NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 3,691 days

ARCHIVED Weekly News Published August 21, 2012

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Drought leaving some freshwater mussels stranded; Concern reflects growing awareness of animal's importance

Mussels hidden beauty
Long treasured for their inner beauty, native mussels are now recognized for their priceless eco-services.
WDNR Photo

MADISON - The drought, now categorized as severe to extreme in the southern half of the state, is stranding mussels in shallow waters this summer and leading to an increase in calls from citizens asking how to help the filter-feeding mollusks.

"We're getting calls from people concerned about mussels left high and dry from the drought," says Lisie Kitchel, Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist and mussel expert. "The mussels try to reach deeper water, but water levels are dropping in some cases faster than the mussels can move to safety."

Kitchel says that if people see mussels that are stranded, "go ahead, pick them up and chuck them into deeper water."

Don't worry about getting them right side up, she says. Mussels, like snails, have a foot that they use to crawl with. Mussels have been documented to move up to 30 feet a day and can dig themselves deep into the river or lake bottom, she says.

The drought is another complicating factor for mussels, a freshwater animal whose fortune has actually improved in many ways. Perhaps prime among them is growing recognition of their vital role in ecosystems and public concern for them, Kitchel says.

"The fact that we are getting so many calls is encouraging because it says there are people out there who are watching their streams," she says.

Wisconsin has more than 50 native mussel species, more than half of which are endangered, threatened or listed as species of concern. Mussels are found in shallow areas of lakes and rivers, but the vast majority of species are found in rivers, where mussels find the flowing water that delivers the food and oxygen they need to survive.

Mussels' fortunes are reversing on many waters, however, for a variety of reasons. The animals are the featured success story for the August installment of DNR's year-long web series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the state endangered species law. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search for ER 40, to find the feature and the previous months' featured species.

Overharvesting, water pollution, and dams that blocked the flowing water mussels need led to their decline in the 20th century. Kitchel is encouraged that mussel populations are increasing in many waters again, thanks to protections afforded by the state and federal endangered species acts, and also, in large part to improved water quality since the 1972 Clean Water Act made it illegal to discharge wastewater without a permit.

Now, appreciation for mussels' vital role in aquatic ecosystems is growing, eclipsing their historically recognized value. For centuries, Native Americans used mussels for food, tools and decoration. In the early 1800s, mussels were harvested for their pearls, but it soon became apparent that there was a low return on the work because freshwater pearls were few and far between. From the 1880s to the 1940s, mussels in Wisconsin and elsewhere were used to make buttons until plastic buttons replaced them. After that era, mussels from the Upper Mississippi River became a mainstay of Japan's cultured pearl industry. Mussels collected from the river were shipped to Japan where they were sliced up and turned into the seed from which pearls were cultured, Kitchel says.

Overharvest of mussels on the Upper Mississippi River led to closing the commercial harvest of mussels.

Now, mussels' role in ecosystems is starting to shine as scientists learn more about these animals, Kitchel says. "Mussels are our freshwater filters," she says. A single mussel can filter a gallon or more of water a day, removing sediment and nutrients that can fuel algae blooms, as well as pesticides and heavy metals like mercury that can build up in fish and wildlife and the people who eat them.

Mussels are also food for many animals, including muskrats, otters, raccoon, ducks, wading birds and fish. And, because of their sensitivity to pollution, they are sentinels, their health a barometer of what's going on in the river or lake ecosystem.

Protections afforded by the state and federal endangered species acts require that lake and river projects are reviewed to make sure steps are taken to avoid impacting mussel populations. DNR, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, dam owners and other partners are working together to reverse the decline of rare species and to protect common mussels as well. Mussels stranded from reservoir drawdowns are saved and put back into deeper water. Mussels propagated at the federal Genoa Fish Hatchery, and through research to find the right fish hosts, are being released back into waters. A critical link in mussels' lifecycle is they must have a host species, usually a fish, to complete their life cycle. Some mussels species use only one type of fish, others use a number of fish species.

And citizen interest in mussels is growing. Two years ago, the Wisconsin Mussel Monitoring Program started and has since trained more than 200 volunteers about the value of Wisconsin freshwater mussels and how to identify them. Many of these people and school groups are documenting what species occur and where they occur in Wisconsin lakes, rivers and streams.

Ten "hidden" pearls about mussels that you might not know:

  1. Mussels require a fish host to complete their life cycle.
  2. One mussel uses the mudpuppy as its fish host, the salamander mussel.
  3. Mussels use fish, crayfish, and insects 'lures' to attract their fish host.
  4. Mussel lures actually behave like the animal they are trying to mimic by flapping like a fish, flipping like crayfish or moving like an insect.
  5. Some mussels grab ahold of the head of their host fish to ensure the young get on the fish gills.
  6. One mussel actually fishes for a fish host by putting its fish-shaped egg mass out on a line of mucus.
  7. Mussels live to be 20, 30, 40 or more years and some have been aged over 100 years old.
  8. Scientists determine mussels' age similar to how they age trees - by counting the rings. Mussels stop growing in the winter and start growing again in spring.
  9. Mussels are great concentrators of contaminants, removing them from the water column.
  10. Mussels 'aerate' the river bottoms just like earthworms aerate the soil.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Lisie Kitchel (608) 266-5248

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Early Canada goose and mourning dove seasons open Sept. 1

MADISON -The first fall hunting opportunities -- the early Canada goose and mourning dove seasons - are soon here and hunters are expected to find good numbers of both birds.

