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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published June 16, 2015

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Wood in the water gaining wider welcome

MADISON -- The benefits of wood in the water have long been known to natural resource managers; now, growing numbers of citizens appear to be taking an active interest in the subject.

While a tree may live 140 or more years on land, its useful life may continue for another 300 years under water as it provides food and shelter for organisms ranging from caddisfly larvae and mayfly nymphs to yellow perch, bass, walleye, muskies and more. Scott Toshner, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist based in Brule, said as many as 15 species of fish have been observed living in and around a single submerged tree in a northern Wisconsin lake.

"At some point in their lives, every fish species in our inland waters uses wood, whether it's for spawning, finding a food source or seeking shelter," Toshner said. "I've observed walleyes on the deep end of downed trees, perch and musky can drape their eggs on the branches and juvenile fish can find insects or a place to hide. It's a carbon source that benefits everything from microorganisms to top predators."

Within hours of falling into the water, tadpoles, minnows and other small fish begin to hover in the branches of a tree, followed by an army of shredders and filter feeders -- insects and other species that begin their lives by nibbling on the wood or the beneficial algae that soon coats it. Yet on many lakes, this natural cycle needs a helping hand since dying trees are typically removed before they put people and property at risk.

The good news is that citizens around the state are wading in, working in partnership with DNR to put more wood in the water through projects including "fish sticks," shoreline habitat improvements and traditional fish crib projects, said Ben Heussner, a DNR fisheries biologist based in Waukesha.

"We're seeing more people talking about fish sticks and shoreline improvement projects at their lake association meetings," Heussner said. "Efforts that a few individuals make really catch on as others begin to notice and we're seeing people out on their pontoon boats checking out some of the completed projects including the fish and wildlife they're attracting."

Tom Koepp, chairman of the Pewaukee chapter of Walleyes for Tomorrow and manager of the Lake Pewaukee Sanitary District, said he continues to get questions about his group's fish sticks project on Pewaukee Lake, among the first in southern Wisconsin to take advantage of an improved permitting process. Fish sticks projects involve placement of trees that are cabled together and anchored to the shoreline.

Fish sticks
These trees were cabled together and weighted with rocks as they awaited their final resting place at the bottom of Pewaukee Lake. The trees, part of a fish sticks project by the Pewaukee chapter of Walleyes for Tomorrow, now provide habitat for numerous fish. Meanwhile, wood ducks have made nests in the area.
WDNR Photo

Koepp and his crew took the additional step of draping the trees with rocks to ensure they stay in place on the bottom. The Pewaukee Lake project, completed last year, involved placement of several tree sections dropped just offshore of Walk's Island near the west end of the lake.

"You can't go into these types of projects saying that you need 100 of them to make a difference because every one of them, whether it's fish sticks or shoreline restoration can have an impact," Koepp said. "If you're smart about these things, you can get woody structure back into a lake that has a developed shoreline without interfering with places where kids swim or people keep their boats."

Fish sticks crew
Lake groups are encouraged to use the summer months to plan fish stick projects for implementation during winter when ice allows for efficient placement.
WDNR Photo

Other lakes with recently completed fish sticks projects or efforts in the works include Lake Nebagamon in Douglas County, Lake Marion in Dane County and Lower Genesee Lake in Waukesha County. Toshner said more than 29 lakes have completed fish sticks projects in the last seven years.

Nearly a dozen additional habitat restoration efforts including fish sticks projects are in the works thanks to grants to local government, lake and conservation organizations [PDF] provided through DNR's Healthy Lakes initiative, said Shelly Thomsen, a DNR water resources management specialist. Generally, woody habitat projects are beneficial if there are fewer than 200 trees in the near shore water per mile of shoreline, the DNR experts said.

Search the DNR website,, for fish sticks projects to learn more including how to apply for a general permit [PDF] that allows multiple fish sticks projects to be completed over a period of up to five years. Interested lake groups, communities and property owners are encouraged to contact Thomsen to learn more about assistance that may be available while a local DNR fisheries biologist may be able to provide insight on habitat opportunities.

Additional information about the benefits of wood in the water is contained in a publication developed by UW-Extension and UW-Stevens Point in cooperation with DNR called "A Second Life For Trees in Lakes: As Useful in the Water as They Were on Land [PDF]."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Toshner, DNR fisheries biologist, 715-372-8539 Ext. 121,; Ben Heussner, south district DNR fisheries biologist, 414-303-0109,; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084



'Move over law' expands from Wisconsin highways to waterways

MADISON -- Wisconsin's "move over law" to protect roadside emergency responders expands to the state's waters this summer under revisions to the boating rules and regulations code, also known as chapter NR 5 of the Wis. Admin. Code.

Warden Roy Zellmer, Department of Natural Resources' boating administrator, says the law's expansion to add a slow-no-wake buffer around emergency vessels was in response to concerns about officer and public safety.

"The purpose is to create a safety buffer for emergency responders to work without risking being struck or maneuvering in big wakes by boats passing too close to an emergency site," Zellmer said. "The DNR asked for the law change out of concern for public safety and law enforcement officer safety."

The law's revision adds a slow-no-wake within 100 feet of patrol boats displaying emergency lights. The revisions took effect on June 1 and the DNR efforts this summer will be to inform and educate boaters on the change.

