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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published August 14, 2012

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Updated information available on new wetland, waterway law changes

MADISON - Updated information about recent waterway and wetland law changes, along with new permit application materials, are now available online on the Department of Natural Resources website, according to state natural resource officials.

Law changes affecting regulations for navigable waterways passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker earlier this year went into effect Aug. 1. Some of the key changes include grandfathering for pre-existing piers, modified standards for new piers [PDF] an exemption for some grading projects, changes to certain boathouse repair and maintenance limitations, and modified procedures for all waterway general permits and individual permits. Technology improvements like electronic public notices and electronic permit tracking were also included in the legislation, according to Liesa Lehmann, waterway and wetland section chief

A new online water permit system is now available for some DNR water permits, with additional permits to be phased in over the next year. Applicants for waterway and wetland individual permits can now fill out their applications online, pay application fees online, and track the progress of their application online.

More information can be found by searching the DNR's website for "waterways."

Under a new state law, piers newly constructed after April 2012 must meet size limits to avoid needing a permit.

Wetland regulations also were recently changed by updated laws that went into effect July 1. These changes include a new authority for DNR to create general permits for smaller projects, new processes for wetland individual permits, and a new requirement for wetland mitigation to offset the impacts of permitted wetland fill. DNR is in the process of creating two new wetland related general permits, and is planning on creating more.

More information on wetland regulatory programs can be found on the DNR website.

Permit fees also were modified with the law change, Lehmann says. Lawmakers increased permit fees to more accurately reflect the agency costs to administer environmental regulations, and removed a single-highest fee provision so that each activity that requires a permit is charged a fee. Information explaining the new fees [PDF] is available on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Martye Griffin, 608-266-2997; Liesa Lehmann, 608-264-8554



'Rivers as Bridges' aims to connect Chinese and American cultures for sustainable rivers

APPLETON, Wis. -- A first-of-its kind student foreign exchange is connecting Chinese and American culture, conservation and commerce in hopes of creating sustainable river systems and communities.

Students fishing
Visiting Chinese students fishing near Eagle River.
WDNR Photo

A dozen Chinese teachers and 24 students from that country's most elite high schools and their chaperones spent 18 days in the Midwest in late July and early August. Their visit marks the start of a 10-year relationship between the people of the Mississippi and Yangtze river basins. The program, called Rivers as Bridges, is designed to tie together cultural differences with environmental similarities in a hands-on learning environment.

Chinese students toured universities, camped, fished, swam, and completed service projects in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. They did scientific work through field research, wet labs, and experiments involving air, water, biology, soil, fisheries, wildlife and wetlands. Students from the United States will participate in similar experiences in China.

Student presentation.
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp listening to final presentations of their group projects.
WDNR Photo

"What remarkable work these students have done in such a short period of time," explained Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp, "I am extraordinarily impressed by their ability to recognize similarities in our countries' environmental challenges and willingness to work together to tackle tough issues facing both China and the United States."

At a Lawrence University event in Appleton, Secretary Stepp awarded certificates from the Northland Pines School District in Eagle River that recommended each student get a high school credit for work during the study event. Students prepared posters on natural resources topics and friendship and had to explain the posters in English.

Chinese visitors on a tour of Devil's Lake State Park.
Chinese visitors on a tour of Devil's Lake State Park
WDNR Photo

Rivers as Bridges is a multi-year project that responds to Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's call for imaginative approaches to bi-lateral relationships. He visited Iowa in February and spoke to an Iowa delegation that visited China in June.

Chinese parents paid for the trip which is also supplemented through in-kind and private donations. The Environment and Public Health Network for Chinese Students and Scholars organized the event. More information about the program can be found at

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Smoller - 608-266-1117



Reduce, reuse and recycle when moving and heading back to school

MADISON -- August has arrived, which for many families means back-to-school shopping or, for college students, a move to a new city or apartment. Although shopping for new school supplies and packing up an old home can both generate extra waste, state recycling specialists say a little planning can help people reduce, reuse and recycle more and throw away less.

To assist people in shopping or moving, Department of Natural Resources recycling specialists have put together tips on reducing waste and finding recycling and reuse options.

"We know it's a busy time for students and their families," said Elisabeth Olson, DNR recycling outreach coordinator. "But with just a little planning, you can reduce waste and save money."

Back-to-school suggestions include:

Moving suggestions include:

More information is available on Recycling for all seasons page of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Elisabeth Olson, DNR recycling outreach coordinator, 608-264-9258



Set those myths aside - recycling's a win-win for everyone

According to one of the myths that swirl around recycling, the contents of recycling bins don't really get recycled - they just end up in the landfill with the trash. I wish people who have heard this myth over and over again could see what the state Natural Resources Board, Department of Natural Resources staff and I saw earlier this month.