The early Canada goose season in Wisconsin runs Sept. 1-15 statewide. The dove season runs Sept. 1 - Nov. 9 statewide.

"The early season provides wonderful recreational opportunities for our goose hunters and directs harvest pressure toward these locally nesting geese," said Kent Van Horn, DNR migratory game bird ecologist. "With the early spring in 2012 we expect hunters will find good numbers of geese."

During the spring waterfowl survey, Wisconsin's resident breeding goose population estimate was 145,386, with field reports indicating above average production. The early Canada goose season is allowed by federal rules because of the growth of local giant Canada goose populations, Van Horn says. The harvest of Canada geese in the early season now amounts to one-third of the total annual Canada goose harvest in Wisconsin.

To increase their chance of success, hunters will want to remain mobile and watch movement patterns of the geese, Van Horn says. "Wisconsin's resident geese often change feeding and movement patterns this time of year," he says. "Hunters who scout prior to the hunt and stay mobile during the season give themselves the best chance for success."

More early Canada goose season details

The early season daily bag limit is five birds. In addition to the standard small game hunting license and state and federal waterfowl stamps, participation requires a $3 early Canada goose permit and HIP certification. Registering for HIP, the federal Harvest Information Program, is free and can be done at any DNR Service Center, licensing sales agent or online.

There are no "zones" or "subzones" during the early season. The hunt is statewide regardless of what area hunters may hold a permit for during the regular goose season, Van Horn says.

For more information on Canada geese, please go to dnr.wi.gov and search keyword: "waterfowl."

Dove season details and safety tips

Mourning doves are one of the most abundant and widely distributed birds in Wisconsin and throughout North America and populations are slowly growing, according to Van Horn. On average, about 10,000 to 15,000 Wisconsin hunters harvest 100,000 to 200,000 mourning doves each year, Van Horn says.

As with Canada geese, mourning dove hunters should benefit from scouting to see where birds are flying as they move between roosts, water and feeding areas.

This year the Labor Day holiday weekend will coincide with the opening of these hunts, so there will be large numbers of people spending time outdoors.

"We encourage everyone to respect each other's interests," said Van Horn.

Dove hunters also must be HIP registered to be in compliance with state and federal law. This free and easy certification can be requested when purchasing a small game hunting license. The national HIP registry allows biologists to more accurately survey hunters about important harvest information and participation.

"Dove hunting is a great way to introduce new hunters to Wisconsin's hunting tradition," says Van Horn. "It's one of the earliest game bird seasons to open so weather is often milder, access to hunting spots is generally easier and you don't have to be out at dawn to have good opportunities. There are often multiple opportunities to bag birds during a single outing if you scout out a good hunting spot ahead of time."

DNR staff, sometimes in partnership with local farmers, planted sunflower fields on state and leased lands in 16 counties in 2012 providing excellent dove hunting opportunity. Though efforts were hindered by drought, staff still managed to increase the number of successful sunflower fields planted for doves by about 30 percent this year, with several located on leased Voluntary Public Access (VPA) lands.

Ducks Unlimited again worked with DowAgroSciences to donate 250 bags of sunflower seed to the DNR, at a value of $300 per bag. "This is a most generous donation and underscores the commitment, involvement and importance of partners like DU and DowAgroScience to Wisconsin sportsmen and women," said Van Horn.

More information on dove hunting and public lands opportunities can be found at by searching the DNR website for keyword "dove."

Dove hunting regulations and safety reminders

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent Van Horn (608) 266-8841; James Christopoulos (608) 261-6458

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Kenosha gets $1.5 million DNR brownfield loan for former engine plant

MADISON -The city of Kenosha will receive more than $1.5 million for environmental cleanup work at the most severely contaminated areas of the former Chrysler Engine Plant, which closed in 2010.

This will be the largest loan the Department of Natural Resources has made for the cleanup of contaminated properties under its Ready for Reuse Grant and Loan Program.

The funds are used to tackle contaminated properties known as brownfields , which are abandoned, idle or underused commercial or industrial properties, where the expansion or redevelopment is hindered by real or perceived contamination.

"This loan helps the city to perform environmental triage on the "hot spots" at the former Chrysler Plant while the investigation and comprehensive cleanup plan for this massive site are finalized," said Darsi Foss, DNR Brownfields Section Chief for the Remediation and Redevelopment Program. "By loaning the city these funds, they can get to work right now and minimize the site's long-term costs and impacts."

Kenosha Mayor Keith Bosman notes that the former Chrysler Engine Plant site is in the middle of the city and "was part of the life blood of the community. The community cannot afford to allow this significant land area to remain abandoned and in a state of decay," he says. "By working with partners like DNR, we believe we can successfully remediate and redevelop this location into a vital economic component of our city."

