater runoff. Rain gardens promote water conservation by contributing to the supply of groundwater available, rather than reducing the water withdrawn.
  6. Install rain barrels: Installing a rain barrel connected to a downspout to create an additional water source. Rain barrel water can be used for outdoor and indoor non-edible plants. These barrels usually hold 50 gallons and fill quickly in a rainstorm.
  7. Visit DNR at Wisconsin State Fair and get a free faucet aerator: A faucet aerator reduces the flow of water through the faucet, saving water while maintaining adequate pressure for hand washing, for example. DNR will be giving out free faucet aerators, one per family, at its water conservation booth in the south building of the Natural Resources Park at the Wisconsin State Fair, August 4-14, in West Allis.

More information and links to resources to increase water efficiency are available in the June Natural Resources magazine article, "Water Conservation and Efficiency," and can be found in a "Better Homes and Groundwater" (pdf) publication on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Shaili Pfeiffer (608) 267-7630



New report details benefits of clean diesel grants

MADISON - Wisconsin is benefitting and will benefit substantially more in the future from the pollution reduction, health cost savings, and local economic incentives provided through clean diesel grants, according to a new state report outlining the effects of diesel vehicle emissions and highlighting improvements made under a clean diesel grant programs.

The more than 20 million diesel engines operating across the country are vital to the economy, from transportation and freight movement to construction, but their emissions account for a significant amount of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions. Because diesel engines have a longer life span than gasoline vehicles, it is important to ensure they are running efficiently to minimize their environmental impact.

The state Department of Natural Resources and its partners administer numerous clean diesel grant programs to help reduce diesel emissions from both public and private vehicle fleets across the state. The grant programs offer financial assistance to diesel equipment operators to purchase and install technologies that will reduce emissions from older diesel equipment while also often improving their bottom line. These grants have been found to be one of the most cost-effective strategies for reducing diesel and mobile source emissions.

"The clean diesel grant programs have been an important resource for many businesses throughout Wisconsin," said William B. Baumann, acting director, Bureau of Air Management. "The grants allow them to increase their profits while being environmentally responsible. It's a win- win."

Grantees garner fuel-efficiency and improve their bottom-line with clean diesel technology installations. Technology manufacturers and vendors, some of which are based in Wisconsin, also receive financial benefits by selling and installing the clean diesel technologies. Wisconsin citizens benefit from cleaner air and health cost savings.

To date, the clean diesel grants offered in Wisconsin have improved more than 3,200 pieces of equipment from all types of diesel operations including truck, school bus, transit bus, construction, agricultural, locomotive and municipal. The grant activities will directly result in 394,000 tons of emission reductions, save 33 million gallons of fuel, and save $142 million in health costs.

The full report is available on the clean diesel grant program page of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jessica Lawent, vehicle and voluntary air quality programs specialist, DNR-SER, (414) 263-8653


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, July 26, 2011

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