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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published March 20, 2012

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Final 2011 deer harvest numbers available

Harvest and population goals discussed at ongoing deer hunter forums

MADISON - Final 2011 deer harvest numbers and statewide deer population estimates are now available in Wisconsin, and the Department of Natural Resources is asking hunters and other interested citizens to attend one of many deer forums in the state to provide comments as the department begins developing recommendations for 2012.

Hunters registered a total of 347,711 white-tailed deer in all combined deer hunting seasons in 2011, including 257,511 harvested in all gun seasons, and 90,200 harvested in the archery season.

The recently finalized harvest numbers are being shared with the public at the deer hunter forums, which continue through the end of March.

"Last year's harvest numbers are just one piece of information that hunters provide every fall when they register a deer, and the information is used to help estimate the size of the deer population on a unit by unit basis. This information, along with the input provided by the public all help to shape the season framework proposal, and quotas, that we'll propose to the Natural Resources Board in late April," said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR Big Game Ecologist.

In addition to department staff being on hand to answer questions and provide information on the deer herd, the focus of these forums is to seek input from hunters and those interested in deer.

"All comments will be taken into consideration when we make decisions about the upcoming season. It is important for deer hunters to understand that population estimates are just one of the factors that go into the annual decision making process for establishing the upcoming season. Another important factor is input from the public. You can provide your observations and input at one of our remaining Deer Hunter Forums," added Wallenfang.

The harvest totals for 2011 are available on the Department of Natural Resources website and can be found by searching the keyword "deer harvest." Harvest figures are broken down by buck or antlerless deer in each of 136 deer management units and county by deer season type.

Anyone who missed a forum in their area, still has an opportunity to participate by using the new on-line survey. Go to the DNR website and type in keywords "deer hunter forum." In its first week of use, more than 2,000 people reviewed information about their favorite deer management unit, filled out the survey, and provided written comments.

"We've been getting a lot of positive feedback on the survey option and the efforts we've undertaken to get the word out on the forums and the survey," stated Wallenfang. "I want to encourage everyone interested in deer to attend a deer hunter forum to give their perspective on the 2011 season, or please fill out the survey. Our goal is to make the fall seasons enjoyable for hunters while at the same time addressing all the other factors that make deer management so challenging in Wisconsin."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kevin Wallenfang 608-261-7589 or Bill Cosh 608-264-2773



Program to increase lands for hunting, fishing and trapping enrolls 30,000 acres

Voluntary Public Access program to expands into 12 new counties

MADISON - Since becoming available in August 2011, Wisconsin landowners have enrolled more than 30,000 acres in a program intended to increase the amount of land available for public hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife observation. Now the state is expanding the program into 12 additional Wisconsin counties.

The Voluntary Public Access program provides incentive payments to private landowners who voluntarily open up their land for public access. Grassland, wetland, forestland, and in some cases, agriculture land, are eligible. Land enrolled in conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and Managed Forest Law (MFL) may also be eligible under VPA.

"We are excited to expand into additional counties," said Melissa Keenan, who coordinates the program for the Department of Natural Resources. "The expansion gives private landowners the opportunity to earn additional income by leasing their land public access."

The program is being expanded into Columbia, Sauk, Juneau, Adams, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake, Kewaunee, Jackson, Clark, Polk and Barron counties.

Funding for the Voluntary Public Access program was authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill and Wisconsin received $1.9 million to implement it. Annual payment rates are based on the type of land (agriculture land at $3 per acre, grassland/wetland at $10 per acre, and forest land at $15 per acre). Lease lengths are up to two and a half years. An upfront lump sum payment would be made at the beginning of the contract. Priority will be given parcels greater than 40 acres in size with at least 25 percent usable cover and that are located near properties currently open to public hunting and/or fishing.

Under state statutes, landowners are generally immune from liability for injuries received by individuals recreating on their lands. Also, the department agrees to provide compensation for damages to property or crops that occur as a result of opening the land to public access. For more information about the program or to find VPA properties open to public access, visit and search "VPA."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Melissa Keenan - 608-266-5560 or Bill Cosh 608-2642773



U.S. Asian carp official to speak at Wisconsin Lakes Convention

GREEN BAY—The nation's top advisor on efforts to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp will speak at the annual Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Convention April 10-12 in Green Bay.

