Kewaunee County public informational meeting on groundwater workgroup’s final report to be held June 23

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DNR Northeast Region – MADISON – Representatives from both the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will participate in a public meeting to present the soon-to-be released Kewaunee County groundwater workgroup report.  Staff from both agencies and workgroup members will discuss their recommendations and answer questions.     

$18 million awarded to local units of government to assist with recycling program operations

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MADISON–Nearly $18 million in Basic Recycling Grants have been awarded to 1,024 local governments to offset some costs associated with local recycling program operations during calendar year 2016. A statutory formula determines each grant award amount. Additionally, 193 of these local governments also qualified for 2016 Recycling Consolidation Grants calculated at 26 cents per person.

Basic Recycling Grant awards are made to cities, towns, villages, counties, tribes or solid waste management organizations, for residential recycling and yard waste program costs that are necessary for planning and operating an effective recycling program.

Recycling Consolidation Grants provide supplemental assistance to local governments that meet additional criteria.

Recycling grant payment checks were issued on May 27, 2016. Award notification letters informing local governments of the amount of its award were sent via email on May 27. Local units of government that have not provided an email address will receive their letter via U.S. Postal Service.

The 2016 Recycling Grant Summary Report [PDF] is available on the Basic Recycling Grant page of the DNR website page under Related Links. This report will show all grant recipients and the amount of their grant awards.

Basic Recycling and Recycling Consolidation grants are administered by the Bureau of Community Financial Assistance. More information about DNR grant programs is available on the DNR website.

Natural Resources Board to meet June 21-22 in Richland Center

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MADISON – Requests to begin the rule-making processes relating to commercial fishing in Wisconsin-Minnesota and Wisconsin-Iowa boundary waters, to beaver and otter trapping season and to cisco harvest in Lake Superior are among the items the state Natural Resources Board will address when it meets June 22 in Richland Center.

The board will also consider adopting a master plan for a number of state wildlife areas and other properties in Dane, Green and Rock counties grouped together under the Sugar River Planning Group and a number of land acquisition requests. The board will hear information updates on Lake Michigan shoreline erosion and a Legislative Audit Bureau’s audit of the Department of Natural Resources wastewater permitting and enforcement program.

On Tuesday, June 21, 2016, the Natural Resources Board will tour and receive presentations at the Rockbridge Sawmill, at a private forest management property in Southwest Wisconsin, and at Foggy Bottom Woodworks, a small business secondary wood products firm. The public must pre-register with Natural Resources Board liaison to attend scheduled tours. Registration information is located on the last page of the agenda.

The regular business meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 22, at the Ramada Inn, 1450 Veterans Drive, Richland Center.

The complete June board agenda is available by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov 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. Registration information is available on the agenda on the DNR website.

The deadline to register to testify or submit written comments for this business meeting is 11 a.m. on Friday, June 17, 2016. More information is available 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.

DNR staff honored nationally for work to conserve bats, Karner blue butterflies

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MADISON – Two state conservation biologists leading Wisconsin’s efforts to save bats from white-nose syndrome and a third who has coordinated efforts in Wisconsin to conserve a federally endangered butterfly recently received national awards for their work.

Jennifer Redell and Paul White received 2016 Research Partnership Awards from the U.S. Forest Service as part of a team of scientists and managers who have been developing the science and tools required to recover and conserve upper Midwest bat populations in the wake of white-nose syndrome. The disease has killed 6 million bats and spread to 28 states since it was first discovered in New York in 2006. It was first detected in Wisconsin in 2014.

State, federal and private conservation biologists, including DNR's Jennifer Redell, second from top left, Paul White, top left, and Heather Kaarakka, third from top right, have teamed up on research aimed at conserving bats as white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease of bats, spreads across the continent.
State, federal and private conservation biologists, including DNR’s Jennifer Redell, second from top left, Paul White, top fight, and Heather Kaarakka, third from top right, have teamed up on research aimed at conserving bats as white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease of bats, spreads across the continent.
Photo Credit: DNR

Redell and White, along with colleague Heather Kaarakka, have been involved in research to better understand the bats’ movement patterns and habitat use when they migrate from summer roosting sites to winter hibernacula, and what factors may allow some bats infected with the disease to survive. They also have been involved in using, and training others to use, acoustic bat detectors to help monitor trends in bat activity. More information about the team’s work is found in the U.S. Forest Service’s 2016 Wings Across America booklet.

Bob Hess, who retired earlier this spring from the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program, will be honored June 14 at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge with a Recovery Champion Award from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for his nine years serving as the state’s recovery coordinator for Karner blue butterflies, a species listed as endangered in Wisconsin and the United States. “Conserving Karner Blue Butterfly in Wisconsin: A Development of Management Techniques” in American Entomology describes the recovery effort and results.

Bob Hess recently received a Recovery Champion Award from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for coordinating recovery efforts for Karner blue butterflies, a species listed as endangered in Wisconsin and the United States.
Bob Hess recently received a Recovery Champion Award from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for coordinating recovery efforts for Karner blue butterflies, a species listed as endangered in Wisconsin and the United States.
Photo Credit: DNR

Hess was honored for fostering support for the Karner blue butterfly in developing partnerships and coordinating Karner blue population monitoring at recovery properties across the state. He also secured a number of habitat restoration grants, including a $500,000 State Wildlife Grant that will support a three-year collaborative effort to restore habitat for the Karner blue in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Hess’ accomplishments include a publication in the Journal of Insect Conservation on research he conducted with his daughter, Anna, and state wildlife managers that revealed a link between habitat disturbances caused by American bison and improved habitat for the butterfly.