The loan will be used to fund the following immediate interim actions:

The engine plant had been in operation for more than 100 years, closing down in 2010. The site has chlorinated solvent and petroleum contaminants in the soil and groundwater, Foss says. Initial investigation indicates that contamination impacts are mainly contained to the engine plant site.

Assessment, demolition and clean-up activities at the site are expected to cost around $30 million, according to an estimate made by the city and the DNR in 2009, and will take an estimated five to 15 years to achieve. However, reuse of a portion or the entire site could take place sooner than that. This loan is expected to be used and repaid by July 23, 2017, five years after it was issued. Upon full repayment of the loan, DNR will re-grant more than $1.3 million back to Kenosha to continue remediation work.

Beyond the immediate actions, Foss said DNR will continue to work with the city on the technical, financial and outreach aspects of the project until the site is cleaned up. Demolition at the site is expected in the fall and winter. At that time, the property will transfer ownership from the Old Carco Liquidation Trust, the Chrysler bankruptcy trust, to either the city or a party named by the state. Once that occurs, the state, in cooperation with the city and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will be able to access $10 million in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds.

DNR's Remediation and Redevelopment Program facilitates the return of contaminated properties to environmentally safe and productive community assets.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Darsi Foss, DNR, 608-267-6713.

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Wild rice gatherers will have to 'hunt for good rice beds this year'

MADISON - As fall approaches, people who participate in the ageless annual harvest of wild rice or "manoomin" are readying canoes, paddles and baskets. Wild rice is typically found in northern Wisconsin in shallow portions of lakes, river beds, flowages and gently flowing waters.

The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission annually assesses the wild rice crop using aerial surveys and says rice pickers are going to have to hunt for good rice beds this year.

"Wild rice abundance is influenced by a number of factors, which vary in effect from year to year," says Peter David, wildlife biologist for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission in Odanah. "An early, warm spring allowed for early germination, but heavy rain events appear to have had negative impacts at some sites. In addition, the broad distribution of poor beds suggests other factors may be involved as well. This year seems to fit the pattern that has been observed anecdotally of poor crops following mild winters."

While a few scattered beds look pretty good, the over-all crop looks quite poor, especially in northwest Wisconsin, David says. "Interestingly, beds in east-central Minnesota are in even worse shape; rice pickers and waterfowl alike are going to have to hunt for good beds this year."

Rice crops on individual sites may also be harmed by high water levels due to deliberate water level manipulation or by beaver dams.

"Wild rice harvests can vary widely from year to year and from site to site," said Jason Fleener, Wisconsin's assistant wetland habitat specialist. "Rice gatherers are encouraged to inspect the waters they are interested in early to see if there will be appreciable harvest opportunities when rice is ripe."

Fleener says that ricers may also want to speak with local ricers, tribal officials, or DNR biologists to get a perspective on good rice waters for the season.

"For most people, however, just the ritual of rice collecting on Wisconsin's beautiful fall waters is worth the time and feeds the soul," he says.

Most rice waters across the state have public access sites for launching canoes. However, in some cases ricers may need to request permission from private land owners to access certain sites.

The wild rice resource

Not only is wild rice culturally significant to Native American people and others, it is an important food source for migrating waterfowl and other migratory birds. Fleener noted that it is critical for private land owners, boaters and anglers to know how to identify wild rice and how to protect it from destruction. "It is also important that ricers harvest rice responsibly to ensure the sustainability of the resource," he says.

Wild rice is the seed of a family of aquatic grasses (including Zizania palustris and Zizania aquatica). The rice kernels are nutritious, delicious food for wildlife and people. The grain grows on tall stalks in shallow lakes, streams and riverbeds throughout the upper Midwest and southern Canada. Seeds imbedded in lake bottoms for a year or more start to germinate in early spring and send a stem up to the surface of the water. Given suitable water conditions, the rice plants grow into thick beds from June through September. The seed heads normally start to fill out in mid to late August and mature over a 10- to 14-day period.

"However, in 2012 we may see a slightly earlier maturation of those beds that did survive the storms and high water this late spring and early summer," says Fleener.

Wild rice harvest is partly regulated in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, most of the harvest comes from the northwestern part of the state in Burnett, Washburn and Polk counties and in Vilas, Oneida and Forest counties in north-central Wisconsin. Additional beds are managed on waters on tribal lands.

On most rivers, flowages and some lakes, no formal seasons are established, and these can be harvested whenever ricers determine the rice is ripe, provided they find ripe rice before the ducks, songbirds and mammals that also crave the calorie-rich grains.

On some lakes, however, the season is date-regulated, and wild rice may only be harvested during the open season set cooperatively by DNR staff and tribal rice chiefs. Notice of season openings and closings are posted at lake landings and at common lake access points at least 24 hours in advance of season openings.

State and tribal authorities inspect the rice beds every two to three days on larger waters that typically have rice beds and are frequented by more harvesters. Smaller beds are inspected less frequently. Wild rice harvesters can find out when regulated waters are open for rice harvest in northwestern Wisconsin by calling the DNR Spooner Service Center at (715) 635-2101 and in north central Wisconsin waters by calling the DNR Woodruff Service Center at (715) 356-5211.

