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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published February 25, 2014

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Wisconsin State Park System provides key economic, natural resource benefits

MADISON -- Wisconsin's state parks, outdoor recreation areas, forests and trails serve as important drivers of local economic vitality, according to a recent report that estimates that total spending by Wisconsin state park properties visitors is more than $1 billion a year. The report also found that the State Park System conserves important environmental resource areas that are public legacies.

"Our state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas are truly the jewels of our state's natural resources, and this report shows they are also jewels for our economy," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "This study shows how important our state park properties are to the local economies of communities across the state that are gateways to these properties."

"Economic Impacts of the Wisconsin State Park System: Connections to Gateway Communities" co-produced by the Wisconsin DNR Bureau of Parks and Recreation and University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension, looks at 69 outdoor recreation sites operated by the Wisconsin parks program.

Key findings of the report included:

Jeff Prey, senior planner for Wisconsin state parks and co-author of the report, said the researchers wanted to learn how state-owned properties differed in the recreational opportunities they offered; how different types of visitors spent their money in communities located near the sites; and how visitors contributed to local job creation and income generation.

"We found the economic impacts of the Wisconsin State Park System vary across the state and depend on property and visitor activity type, visitation levels, and local economic conditions," Prey said.

"Each property and its near-by communities offered unique resources and opportunities for people to enjoy," said co-author Dave Marcouiller, chair of the UW-Madison Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

Impacts from the Park System sites, located around the state, were categorized into eight regions based on the Wisconsin State Comprehensive Outdoor recreation Plan: the Great Northwest; the Northwoods; the Upper Lake Michigan Coastal; the Lake Winnebago Waters; the Western Sands; the Mississippi River Corridor; the Southern Gateways; and the Lower Lake Michigan Coastal.

"Total operational funding for our state park system is less than $25 million a year," Secretary Stepp noted, "so Wisconsin is getting a significant return on its investment from the State Parks System."

"But even more important than their economic value, from the cliffs of Interstate Park overlooking the St. Croix River to the Lake Michigan dunes at Whitefish Dunes State Park, and from the glacial geology of Kettle Moraine State Forest to the breathtaking 165 foot waterfall at Pattison State Park, these properties protect and conserve some of our most valuable natural resource treasures."

"Economic Impacts of the Wisconsin State Park System: Connections to Gateway Communities" [PDF] is available by searching the DNR website for "parks," and then clicking on the link for "Reports and more" under the "Documents & publications" tab.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Prey, DNR, 608-266-2182, David Marcouiller, UW, 608-262-2998, or Paul Holtan, state parks public affairs manager, 608-267-2775

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Save the date and start planning: Free Outdoor Fun Weekend is June 7-8 in Wisconsin

New this year, parks admission free for both days

MADISON - Save the dates for Free Fun Weekend, June 7-8, when Wisconsin residents and visitors alike can fish for free, hike or bike state trails for free, ride public ATV trails for free, and, new this year, enjoy free admission to state parks and forests on both days as well.

New this year, all state park vehicle admission sticker fees on all DNR-owned properties are waived for both Saturday, June 7, and Sunday, June 8. Previously, the state park system's longstanding free open house was only the first Sunday in June; this year, vehicle admission fees have been waived for both the first Saturday and Sunday in June.

"We're excited to add a second free day of admission to our state parks to make this truly a "free fun weekend," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "DNR is your gateway to the outdoors, and we want to open the door wide to everybody to enjoy our beautiful state and diverse recreation."

Stepp encourages people to start planning now to maximize the free weekend. "Free fun weekend is a great time to get together with family and friends to try new activities or invite someone new along to enjoy your favorite outdoor activities."

More information about "free fun" in Wisconsin's outdoors is available by searching the the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for "free fun."

People who camp at state parks will still pay for their campsites and other events or programs on those two days may require a fee as well.

Free fishing June 7 and 8

Free fishing on June 7 and 8 applies to all Wisconsin waters. No fishing license is needed to fish any waters -- this includes inland trout and Great Lakes trout and salmon fishing, which normally would require a trout stamp in addition to a license. Fishing rules such as limits on the length and species of fish that can be kept do apply, however.

