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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published October 17, 2017

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Oct. 31 deadline to buy sturgeon spearing licenses

Contact(s): Ryan Koenigs, DNR Lake Winnebago sturgeon biologist,,

2017 surveys show plenty of big fish for unique winter fishery

MADISON -- The deadline to purchase licenses for the 2018 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season is Oct. 31, with state biologists forecasting great opportunities to land the fish of a lifetime while enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.

"Getting together with family and friends is what keeps people coming back year after to year, but spearers will be happy to know that our 2017 assessments once again show there are a lot of really large fish out there to challenge them," says Ryan Koenigs, Department of Natural Resources Lake Winnebago sturgeon biologist.

"We handled nine fish greater than 75 inches and 65 fish over 70 inches this spring," he says. "The biggest fish we measured was 81 inches, so it should be a really exciting year for everyone enjoying this unique winter event."

The Winnebago System is home to one of the largest populations of lake sturgeon in North America. DNR's careful management of that population, in conjunction with citizens and conservation groups, allows the continent's largest recreational harvest through a unique winter spear fishery dating to the 1930s.

The 2018 spearing seasons open on February 10, with separate but simultaneous seasons for Lake Winnebago and for the Upriver Lakes. Participation in the Upriver Lakes season is determined by lottery.

The seasons run for 16 days or until harvest caps are reached; those harvest caps for 2018 will be set on Oct. 18 when DNR biologists meet with the Winnebago Citizens Sturgeon Advisory Committee, which helps set the harvest caps.

Gerald Peterson's 83.4-inch, 154.9 pound sturgeon.Sandra Schumacher's 78.5-inch, 154.7 pound fish.
The 2017 season included some impressive fish, including Gerald Peterson's 83.4-inch, 154.9 pound sturgeon and Sandra Schumacher's 78.5-inch, 154.7 pound fish.
Photo Credit: DNR

Deteriorating water clarity and ice conditions as the 2017 season wore on combined for a lower total harvest but included some impressive fish, including Gerald Peterson's 83.4-inch, 154.9 pound sturgeon and Sandra Schumacher's 78.5-inch, 154.7 pound fish. Thirteen fish weighed in at 130 pounds or larger.

A total of 847 fish were harvested during the 2017 seasons, 552 from Lake Winnebago and 295 from the Upriver Lakes. This total is down from averages over the last decade, but still the largest recreational spear harvest for sturgeon in the world and an increase over the 2016 season total of 703 fish, Koenigs says.

Again this year, 12-year-olds are eligible to purchase a license and can participate in the lake sturgeon spearing season. Also, adults whose names were drawn in the Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing lottery can transfer their tags to youth ages 12-17, allowing youngsters a chance to spear on the lakes, where success rates have historically been higher.

How and where to get spearing licenses

Licenses are again $20 for residents and $65 for nonresidents and can be purchased by visiting or any license sales location. To find a license agent near you, go to and search with key words "license agent."

The minimum spearing age is 12 years, and youth who turn 12 between Nov. 1, 2017, and the last day of the 2018 spearing season can still buy a spearing license after Oct. 31. Military personnel home on leave can also purchase a license after Oct. 31.

There are unlimited license sales on Lake Winnebago, while the Upriver Lakes fishery is managed by a lottery and limited to 500 permitted spearers. Once a person is authorized to buy an Upriver Lakes license for a season, they are not able to buy a license for Lake Winnebago.

Spearers are now able to transfer Upriver Lakes spear licenses to youth spearers (age 12-17) and can do so by filling a transfer of license form at least 15 days before the 2018 sturgeon spear fishery. Spearers who applied for an Upriver Lakes license in the lottery but were not authorized received a preference point and can still buy a Lake Winnebago license before Oct. 31.

For more information on harvest trends and management of the Lake Winnebago sturgeon fishery, visit and search "Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing."



Southeastern Wisconsin group wins volunteer award for Chiwaukee Prairie work

Contact(s): Jared Urban, DNR, 608-228-4349; Sharon Fandel, DNR, 275-3207

MADISON - The Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund has long played an integral role in preserving the largest remaining prairie and wetland complex in southeastern Wisconsin, helping buy the first 15 acres of Chiwaukee Prairie in the 1960s to controlling garlic mustard and 24 other invasive plants there today.

