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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published March 13, 2012

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April 9 spring hearings offer a smorgasbord of issues

Crane hunt, recycling, wetlands, motor trolling, year-round fishing

MADISON - Hunting for sandhill cranes, restoring recycling funding to local communities, allowing year-round fishing and statewide motor trolling, and removing local wetland permitting authority are among the natural resources topics citizens can weigh in on April 9 during the annual spring hearings at locations statewide.

Attendees also will be able to share their suggestions for meeting Gov. Scott Walker's call for recommendations to simplify hunting, fishing and trapping rules and to reduce barriers to getting more people outside to hunt, fish and trap.

"The spring hearings are a great chance to let us know the direction you want the state to go on a broad range of natural resource issues," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Our job is to be the listener and not the teller."

There are 72 public meetings, one in each county throughout the state, starting at 7 p.m. April 9. They are hosted by DNR and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the agency's main advisory board for natural resources rule making. A list of meeting locations and a booklet with the questions attendees can vote on is available on the DNR website (search keywords "spring hearings") and at DNR service centers.

The informational hearings have four main parts for attendees: electing county delegates to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress; voting on DNR fisheries and wildlife questions; voting on resolutions from citizens and advisory questions from Congress members, and finally, new this year, participants can share their ideas at a town hall aimed at meeting the governor's request.

DNR questions now advisory under Act 21

This year, DNR questions are advisory only, reflecting changes made as a result of Act 21, a law passed in 2011 that changes state agency rule-making processes. Now, questions on specific rule proposals will be presented in odd-numbered calendar years; under Act 21, review of state rule changes by lawmakers is now limited to when the Legislature is in session.

Fishing issues bulk of DNR questions

In 2012, DNR questions pertain to hunting, fishing and trapping, with the bulk of questions aimed at gauging attendees' sentiments on how to simplify fishing rules, now contained in six separate regulation pamphlets.

"The governor asked us to look at simplifying our regulations so we are asking some questions to generate discussion of longstanding tools we've used to manage fish populations and fishing," says Mike Staggs, DNR fisheries director. "Our fisheries questions are general proposals so we know the way that anglers want us to go."

Attendees, for example, can weigh in on whether to allow year-round fishing if DNR finds that closing seasons for certain species for part of the year -- traditionally done now on most waters -- is not biologically necessary to protect fish populations.

They'll also be asked whether to adopt a single statewide musky season, instead of having different seasons for the state fish in northern and southern Wisconsin.

Other questions would allow anglers to weigh in on whether motor trolling is allowed statewide, and if DNR should eliminate separate stamps and tags required for inland or Great Lakes trout fishing and pursuing sturgeon and instead roll those costs into the annual license fee.

Among the wildlife questions being asked are ones seeking permanent adoption of a two-period bobcat hunting and trapping season with permit applicants being required to select either the early or the late season; updating licensing requirements for hunting guides; and, expanding open water hunting opportunities for waterfowl.

Congress questions cover a broad range of natural resource topics

This year, as every year, study committees of the Conservation Congress have proposed questions to get feedback from the public on a wide variety of issues. The questions range from asking if people support legislation authorizing a hunt for sandhill cranes, to restoring recycling funding to local communities, to changing which level of government has responsibility for construction erosion and wetland permitting.

All Congress advisory questions are a result of citizen resolutions that were presented and supported at the previous year's spring hearings, as well as Congress study committee proposals, says Rob Bohmann, who chairs the Conservation Congress.

"It's important to recognize the process by which citizens have an impact on the rule-making process," Bohmann says. "Now more than ever it's important for the citizens of Wisconsin who care about the environment, fishing, hunting, trapping and other outdoor pursuits, to be an active participant in shaping the future of how we're able to protect and enjoy Wisconsin's resources."

Bohmann encourages people to stay for the Town Hall and provide ideas and feedback to help shape into recommendations to the governor on how to simplify regulations and eliminate barriers to hunting and fishing participation. People not able to stay for this session can submit written comments on the form in the questionnaire booklet and turn those in.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Sharon Fandel - 608-261-0767 or Lisa Gaumnitz - 608-264-8942

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Citizen volunteers take to the woods, waters and wetlands

Scores of opportunities to help wild Wisconsin

EDITOR'S NOTE: Owen Boyle and Kris Stepenuck will be guests on Wisconsin Public Radio's The Larry Meiller Show on March 21 live from 11 -11:45 a.m. on these WPR Ideas Network stations wpr.org/ideas/#stations or online: wpr.org/webcasting/live.cfm (both links exit DNR).