Dozens of free fishing clinics are typically hosted around the state by conservation groups and others to help encourage people to try fishing. Free loaner equipment is available at 50 locations, including many state parks, DNR offices, and partner organizations, according to Theresa Stabo, DNR aquatic education director.

State trails free on June 7 and 8

On June 7 and 8, all state trail pass fees on all DNR-owned state trails are waived. Cooperatively-run state trails also may waive fees. Normally, a state trail pass is required for all people age 16 or older biking, in-line skating, horseback riding, cross-country skiing or off-highway motorcycling on certain trails. A state trail pass is not required for walking or hiking.

ATV riding on public trails is free June 7 and 8

For the second year, Wisconsin residents and nonresidents can ride their ATVs or UTVs on public trails for free on those two days. A law advanced by the Wisconsin ATV Association and passed in 2012 created the free weekend.

Normally, Wisconsin residents have to register their ATVs or UTVs with DNR for public use to operate on public trails, or other areas open to the public like frozen water bodies. Nonresident riders normally have to buy a nonresident trail pass to ride on these areas in Wisconsin. On June 7 and 8, the registration and trail pass fees are waived. All other ATV and UTV regulations apply during the weekend.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: on Free Fishing Weekend contact Theresa Stabo, angler education, 608-266-2272; on ATVs, Joanne Haas, law enforcement public affairs manager, 608-267-0798; on state parks and trails, Paul Holtan, state parks, forests, trails and recreation public affairs manager, 608-267-7517

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National survey: Wisconsin ranks second in bird watching

MADISON - Wisconsin ranks second nationally in the proportion of citizens considered birders, with fully one-third of residents 16 and older reporting they travel to watch birds, or actively watch and identify birds around home, according to a recently released U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report.

Wisconsin trailed only Vermont, where 39 percent of residents are birders, and tied with West Virginia, where 33 percent of their population also watches birds. Numbers-wise, however, the Badger State vastly outnumbered those two states, with Wisconsin boasting 1,678,000 birders, compared to 292,000 for the Green Mountain State and 574,000 for the Mountain State.

"Wisconsin is well known for its rich tradition of birding and other forms of wildlife watching," says Ryan Brady, Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative monitoring coordinator and Department of Natural Resources research scientist. "Here we have a strong connection to our natural resources, and their vibrant colors, soothing songs, and high degree of visibility make birds a crowd favorite."

Wisconsin features both northern and southern breeding species and sits astride a major migration pathway, allowing birders easy access to one of the most diverse collections of bird life in the United States. More than 400 species have been recorded in the state, with the vast majority of species and numbers being migratory birds. Others, like chickadees, cardinals, grouse, and turkeys, are permanent residents

Brady says spectacles such as staging sandhill cranes, waterfowl migration on the Mississippi River, goose migration at Horicon Marsh, booming prairie chickens, overwintering bald eagles, and more than 30 species of warblers are some of the state's biggest birding draws.

Nationally, there were about 47 million birders, about 20 percent of the population 16 and older, according to the report. They spent an estimated $41 billion on trip related expenditures and equipment, generated a total economic impact of $106 billion, supported 666,000 jobs and generated $13 billion in state and federal tax revenues.

The report, Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis [PDF - exit DNR]], is an addendum to the 2011 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation. That same survey found that 1.2 million Wisconsin residents fished, and 895,000 residents hunted in that same survey year. www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/fhw11-wi.pdf [PDF]

Kim Grveles, who coordinates Wisconsin's Bird Stopover Initiative, says the keen interest in birding in Wisconsin can be seen in the growing number of communities seeking "Bird City Wisconsin" www.birdcitywisconsin.org (exit DNR) status indicating their commitment to bird conservation efforts. Since the program started in 2010, 76 communities have been designated Bird Cities.

That interest also was seen in 2013 in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon wibirdathon.org (exit DNR), in which 155 birders spent part of a 24-hour period in May observing birds and soliciting pledges for the total number of species they saw. The birders observed a total of 252 species and raised more than $55,000 for bird conservation projects in Wisconsin, according to the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, which sponsored the event along with the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.