The motor vehicle Move Over Laws are in all states and require drivers to move by at least one lane away from emergency vehicles with activated sirens and-or flashing lights. If moving away by at least one lane is impossible, drivers are required to slow speeds to reasonable speeds or a set limit below the speed limit as determined by local authorities.

More changes to NR 5

Other changes to the state's boating rules and regulations affect the use of blue lights and noise levels.

Zellmer says boaters can no longer display blue colored lights. "The blue LED lighting had been mistaken for law enforcement lights at night and was causing some confusion to the public," he said.

Noise level testing requirements have been revised to meet Society of Automotive Engineers practices and does not link minimum distances to tests.

For more information about boating in Wisconsin, search the DNR website,, for keyword "boat."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: DNR Boating Administrator/Warden Roy Zellmer, 608-212-5385,; April Dombrowski, Section Chief of Recreational Enforcement and Education, 608-852-9456,



New and improved bird hunting dog training license now available

MADISON - Training dogs for bird hunting is a popular activity throughout Wisconsin, and an improved licensing process coupled with new public lands open for dog training will make it easier than ever to prepare your dogs for hunting season.

As authorized by state code, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources allows trainers to train bird hunting dogs on designated state properties. However, a bird dog training license is required for dog training on state and private lands whenever captive wild birds are used.

An updated licensing process will allow a bird dog trainer to train a dog on any designated dog training grounds within state properties or on private property with landowner permission. Previously, trainers were required to obtain individual permits for each property on which they wished to train their dogs.

The new application process will begin June 15, 2015. Applicants can complete an application online, deliver a completed form to the nearest Department Service Center or send an application via mail to receive approval and the appropriate leg bands.

A licensed bird dog trainer may possess and use the following live captive-bred species for dog training purposes:

The department currently maintains six Class 1 Dog Training Grounds and 50 Class 2 Dog Training Grounds. Class 1 dog training grounds allow bird dog training year-round, and are posted, marked or designated as department lands, while Class 2 grounds include department lands approved for training, but not identified in code.

The department is in the process of establishing additional Class 2 dog training grounds to provide additional opportunities for hunting dog owners to conduct training on state lands. Eventually, the department hopes to establish at least one Class 2 dog training ground in counties with adequate state lands and where public demand is high.

For additional resources, including more information regarding the new licensing process, property maps identifying dog training locations, and an application form, search the DNR website,, for keywords "dog training."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Lizotte, DNR area wildlife supervisor, 262-574-2120



Natural Resources Board to meet June 24 in Onalaska

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated to reflect the Natural Resources Board will be asked to approve scope statements for proposed rules that may involve public hearings in the future in the rule making process.

MADISON - Simplifying and improving the process to issue air permits, establishing an early teal hunting season and modifying the dove hunting season are among the items that the state Natural Resources Board will consider when it meets next week in Onalaska.

The board will meet at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 24, 2015, at Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center, 3060 South Kinney Coulee Road to conduct its regular business meeting.

On Tuesday, June 23, 2015, the board will tour and hear presentations at a number of locations where the Department of Natural Resources has conducted or overseen the cleanup and redevelopment of formerly contaminated sites and hear a presentation on "Partnering with Stewardship." The public must pre-register by 11 a.m. on Friday, June 19, 2015 with board liaison Laurie Ross, at 608-267-7420 to attend scheduled tours.

Other topics on the business meeting agenda include:

The board will also hear an informational item on proposals for evaluating motorized access on DNR owned and managed properties.

The complete June board for keyword "NRB" and clicking on the button for "view agendas."

The public may testify at board meetings on topics open for public comment (listed on the agenda) and during the citizen participation period. The deadline to register to speak at the Wednesday board meeting or to submit written comments on agenda items is 11 a.m. on Friday, June 19, 2015. For more information see the board public participation page of the DNR website.

Board meetings are webcast live. People can watch the meeting over the Internet by going to the NRB agenda page of the DNR website and clicking on webcasts in the Related Links column on the right. Then click on this month's meeting. After each meeting, the webcast will be permanently available on demand.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Ross, board liaison, 608-267-7420



DNR launches improved meetings and hearings calendars

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has launched updated and improved calendars listing upcoming public meetings and public hearings conducted by the agency.

The new calendars are searchable and they are also mobile friendly for viewing on smart phones and tablets. The calendars also include meeting location maps, and meetings and hearing can be shared through Facebook and Twitter and can be added to personal Outlook calendars.

The calendars are found at new locations on the DNR website, so anyone who has bookmarked or linked to the previous calendar Web pages will need to update the bookmarks or links. There will be a redirect in place from the previous calendars to the new calendars. To find the new calendars, search the DNR website,, for keywords "meetings" or "hearings."

The public can now also subscribe to receive a weekly mailing of public hearings and public meetings that the agency will conduct in the next week. To subscribe, click on the email icon found in the footer of the DNR website,, to "subscribe to updates for DNR topics," and enter an email address and follow the prompts. The DNR Hearings and Meetings subscription is found under the "Announcements & News" category.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul Holtan, DNR Office of Communications, 608-267-7517 or


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Last Revised: Tuesday, June 16, 2015

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