Lists of open regulated rice waters are also posted and updated regularly during the harvest season. The list may be found on the wild rice page of the DNR Web site, by going to dnr.wi.gov and searching for "wild rice." The web address for the DNR's wild rice page has changed since people visited it last season. The list can also be found on the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission website. People interested in lake openings and other wild rice topics may also subscribe to "Wild Rice Harvesting" updates online under the "Wildlife Management" heading.

Who may harvest

Only Wisconsin residents may harvest wild rice in the state. Harvesters age 16 to 65 must purchase and possess a wild rice harvesting license for $8.25 annually. Immediate family members (spouse and minor-age children residing in the same household as the license holder) may harvest rice under the same permit as long as the other family members have received a special wild ricing identification card.

Those buying quantities of wild rice for resale or importation as well as those processing wild rice for others or processing wild rice for sale to others also must purchase an annual a wild rice buyer's license.

Allowable harvest techniques

As a traditional wild crop, rice harvesters may use only traditional harvesting equipment and techniques. Harvesters are limited to gathering wild rice in boats no longer than 17 feet and no wider than 38 inches that must be propelled by muscle power using paddles or push poles. The grain must be harvested by hand using round, wooden sticks used to bend the tall stalks over the canoe. As the seed heads are tapped, some rice falls in the canoe and some in the water to seed the bed for future years. The sticks must be smooth, rounded wooden rods or sticks no more than 38 inches long and hand-operated.

"Harvesting should be done gently, so beds can be harvested again as more rice matures; using a good ricing technique ensures the wild rice stands aren't damaged," says Fleener.

To further protect the fragile rice beds and to allow waterfowl an undisturbed period to feed, ricers can collect wild rice only during the day from 10 a.m. until sunset.

Cottage industries have developed over the years in communities adjoining the traditionally productive wild rice waters to process the freshly harvested wild rice and prepare it for cooking. Processing involves parching the grain to reduce its moisture content, and removing the sheath that encloses the grain. Moisture and the sheath often compose more than 60 percent of the harvest weight, leaving about four pounds of finished rice for every 10 pounds harvested.

The wild rice season typically runs from late August through mid-September. Wild rice ripens at a gradual rate as the milky starch fills the rice heads and hardens during maturation. At any given location, rice is typically harvested over a two- to three-week period.

Wild rice waters where seasons are date-regulated include the lakes listed below. There may or may not be appreciable rice stands on these lakes in any given year, and a number of these lakes will be closed to rice harvest in 2012 due to a poor rice crop. Please check online or with a DNR service center for lake openings.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jason Fleener, 608-266-7408

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$588,000 donated for tree planting on state forests

GERMANTOWN, Wis. -- A Chicago-based manufacturer of steel products is donating $588,131 for tree planting on Wisconsin's state forests from 2012 to 2022.

A. Finkl & Sons began the partnership with Department of Natural Resources in 1990 to offset the carbon dioxide from its Chicago operations and has helped plant more than 3 million tree seedlings since then. The company has already donated $225,000 for tree planting and the new agreement extends their tree planting pledge to the year 2022, assisting DNR with the planting of 400,000 more tree seedlings annually for the next 10 years.

Under the agreement, DNR provides the tree seedlings, labor, equipment and supervision to prepare, plant and maintain the planted areas as a healthy forest.

"This generous donation will help ensure that our state forests will continue to offer social, cultural, ecological and economic benefits today and for future generations," says DNR's Chief State Forester Paul DeLong.

He noted that, at the completion of this new 10-year agreement, the financial contributions from A. Finkl & Sons will have supported that planting of six million trees in Wisconsin's state forests.

Company official James Staples says that A. Finkl & Sons Co. is committed to improving and beautifying the environment through tree planting and reforestation.

"We initiated the partnership as a way to plant trees to offset the carbon dioxide emitted from our facilities," he says. "But we also value trees for their natural beauty and their ability shade, filter, cool, reduce noise, reduce energy consumption, stabilize soil, minimize erosion, shelter wildlife and impart psychological, economic, and aesthetic values to the human condition."

The Natural Resources Board accepted the donation at its August 8, 2012 meeting with a presentation of plaques to A. Finkl & Sons Co.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Teague Prichard, state forest specialist, 608-264-8883

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Leftover fall 2012 wild turkey permits go on sale August 25

MADISON - Remaining permits for the 2012 fall turkey hunting season will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25 and can be purchased online, in person, or by telephone.

Postcard notifications are going out this week to all customers, including conservation patrons, who were awarded a permit through the drawing process; 37,721 permits are being issued to hunters who applied by the Aug. 1 application deadline. Hunters interested in determining whether or not they drew a permit sooner can check their permit status by going to dnr.wi.us and selecting Online License Center under the Quick Tasks header.

