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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published February 20, 2020

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Bird Crisis Reinvigorates Statewide Bird Conservation Coalition

New Name, New Logo, New Push to Enhance Critical Habitat

Contact(s): Craig Thompson, NHC Program Integration Chief, 608-785-1277, Craig.Thompson@wisconsin.govKaren Etter Hale, chair of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership, 920-245-1395,

MADISON, Wis. - With North American bird populations plunging 30% over the past 50 years, and one in five Wisconsin birds at risk of extinction, a state bird conservation coalition is rebooting with new energy to stem declines and enhance critical habitat statewide for birds.

The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership - formerly the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative - is getting a new look. The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership has hired well-known bird expert and environmental scientist, Tom Prestby, to help maximize benefits for birds at 93 sites designated as Important Bird Areas or IBAs.

Prestby, an environmental scientist with GEI Consultants in Green Bay, will be identifying conservation opportunities in five to 15 high-priority IBAs and identifying strategies for launching bird conservation partnerships there.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation Program is a key member and funder of the partnership.

"Our birds are facing serious threats. 2019 was a wake-up call for bird lovers everywhere, including Wisconsin," said Craig Thompson, a migratory bird expert and NHC Program Integration Section Chief. "We need all hands on deck to help them. Our partnership is re-energizing and stepping up to answer this urgent need to save our birds."

Native bird populations in the U.S. and Canada have declined by 30%, or 2.9 billion birds, since 1970, according to a study by researchers from seven institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution. A 2019 National Audubon Society study revealed two-thirds of North American bird species are at risk of extinction from climate change, but that we can help improve the chances for 76% of species at risk if we act now.

A 2019 study by the Smithsonian Institution, Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology and other institutions found dramatic declines in bird populations. - Photo credit: DNR
A 2019 study by the Smithsonian Institution, Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology and other institutions found dramatic declines in bird populations.Photo credit: DNR

Founded in 2001, the partnership's Chairwoman Karen Etter Hale has served in her role since 2001. The new name "highlights our structure and the mission we've had since day one," she said.

"We're a cooperative partnership delivering the full spectrum of bird conservation and emphasizing volunteer stewardship," Etter said. "Only together can we conserve Wisconsin's birds."

The partnership encompasses more than 150 organizations around the state, including bird clubs, hunting and fishing groups, government agencies, land trusts, nature centers, environmental groups, universities and businesses.

The new logo emphasizes not only the organization's scope but the range of avian species it shares the concern for. The logo was designed by Ryan Steiskal of Milwaukee after a statewide competition.

The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership wants to recapture momentum developed through its earlier accomplishments, including Wisconsin's IBA program, the Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail, Wisconsin All-bird Plan, citizen-based bird monitoring opportunities, Bird City Wisconsin and regular public outreach and education activities.

"Our re-invigorated partnership builds on these successes and sets the stage for more cutting-edge conservation at a time when birds need it most," Etter Hale said.

For more information about the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership, Important Bird Areas and the organization's strategic plan, visit:



Fall Waterfowl Hunting Season Public Hearing Schedule Available Now

Waterfowl hunters are encouraged to participate in season structure hearings this spring - Photo credit: Matt Gross
Waterfowl hunters are encouraged to participate in season structure hearings this springPhoto credit: Matt Gross

Contact(s): Taylor Finger, DNR migratory game bird ecologist, 608-266-8841, Jeff Williams, DNR assistant migratory game bird ecologist, 608-261-6458,

MADISON, Wis. - Public hearings for Wisconsin's proposed 2020 waterfowl season structure will be held March 9-12. After public comments have been collected, the final season structure will be set by the Natural Resources Board at its Apr. 9-10 meeting in Madison.

"The 2020 waterfowl seasons will be based on the 2019 continental waterfowl population estimates, which were at near-record estimates since U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) surveys began 64 years ago. With above-average precipitation last fall and this winter in Wisconsin, we expect populations to remain high in 2020. If we have favorable conditions this fall, hunters can expect good waterfowl hunting opportunities," said Taylor Finger, DNR migratory game bird ecologist.

Fall Waterfowl Hunting Season Public Hearing Schedule:

The department will accept public comments on the proposed waterfowl season structure at each public hearing. If you would like to provide input directly or are unable to attend a hearing, comments will be accepted through midnight Friday, March 13.