Asian Carp Director John Goss of the White House Council on Environmental Quality will talk about the administration's recently released 2012 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework. That plan outlines 58 action items and more than $50 million in investments to keep Asian carp from establishing self-sustaining populations in the Great Lakes. Goss also will provide an update on actions to prevent the invasive fish from entering the Great Lakes (exit DNR).

"Asian carp in the Mississippi and some of its tributaries represent the single biggest threat to the fisheries and ecologic balance we now enjoy in Wisconsin inland waters," says Paul Schumacher, a board member of Wisconsin Lakes, a nonprofit statewide lakes group that is co-sponsoring the conference along with the Department of Natural Resources and University of Wisconsin-Extension.

"We're very pleased to have Mr. Goss come to Wisconsin to update us on the actions underway and those planned to prevent Asian carp from entering our waters," Schumacher said.

Several species of Asian carp, voracious eaters that compete for the same food as young fish and other aquatic life, have on occasion been found in Wisconsin waters (pdf) of the Mississippi River and Asian carp environmental DNA has been found above the electric dispersal barriers in Lake Calumet, seven miles from Lake Michigan on the Indiana-Illinois border.

Lakes convention speakers include John McKnight, an internationally renowned community development expert with Northwestern University, and Darby Nelson, author of 2011 book, "For Love of Lakes," that some reviewers have hailed as the lakes counterpart to Aldo Leopold's classic, "Sand County Almanac." Nelson, a former Minnesota lawmaker and professor, is a 2012 Minnesota Book Awards nominee in the category of Memoir and Creative Nonfiction.

Convention attendees also will hear from DNR Deputy Secretary Matt Moroney, Wisconsin Wildlife Executive Director George Meyer, Lisa Conley, a long-time lake advocate and former president of the North American Lake Management Society, and State Assembly Rep. Cory Mason.

"These speakers will not only talk about our love affair with lakes, but they will also help us understand our roles as individuals and community members in protecting and restoring lakes," says Eric Olson, who leads the UW Cooperative Extension effort for lakes education.

Conference details

The convention, set for the KI Convention Center in downtown Green Bay, is one of the nation's largest gatherings of lake enthusiasts. It is sponsored by the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, comprised of DNR, Wisconsin Lakes, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension. The event's 2012 theme, "Partnering for Lakes," focuses on how different groups can join together to better care for Wisconsin's 15,000-plus lakes, Olson says.

People can attend all three days of the conference or select one or two days to attend, Olson says. In-depth workshops will cover subjects ranging from the basics of running a lake organization to aquatic plant identification methods. Participants can also take part in more than 40 concurrent sessions about topics including shoreland restoration, algae, climate change, and invasive species.

For more information on the convention or to register, go to or contact UW-Extension Lakes at (715) 346-2116.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Eric Olson, UWEX (715) 346-2192; Carroll Schaal (608) 261-6423



Draft management plan for Ice Age Complex at Cross Plains available for comment

Public meetings provide opportunity to review plans, submit comments

MADISON -- The Ice Age Complex at Cross Plains would provide visitors with optimal views and interpretation of outstanding glacial landforms and opportunities to enjoy low-impact outdoor recreation, under the preferred alternative of a draft management plan that is available for public review and comment.

The preferred alternative, one of five alternatives presented in the draft plan, also calls for a sustainable building complex that would be certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system at a gold level. The buildings would serve as a visitor center and as headquarters for the Ice Age Trail with offices for staff. Until the visitor center, office, and maintenance facility could be funded and constructed, existing buildings within the reserve would be used on an interim basis as a visitor contact station.

Ecological resources would largely be managed to reveal the glacial landscape and the most sensitive ecological areas would be carefully protected. The complex would offer hiking trails with interpretive signs and a sheltered picnic area.

The 1,700-acre area located just west of Madison near the village of Cross Plains contains glacial landforms, including a gorge carved by meltwater and expansive views of both driftless and glaciated terrain. This landscape has been deemed nationally significant under two federal designations: Ice Age National Scientific Reserve and Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Together the areas encompassed under these designations are being referred to as the Ice Age Complex at Cross Plains.

The Cross Plains unit of the Ice Age Reserve was originally delineated in 1968. Since that time the unit's boundary has been expanded and the Ice Age Trail's route in Dane County has been planned, and other state property has been acquired next to the reserve.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and National Park Service began to develop the draft management plan in 2008 with a series of public meetings to gather general feedback on what the public valued about the Ice Age Complex. That feedback was used to formulate preliminary alternatives. A second round of public meetings were held in summer 2009 on four potential ways that the Ice Age Complex could be managed. Public responses during that stage of the plan's development influenced the results of the value analysis, during which the preferred alternative was developed.