"If you haven't been out lately during the fall turkey season, 2012 is a great time to get back out there and we've got good numbers of leftover permits available for zones 1-5," says Scott Walter, Department of Natural Resources upland ecologist. "We had a wonderful spring for production - warm and dry through the heart of the nesting and brood rearing period -- so those hunters who do get a leftover permit and go out will have a good chance to encounter birds."

Walter says that the fall turkey hunt is a chance to experience a portion of the turkey lifecycle. "There is something pretty mystical about being out in the fall turkey woods," he says.

More details on how to buy leftover permits

A total of 96,700 permits were available for the fall 2012 turkey season and there were 37,721 permits issued to hunters who applied by the Aug. 1 application deadline, leaving 58,979 permits available after the drawing for over-the-counter sales.

Hunters interested in picking up leftover turkey permits should check the turkey zone map [PDF] to verify where they want to hunt and then check the leftover permit availability page to see if permits are available for the zone in which they wish to hunt.

Leftover turkey permit sales will continue until all permits are sold or the turkey season comes to an end. Hunters are limited to purchasing one leftover permit per day, although there is no limit on the total number of permits that an individual hunter can purchase.

All of the available leftover permits are for turkey management Zones 1-5; there were no leftover permits available for Zones 6 or 7 after the initial drawing.

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

In addition to the Online Licensing Center, remaining fall turkey permits can be purchased through an authorized license agent, at DNR service centers (hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

Blaze orange required during any open gun deer season

Hunters are reminded of the requirement for blaze orange on ground blinds on DNR lands during any Gun Deer Season (see page 9 of the 2012 Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations for more information). Ground blinds on DNR lands left unattended must also have the owner's name and address or DNR Customer ID number attached near the door opening. Ground blinds may not be left out overnight on DNR lands. These ground blind rules do not apply to ground blinds being used for waterfowl hunting or to blinds built only out of natural vegetation found on the DNR property.

Turkey hunters should also note that during any gun or muzzleloader deer season, including the October 6-7 youth deer hunt, antlerless hunts, and CWD hunts (see the 2012 Wisconsin Deer Hunting Regulations for season dates), blaze orange clothing is required. A hat, if worn, must be at least 50 percent blaze orange.

For more information, visit the wild turkey page on the DNR website.

Fall Wild Turkey Season Dates & Reminders

2012 Fall Wild Turkey Extended Season Dates for Zones 1-5 ONLY

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Scott Walter,(608) 267-7861; Krista McGinley, 608) 261-8458

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Grants available to forest landowners who lost trees to 2012 drought

MADISON - Forest landowners in 49 Wisconsin counties may be eligible for financial help to replant tree seedlings that died as a result of the drought this summer, state forest officials say.

Landowners who have lost 25 percent or more of trees planted in 2008 through 2012 due to the 2012 drought may be eligible to receive a grant for replanting the drought-killed trees, according to Carol Nielsen, administrator of the Wisconsin Forest Landowner Grant Program.

Emergency funds have been designated through the Wisconsin Forest Landowner Grant Program for tree planting failures due to the 2012 drought in these counties: Adams, Brown, Buffalo, Calumet, Chippewa, Clark, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Dunn, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jackson, Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Lafayette, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marquette, Milwaukee, Monroe, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Pepin, Pierce, Portage, Racine, Richland, Rock, Saint Croix, Sauk, Sheboygan, Trempealeau, Vernon, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha, Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago and Wood.

Nielsen says DNR foresters have found that the 2012 drought has caused tree seedling mortality ranging from 15 percent to 100 percent, depending on the site, location and tree species.

A DNR forester must verify that the loss is directly related to the 2012 drought and that the applicant meets the program's eligibility requirements, including:

Grants awarded will cover up to half the costs for preparing the site and replanting trees where the DNR forester has determined there is a need, Nielsen says. Yard trees, Christmas trees and CRP plantings are not eligible for this funding assistance.

Emergency grants will be available until May 1, 2013, or until all of the designated funds have been awarded, whichever comes first, and the grants will be awarded as the applications are received, Nielsen says.

To confirm eligibility and apply for the emergency funding, landowners should contact the DNR forester in the county where their land is located.

For more information contact Carol Nielsen, private forestry specialist, Carol.Nielsen@Wisconsin.gov; 608-267-7508

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Carol Nielsen (608) 267-7508

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Sturgeon hook-and-line season opens Sept. 1 on select waters

POYNETTE - The hook and line sturgeon season opens Sept. 1, 2012, on select major rivers and lakes and promises a great opportunity to reel in the fish of a lifetime as sturgeon numbers and size are improving, fish biologists report.

A Poynette man and his daughter reported catching and releasing a sturgeon that they measured at 86 inches in March while catfishing on Lake Wisconsin and last year, an 82-inch fish was harvested from the Lower Chippewa River.

"The 60-inch minimum length limit seems to be helping keep the sturgeon numbers strong and allow more of these fish to grow larger, reproduce, and continue to contribute to the fishery," says Karl Scheidegger, co-chair of the Department of Natural Resources sturgeon management team. "Anglers should find lots of great catch and release opportunities and a few harvest opportunities as well on those waters open to sturgeon fishing."