Now that length and depth of service has won the citizen group the Volunteer Steward of the Year Award from the Department of Natural Resources State Natural Areas Program. Group members received the award Sept. 30 during a volunteer appreciation picnic at the Mukwonago River State Natural Area in Waukesha County.

DNR's Jared Urban and Sharon Fandel, far right, presented the Volunteer Steward of the Year Award to members of the Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund including, left to right: Chad Heinzelman, Amy Duhling, Alan Eppers, Pam Holy and Nathan Robertson.
DNR's Jared Urban and Sharon Fandel, far right, presented the Volunteer Steward of the Year Award to members of the Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund including, left to right: Chad Heinzelman, Amy Duhling, Alan Eppers, Pam Holy and Nathan Robertson.
Photo Credit: DNR

"Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund and its leadership have been one of our cornerstones in protecting and conserving Chiwaukee Prairie for future generations," says Jared Urban, who coordinates the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program for the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Bureau.

"Their commitment has only strengthened over the years, and especially so in the last 5-10 years with their increased efforts to recruit more volunteers, to engage more with partners to leverage funding, and becoming active in acquiring land," adds Sharon Fandel, the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation district ecologist who works with the group.

The Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund has been working for more than 50 years on behalf of Chiwaukee Prairie, a one-time subdivision that in 2015 was named part of a wetland of international importance. That honor, and the preservation group's role, is described in the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine May 2016 story, "Ecological Treasures."

Fifty-two years ago concerned local citizens like Al Krampert and Phil Sander mobilized when the subdivision started to be developed, and in 1965 joined forces with The Nature Conservancy to purchase the first 15 acres of land within Chiwaukee Prairie. Two years later, Chiwaukee would be designated by DNR as a State Natural Area and as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

The Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund was officially incorporated in 1985. Now, the group holds monthly work days. Many of their volunteers are certified to apply herbicides, use chainsaws, and even assist on prescribed burns. Volunteers put in more than 1,000 hours of work in 2016, much of it removing or controlling invasive plants.

Key volunteers also work closely with NHC rare plant experts and Plants of Concern, a regional rare plant monitoring program of the Chicago Botanic Garden, to identify which species of rare plants need to be monitored and submit their data to the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program.

More recently, starting in late 2016, the group has been working directly to acquire additional vacant parcels.

"CPPF stepped up to the plate and chose to pursue several vacant lots where we had interested landowners anxious to sell their land," said Fandel. "They are truly our 'eyes and ears' at Chiwaukee Prairie when it comes to keeping us informed on various fronts, including new invasive species populations, road or trail issues, and partnering opportunities. They are among Chiwaukee Prairie's strongest advocates and, as such, are very deserving winners of the Steward of the Year Award."

State Natural Areas protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin's native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites. They also provide some of the last refuges for rare plants and animals.

Since its start in 2011, Wisconsin's State Natural Areas Volunteer Program has grown to include 36 volunteer groups that devoted 5,820 hours in 2016 to 43 state natural areas. Learn more about the volunteer program and find a listing of upcoming volunteer workdays by searching the DNR website,, for "SNA volunteer."



Natural Resources Board to meet October 25 in Madison

Contact(s): Laurie Ross, board liaison, 608-267-7420; Jim Dick, DNR spokesperson, 608-267-2773

MADISON - A request for approval of an amendment to the recreation portion of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest master plan, approval of the Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area Master Plan, and a request to begin the scoping process for proposed rules related to elk management are among the items the state Natural Resources Board will address when it meets October 25 in Madison.

The regular business meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 25, in Room G09 of the State Natural Resources Building (GEF 2), 101 S. Webster St., Madison.

The existing master plan for NHAL was approved in 2005. Since that time, several trends in recreation participation, along with changes to the use and management of surrounding public lands, have placed different and new demands on the property. To adapt to these changes and to ensure that the Department of Natural Resources continues to provide high‐quality experiences to visitors, changes are proposed to camping, non‐motorized trail, motorized trail, and boating opportunities provided at the property.