MADISON - Volunteers can count sandhill cranes, listen for frogs, owls and hawks, search for freshwater mussels and violets, monitor water quality and join in a host of other efforts now gearing up to help collect information about Wisconsin's wildlife, plants and water resources.

Citizen based monitoring
Volunteers, like this mother and daughter participating in the Midwest Crane Count, provide valuable information about plants, animals and other natural resources.

The Department of Natural Resources and other organizations are recruiting citizens to the state's woods, waters and prairies to help gather information aimed at better understanding and managing these natural resources. Such information is particularly important for managing those rare species protected under the state's endangered species law, which turns 40 this year. Go to the DNR website and search for "ER 40".

"Coming into April is when a lot of these efforts start to ramp up," says Owen Boyle, DNR coordinator of the Citizen Based Monitoring Network. "It's a great time for people to see what opportunities are out there and get involved."

The Midwest Annual Crane Count, Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey, Western Great Lakes Owl Survey, Wisconsin Bat Monitoring Project, Wisconsin Ephemeral Ponds Project, and lake and stream monitoring are among the efforts now seeking volunteers, Boyle says.

More than 150 organizations in Wisconsin put volunteers to work every year monitoring water quality and counting and noting the numbers, distribution and habitat of native and invasive species. In 2011, citizens donated more than 300,000 hours to such efforts. That's critical support in an era of shrinking government resources and growing citizen demand for meaningful involvement in managing natural resources, he says.

"The amount of citizen based monitoring going on in Wisconsin is remarkable -- it blows me away how many people are out there monitoring and mapping and providing other vital information," says Boyle, who started his job as coordinator earlier this year after serving as DNR's ecologist for southeastern Wisconsin for years.

According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency survey, 62 percent of volunteer monitoring datasets are used by state agencies and 30 percent are used by federal agencies. "The monitoring data collected by citizen groups in Wisconsin plays an integral role in DNR's decision-making process," Boyle says.

Growing interest and engagement in natural resources topics

Citizen-based monitoring has a long history globally, nationally and in Wisconsin. Some of the best known efforts, like the Christmas Bird Count organized by the National Audubon Society, are more than 100 years old. In Wisconsin, the frog and toad survey has been collecting data since 1981, and volunteers in the Citizen Lake Monitoring Network have been testing water quality since 1986.

In more recent years, such citizen-based monitoring has become more popular, particularly as the Web has increased interest among citizens, and the ability of organizers to build large databases of information collected from people all over the state, country and world, says Kris Stepenuck, who coordinates stream monitoring activities

She's seen stream monitoring in Wisconsin grow from volunteers monitoring four sites in 1996, when the Water Action Volunteers program started, to 384 sites statewide in 2011. As important as and ever-growing volunteer base is the engagement of the people is just as critical: surveys of new stream volunteers and those who have been monitoring for several years show that the veteran volunteers attend more community meetings about natural resource topics and are more likely to write a letter to the local newspaper editor.

"It's not just people having fun, we're building a knowledgeable cadre of people who take action in their local community for protection or restoration of natural resources," she says.

DNR and organizations with monitoring programs formed a loose affiliation called the Citizen-based Monitoring Network of Wisconsin in 2004 to improve their effectiveness by providing communications, resources and recognition, Boyle says. Since then, Wisconsin has been one of the few states with a full-time staff member working with citizen-based monitoring projects, and DNR has annually awarded up to $100,000 in seed money to help organizations and programs advance their volunteer-based monitoring projects.

"The root philosophy of our network is that we can accomplish far more by working together than we can working alone," he says. "We hope to see you on the lake or in the woods or wetlands in 2012!"

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Owen Boyle - 608-261-6449; Kris Stepenuck - 608-264-8948; Erin Crain - 608-267-7479 or Lisa Gaumnitz - 608-264-8942

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State hires new foresters, 100 years after the first forestry employees started

MADISON - The dozen men hired a century ago as Wisconsin's first foresters would certainly understand the tree planting and fire control duties of the 15 foresters recently hired to help manage Wisconsin forests.

But they would likely be amazed by the Global Positioning Systems, Geographic Information Systems, digital aerial photographs, Incident Command System training and modern firefighting equipment that today's forestry professionals use to carry out their modern duties -- and by the changes in the foresters' duties themselves.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently hired 15 foresters to start to address a very high vacancy rate due to recent retirements and limited hiring for the past several years as the Forestry Division faced the difficult fiscal times with frugality. There continue to be 70 forestry positions vacant even with these new employees.