"There's a growing recognition of what's needed to maintain healthy populations of birds and to understand birds' importance to their economies and quality of life," Grveles says. "The national survey's participation rates and economic rates reflect the important role birds play for our local communities and our state."

More statistics from the report:

  • In 2011 there were 47 million birdwatchers (birders) 16 years of age and older in the United States - about 20 percent of the population.
  • FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ryan Brady, 715-685-2933; Kim Grveles, 608-264-8594; or Yoyi Steele, 608-266-8169

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    Test results provide current snapshot of CWD in south-central Wisconsin

    MADISON - Through 12 years of ongoing surveillance efforts, Department of Natural Resources officials are able to maintain a current picture of trends and prevalence of chronic wasting disease within the area previously known as the CWD management zone [PDF] in southern Wisconsin.

    Based on 2013 test results for the western monitoring area, encompassing western Dane and Eastern Iowa counties where sampling has been occurring annually since the disease was discovered, current prevalence is near 25 percent for adult male white-tailed deer, 10 percent for adult female deer, about 7 percent in yearling males and about 6 percent in yearling females. Prevalence has increased in all categories.

    "Sampling deer from these areas where there has been long-term monitoring of disease patterns is important to understanding the dynamics of this disease," said Tami Ryan, DNR Wildlife Health section chief. "Prevalence has been increasing as expected, and we continue to find that prevalence is higher in males than females and higher in adults than yearlings."

    For 2013, DNR staff tested deer from within and outside of the CWD-MZ in south central and southeastern Wisconsin. The sampling strategies were aimed at detecting changes in the location and trends in prevalence of the disease. Monitoring plans focused surveillance on adult deer, which are most likely to have the disease.

    Beginning in 2014, with the approval of the Deer Trustee Report rule package, DNR will have a new funding source available beginning this fall to provide hunter service testing statewide. The funding comes from having the authority to apply $5 from each additional antlerless deer permit sale in CWD-affected counties towards CWD testing and monitoring.

    "Prior to this change, DNR received no money from additional permits sales. We are pleased to now have a consistent funding stream for CWD testing and monitoring," said Ryan.

    Also emerging from the rule is the Deer Management Assistance Program and the formation of county deer committees, both of which give DNR flexibility to work locally to develop cooperative approaches to disease surveillance and management.

    "It's important to be able to work cooperatively with hunters and landowners, as their participation is essential to CWD surveillance," said Ryan. "It's also very important that we connect with the local communities so they can stay informed on deer disease and DNR's approach to monitoring. They are also the conduit for public sentiment, sharing information with us in addition to taking information back to their community."

    More information on CWD or details on 2013 sampling and prevalence is available at dnr.wi.gov, search keyword "CWD."

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tami Ryan, DNR Wildlife Health section chief, 608-266-3143

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    New grant program for hunter training and education

    $200,000 to be available every other year for focus on adults, females, and families

    MADISON -- Wisconsin groups dedicated to the development of safe and ethical hunters are invited to apply for portions of a new $200,000 reimbursement grant program to support private-public partnerships focused on supporting the state's hunting heritage.

    Keith Warnke, Department of Natural Resources hunting and shooting sports coordinator, says the grant answers the growing need to engage and train new hunters from a non-hunting background.

    "We see a need to expand the effort to provide effective training and education for responsible new hunters and mentors by developing a private-public partnership reimbursement grant program - similar to our shooting range grant program," Warnke says. "This program is grounded in the basic idea that only a committed hunter/mentor can educate, develop, and train a new hunter."

    Pilot studies have shown a growing interest in hunting from adults and families who have never hunted. In the past three years, Warnke says, the DNR has shifted the focus of Wisconsin's hunter training, development and education programs to adults, females, and families in response to research findings in the state and nationwide.

    This grant program also will be focused on developing and testing various programs and evaluating effectiveness. Applicants should submit ideas for the development, piloting, and evaluating of novice hunter training systems focusing new adult mentors and hunters.