Our recent Natural Resources Board meeting took place in Germantown and included a tour of Waste Management, Inc.'s giant Material Recovery Facility or "MRF." No one who has seen this facility can have any remaining doubts about the vast quantities of paper and cardboard, plastic, metal and glass that are efficiently sorted and baled for shipment to buyers all over the United States and the world.

That's right: the plastic water bottle you drank from today might be headed to North Carolina tomorrow to be made into carpet; the cartons used to ship canned goods to your local grocery store might show up next week at a loading dock in Milwaukee, ready to be turned into cereal boxes.

Wisconsin has more than 85 MRFs and community recycling centers all over the state, sorting hundreds of thousands of tons of recyclables collected every year by local municipal crews and private hauling contractors. From humble roots just a few decades ago, today recycling has evolved into a major business sector—indeed, a growing business sector.

Companies work hard to line up steady supplies of the materials they need, and to make multi-million-dollar investments in machinery to maximize the efficiency with which recyclables are converted to new goods. Market prices for bales of recovered aluminum, plastic and paper are steady and strong.

More recycled material on the global market means lower raw material cost for U.S. companies who use recycled material, more capital to reinvest in new technology, more supply assurance for manufacturers, lower prices for consumers and - very important these days - more jobs.

Conversely, every aluminum can that gets thrown in the trash instead of being recycled increases the cost of doing business for American manufacturers that use aluminum in their production lines.

Another myth we all hear that just won't go away: "What's good for business is bad for the environment." Wrong! Recycling wins on both counts, and it goes well beyond reducing landfill space, though that's important too. Recycling aluminum saves 95 percent of the energy that would have been needed to make new aluminum from ore. One aluminum can saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for three and a half hours. It takes 60 percent less energy to recycle steel than it does to make it from raw materials. Making recycled newspaper saves 40 percent. Recycled plastics save 70 percent and recycled glass 40 percent. Saving energy also reduces air and water pollution emissions.

Sadly, too many recyclable materials still end up in landfills. It's not because haulers take them there - it's because they never get placed in a recycling bin in the first place. In 2009, for example, Wisconsin residents and businesses threw out more than $50 million worth of metal, plastic, glass and fiber. DNR staff are working with local governments and private businesses to divert more of that material to productive use, and to recover other valuable material like electronics, carpet, paint and wood.

One final myth out there is that recycling is somehow controversial. In fact, our survey results show just the opposite! The vast majority of Wisconsinites support and participate in recycling. When you and I recycle, we don't necessarily have all the benefits in mind at that moment, but I think our intuition tells us we're doing the right thing.

Recycling works for us all. While we can always improve our efforts, Wisconsinites have long valued thrift and efficiency, so it should be no surprise that recycling is part of the fabric of life here - it just makes good sense.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Wolbert - 608-264-6286



Time to plan this fall's Learn to Hunt event

Have family and friends get in the game!

For many of us in Wisconsin, fall is the best time of year. The days are shorter, temperatures can be crisp, and the skies a brilliant blue. Geese are migrating, deer are beginning to get into the fall pre-rut patterns, and I know I'll be making firewood for the winter.

It may be high summer now, but fall is a few short weeks away and now is the time to be thinking about how you will fit a Learn to Hunt opportunity into the busy fall. I'll be hosting one in late September in the Madison area. A LTH can be the perfect way to for a novice to experience their first hunt. Maybe your neighbor down the block is interested. Or, what about your children's friends? There are many ways to foster new hunting experiences, and now is the time to start planning.

Get to your club or chapter and start brainstorming about how you can build on what you did last year, or start something entirely new. Can you reach out beyond the regular hunting "choir" to introduce someone new? Someone who would not get the chance to hunt any other way? That will really go a long way to making a new hunter.

Last year the goal was 2,000 new learn-to-hunt participants. We made it! The final tally was 2,136 participants, a 23 percent increase. That is a solid, grass roots effort to pass along the hunting tradition. We're still working toward a goal of one learn-to-hunt event in every county, but last year there were events in 60 counties -- a large increase over 2010. The challenge this year is to build numbers in each county. Let's try to add another 5 percent this fall and next spring.

You can design your own unique learn to hunt. How about a family learn-to-hunt outing? Focus on bringing the whole family out to the field and sharing our tradition and knowledge with them.

Remember, if you're hosting a LTH pheasant, sponsors can get free pheasants from the DNR game farm for the event.

For more information on all your LTH needs, go to the DNR home page and search keyword "LTH."

I know you'll take pride and step up again. As you already know, the future of hunting is up to us - those of us who hunt. Let's get in the game!

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Warnke, Hunting and Shooting Sport Coordinator,; 608-576-5243.



Online chat will help birders get ready for fall migration

MADISON -- Despite the heat and long days, mid-August marks the beginning of the peak of fall migration for many species of birds as they travel to far-flung wintering grounds in central and south America.