100 years of sustainable forest management

That first group of Wisconsin foresters played an important role in resurrecting Wisconsin's forest lands after decades of cut and run logging had left vast acreages of cut-over, burned-over land.

"I have great admiration for our first chief state forester E.M. Griffith and the first group of 12 employees he hired who started many of the programs that are still critical to today's sustainable forestry practices," said Paul DeLong, Wisconsin's current chief state forester. "Our current forestry employees face very different - but equally daunting challenges in a variety of new issues, including the fight against invasive species that threaten our forest resource."

In 1911, E.M. Griffith, Wisconsin's first chief state forester held the first civil service examination for forest rangers in Rhinelander to hire 12 forest rangers at a salary of $60 per month.

Fred Wilson, one of the successful candidates, reported the examination required them to "identify numbered specimens of twigs, bark and planed lumber. In the afternoon we were taken out to a nearby logging job and required to estimate the board foot volume of a stand of pine and the number of cords of pulpwood in a plot of black spruce, to pace a measured distance along the iced sleigh-haul road, and in pairs to chop through a felled pine tree." Wilson was the only one of the 12 who was trained as a professional forester.

The interview process for the recent hires was also conducted in Rhinelander, but the similarities pretty much end there, according to Rebecca Gass, DNR forestry services section chief.

"Exercises in our current hiring process assessed the ability of the candidate to problem solve, take initiative, show leadership and offer superb customer service since much of our work today is with partners and private forest landowners who own more than half of the forestland in Wisconsin," Gass said. And holding a degree in forestry is a requirement to apply for the forester positions today.

Wisconsin's first foresters spent much of the 1911 and 1912 field seasons building roads and fire lines, erecting lookout tours, and constructing telephone lines to connect the towers to rangers stations. They planted 192,000 seedlings and established the first state tree nursery at Trout Lake, sowing seeds to grow another 2.5 million seedlings that would eventually be planted on lands denuded through lumbering and forest fires. This started the state's forest nursery program that celebrated its centennial in 2011, having produced more than 1.5 billion tree seedlings planted in Wisconsin over the past 100 years.

The recently hired foresters will build on this 100-year legacy of sustainable forest management, but instead of constructing telephone lines or building roads, the new foresters will be out in the woods collecting field data in their hand held GPS units (a space-based satellite navigation system). They will provide advice and technical assistance to private forest landowners, assist county forests and other partners, and promote sustainable forestry practices and best management practices to protect water quality. Today's foresters use aerial and satellite imagery to track changes in forest dynamics. They monitor forests for pests and disease and help coordinate activities to control pests and stop the spread of invasive species that threaten native forests.

This work helps ensure the state has a sustainable flow of wood resources to fuel Wisconsin's forest industry - more than 1,300 companies that employ about 52,700 people and add more than $18.3 billion into the state's economy.

New foresters or old, fire a constant concern

Fire has had a tremendous impact on Wisconsin forests throughout history. One of the first recorded wildfires tore through northern Wisconsin in 1854, running 140 miles from Amery to Iron River. And the single deadliest fire in state history occurred on Oct. 8, 1871, when a massive fire burned portions of eight northeastern counties, obliterating the towns of Peshtigo and Brussels and killing about 1,500 people. With the hiring of the first forest rangers in 1911 and establishment of the forest protection headquarters at Trout Lake, Wisconsin positioned itself to the tackle forest fire issue.

Wildland fire prevention and suppression continue to be an important part of DNR's forestry work, but today's foresters are well-equipped with specialized clothing, equipment, training and fire vehicles to respond to wildfires and other emergencies. State forestry officials work with and train local fire departments in wildland fire suppression, and the state is part of the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact, an agreement that allows DNR to coordinate fire staff and equipment within the Great Lakes region when major wildland fires erupt. Wisconsin foresters also work with forest landowners through the Firewise program to help make sure their homes and properties are safe from wildland fire.

The 2011 hires are undoubtedly grateful for another difference - they use trucks to reach their work sites in the woods. Referring to the 1911 hires, Griffith said, "Each ranger will be obliged to keep one or two saddle horses, as in that way they can cover their districts much more rapidly and save their strength and energy for the various kinds of hard work they will be called upon to do."