Written comments can be sent to Taylor Finger or Jeff Williams, Wisconsin DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707, via email to Taylor Finger or Jeff Williams or by calling 608-266-8841 or 608-261-6458.

To view and provide input for the 2020 waterfowl season options online, visit the DNR website here.



Attention Trappers: Changes To Otter Season

DNR Moving To Bag Limit/Quota For Otter

Wisconsin trappers will now receive two otter permits with their trapping license. - Photo credit: DNR
Wisconsin trappers will now receive two otter permits with their trapping license.Photo credit: DNR

Contact(s): Shawn Rossler, DNR furbearer ecologist, 608-267-9428,

MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will shift to a bag limit/quota in November. This change is intended to simplify regulations while maintaining safeguards that ensure the river otter population remains abundant.

"River otters are found throughout the state and appear to be thriving," said Dr. Nathan Roberts, DNR furbearer research scientist. "We use multiple information sources to assess otter populations and the sustainability of otter harvests."

Annual harvest goals and permit availability are determined based on the best available scientific data. During recent trapping seasons, the number of otter permits available exceeded the number of applicants. As a result, many applicants receiving two permits.

Trappers interested in harvesting otter are no longer required to apply for a river otter permit. Instead, otter harvest authorizations will be issued to trappers when they purchase their trapping license.

"By moving to a bag limit, we are simplifying the process for trappers. There will no longer be an application deadline to remember or physical permits to wait for in the mail," said Shawn Rossler, DNR furbearer specialist. "The department can still regulate harvest by restricting the total number of otter that can be harvested each season by using a statewide quota."

Two otter harvest authorizations per trapping license will be issued for the 2020-21 season and can be used in either the Northern and/or the Southern otter zone. The key point to remember is that each harvest authorization permits the take of one otter - just like with a tag.

For each otter registered, trappers will use their unique harvest authorization number to begin the harvest reporting process in GameReg. Trappers will also need to provide the county and game management unit of harvest during the harvest reporting process.

Physical registration with a conservation warden or other authorized DNR staff is still a mandatory requirement. Trappers must report their otter by phone or online within 24 hours of harvest. These requirements allow the department to monitor otter harvest throughout the season. If the harvest approaches the season quota, the department can shut down the season early to ensure the approved quota isn't exceeded.

Trapping is one of the oldest forms of hunting. Trapping in Wisconsin is highly regulated to ensure that wildlife management goals are met and healthy populations are sustained. New trappers must pass a Trapper Education course before purchasing a trapping permit. For more information regarding changes to the river otter season framework, go here.



Natural Resources Board Monthly Meeting Feb. 26 In Madison

Contact(s): Laurie Ross, Board Liaison, 608-267-7420, Sarah Hoye, Communications Director, 608-267-2773,

[EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated to clarify that remote access for the board meeting is at the Rhinelander DNR Service Center.]

MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board will meet beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the State Natural Resources Building (GEF 2), 101 S. Webster St, Madison.

For the February meeting, the Natural Resources Board will offer remote participation at the Department of Natural Resources Rhinelander Service Center, 107 Sutliff Ave. Remote participation will be for an open forum with the board at approximately 10:15 a.m. on Feb. 26 following a break.

The open forum is an opportunity for citizens to provide testimony in Madison or remotely in Rhinelander. Comments generally should address broad general policy rather than the day-to-day operations of the DNR. Opportunities for remote testimony are noted on the meeting agenda. Pre-registration by the posted deadline of 11 a.m. on Feb. 21 is required.

On Wednesday the board will consider revised Board Order FH-02-18 related to harvest management regulations in the Lake Superior Fishery, and emergency Board Order FH-24-19(E) related to Minocqua Chain walleye harvest regulations. Other action items on the agenda are the Board's appointment of the angling, gamebird, deer, bear, and fur bearer representatives to the Sporting Heritage Council, and a statement of scope and conditional approval of the public hearing for several rules:

Additional items on the February board agenda include information items on:

The complete February board agenda is available on the DNR website here.

The public must pre-register with Laurie Ross, board liaison, to testify at the board meeting as well as during open forum (remotely or at the meeting). The deadline for board liaison receipt of requests to testify or written comment is 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 21. Registration information is available on the NRB pages of the DNR website. No late requests or comments will be accepted.

Board meetings are webcast live online. The webcast will be available on demand after the meeting concludes.



