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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published September 10, 2019

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Fall color show is starting in Wisconsin

Contact(s): Colleen Matula, forest silviculturist/ecologist, Ashland,, 715-685-2911

Fall colors are just starting to change, like these early turning maples in the Brule River State Forest. - Photo credit: DNR
Fall colors are just starting to change, like these early turning maples in the Brule River State Forest.Photo credit: DNR

MADISON, Wis. - As temperatures drop and the days get shorter, hints of fall color are becoming visible in the Northwoods.

"The intensity of the fall color season is dependent on the weather that Wisconsin receives during September and October," said Colleen Matula, Forest Silviculturist/Ecologist with the DNR-Division of Forestry. "To have the most brilliant and vibrant fall color display, a series of fall days filled with bright sunshine and cool, but frost-free, evenings are required."

Peak fall color usually occurs in far northern Wisconsin during the last week of September and first week of October. Central Wisconsin peak color generally occurs during mid-October and in southern Wisconsin during the latter half of October.

Leaf pigments determine the range of the color palette. Chlorophyll, which begins to fade in the fall, gives leaves the primary green color and is necessary for photosynthesis. Carotenoids, which produce yellow, orange and brown colors, are always present, so trees like aspen and birch have more predictable colors each year. Anthocyanin, which produces red and purple tints, varies with the conditions and makes each autumn unique for other species. For more information, search the DNR website,, for "fall colors." 

"Forests support Wisconsin's economy through spending by forest recreation enthusiasts as well as jobs and forest products," Matula noted. "While the fall color show draws many visitors to our state, the 17.1 million forested acres in Wisconsin are also a year-round economic contributor, with forest products adding $24.1 billion annually to state's economy."

As the showy fall colors move through the state from north to south, Wisconsin's state forests and parks offer a front-row seat for the fall color show, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources forestry experts say search the DNR website,, for keywords "explore outdoors" to find nearby public lands.

For current information on Wisconsin's current color status, contact the Department of Tourism's Fall Color Hotline at 1-800-432-TRIP or online at the Fall Color Report (exit DNR) on the Travel Wisconsin website.



Mary Kay Baum adds 'Steward of the Year' to long list of public service titles

Contact(s): Jared Urban, DNR, 608-228-4349

Jared Urban, coordination of DNR's State Natural Areas Volunteer Program, congratulates Mary Kay Baum for being named 2019 Steward of the Year for her work at Ridgeway Pine Relict State Natural Area. - Photo credit: Jerry Newman
Jared Urban, coordination of DNR's State Natural Areas Volunteer Program, congratulates Mary Kay Baum for being named 2019 Steward of the Year for her work at Ridgeway Pine Relict State Natural Area.Photo credit: Jerry Newman

RIDGEWAY, Wis. - Mary Kay Baum - a well-known community organizer, lawyer, school board member, county board member, ordained minister and one-time mayoral candidate in southern Wisconsin - has earned another title: 2019 Steward of the Year for her work caring for a remnant pine forest surviving from the Ice Age.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources State Natural Areas Volunteer Program recognized Baum for her work at Ridgeway Pine Relict State Natural Area in Iowa County during an annual volunteer picnic in late August.

She is a founding member and president of Friends of the Ridgeway Pine Relict (exit DNR), which supports the 550-acre state natural area. The site preserves a "relict" ecosystem from the Ice Age; red and white pine still cling to sandstone cliffs and northern plant species cover the ground, along with southern plant species, oak savanna and restored prairie from more recent geological times.

"Mary Kay is skilled at promoting the things that make Ridgeway Pine Relict special due to her enthusiastic spirit," says Jared Urban, who coordinates the SNA volunteer program. "Her enjoyment of nature and ability to capture it in photographs is inspiring. She also has been good at involving others who help her accomplish ecological restoration goals."

Mary Kay Baum founded a nonprofit group working to care for and introduce people to a remnant pine forest surviving from the Ice Age.  - Photo credit: DNR
Mary Kay Baum founded a nonprofit group working to care for and introduce people to a remnant pine forest surviving from the Ice Age. Photo credit: DNR

Since 2015, Baum has shared the site's beauty with others through her photography and educational talks at local locations. "She helps organize regular workdays to remove invasive species, collect and sow prairie seeds, and knows how to take care of people by bringing the treats (banana bread is a staple) and offering appreciation," Urban said.

In 2018, the friends group donated 590 hours of work to the site.

Baum has found ways to include senior citizens with cognitive challenges, youth, and residents in caring for the site. Early onset Alzheimer's disease affected her mother and an aunt, and Baum herself suffered cognitive and physical changes due to an underlying epileptic syndrome. Medication and lifestyle changes have successfully controlled the syndrome and Baum credits her time at Ridgeway Pine Relict State Natural Area with playing an important role as well.

In accepting the award, Baum thanked the volunteers working on Ridgeway Pine Relict, and Urban for his guidance.

"I accept this award on behalf of all those many who conserved this area in the past and who work now for its conservation," she said. "To lose hope now would be so strange to our parents and grandparents.... But to decide to imagine conservation and resilience and to act together for that - is what our children and children's children count on."