Paved bike trails have become a popular feature at the NHAL state forest.  The proposed plan authorizes the DNR to cooperate with local communities in developing 60 additional miles of bicycle touring
Paved bike trails have become a popular feature at the NHAL state forest. The proposed plan authorizes the DNR to cooperate with local communities in developing 60 additional miles of bicycle touring trails.
Photo Credit: DNR

The original plan for the 3,568-acre Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area was approved in 1990. Management under this plan will maintain and, where opportunities allow, enhance the high ecological integrity of the property's forest, wetland and aquatic native communities and habitats. The proposed plan will maintain and in some cases expand the property's existing recreational facilities and opportunities, including adding 7 miles to the National Scenic Ice Age Trail that traverses the property, adding eight primitive campsites and one additional carry-in boat launch.

Current elk management rules require at least 200 animals in the Clam Lake herd and 150 in the Black River herd, respectively, before an elk hunt could be held in these areas. DNR wildlife staff are seeking permission to begin a scoping process that could lead to rule revisions that would allow the department to hold a limited hunt for bull elk in future years, based on scientific data such as herd structure and population dynamics. The process would include public input as well as a public hearing on any proposed rule changes.

The complete board October agenda is available by searching the DNR website, for keyword "NRB" and clicking on the button for "view agendas."

The public must pre-register with Laurie Ross, board liaison, to testify at the board meeting. The deadline to register to, testify, or submit written comments is 11 a.m. on Friday, October 20, 2017. Registration information is available on the agenda on 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.



Deer breeding season is about to begin, drivers reminded to be cautious throughout October and November

Contact(s): Bob Nack, Big Game Section Chief, 608-264-6137

MADISON - Drivers should be aware that over the next month the state's white-tailed deer breeding season is beginning and will continue through the end of November. The fall breeding season coincides with the highest rate of deer-vehicle collisions as deer move around substantially more during this time of year.

Deer can be active at all times of day or night, but are most active around the sunset and sunrise time periods. Motorists can limit their chances of hitting a deer by remaining vigilant especially in areas where trees and vegetation are in close proximity to roads, as these are the places deer are most likely to be encountered.

Whitetail bucks will soon be entering the rut, or their mating season, and deer will become more active over the next few weeks.
Whitetail bucks will soon be entering the rut, or their mating season, and deer will become more active over the next few weeks.
Photo Credit: Herbert Lange

To reduce the chance of a deer-vehicle collision, drivers are encouraged to follow these tips:

To take possession of a car-killed deer, drivers should register the deer by calling 608-267-7691 or online prior to removing the deer from the scene. Individuals will be required to provide their DNR customer ID and carcass location to complete the phone registration system. DNR customer ID's can be found in your Go Wild account or created online. A physical tag is not required to take possession of a car-killed deer after completing registration.

Deer carcass movement restrictions intended to stop the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease also apply to car-killed deer from CWD affected counties. Individuals should go to and search 'CWD' for more information. Car-killed deer from CWD affected counties should not be taken beyond the adjacent county unless taken to a licensed taxidermist or meat processor within 72 hours.



Sign up for Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program before Nov. 10 to earn extra income and secure habitat enhancement funding

Contact(s): Anne Reis, Voluntary Public Access & Habitat Incentive Program coordinator, 608-279-6483

MADISON - The Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, provides financial incentives to private landowners interested in making their land available for public access. Collectively, 176 landowners currently provide 31,000 additional acres for wildlife-related recreation in 52 eligible counties across the state.

Financial incentives in the form of annual leases are available for private landowners who open their property to public hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife observation. Eligible land types include grassland, wetland, forestland, and in some cases agriculture land. Land enrolled in conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, and Managed Forest Law is eligible for enrollment.

Annual lease payment rates are based on the land type (agriculture land = $3/acre, grassland/wetland = $10/acre, and forestland = $15/acre) and are made in the form of an upfront lump sum payment at the beginning of the contract. Priority will be given to parcels greater than 40 acres in size with at least 25 percent usable cover and near properties currently open to public hunting and/or fishing.

