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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published January 17, 2012

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Aerial observers count 186 bald eagles in the lower Wisconsin River valley

BOSCOBEL, Wis. - An annual mid-winter aerial survey of bald eagles along the Lower Wisconsin River corridor found 186 eagles between the Petenwell dam between Adams and Juneau counties and the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers in Crawford County, a distance of 180 miles. The survey was conducted by Department of Natural Resources biologists.

Agency biologists observed 128 adults and 58 immature eagles on Jan. 4, 2012. The DNR has conducted the survey each year since 1992. Once listed as an endangered species, the bald eagle has recovered and has been removed from both federal and state endangered species lists. A special feature page on the DNR website celebrates the bald eagle's recovery in Wisconsin, and lists events and places where people can see the birds this winter.

"The number of eagles on the river during our survey can fluctuate greatly from year to year," said Dan Goltz, DNR wildlife biologist based at Boscobel. "They just don't all show up on the river at the same time each year. The number we counted this year is close to the 20-year average of 196."

There was a record 614 eagles observed in the 2004 survey and over 450 were counted in 2007 and 2011. Many years there are fewer than 100, with a low of 11 eagles counted in 1997 according to survey records.

"The greatest concentration of eagles along the entire survey route was observed between Spring Green and Lone Rock, where we counted 30 eagles," said Goltz. "With the mild temperatures and so much open water this year, the eagles were distributed fairly evenly wherever there was open water. High concentrations were also seen near Muscoda and below the dam at Petenwell.

"In addition to the high number of eagles along the Lower Wisconsin River, we have also seen many eagles along the smaller tributaries as well as eagles scavenging carcasses in open farm country."

Goltz observed several eagles at established nests along the Wisconsin River "which indicates some birds are already maintaining their nests and preparing for the upcoming breeding season. There has been a steady increase in the number of active eagle nests and overall productivity along the Lower Wisconsin River in recent years."

Gathering eagle population information includes documenting eagle deaths in the river valley and the public can help.

DNR wildlife biologists offer the following guidelines as to what the public can do if they find a sick or dead eagle:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Goltz, Wildlife Biologist, Boscobel: 608-485-0876 or Bill Ishmael, Wildlife Supervisor, Dodgeville: 608-935-1918

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On-site visits help farms maximize nutrient management plan benefits

New effort to make sure plans don't just collect dust on a shelf

MADISON -- Helping farmers maximize their nutrient management plans to benefit their bottom line and better protect lakes, rivers and groundwater are twin goals of a new effort by state water quality officials.

Department of Natural Resources animal waste specialists are conducting more on-site visits to help operators of large-scale farms better use the nutrient management plans required by their state water protection permits, according to Andrew Craig, a water resources management specialist for the Department of Natural Resources who is leading the effort.

"Developing a plan for properly managing and applying manure is a critical requirement for large farms seeking a water protection permit," he says. "Even more important is making sure that plan is put to work in the field to protect lakes, rivers and private wells."

Responding to operators' and environmentalists' concerns

DNR has made a concerted effort to have its limited water quality staff spend more time out of the office and in the field to working with farmers on nutrient management. Assuring such plans are being followed better protects Wisconsin water resources and public health and responds to the concerns DNR was hearing from both operators and environmental groups, Craig says.

"Farmers with permits asked us, 'what is the point of having a nutrient management plan if nobody from the DNR ever checks or looks at them?'" he says. "Environmental groups also want to know DNR is doing on-site compliance checks."

DNR responded by directing Craig and regional staff to increase on-site visits to evaluate manure hauling practices on fields and to determine how well farms are implementing their nutrient management plan. The farms were selected based upon factors including their prior history and compliance record, whether their permit was soon to expire; and if the farm had not been inspected in the last three to five years.

"Staff has done this type of work before, but most of the time in response to complaints. This is a more proactive, more comprehensive review," he says. "This is a technical assistance effort, not a 'gotcha' exercise."

Of the farms Craig visited this fall, for instance, two had good to excellent plans and were implementing all or nearly all plan elements; two had fair nutrient management plans and were not following some plan elements, and two had poor nutrient management plans and were not following them.

Farms received written inspection reports and dates for corrections to be made. DNR staff is following up via telephone, email and onsite visits.

Tom Bauman, who coordinates DNR's water protection permitting program for large-scale farms, hopes that information collected during the visits can help DNR document common nutrient management plan problems and work with the industry to address those problems. It's too early to tell what the problems are.

"We want these nutrient management plans to benefit both the farms and our natural resources," he says.