The DNR Forestry Division's recently completed a strategic direction that helped determine where to locate the new foresters based on highest priority needs. The new foresters and their work stations are:

Kwabena Antwi, Friendship; Joanna Bietka, Barnes; Chase Christopherson, Boulder Junction: Kirby Dernovsek, Spooner; Chris Duncan, Oconto Falls; Fred Freeman, Peshtigo; John Furr, Webster; Mark Gossman, Webster: Jon Leith, Merrill; Chad Nickols, Necedah; Tom Onchuck, Park Falls; Rachel Peterson, Hayward; Mackenzie Siglinsky, Oconto Falls; Patrick Zimmer, Ladysmith; and Adam Zirbel, La Crosse.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kari Mulhern, Wisconsin DNR - Division of Forestry, 715-365-8931 or Kirsten Held, DNR forestry outreach specialist - 608-264-6036

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Leftover spring turkey permits available beginning week of March 19

MADISON - Remaining permits for the 2012 spring turkey hunting season will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis starting Monday, March 19. Designated zones will be sold each day, starting at 10 a.m. and continue through midnight or until all permits for that zone and/or time period are sold out. The following zones have leftover permits, and the scheduled sales dates are as follows:

Starting Saturday March 24, any remaining permits will be available for purchase until the zone or time period is sold out, or until the season ends.

Customers may purchase one permit per day.

The fee for leftover turkey permits is $10 for residents, $15 for non-residents and $5 for hunters who are 10 or 11 years old. All hunters will also be required to pay the spring turkey license and stamp fees, unless they have previously purchased the 2012 license and stamp, or are a 2012 Conservation Patron License holder. Residents and non-residents will have equal opportunity to purchase these leftover permits. Purchasing leftover permits will not affect preference status for future spring or fall turkey permit drawings.

Leftover permits can be purchased: through the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, using the key words " Online Licensing Center," at any DNR Service Center; at all authorized license agents; or by calling toll-free 1-877-WI LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

A limited number of disabled-only turkey permits for state park areas is available among the leftover permits. Disabled hunters who have been issued either a Class A or Class C Disabled Hunter Permit should visit a DNR Service Center or call the DNR Customer Call Center at 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463) beginning on March 19 after 10 a.m. to purchase one of these permits.

Hunters interested in purchasing a leftover turkey permit should check the turkey zone map (pdf) to verify where they want to hunt and then check the spring turkey leftover permit availability to see if permits are available for the period and zone they wish to hunt. These numbers are available on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, using the key words "turkey tags" or hunters can call the DNR Call Center at 1-888-936-7463 for permit information.

The spring 2012 turkey hunting season runs from April 11 through May 22. The season is divided into six time periods, each running for seven days from Wednesday through the following Tuesday. In total, 233,220 permits were available for the spring 2012 turkey season of which approximately 36,000 permits remain for sale.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Walter - 608-267-7861, Krista McGinley - 608-261-8458 or Bob Manwell - DNR public affairs - 608-264-9248

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Learn to hunt turkey student enjoys rewards of the hunt

You, too, could enjoy turkey marsala after the hunt

MADISON - You don't have to be a master chef to take Learn to Hunt turkey, but it definitely added to the experience in the case of one novice hunter.

"I shot a tom turkey at 7 a.m. on Sunday. It worked great. I made turkey marsala last night and it was delicious. Amazing," the new hunter told Keith Warnke, coordinator of the Learn to Hunt program.

"That's one of the best and most satisfying benefits of participating in a Learn to Hunt event," Warnke said. "You learn new skills, make new friends - and get a pretty good meal out of the experience."

During the next month, nearly 1,000 new hunters will get the chance to learn turkey hunting from an experienced mentor. Anyone can join them by finding an event in their area and signing up through the DNR website, searching for keywords "learn to hunt."

The events welcome novice, adult and youth hunters and are open, in many cases, for entire families to sign up and hunt. No license is required and, since novices will be hunting with a mentor, hunter education requirements are waived.

"Learn to hunt is one way to make memories and start your own tradition with friends and family," Warnke said. "Friends, family, fun, and food! What could be better?"

Novice hunters are paired up with an experienced hunter, learn about conservation, hunting tactics and firearm safety, and then experience the excitement of turkey hunting in Wisconsin.

"Hunting is conservation, and hunters have long been at the forefront, leading the conservation of our great natural resources," Warnke said. "Now, hunters are taking the lead in expanding the hunting community by offering programs teaching those interested in hunting how to do it."

Why would you be interested?

Hunting is a great way for us to learn about - and gain an appreciation of - nature and the environment, Warnke said. As a result, hunters are among the nation's leading conservationists. Hunting also is a popular and very acceptable means of obtaining meat for the freezer. Many new hunters are interested because hunters know where their meat comes from and have a vested interest in making sure there is plenty for future generations.

"Hunting is a perfect fit for the sustainable use of renewable resources," Warnke said

Recently, however, the "natural path" of initiation into hunting - from parent/family member to child - has become more difficult.