    "Novel, outside-the-box ideas are needed," Warnke says. "But, we also need to make sure that we are measuring our results and evaluating effectiveness so we can know if something is having the desired effect."

    Successful programs will be expanded in Wisconsin and can be adapted by other states.

    Who, when, how to apply; who decides recipients

    Priorities - what focus a successful application needs

    Warnke says proposals that implement systems with documented success at producing new adult hunters from non-hunting backgrounds will receive top priority. Next priority will be proposals that test or trial new ideas and systems to train, develop and educate new adult hunters and those that effectively re-train mentors to commit to new hunters for a period of years through multiple introductions and educational experiences in hunting.

    "We expect added focus on partnership to ensure our hunting heritage. States and partners will benefit from projects with measurable outcomes and adaptation feed-back loops," Warnke says. "The project will result in an expanded hunter development/education program, increased participation in hunting, innovative hunter recruitment techniques, as well as provide a template for other partners or states to use, and an evaluation process for determining success of respective programs and adapting programs to changing audiences."

    The application will be available online only beginning March 3 by searching the DNR website for "Grants" and clicking on the button for "find a grant."

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Warnke, DNR Hunting and Shooting Sports Coordinator, 608-576-5243; Joanne Haas, Law Enforcement public affairs manager, 608-209-8147

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    Snowmobile registrations show thousands enjoying state's groomed trails

    MADISON -- Wisconsin's publicly registered snowmobile total is approaching a quarter-million, solidifying the state's reputation as a destination location for winter outdoor fun.

    Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp credits the public registrations to the combination of the 25,000 miles of groomed trails - 19,250 of those miles funded through the DNR's snowmobile grant program.

    DNR records show as of early February, there were 222,690 publicly registered snowmobiles in Wisconsin. Among the top counties with the most total snowmobiles registered are Vilas, Oneida, Marathon, Brown, Outagamie and Dane.

    "The entire state is enjoying a winter of snow, which is a bit different from previous winters where the snow depth was quite different from north and south, or east and west," Stepp says. "Here in Wisconsin we are lucky in that we have snowmobile organizations who take the time to care for these trails - and landowners who grant permission for trails to cross their acres."

    Stepp says Wisconsin wardens also are there to help snowmobilers on the trail and also to teach snowmobile safety techniques. "We are fortunate to have volunteer instructors who join in the DNR's goal to have everyone have fun on the trails - and to ride smart from the start - and that includes taking a snowmobile safety course."

    There are classroom courses as well as an online course for those age 16 and older. The Wisconsin law requires those born on or after Jan. 1, 1985, and are at least age 12, to complete a snowmobile safety certification course to operate a snowmobile on Wisconsin public snowmobile trails and areas.

    For more information search the DNR website for "snowmobile."

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Joanne Haas, DNR law enforcement public affairs manager, 608-209-8147

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    Trout anglers urged to take steps to prevent spreading invasive snail

    MADISON - With a potentially prolific invasive snail recently documented in Black Earth Creek, one of Wisconsin's premier trout waters, and a native parasite spreading among brook trout statewide, anglers can help keep Wisconsin fish and streams healthy by taking a few key prevention steps after fishing during the early catch-and-release trout season.

    "Prevention steps work and everyone's vigilance matters," says Deborah Seiler, aquatic invasive species outreach coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and UW-Extension.

    "The good news is you don't have to avoid fishing Black Earth Creek or any of the streams where gill lice have been reported," says Matt Mitro, a DNR trout researcher involved in efforts to stem the spread of gill lice and the snails. "As with any lake or river statewide, you're required to clean your gear and drain water from equipment after leaving and before entering another stream. We also recommend disinfecting that gear as well to reduce even more the risk of spreading New Zealand mud snails and other aquatic organisms."

    Mitro and Seiler are part of a multi-partner group formed to respond to the discovery in Dane County's Black Earth Creek of the New Zealand mudsnail. The invasive species is present in the western United States and in the Great Lakes; the Black Earth Creek discovery marked the first documentation in inland Midwestern waters.