Some documented manure spills or discharges to waterways in recent years have been caused in part by permitted operations failing to follow their nutrient management plans. They spread manure too close to waterways, applied it at the wrong time to water-saturated fields, or applied it in the wrong amount or rate, Bauman says.

Wisconsin has 233 permitted farms required to have nutrient management plans but DNR water protection officials recommend farms of all sizes follow such plans. "We believe that implementing nutrient management plans can maximize the value farmers get from manure while protecting the environment," Bauman says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Andrew Craig (608) 267-7695; Tom Bauman (608) 266-9993

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Twelve tips to reduce, reuse and recycle in 2012

MADISON -- With a new year, many people are making resolutions to improve their health, save money and live better. State environmental officials say this is a good time to also resolve to help the environment and go easier on your pocketbook by reducing, reusing and recycling more of your waste.

To kick start the New Year, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Waste and Materials Management program offers 12 simple tips everyone can take to reduce their waste.

Reduce

  1. Purchase only what food and other supplies you need. Purchasing less means you'll have less to dispose of later.
  2. Opt out of junk-mail by registering with the Direct Marketing Association. www.dmachoice.org [exit DNR]
  3. Avoid creating trash whenever possible. When ordering food, don't take any unnecessary plastic utensils, straws, etc. (ask in advance), don't accept "free" promotional products and buy products with the least amount of packaging.
  4. Pack a waste-free lunch with no throwaway bags, containers, plastic wrap, etc. Use reusable containers to store food instead.
  5. Avoid single-use items like juice boxes, soda bottles, paper dinnerware or plastic utensils. Buy cleaning supplies and other non-perishable materials in bulk to cut down on packaging.

Reuse

  1. Donate usable clothing, appliances, furniture and other items to nonprofits or secondhand stores in your area. Not only will you reduce the amount of waste you produce, you'll also help others in your community.
  2. Switch from disposable to reusable items like plastic or metal food or beverage containers, refillable razors and pens, and washable kitchen towels and diapers.
  3. When remodeling or making improvements to your home, donate usable items like cabinets, lighting, appliances, lumber, flooring and windows to construction resale shops. Habitat Restores www.habitat.org [exit DNR] are a great option.
  4. Start a swap with your friends or coworkers to trade items like books, clothing, computer equipment and games. Something you're no longer interested in could be a great find for a friend.
  5. Bring your own shopping bags to the grocery store, mall and other stores.

Recycle

  1. Recycle in your home and workplace. Many communities have expanded the range of materials they collect - you may be surprised at what new materials are being collected. To see what recyclables are accepted by your community, visit Recycle More Wisconsin www.recyclemorewisconsin.org [exit DNR].
  2. Clear out the electronics that have been collecting dust in your closet. E-Cycle Wisconsin offers a list of recyclers for televisions, computers, computer accessories and more. Most items can be collected for a small fee or for free.

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

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Peninsula State Park earns Bird City recognition

EPHRAIM, Wis. - Peninsula State Park has gone to the birds. The park teamed up with the Village of Ephraim to earn Bird City recognition. It's the first time a Wisconsin state park has done so.

The Bird City status recognizes the importance of Peninsula and Ephraim as a migration corridor, as Wisconsin Great Birding Trail destinations, and as places attractive to eco-tourists.

"The people who fought to establish Peninsula knew it was an irreplaceable landscape," said Peninsula Naturalist Kathleen Harris, who worked on the Bird City application with the Ephraim Business Council's Tourism Administrator Rachel Willems and Ephraim Trustee Steve Sauter. "Some of those people were Ephraim residents and along the way they set aside wonderful gems in their own village."

Bird City www.birdcitywisconsin.org promotes avian conservation. This new Wisconsin initiative challenges municipalities and their neighbors to protect bird habitat, manage for invasive species that degrade nesting sites, engage citizens in International Migratory Bird Day in May, and educate the public about dangers posed by feral cats.

It's the shoreline, though, at both the park and within the village that visitors can't get enough of and neither can the birds. It's a cinch to spot mallards and ring-billed gulls. Until the Bay of Green Bay freezes over, buffleheads and goldeneye ducks paddle offshore. Come summer, Bonaparte gulls may stop over in the water. Killdeer stick around all summer while other shorebirds, such as the least sandpiper, skitter across the sand flats, poking longish bills in search of snails before journeying further north.

"The Ephraim Business Council thanks the Village of Ephraim, Peninsula State Park and community members for their partnership in gaining Bird City designation for Ephraim," said Willems. "The park is an asset to our community. This designation compliments the diverse offerings of the village and we hope it opens doors to future collaboration."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kathleen Harris, Peninsula State Park Naturalist 920-854-5976

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, January 17, 2012




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