The five alternatives are based on the purpose, significance, and special mandates for the Ice Age Complex, and each presents different ways to manage resources and visitor use and improve facilities and infrastructure.

The Draft General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement for the Ice Age Complex at Cross Plains for review through the National Park Service website.

Public meetings March 26 & 27

People can attend one two public meetings to hear about the preliminary and preferred alternatives and provide comments. The meetings will be held:

People who unable to attend a public meeting may review the plan and comment online through the National Park Service website at: General Management Plan for Ice Age Complex at Cross Plains. Written comments should be submitted to: Ice Age Complex at Cross Plains, Draft GMP/EIS, National Park Service, Attn: Christina Miller, PO Box 25287, Denver, CO 80225. Comments are being accepted through May 2, 2012.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Prey, DNR, 608-266-2182, Pam Schuler NPS, Ice Age Trail Office, 608-441-5610, or Paul Holtan, 608-267-7517



Fish egg collection facilities start operating March 20

Public invited to watch Lake Michigan fish

KEWAUNEE -- Recent warm weather has state egg collection facilities up and running earlier than usual to produce the next generation of Lake Michigan trout and salmon. The public is invited to come along and watch the process and see the fish up close through viewing windows as they "climb" the fish ladder into the facilities.

The C.D. Besadny Anadromous Fish Facility in Kewaunee County along with the Root River Steelhead facility in Racine County are both checking fish for the first time March 20. Watch the video showing the egg collection process.

Both facilities turned on the pumps last week to send river water through the fish ladder and facilities in preparation for egg collection and juggled getting fish out the door at some hatcheries from last year before getting ready for this year's take.

"Everything is on the fast track this year," says John Komassa, southeastern Wisconsin Hatchery group leader for the Department of Natural Resources. "At the Root River, we're about a week ahead of normal."

At the Besadny facility, they're starting operation a week ahead of what's normal and three weeks ahead of when they turned on the pumps in 2011 during a cold and late spring, says Mike Baumgartner, facility manager.

"The recent warmer weather made the ice go out sooner and because the ice was going out and the snow was melting, the water levels in the river went up," he says. "That's a trigger that attracts the fish, as well as daylight and water temperatures."

Lake Michigan trout and salmon do not successfully reproduce in the warmer temperatures and fluctuating water levels found in Wisconsin tributaries to Lake Michigan. So DNR gives them a hand. Once the eggs and milt have been collected from the fish, the fish are released back to the rivers for anglers to catch. The eggs are fertilized on site and sent to state hatcheries where they are incubated, hatched, and stocked back in the river more than a year later.

This year, the Besadny facility turned on its pumps March 15 and overnight had about 100 fish move into the collection ponds, Baumgartner says. "We are scheduled to sort through our fish Monday for the first time and then at least weekly, more often if the run is strong enough, through about mid-April to continue sorting and spawning fish from the length of the run."

The Besadny facility is located at 3884 Ransom Moore Lane, off of County Highway F, west of Kewaunee, on the west bank of the Kewaunee River. The site is open daily, dawn to dusk and the building is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. Baumgartner says that people who want to watch the egg processing will want to call ahead (920) 388-1025 to make sure it's going on that day and to come between 9 a.m. and noon.

The Root River facility is located on the Root River, inside Lincoln Park, in Racine. After March 20, DNR will be processing fish at the facility on Mondays, and thanks to a Salmon Unlimited volunteer, the viewing window is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Komassa says. People can call ahead to (262) 594-6218 to confirm the processing is occurring.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: John Komassa (262) 594-6218; Mike Baumgartner (920) 388-1025



Prescribed burns conducted to improve habitat, maintain native plants

State wildlife officials will be conducting prescribed burns on public lands throughout Wisconsin again this spring to improve wildlife habitat, control invasive plant species, restore and maintain native plant communities, and reduce wildfire potential.

Department of Natural Resources staff typically conduct prescribed burns between March and May. Parcels are typically burned every one to five years, and vary in size from 10 to 2,500 acres or more.

Some specific advantages of prescribed burns include:

Why do we use fire?