People can log onto the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website at noon Wednesday, August 15 for a live chat with DNR biologists Kim Grveles and Andy Paulios who will answer questions about fall bird watching opportunities during the peak of migration.

The chat will address questions about where to go birding, what birds to expect, how to make backyards or other property migratory "hotspots," and what partners in the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative are doing to enhance habitats for the millions of birds that wing their way south through the state every fall. These include:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Andy Paulios: 608-264-6137



Operation Deer Watch continues through September 30

MADISON -- With the final days of summer approaching quickly, state wildlife officials are urging people to continue to report deer observations as they head north for one last trip to the family cabin or a weekend get-away to a state park.

"Don't forget to pack your Observation Deer Watch tally sheet," says Brian Dhuey, a deer research specialist with the Department of Natural Resources. "This easy-to-do survey can help us estimate the annual production of our deer herd."

When people spot a deer, they simply write down the date, what type of deer it was (buck, doe, or fawn), and the deer management unit (map provided with tally sheet) in which it was seen.

Since August 1, more than 1,265 deer have been reported by 181 participants who have spotted 191 bucks, 589 does, 420 fawns, and 65 unknowns.

"Deer sightings often catch us by surprise, so remember to keep your tally sheet handy - whether it's in your car or your wallet," Dhuey said.

People can enter observations at the end of the day, or at the end of the month through the DNR website []. Search keyword "deer watch" and follow the directions to enter observations from the tally sheet online.

Operation Deer Watch continues through September 30.

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



Economic impact studies done on phosphorus, shoreland zoning rules

MADISON - New economic impact studies required by the Legislature are done for new rules aimed at cutting phosphorus from wastewater dischargers and new statewide shoreland zoning rules aimed at protecting water quality and habitat.

The studies were conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison under contract with the Department of Natural Resources. "Statewide Minimum Shoreland Zoning: An Economic Impact Analysis" [PDF] and "Phosphorus Reduction in Wisconsin Waterbodies: An Economic Impact Analysis" [PDF] are now available online.

Background on phosphorus rules

Phosphorus has long been recognized as the controlling factor in plant and algae growth in Wisconsin lakes and streams. Small increases in this nutrient can fuel excessive growth of aquatic plants and algae, including toxic blooms of blue-green algae, which in turn can reduce recreational use and property values and put public health at risk.

DNR rules aimed at cutting phosphorus from municipal and industrial wastewater dischargers took effect Dec. 1, 2010, and were recently approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Under the new rules, DNR determines the phosphorus discharge limits a municipal or industrial wastewater discharger must meet based on the condition and quality of a watershed. Limits can vary depending on whether a waterway is already impaired by phosphorus, among other factors, according to Jim Baumann, of DNR's Water Quality Bureau.

DNR can include a compliance schedule in a discharger's Clean Water Act permits if phosphorus discharge limits are either new or more stringent than in the past. When the operators receive those permits, they are given time to evaluate compliance options and have a maximum seven to nine years to come into compliance with their phosphorus limits, Baumann says.

Traditional compliance options at municipal facility like upgrades and variances are available as well as innovative compliance options such as adaptive management and water quality trading. These novel compliance options are designed to achieve compliance with phosphorus limits in the most cost- effective manner possible, Baumann says.

Agricultural operators also are being required to cut phosphorus under revised runoff rules effective Jan. 1, 2011.

Background on statewide shoreland zoning rules

A second economic impact analysis looks at new shoreland zoning requirements aimed at reducing polluted runoff entering lakes and rivers and protecting fish and wildlife habitat.

The economic impact analysis predicts the expected outcomes of changes to minimum shoreland zoning standards that became effective Feb. 1, 2010. Wisconsin's original minimum statewide shoreland zoning standards were first set in the late 1960s, according to Heidi Kennedy, DNR's shoreland zoning coordinator.

The key changes analyzed by the UW researchers are a new requirement that hard surfaces such as driveways, roofs and other "impervious surfaces" constitute 15 percent or less of the property within 300 feet of the shoreline; an increase in protection for plants and trees within 35 feet of the shoreline; and a more consistent treatment of legal nonconforming structures.

In March 2012, Gov. Scott Walker and the Natural Resources Board granted approval to DNR to begin the rulemaking process again to further amend the shoreland zoning rules. The economic impact analysis did not analyze the impacts of any proposed changes that DNR will be pursuing to the rule revision effective Feb. 1, 2010, Kennedy says. The proposed changes will address concerns expressed by some local government officials with administration and implementation of the rule.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: on the phosphorus study contact Jim Baumann (608) 261-6425; on the shoreland zoning study contact Heidi Kennedy (608) 261-6430


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 14, 2012

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