"Kids and parents are busier today and live in urban centers further removed from their hunting land," he said. "The demands of work, school and other activities cut into the available time to hunt, let alone initiate new hunters. Hunting is all about making memories with family and friends."

But the interest remains.

"Whether the motivations are nature and conservation interests, camaraderie or sustainability, we are witnessing a growing interest in hunting from adults who missed the natural path as kids," Warnke said.

Find an event near you

The DNR hopes enthusiastic hunters and interested novices will take advantage of the Learn to Hunt program and further Wisconsin's strong conservation and hunting heritage, he says.

For more than a decade, novice hunters have participated in these events to learn about hunting, be involved with a hunting mentor and start their own tradition.

Learn to Hunt events are usually free to novice hunters and take place over a weekend. To find an event go to the DNR website and search "learn to hunt."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Warnke, Hunting and Shooting Sport Coordinator, 608-576-5243; Joanne M. Haas, Public Affairs, Division of Law Enforcement and Science Services, 608-267-0798

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New tools can help make 2012 fishing easier, more fun

Fishing forecasts and downloadable calendar online

MADISON - Anglers planning their Wisconsin fishing trips for 2012 in Wisconsin can reel in two new free resources to help put them on to more fishing fun this summer, state fisheries officials say.

flathead catfish
Get tips and tactics for catching catfish, like this 65.5-pound and 49.5-inch flathead captured by DNR fish crews in fall 2011 on the Lower Wisconsin River.
WDNR Photo

The 2012 Wisconsin Fishing Report is a 16-page compilation of fishing forecasts submitted by DNR fisheries biologists for many popular waters statewide. The forecasts share information about the number and sizes of fish state fish crews found on the particular waters, as well as habitat improvement and access projects that help make it easer to fish in those areas. The report is available on the DNR website (search keywords "fishing report") and printed copies of the report are available at DNR service centers statewide.

2012 Wisconsin Fish Calendar

And, new this year anglers can download and print off a color calendar with photographs of Wisconsin fish species, important fishing dates; moon phases; game fish identification tips; and monthly forecasts. The calendar is available on the DNR website (search keyword "fishing" and then click on the "plan your trip" button on the right).

"Wisconsin's a great place to fish, whether you're looking to stay local or travel," says Karl Scheidegger, fisheries outreach leader for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "These are resources that can make your fishing easier by helping you find the areas you might want to fish and when to fish them."

Scheidegger notes that the fishing report, produced every year by DNR's fisheries and communication staff for the last decade or so, contains forecasts for more areas than ever, as well as a special focus on fishing for catfish, including tips on what gear to use, how to use it, and when and where to find the fish.

"Based on the feedback we've gotten over the years on the fishing report, we've tried to provide more of the forecasts so people have the opportunity to learn more about other places to fish, and we are concentrating each year on either a geographic region or a fish species, and this year, the cats get their due."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Karl Scheidegger - 608-267-9426 or Lisa Gaumnitz - 608-264-8942

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Volunteers needed for 2012 sturgeon guard

OSHKOSH, Wis. - It is a spectacle seen nowhere else in the world. Each year, in mid-April the largest population of lake sturgeon in the world spawns in northeastern Wisconsin. The giant, prehistoric fish make their way from the Winnebago Lakes up the Wolf River as they have for the past 10,000 years.

While groups of male sturgeon battle it out for the opportunity to fertilize a female's eggs, standing on the shore are groups of volunteers making sure the fish are not touched. It has been this way for nearly 30 years and will happen again in 2012.

The Department of Natural Resources is looking for volunteers for the Sturgeon Guard. This elite group was created in the mid-1980s to make sure the fish, which slam themselves along the shoreline during spawning, aren't illegally netted or speared.

"Those working as members of the sturgeon guard are extremely important to the continued strength of the sturgeon population," said warden supervisor Carl Mesman, DNR sturgeon camp coordinator, "Our volunteers are not only passionate about protecting the fish, but have become part of this incredible success story. Many come back year after year just to be a part of it."

Spawning usually takes place between a five and nine day period. Those who can be available day or night have the best chance of observing the spawning sturgeon. Guards should be prepared for any and all weather conditions and are encouraged to pair up with a friend or family member to keep them company during their 12-hour shifts.

Anyone interested in volunteering should visit the DNR website [dnr.wi.gov] and search for "sturgeon guard."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Rebecca Pawlak, fisheries technician 920-303-5429; Carl Mesman, sturgeon camp coordinator 920-787-3051; or Trish Ossmann, public affairs manager - 920-662-5122

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 13, 2012




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