DNR Recommends Avoiding Feeding Deer

Feeding Can Do More Harm Than Good

Managing healthy habitat is a sustainable, long-term strategy for helping deer through winter. - Photo credit: DNR
Managing healthy habitat is a sustainable, long-term strategy for helping deer through winter.Photo credit: DNR

Contact(s): Tim Marien, Wildlife health biologist, 608-264-6046,

MADISON, Wis. - Despite relatively mild winter conditions, the sight of snow and cold temperatures often results in a desire for Wisconsinites to feed deer and other wildlife that typically adapt both physically and behaviorally to even the harshest winter weather.

Residents and landowners should consider the negative - and sometimes harmful - impacts of feeding wildlife. Consider alternatives that provide long-term benefits to help wildlife through a cold and snowy winter season.

Except for a few far northern counties, Wisconsin's deer herd appears to be faring well so far this winter. Relatively mild temperatures and only moderate snow levels have enabled deer to move freely throughout most areas of the state.

Feeding deer can draw them out of wintering habitats that would have had forage and cover to help them conserve energy. It can also increase the risk of disease transmission, such as chronic wasting disease (CWD). Feeding deer can also result in severe digestive issues and even death when inappropriate food types are provided.

"The best method of helping deer through the winter is to provide them with good habitat in summer and fall," said Tim Marien, DNR wildlife health biologist. "As winter conditions kick in, their metabolism changes, allowing them to eat less." Deer also need to reserve energy by moving less, traveling the minimum distance necessary to feed until spring. Finding cover that protects them from wind, like cattail marshes, conifer tree stands or other types of cover can help deer survive through winter.

Landowners can help provide the necessary habitat to support wildlife throughout the winter in a variety of ways. Cutting trees and providing browse (leaves, twigs, and buds of woody plants) is a more natural food source than feeding deer and can also provide better habitat in the long run. Maintaining nutritious natural food sources like oak, aspen and crabapple provides summer and fall food, while evergreen tree stands create a winter food source and shelter. Good habitat fulfills the needs of many deer, rather than a few individuals.

Animals with adequate fat reserves and good winter cover are more likely to survive the cold winter months. "We all want to see healthy deer on the landscape, but winter feeding is not the best solution and can actually be harmful if done improperly," said Marien. "Clear cuts and other efforts to improve habitat can provide natural food sources that support deer and many other types of wildlife year-round."

As a reminder, feeding deer is illegal in more than half of Wisconsin counties. Where it is legal, regulations restrict the location and amount of food that may be placed. Additionally, it is illegal to feed elk anywhere in the state. If elk are visiting a bait or recreational feeding site, it is the responsibility of the landowner to immediately remove the food. For a full list of wildlife feeding regulations and counties where feeding is allowed, please visit the DNR's baiting and feeding webpage.

Visit and search keywords "winter feeding" to learn more. A variety of resources are available to help landowners improve their land for wildlife, including the Deer Management Assistance Program, the Young Forest Initiative and the Landowner Incentive Program. More information on these programs and additional publications is available on the DNR website by searching keyword "landowner."



Entries Sought for Wisconsin Wild Turkey, Pheasant and Waterfowl Stamp Design Contests

Contact(s): Alaina Gerrits, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458,

MADISON, Wis. - Artists looking to have their work featured on a piece of history have until July 15, 2020 to submit artwork for the 2021 Wisconsin wild turkey, pheasant and waterfowl stamp design contests.

The contest is open to anyone 18 years of age or older living in Wisconsin who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Artwork must meet technical requirements to be eligible and applicants are asked to review contest rules carefully to ensure the eligibility of their entries.

"This is a unique opportunity for Wisconsin artists to showcase their artwork statewide while also promoting wildlife management," said Alaina Gerrits, assistant upland ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Funds derived from the sale of these stamps contribute to restoration and management efforts on thousands of acres of important wildlife habitat in Wisconsin.

The contest winners for this year's stamp were Robert Metropulos for waterfowl and Brian Kuether for wild turkey and pheasant.

To receive email updates about the wildlife stamp design contest, subscribe to Wisconsin DNR Gov Delivery updates. Follow the prompts and enroll in the "waterfowl, wild turkey, and pheasant stamp design contests" list.