Landowners who enroll in VPA-HIP will also receive technical assistance for habitat enhancement practices. Landowners who complete recommended practices will be eligible for habitat based financial incentive payments, in addition to the lease payments. Regional public access liaisons stationed in Baldwin, Janesville and Hartford, along with Wisconsin's Farm Bill biologists, will coordinate a habitat plan for interested landowners.

To see landowner and recreational user testimonials who participate in the program, watch the new video (Spanish subtitles and a Hmong version are also available thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture NRCS award #69-5F48-17-004).

Interested landowners should call Anne Reis, VPA-HIP Coordinator, at 608-279-6483 for more information or visit and search keyword "VPA".



Deer Donation Program provides great opportunity to help families in need this fall

Contact(s): Noah Balgooyen, DNR wildlife biologist, 608-266-2151

[EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated to correct that deer harvested in CWD-affected counties must be tested for CWD prior to, or at the time of donation.]

MADISON - Each year, hunters, meat processors, and food pantries help families in need by working closely with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and its partners donate thousands of pounds of venison to those in need.

"This is a great opportunity for hunters to enjoy the sport of deer hunting while helping those in need," said Noah Balgooyen, DNR wildlife biologist. "Food pantries are eager to receive venison, and individuals and families are truly appreciative of the venison they receive."

The Deer Donation Program was established in the year 2000. Since then, more than 90,000 deer have been donated and more than 3.6 million pounds of venison have been processed and distributed to food pantries across the state.

"This is a true collaborative effort," added Balgooyen. Hunters, meat processors, food pantries and countless volunteers help the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, counties across the state, USDA-Wildlife Services, and community programs organize donations, coordinate processing, and distribute venison.

Deer harvested in CWD-affected counties must be sampled for CWD prior to, or at the time of donation. The processed venison will be held until results are known.

For more information about the DNR's deer donation program, CWD sampling requirements, and more on how you can help, visit and search keywords "deer donation."



Milwaukee to use DNR brownfield assessment funds at inner harbor property

Contact(s): Christine Haag, Brownfields Section chief, 608-266-0244; Andrew Savagian, communications, 608-261-6422.

MADISON - Efforts to repurpose a century-old coal storage site at Milwaukee's inner harbor will get a boost from a recently issued Department of Natural Resources brownfields award.

The award comes from the DNR's Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) program, and will provide for contractor services worth approximately $25,000. The work will help Milwaukee - specifically the Redevelopment Authority of the City of the Milwaukee (RACM) - assess potential contamination, leading to eventual remediation and redevelopment of the prime waterfront site.

A WAM grant will help repurpose a century-old coal storage site at Milwaukee's inner harbor as part of a continueing effort to improve this gateway to the city.
A WAM grant will help repurpose a century-old coal storage site at Milwaukee's inner harbor as part of a continuing effort to improve this gateway to the city.
Photo Credit: US Army Corps of Engineers

The nearly 14-acre site on Greenfield Avenue is located across the street from the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences and is currently a vacant lot that had historically housed fuel oil tanks. Over the years, fill material has been used to shore up a nearby dock wall and fill in a former boat slip.

"The DNR is honored to be a part of the future of this site," said Christine Haag, chief of the DNR's brownfields program. "Assessing this property for historic contamination is an important first step to the development of this waterfront property, which has so much potential given its location on Milwaukee's Inner Harbor near the Freshwater Sciences building."

Administered by the DNR's Remediation and Redevelopment Program, WAM awards provide communities with professional environmental site assessments of properties with known or perceived contamination.

Participation in the WAM program requires minimal effort by local governments. Because there is no financial match or project administration involved, the award is an attractive opportunity for communities. In many instances, WAM awards are leveraged with other sources of funding to kick-start repurposing efforts on properties that may have been underutilized for many years.

Applications can be submitted for WAM awards at any time. Properties eligible for funding include closed or closing manufacturing plants, or vacant land with a history of manufacturing. Gas stations, dry cleaners and salvage yards are not eligible.

For more information search the DNR website, for WAM, or search keyword "brownfield."


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, October 17, 2017

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