The 60-inch limit was enacted in 2007 when harvest rates on some populations were significantly above 5 percent, the level of harvest DNR considers safe. Lake sturgeon are slow-growing, late maturing fish, with females spawning for the first time when they are 20 to 25 years old and then only every four to five years thereafter. Because females are larger than males they are often targeted by anglers. Overharvest can cause population declines that take years to recover from.

Heath Benike, fisheries biologist stationed in Eau Claire, says that recent surveys confirm that a large number of sturgeon just under the 60-inch minimum length limit are present in Lower Chippewa River. "Catch and release sturgeon fishing is growing in popularity locally and anglers who just enjoy catching sturgeon and not necessarily harvesting sturgeon will find sturgeon fishing good to excellent on this stretch of river," he says.

Nate Nye, fisheries biologist stationed in Poynette, notes that yearly population estimates for the Prairie Du Sac Dam tailwater from 2008 to 2011 have ranged from 125 to 225 fish. The fishery can vary based on environmental conditions like river levels, weather, etc., the number of people fishing for sturgeon, and the number of fish actually present in the tailwater area.

"Fishing in early September may actually be better on Lake Wisconsin with the Prairie du Sac fishery improving later as water temperatures cool off and flows increase, bringing fish into the lower Wisconsin River from the Mississippi," he says.

More season details

The hook and line season is open Sept. 1 - 30 on segments of the Chippewa River, the Flambeau River, Butternut Lake in Price County, segments of the Jump River in Rusk County, Yellow Lake, Little Yellow Lake, Danbury Flowage, and the Yellow River from Yellow Lake downstream to the Danbury Dam (Burnett Co.) and the Wisconsin River downstream from the Wisconsin Dells Dam. For specific listings of the river segments open to harvest, please consult the Wisconsin fishing seasons: Lake sturgeon web page.

There is a minimum length limit of 60 inches and a bag limit of 1 per season.

There is a catch and release season only on a stretch of the Menominee River downstream from the Hattie Street dam to Green Bay from Sept. 1-30.

Anglers will find an extra catch-and-release opportunity on the lower St. Croix River from St. Croix Falls Dam downstream to the Mississippi River from Oct. 1 through Oct. 15. This catch-and-release season allows Wisconsin and Minnesota to have the same regulations on the boundary water for sturgeon.

All anglers must have a Wisconsin general inland fishing license unless they are under 16 years old, or were born before Jan. 1, 1927. Active military personnel who are Wisconsin residents and in active service but on furlough or leave are eligible to receive a free annual fishing license.

Anglers who do plan to harvest a sturgeon this season must purchase a harvest tag before they fish. The sturgeon harvest tag was implemented for the first time in the 2006 hook and line season. All revenues from the harvest tag sales go directly to projects dedicated to the improvement of sturgeon populations and habitats and therefore, better fishing opportunities. No tag is needed if anglers are catch and release fishing only.

The harvest tag is available throughout the season and costs $20 for residents and $50 for nonresidents.

Harvest tags can be purchased at DNR's Online Licensing Center; DNR service centers, license sales agents or by calling 1-877-WI LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

Anglers who harvest a legal-size fish must immediately attach the harvest tag to the fish. All harvested sturgeon must be registered at a registration station by 6 p.m. the next day.

Reports for some major waters open for the season

Lower Chippewa River

Lake sturgeon populations are strong on the lower Chippewa River from the Holcombe Flowage downstream to Lake Pepin. In 2011, 13 lake sturgeon were harvested from this stretch of river with the largest fish measuring 82 inches in length. This is the largest number of legal length fish harvested since the 60 inch minimum length limit went into effect in 2007. In addition, many anglers report catching and releasing large numbers of sub-legal fish in the mid-upper 50 inch range and recent DNR fish surveys confirm that a large number of sturgeon just under the 60 inch minimum length limit are present in the fishery at this time. Catch and release sturgeon fishing is growing in popularity locally and anglers who just enjoy catching sturgeon and not necessarily harvesting sturgeon will find sturgeon fishing good to excellent on this stretch of river. Anglers who harvest fish: note new registration location hours at some stations. - Heath Benike, fisheries biologist, Eau Claire

Lake Wisconsin/Wisconsin River

Anglers have opportunities to harvest lake sturgeon this fall on Lake Wisconsin and the lower Wisconsin River. In recent years most of the angler catch has been concentrated below the Prairie du Sac Dam on the Wisconsin River. Specifically Prairie du Sac fishery concentrates from the dam tailwater down to the US-12 Bridge. Anglers can access the river by boat in Prairie du Sac from the VFW boat launch, and may fish from shore as well from the Village Park on VFW Drive. Shore fishing access to the tailwater may be gained by walking down the bank from a parking lot on Dam Rd. off of Highway 78 just north of Prairie du Sac.

In Lake Wisconsin, anglers have historically concentrated in the area around Tipperary Point, and in the Dells anglers will focus their effort between the Kilbourn Dam tailwater on the Wisconsin River downstream to Hawk's Beak.