    It's hard to predict how the snails will impact the stream, as in some western locations they have had minimal impact, or the snail populations have crashed after an initial boom, Seiler says. But in the worst case scenarios, mudsnails in some western U.S. waterbodies have been found growing at densities of up to 500,000 per square meter, changing native food webs and potentially decreasing the size and abundance of trout.

    Trout Unlimited, River Alliance of Wisconsin, and other state, federal and county agencies are also partners. The response team will be monitoring other streams to look for mudsnails and conducting outreach to stream users, including anglers, researchers, and the construction industry. The River Alliance is seeking an early detection and response grant from DNR to try to contain the snail.

    The same prevention steps for the mudsnail may help prevent the spread of gill lice and other aquatic organisms. Brook trout and gill lice have always lived together in Wisconsin streams but recently the balance appears to be tipping toward higher gill lice numbers in some streams. The parasite attaches to a brook trout's gills making it difficult for the fish to breathe and slowing normal growth and development. This increase in gill lice in some streams may be reducing trout numbers, Mitro says.

    Statewide, 2013 efforts by anglers and DNR biologists to record the presence of gill lice, a native parasite of brook trout, reveals that gill lice are widely distributed across the state, except they appear to be absent in the Lake Superior basin, or at least in the samples of streams and trout inspected there, according to Mitro. "The prevalence and intensity of infection varies widely, with no geographic "hot spots," he says.

    Taking steps to prevent the spread of the New Zealand Mud Snail and other aquatic organisms will just take a few extra minutes but can help keep trout populations and fishing strong, Mitro and Seiler say.

    Before leaving a waterway:

    Required:

    Better:

    Best:

    Anglers can report gill lice observations at the following webpage: www.wisconsintu.org/gilllice (exit DNR).

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Matt Mitro, 608-221-6366; Maureen Ferry, 608- 261-6450

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    2014 spring fish and wildlife proposed rules hearing questionnaire available online

    MADISON - The questionnaire package for the 2014 Department of Natural Resources spring fish and wildlife public hearing and annual Conservation Congress county meeting and the list of meeting locations is now available for review on the Department of Natural Resources website.

    On Monday, April 14, there will be 72 public hearings [PDF], one in each Wisconsin county starting at 7 p.m. where people interested in natural resources management have an opportunity to provide their input by non-binding vote and testimony to the Department of Natural Resources and the Conservation Congress on proposed hunting and fishing rule changes and advisory questions.

    The hearings, held annually on the second Monday in April, are combined with the county meetings during which attendees can introduce and vote on their solutions to natural resources related issues.

    The spring hearings cover three major areas: elections for county Conservation Congress delegates; proposed wildlife and fisheries rule changes that have been developed largely through previous Conservation Congress meetings; and Conservation Congress proposals for future rule development.

    Due to changes in administrative rule procedures, this spring there is only one proposed rule change to allow trolling statewide. There are additional fisheries advisory questions on creating catch and release seasons for game fish that would replace closed fishing seasons if there are no significant biological impacts; and a series of questions on possible rules for panfish and trout management.

    There are wildlife advisory questions on transferring hunting and trapping permits, allowing foot cable restraints for furbearer trapping late in the season; and simplifying hunting and fishing stamp requirements.

    Additionally, new this year, DNR wildlife staff will provide information and answer questions from the public regarding the implementation of the new deer hunting rules and how they will affect hunting opportunities in 2014 and beyond.

    The Conservation Congress also has a variety of advisory questions asking citizens to gauge public support on various natural resource issues.

    During the Conservation Congress county meetings, county residents have the option to run for a seat on the Conservation Congress and to elect delegates from their county to represent their views regarding natural resources issues on the Conservation Congress, the citizen advisory body to the Natural Resources Board and DNR. Also, individuals have the opportunity to bring forth new conservation issues of a statewide nature to the attention of the Conservation Congress through the citizen resolution process. To view the 2014 spring wildlife and fisheries questionnaire package [PDF] or for information about the process search the DNR Web site for "spring hearings."

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kari Lee-Zimmerman - 608-266-0580

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    Read more: Previous Weekly News

    Last Revised: Tuesday, February 25, 2014




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