Without the use of prescribed burning as a management tool, Wisconsin could lose many of its native grassland, wetland, woodland plant communities. For thousands of years, vast sweeping wildfires, set primarily by Native Americans, were as much a part of the pre-settlement Wisconsin environment as rain, drought and the passing of the seasons. Because frequent fire played a significant role in the development of much of Wisconsin's native plant communities for thousands of years, many plant and animal species now depend on fire for their continued existence.

For example, prairie grasses and flowers develop deep roots and buds beneath the soil, enabling them to withstand the heat of a fire while shallow rooted invasive brush succumbs. In addition, our oak ecosystems rely on fire to remove accumulated leaf litter, dead trees, and invading brush, maintaining the open character of oak savannas, and in general, keeping oak on the landscape.

These fires have been all but eliminated in Wisconsin in the last 150 years.

When do they occur?

Prescribed burning typically occurs during the early spring (March through May) and late fall (November), but can occur beyond these periods if conditions allow. These are the periods when conditions allow for safe burning, and generally when desirable plant and animal species are less active. In the spring this typically means between the time that snow has melted and significant green-up has occurred. In the fall, this is typically after some good hard frosts and before winter precipitation.

What about safety?

Before any burn is conducted, experienced and trained personnel assess the area to determine the wind direction and speed, relative humidity, grass moisture, and safety requirements. Qualified personnel control fire behavior through the use of comprehensive planning and specialized fire equipment. Local police and fire officials are notified when and where burns will take place, so they can respond to people who report that they are seeing smoke from an area.

What about the smoke?

Smoke control is an important aspect of any prescribed burn plan. Prior to burning, experienced personnel carefully review the burn area and the proximity of houses, roads, and other smoke sensitive areas. This information is then incorporated into the plan and the prescribed burn occurs when favorable conditions (e.g., wind) minimize the amount of smoke reaching these areas.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kurt Thiede - 608-266-5833 or Bill Cosh - 608-267-2773



April 1 marks start of open period for 2013 fishing tournament permit applications

MADISON - Organizers planning fishing tournaments for 2013 can apply for their permits starting April 1, 2012, and should do so before June 30 to have the best chance of securing the date and water they want, state fisheries officials say.

There is a cap on the maximum amount of tournament fishing pressure allowed on some waters, so to give tournament organizers a fair shot at reserving their spots, the Department of Natural Resources runs an open application period from April 1 through June 30.

Permit applications from tournament organizers applying after June 30, 2012, for events in 2013 will be considered on a first-come first-served basis, according to Jon Hansen, the DNR fisheries biologist who coordinates the fishing tournament permit system.

All applications for 2013 events DNR received during the open period will be reviewed by Aug. 1, 2012, and in the unlikely event that another tournament conflicts with an organizer's choice of dates or waters, DNR fisheries biologists will discuss options with the tournament organizers, Hansen says.

In 2011, 559 applications were approved from the 603 submitted. None of the applications were denied but some applications were withdrawn and some events cancelled.

Organizers can still apply for 2012 tournaments

Tournament organizers can still apply for 2012 tournaments, but the DNR must receive completed applications at least 30 days before the start of the applicant's tournament, Hansen says. These applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until the caps have been reached.

Tournament organizers will need a permit if the tournament:

An application fee must accompany all permit applications. The fee will vary depending on the type of tournament and the value of prizes awarded. For more details on the tournament rules and fee structure, to submit an application, or to view a tournament event calendar, visit the DNR website and search for fishing tournaments.

Tournament numbers down, but fishing hours and fish caught up in 2011

The number of fishing tournaments with permits declined in 2011 but anglers participating in those tournaments caught more fish and spent more time fishing than did tournament anglers in the previous two years, DNR statistics show.

Hansen speculates that the decrease in tournament applications, and thus permitted tournaments, largely reflects the fact that the tournament rules are now three years old and that organizers of smaller tournaments are learning they may fall under the thresholds necessary for a permit and so are not applying.

The 559 permitted tournaments drew more than 75,000 anglers and awarded prizes totaling nearly $3.2 million. Anglers fished 1.58 million hours and caught 98,205 fish and released about 48 percent of them, down from previous years.

Top counties for permitted tournaments included Winnebago County, with 50, Oneida County with 28, Waukesha and Polk with 25 each, and Vilas County with 22, Hansen says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Hadley Boehm, (608) 264-6028, or Jon Hansen for questions about the online application system, (608) 266-6883, for other tournament related questions contact local fisheries biologists.


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

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