Radio telemetry data collected in late July 2012 showed that most of the sturgeon that were tagged on the lower Wisconsin River were still in the Mississippi River. Fishing in the early part of the season may actually be better on Lake Wisconsin with the Prairie du Sac fishery improving later as water temperatures cool off and flows increase, bringing fish into the lower Wisconsin River from the Mississippi River.

The 60-inch minimum length limit seems to be helping and sturgeon numbers in the lower Wisconsin River remain strong. Since implementation of the 60-inch minimum in 2007, harvest at Prairie du Sac has averaged 8 sturgeon per year and we expect somewhere between 5 and 15 sturgeon to be harvested again in 2012. Harvest on Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River in the Wisconsin Dells has been lower in recent years, but sturgeon numbers in the system remain strong. We expect anywhere from zero to 5 sturgeon to be harvested from Lake Wisconsin and the Dells area in 2012. - Nate Nye, fisheries biologist, Poynette

Menominee River

The forecast for the Menominee River remains the same as for last year: plenty of catch and release action and a few legal fish available. Just soak some crawlers in the deep holes. - Mike Donofrio, fisheries supervisor, Peshtigo

Yellow Lake

The lake sturgeon population on Yellow Lake is showing many positive signs of recovering from over-harvest and poor reproduction in the 1920s through the 1950s. Research suggests lake sturgeon on Yellow Lake would require more than 60 years to attain their maximum size potential. Increasing numbers of these older fish are being found in Yellow Lake surveys. As these fish continue to grow, anglers may start catching some of these exceptionally large fish in upcoming years. - Jamison Wendel, fisheries biologist, Spooner

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Karl Scheidegger, (608) 267-9426; Heath Benike, (715) 839-2877; Mike Donofrio, (715) 582-5050; Nate Nye (608)635-8122

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Open house for draft master plan for 19 state owned properties in Columbia County

MADISON - The Department of Natural Resources is inviting the public to attend a Sept. 5 open house to discuss the draft master plan for 19 state-owned wildlife and fishery properties in Columbia County.

The open house is set from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Resident Center at the Mackenzie Environmental Education Center (W7303 County Road CS) located on the Poynette Game Farm. There will be a short informational presentation about the highlights of the draft plan and planning process between 6:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Citizens also may submit comments on the draft master plan through Sept. 21.

The 19 properties cover more than 24,000 acres, mostly within Columbia County. Portions of the properties, listed below, also lie within Dane, Marquette and Sauk counties.

These public properties provide high quality recreational experiences for a wide variety of users from Columbia County and the region. They also provide a diverse array of habitats for fish, game animals and rare species. These habitats include wetlands, grasslands, forests, trout streams and warmwater lakes and rivers. Six state natural areas are also located on these properties.

The Wildlife Areas are French Creek, Savanna, Lodi Marsh, Mud Lake, Paradise Marsh, Petter Hellend, Pine Island, Swan Lake, Grassy Lake, and Jennings Creek. The Fisheries areas involved in the master planning effort are Rocky Run, Rowan Creek, Hinkson Creek, Lodi Spring Creek and Roelke Creek. The public hunting grounds in the proposed master plan are Columbus, Dekorra, Hampden and Duck Creek, and the Rocky Run Oak State Natural Area is also included.

The draft master plan, maps and background property information can be viewed at DNR's Columbia County Planning Group of wildlife, fishery and natural areas master planning web page.

These materials are also available for public viewing and comments during office hours at the Poynette Game Farm office, the Natural Resources Building (Facilities and Lands Program (6th Floor) at 101 S. Webster Street in Madison, and the Southern Regional Headquarters at 3911 Fish Hatchery Road in Fitchburg. Additional copies will be provided to public libraries throughout Columbia County.

Public input is welcome at the open house meeting, by email, calling or letter through Sept. 21, 2012, to the people listed on the contacts tab of DNR's Columbia County Planning Group of wildlife, fishery and natural areas master planning web page.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ed Jepsen, 608-266-3568

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Wild turkey, pheasant, and waterfowl stamp design contest entries and winners on display

MADISON - The public is invited to view original wildlife art submitted for the 2013 Wisconsin Wild Turkey, Pheasant, and Waterfowl Stamp Design Contests at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The contest and exhibit will take place on Saturday, Aug. 25, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

"For the third year, Wisconsin's three wildlife stamp contests are being held at the same time," said Krista McGinley, Department of Natural Resources assistant upland wildlife ecologist.

"We have nearly 50 beautiful entries representing a wide range of styles. Wildlife lovers will enjoy the chance to see the artwork and get a sneak peak at what the final stamp design will be before it's released to the public."

McGinley says DNR has assembled a great judging panel this year, comprised of some of Wisconsin's finest experts in wildlife ecology and the biology and management of wild turkeys, pheasants, and waterfowl."

Those attending the event will have the opportunity to view wildlife artwork by artists from across the state, and will get a "sneak peek" of the winning designs for the 2013 Wild Turkey, Pheasant, and Waterfowl Stamps.

The event space will be open to the public from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., with the exception of the block of time set aside for judging from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to use this time to explore the many exciting features the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center has to offer.