She also thanked volunteers attending the picnic from across the state, "for treating me the way a person with a disability should be treated. You may have noticed I often have trouble finding my words, but you recognize that I am still able to contribute and even to lead sometimes."

Read more about Mary Kay Baum and other volunteers in "Preserving pine relicts a prescription for good health" in the February 2017 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

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

Since 2011, Wisconsin's State Natural Areas Volunteer Program has grown to include 36 volunteer groups; in 2018, these groups had a direct impact on 3,296 acres at 43 state natural areas, representing $126,949 in value.

Learn more about the volunteer program, find a listing of upcoming volunteer workdays, and sign up for email notices of workdays by searching the DNR website,, for "SNA volunteer."



Groundwater Coordinating Council releases recommendations to improve groundwater quality in Wisconsin

Contact(s): Bruce Rheineck, groundwater section chief, 608-266-2104

 - Photo credit: DNR

MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Groundwater Coordinating Council shared key recommendations for protecting and preserving groundwater resources with the Wisconsin legislature in its August 2019 annual report. Nearly three-quarters of Wisconsin residents rely on groundwater as the primary source for their drinking water.

Recognizing the importance of Wisconsin's water resources to public health and the economy, Gov. Tony Evers declared 2019 the Year of Clean Drinking Water and State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos formed a task force to hold hearings focused on water quality throughout Wisconsin. This report helps to inform both efforts about steps that should be taken to protect these vital resources.

"Too many people in Wisconsin are concerned about the safety of their drinking water, our recommendations are intended to change that," said Bruce Rheineck, groundwater section chief for the Department of Natural Resources.

Three of the key recommendations found in the report address some of the most prevalent issues in Wisconsin water quality, including:

Areas of the state with a greater density of agriculture generally have a higher frequency of nitrate and pesticide detection, especially in areas of the state with vulnerable geology and soils. The report recommends developing and evaluating a strategy to promote practices that lead to efficient use of nitrogen and careful or reduced use of pesticides to protect drinking water sources.

Viruses and other microbial pathogens have been found in municipal and domestic wells, challenging previous assumptions about their persistence and transport. Identifying where and when pathogens pose threats to human health is fundamental to improving water quality. The council recommends working with partners to increase awareness of waste disposal choices, their risks and costs.

While many emerging challenges threaten the health of Wisconsin's groundwater resources, some rise to the top. The report also highlights the water quality challenges posed by PFAS, livestock industry expansion, metallic mining and climate change. Partner agencies are joining together to formulate strategies to address these challenges and acting on recommendations established in the report.

The 2019 report also notes in the steps taken by participating Council agencies to protect groundwater from contamination and helps the public better understand the sources and distribution of naturally occurring contaminants in groundwater. It also highlights the need for the continued support of applied groundwater research into the factors that affect groundwater supplies and identify the next steps to protect and preserve our valuable groundwater resources.

The Groundwater Coordinating Council was formed in 1984 to help state agencies coordinate activities and exchange information on groundwater. Today, the council and its subcommittees regularly bring together staff from more than ten different agencies, institutions and organizations to communicate and work together on a variety of research, monitoring, data management, education and planning issues. These activities increase coordination across agency lines to avoid duplication, create efficiencies and benefit Wisconsin's taxpayers.

For more information, visit and search "Groundwater Coordinating Council."



Historic lighthouses, growing elk herd featured in fall issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Contact(s): Andrea Zani, 608-267-9517, and Kathy Kahler, 608-266-2625, magazine editors

The cover of the fall issue features a wrap-around image of the Northpoint Lighthouse in Milwaukee. - Photo credit: DNR
The cover of the fall issue features a wrap-around image of the North Point Lighthouse in Milwaukee.Photo credit: DNR

MADISON, Wis. - With two Great Lakes in its boundaries and miles of shoreline, Wisconsin has more than 50 lighthouses, including three on state properties and several with crucial connections to the Department of Natural Resources. Those scenic and historical gems, from the urban setting of Milwaukee to Door County and the Apostle Islands, are featured in expanded coverage of "Landscapes and lighthouses" in the Fall issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

Also in the Fall issue is a story about DNR biologists' conservation work involving native mussels, which fits right in during this Year of Clean Drinking Water. As a bellwether of water quality, native mussels are a vital natural resource.

Other water-related stories include the tale of a teenage volunteer helping to battle invasive New Zealand mudsnails and a recap of a promising research project at Elkhart Lake aimed at reducing excess phosphorus and reigning in toxic algae blooms.

Autumn is a great time to head north to try to catch a glimpse of elk from the state's growing herds. The magazine offers an update on elk in Wisconsin following years of relocation efforts by the DNR and many partners.

For waterfowl hunters, there iss an inspiring story about a Learn to Hunt event at Mead Wildlife Area. Also for those who like to get involved, an update on the Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera program shares ways to "lend an eye" for wildlife.

A short story and several photos highlight scenes from a new accessible fishing pier in Chippewa Falls, while another photo page captures colorful mushrooms found after a storm. The magazine's regular "Back in the day" feature recalls how picking milkweed was patriotic during World War II.

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine is published four times a year and is available via subscription for $8.97. Call 1-800-678-9472, or find stories and subscribe online at


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 10, 2019

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