2019 turkey stamp
2020 Wild Turkey Stamp by Brian Kuether of Greenfield, WI

2019 pheasant stamp
2020 Pheasant Stamp by Brian Kuether of Greenfield, WI

2019 waterfowl stamp
2020 Wisconsin Waterfowl Stamp by Robert Metropulos of Arbor Vitae, WI

For contest rules, entry information and reproduction rights agreements, visit the Wildlife Stamps webpage and click the "stamp design contest" tab.

Stamp design entries must be received or postmarked by July 15, 2020 to be eligible. Judging will take place in late July or early August.



Nominations Open For "Invader Crusader" Award Honoring Work On Invasive Species Issues

Nominations are being accepted for
Nominations are being accepted for "Invader Crusader" awards. Past winner Valerie Stabenow helps control water hyacinth in Lake Winnecone to keep it from spreading.Photo credit: DNR

Contact(s): Tara Bergeson, DNR invasive species team leader, 608-264-6043,

MADISON, Wis. - Nominations are being accepted through March 23, 2020 for "Invader Crusaders," the Wisconsin citizens and organizations who made outstanding contributions in 2019 to prevent, control or eradicate invasive species that harm Wisconsin's native wildlife and wetlands, forests, prairies, lakes and rivers.

The Wisconsin Invasive Species Council is seeking nominations for individuals, groups or organizations for their exemplary efforts at addressing issues surrounding terrestrial and aquatic invasive plants and animals. The Invader Crusader Award will be presented in both volunteer and professional categories.

To nominate an individual or organization, download and fill out a nomination form available on the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council's Invader Crusader webpage (exit DNR). Email the completed form to by March 23.

A panel of Wisconsin Invasive Species Council members will review the nomination materials and select the award winners. All nominators and winners will be notified by mid-May 2020.

Recipients of the awards will be recognized at an awards ceremony on June 11 at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison.

Invasive species are nonnative plants and animals that cause great ecological, environmental or economic harm, and some can even affect human health. Once an invasive species becomes established in an area, it can be difficult to control. The most important action Wisconsinites should take is to avoid moving invasive species or the materials that might harbor them to new places.

To learn more about what you can do to stop the spread of invasive species, visit the DNR invasive species webpage.



Nearly 2 Trillion Gallons Of Water Pumped Throughout Wisconsin in 2018

DNR Releases Online Data-Driven Special Project On Water Use

Contact(s): Bob Smail, water supply specialist, 608-267-4581, Adam Freihoefer, water use section chief, 608-267-7638,

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin power plants, cities, businesses, industries and agricultural operations pumped just under 2 trillion gallons of groundwater and surface water in 2018, according to Department of Natural Resources online data-driven special project on water use.

The Wisconsin Water Use project allows the public to learn about 2018 water use data in Wisconsin. Online visitors can also explore current and past water use data using other online tools, including the water quantity data viewer and the water withdrawal search.

Wisconsin is a water-rich state with surface water including more than 84,000 river miles, 15,000 lakes and more than 1,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline. The state also enjoys abundant groundwater resources. On average, Wisconsin residents and businesses withdraw about 2 trillion gallons of water annually, enough to fill Lambeau Field about 4,700 times or cover the state with 2 inches of water.

The sustainable use of Wisconsin's water resources is critical for our health, environment and economy. In Wisconsin, we rely on both groundwater and surface water for drinking water supplies, power plants, agriculture, industrial and commercial facilities, aquaculture, golf courses and more.

The state's seventh annual water use analysis tallies how many gallons were pumped by municipal water systems, agricultural operations, utilities and other sources that can pump more than 100,000 gallons of water a day from groundwater, lakes or rivers.

Of the total groundwater and surface water use in 2018, 68% came from Lake Michigan, 21% from inland lakes and rivers, 11% from groundwater and 0.5% came from Lake Superior. The largest single water use was for power generation facilities using 77% of the total annual volume. Overall, water use in Wisconsin remained the same between 2018 and 2017.

Wisconsin's water use reporting requirements are part of the Great Lakes Compact, a 10-year-old agreement between the Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces to collectively manage water quantity in the Great Lakes basin. Through these agreements, the states and provinces manage the water in the Great Lakes watershed collectively.

The DNR also developed a companion groundwater online special project that explains groundwater and highlights the major aquifers in Wisconsin.