The venue, Baraboo's Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, was chosen as a unique setting in which to celebrate the contributions of wildlife art to habitat conservation. The 1,500-acre Leopold Memorial Reserve illustrates some of the earliest attempts at habitat restoration in Wisconsin and will serve as the perfect backdrop for the judging of the stamp design contests.

The purchase of Wild Turkey, Pheasant, and Waterfowl Stamps is required for hunters pursuing these species, but anyone who appreciates wildlife and wildlife art and wishes to contribute to habitat conservation can purchase the stamps at any license vendor. Collectively, these stamps raise about $1.5 million for habitat conservation in Wisconsin.

For directions to the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, please visit the Center's website [exit DNR].

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Krista McGinley, (608) 261-8458.

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Wolf hunting permit application period to close Aug. 31

MADISON - Ten days remain for hunters and trappers to apply for a wolf harvest permit in Wisconsin's first modern wolf hunting and trapping season.

The August 31 deadline to apply for a wolf harvest permit is fast approaching. Applications have already exceeded the available number of harvest permits and that trend is expected to continue in future years. Even if a hunter or trapper doesn't draw a permit this year, applying will give them a preference point, and a better chance, in future drawings.

As of Aug. 21, 13,215 permit applications have been received. Roughly 1,100 public harvest permits will be available at the time of the drawing. To learn more about the wolf hunting and trapping season that runs Oct. 15 to Feb. 28, 2013, go to DNR's website dnr.wi.gov and search for wolf.

A permit application costs $10 and may be purchased by:

Hunters drawn in the lottery will be notified by mail shortly after the drawing which will take place in early September.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kurt Thiede (608) 266-5833; Bill Cosh (608) 267-2773

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More information available on chinook reduction proposal

MILWAUKEE - More information about a proposal from Lake Michigan state and tribal fisheries management agencies to reduce trout and salmon stocking starting in 2013 to better match prey and predator numbers is available online and the public has until Sept. 3, 2012, to comment on the proposed options.

"This has been a lengthy but very worthwhile process involving a lot of stakeholders, and we need to finalize stocking reduction decisions in September so we can put them into action this fall," said Brad Eggold, southern Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources. Agencies collect salmon eggs starting in late September for fish that will be stocked in spring 2013. "We should collect only the number of eggs we'll actually need this fall to make the most efficient use of our staff and funding," Eggold said.

Despite an exceptional coho harvest and good size-at-age among chinook salmon in 2011, lake-wide assessments of food available for trout and salmon and computer modeling conducted by Michigan State University researchers show that the number of trout and salmon being stocked in Lake Michigan exceeds what can be supported by the available prey fish in the future, particularly as natural reproduction in Michigan waters has increased significantly.

Forage fish surveys done by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2011 show that alewife populations were at the lowest levels since surveys were started in 1973. Biologists believe that continuing current stocking levels would lead to a collapse in both alewives and salmon and trout which would seriously affect Wisconsin's $500 million Great Lakes sport fishery. "We are trying to avoid the kind of salmon fishing collapse that happened on Lake Huron and seriously affected the sport fishery in Michigan," Eggold said.

The options looked at and the need for a reduction comes largely from stakeholders, he said. "From what we've heard at the various public meeting, the public believes that a reduction needs to take place," Eggold said. The anglers and charter boat captains are seeing lower weight on chinook in their catches. The chinook anglers are hauling in are 15 to 17 pounds; very rarely are they catching a fish over 20 pounds, he said.

Biologists from the states bordering the lake favor a 50 percent reduction lakewide in chinook stocking with individual states having the option to substitute reductions of other species. Wisconsin supported a plan that eliminated stocking of all Michigan streams that have significant chinook salmon natural reproduction with the rest of the cuts proportionally distributed among all other ports. That translates into a 37.8 percent reduction for Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana and a 61.8 percent reduction for Michigan if only chinook are reduced. In the current proposal, Wisconsin would still be responsible for 37.8 percent,but Michigan would take a higher 66.8 percent reduction which would allow smaller reductions for Illinois and Indiana, which stock much less fish to begin with.

Eggold says that Wisconsin's proposed reduction would initially come in Chinook stocking. Chinook have the biggest impact on prey populations and changes in Chinook stocking levels are easiest to adjust to for hatcheries. Chinook are stocked out within the same year they are hatched, so reducing their numbers for 2013 would mean Wisconsin would seek from the outset to raise fewer fish. Other trout and salmon, at least in Wisconsin, are stocked out at as year-old fish, or yearlings, so those coho salmon and brown trout destined for stocking in 2013 are already being raised in the hatcheries. Eggold says that DNR would consider spreading the reductions around to other species in the future, with enough lead time.

"We are all deeply committed to protecting the future of the salmon and trout fishery," Eggold said. "We are also committed to working with one another and the tribes in a cooperative, collaborative fashion to manage our shared resource," he says.

The latest presentation (given on Aug. 7 in Green Bay and Aug. 9 in Milwaukee) can be viewed here.

Written comments can be sent to Brad Eggold, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 600 E. Greenfield Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53204 or emailed to Bradley.Eggold@Wisconsin.Gov.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Eggold (414) 382-7921

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 21, 2012




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