Build A Birdhouse: 2020 Horicon Marsh Nest Box Seminar Feb. 29

Learn How You Can Help Wisconsin's Birds

Wood ducks emerging from a nesting box. - Photo credit: Jeff Bahls
Wood ducks emerging from a nesting box.Photo credit: Jeff Bahls

Contact(s): Liz Herzmann, DNR wildlife conservation educator, 920-387-7893,

HORICON, Wis. - Interested in birdhouses, but don't know where to begin? Wondering what you can do to help cavity nesting animals? Head to the Horicon Marsh Education & Visitor Center on Saturday, Feb. 29 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to bolster your nesting knowledge.

Speakers will discuss popular nest boxes such as bluebirds and wood ducks. Live raptors onsite for viewing will be sure to engage participants of all ages. Come for a specific topic or stay for all four. Whatever you choose, these presentations will cover many topics to "brood" about for this upcoming nest season.

Schedule Of Events:

9 a.m. Live, Cavity Nesting Raptors: Learn about the perfect setup for enticing nesting raptors and see some live birds up close. Presented by Renee Wahlen, executive director of Marsh Haven Nature Center.

10 a.m. Wood Ducks: Make your Boxes Pro-duck-tive: Discover the best ways to make your nest boxes productive. Presented by Jeff Bahls, president of the Horicon Marsh Bird Club.

11 a.m. Bluebirds: Identify prime bluebird real estate and how to attract mating pairs, too. Presented by Liz Herzmann, DNR wildlife conservation educator.

Noon. Leap Day: Feb. 29 is a special day, just like the day ducklings emerge from their nesting cavity. See photos and video from two local experts on capturing the magic of "the leap." Presented by Jeff Bahls and Jack Bartholmai.

If you prefer to purchase your bluebird or wood duck boxes on site, the Friends of the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center will provide kits and fully assembled boxes for sale. Donuts and coffee will also be available for purchase during the day.

Get involved or learn more in the classrooms where there will be displays from local bird conservation organizations: Horicon Marsh Bird Club, Marsh Haven Nature Center, Wood Duck Society, Horicon NWR, and the Wisconsin DNR.

This event is free event, and all ages are welcome. No registration required. For more information, call 920-387-7893.

The Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center is located between Horicon and Mayville on Highway 28. For a detailed list of all Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center special events, please visit the Friends of Horicon Marsh website at [EXIT DNR].



Incidental Take Notice for Sheboygan County

Contact(s): Stacy Rowe, Conservation Biologist, 608-266-7012,

MADISON, Wis. - A pipeline replacement project in Sheboygan County may result in the "incidental taking" of a rare snake under an authorization the Department of Natural Resources proposes to issue for the project. Incidental take refers to the unintentional loss of individual endangered or threatened animals or plants that does not put the overall population of the species at risk.

Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), a subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, is proposing to replace an existing 8-inch diameter steel pipeline between Plymouth and Chilton in Calumet, Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties. The project is referred to as the Plymouth to Chilton Main Replacement Project.

Land cover in the impacted area is comprised of shrub-carr wetland dominated by reed canary grass, cattails and green ash. Within the area of suitable habitat for the eastern ribbon snake, the pipeline replacement will be accomplished via directional bore with bore pits located outside of the suitable habitat; a 10-foot-wide corridor will be cleared of vegetation over the pipeline segment for future maintenance. The clearing will total approximately 4,300 square feet (0.10 acres) and will be accomplished using low-pressure mechanical clearing equipment (skid steer, brush hog).

A portion of the Project on Segment 6B is located within suitable habitat for the eastern ribbonsnake, and impacts are unavoidable. The presence of the state endangered eastern ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus) has been confirmed in the vicinity of the project site. DNR staff determined that the proposed project may result in the incidental taking of some snakes.

Department staff concluded that the proposed project would minimize the impacts to the species by adhering to conservation measures; is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence and recovery of the state population of the species or the whole plant-animal community of which it is a part; and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the action.

The conservation measures to minimize the adverse effect on the endangered species will be incorporated into the proposed Incidental Take Authorization. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on the eastern ribbonsnake are available by searching the DNR website for incidental take public notice or upon request from Stacy Rowe (608-266-7012 or

The DNR is requesting comments from the public through March 19, 2020, regarding project-related impacts to the eastern ribbonsnake. Public comments should be sent to Stacy Rowe, DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921 or


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Thursday, February 20, 2020

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