Drew Feldkirchner, who leads the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program that is responsible for caring for native wildlife and plants and natural areas, says the recognition is well-deserved and highlights the importance of the biologists’ work regionally and nationally.

“We’re fortunate to have a dedicated and highly-skilled staff working to conserve Wisconsin’s non-game species and are proud to see them, once again, recognized nationally. Congratulations to Paul, Jennifer, and Bob on these accomplishments.”

DNR names Feldkirchner Natural Heritage Conservation bureau director

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MADISON – Drew Feldkirchner, a 15-year veteran of the Department of Natural Resources, has been selected to lead staff within the department’s Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation responsible for protecting Wisconsin’s native animals, plants and natural areas.

Drew Feldkirchner
Drew Feldkirchner
Photo Credit: DNR

Feldkirchner, who began his career in the DNR Bureau of Endangered Resources in 2001, will guide program staff as they face challenges ranging from white-nose syndrome in bats to invasive species threatening natural areas.

“Our native wildlife, natural areas and diverse landscapes are a big part of what people love about Wisconsin,” says DNR Division of Fish, Wildlife & Parks Administrator Sanjay Olson. “We have an excellent staff and partners and Drew brings wide-ranging knowledge and experience, strong professional relationships and a commitment to partnerships that will help us meet the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

After joining DNR in 2001, when the Natural Heritage Conservation Program was known as the Endangered Resources Program, Feldkirchner coordinated efforts to locate and catalog rare plants and animals and high quality natural areas for the Natural Heritage Inventory. This database of rare species information is used by the department to help develop master plans for state properties and advise project planners on how to avoid impacts to rare species. More recently, Feldkirchner was the program’s liaison on forestry issues, working with the DNR Forestry Division and with forestry professionals throughout the state.

Feldkirchner has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in forest science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he continued to work after graduation, leading research projects in the Forest Ecosystem Ecology lab.

“We have a great mission and a top-notch staff who are committed to that mission, and I am very honored and excited for this privilege,” Feldkirchner said. “I look forward to working together with staff, partners and citizens to build on the many successes we’ve had over the years. Among a number of goals, we want to continue to foster the growing interest among private landowners and ‘citizen scientists’ to help conserve Wisconsin’s rare species and landscapes.”

Since its creation in the early 1970s, the Natural Heritage Conservation Program has led successful efforts to restore and remove from the endangered species lists trumpeter swans, osprey, bald eagles and more. The program is a leader in protecting and restoring nongame species, and has built a highly-regarded system of State Natural Areas, preserving some of the best remaining examples of Wisconsin’s unique outdoor destinations.

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 14 photos

Natural Heritage Conservation

Natural Heritage Conservation work is largely funded through a combination of federal grants, private donations and the sale of Endangered Resources license plates. Staff work with citizens, private landowners and businesses to track, assess and manage nongame species; provide regulatory guidance for protecting endangered and threatened species; manage State Natural Areas to preserve the best remnants of Wisconsin’s original landscapes; and consult with other DNR partners and private landowners to help them manage their land to help maintain Wisconsin’s unique plants and animals and special places.

For more information regarding volunteer opportunities and how Natural Heritage Conservation staff and partners work together to preserve Wisconsin’s natural heritage, check out the program’s 2015 Annual Report [PDF].

Wisconsin ruffed grouse survey results indicate stable population

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MADISON – Roadside ruffed grouse surveys completed this spring show that ruffed grouse enthusiasts should expect bird encounters similar to those experienced in 2015 as the population cycle begins to trend upward.

“While statewide trends were essentially stable, the two regions that make up the primary grouse habitat in the state showed increased drumming activity in 2016,” said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife survey coordinator Brian Dhuey. “Ruffed grouse populations are known to rise and fall over a nine- to 11-year cycle, and the last peak in Wisconsin’s cycle occurred in 2011 – survey results suggest that we have reached the low point in the population cycle and may have started the increasing phase, which should continue the next few years as the grouse population moves toward the next peak.”

Ruffed grouse
Ruffed grouse
Photo Credit: Paul Carson

For complete 2016 ruffed grouse survey results [PDF], search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for “wildlife reports,” and click on the drop down for “small game.”

Roadside surveys to monitor the number of breeding grouse have been conducted by staff from the department, U.S. Forest Service, tribal employees, and numerous grouse enthusiasts and volunteers since 1964. Surveys begin 30 minutes before sunrise and consist of 10 stops at assigned points. Surveyors listen for four minutes for the distinctive thumping sounds made by drumming male grouse. Surveyors monitored 99 routes this year.

While the number of drums heard per stop statewide in 2016 was similar to last year, there were some notable differences among regions. Both the northern and central forest regions showed increases in drumming activity. The largest increase occurred in the central forest, with an eight percent increase, followed by the Northern forest regions with a four percent increase. The southwest region saw the largest decline at 67 percent. Declines in the southwest part of the state are more than likely driven by aging forest and the loss of prime grouse breeding habitat.

Weather conditions influence drumming activity by male grouse, and most observers felt weather conditions were conducive to accurate surveys this spring. Surveyors rated the overall survey conditions as “excellent” on 45 percent of transects runs, compared to 65 percent in 2015. Surveyors rated 2016 conditions as “fair,” the lowest available weather condition rating, seven percent of the time in 2016, compared to five percent in 2015.

Results from the 2015 survey show that grouse populations in both the southwest and southeast region remain well below historic levels. According to DNR Upland Wildlife Ecologist, Mark Witecha, maturation of southern Wisconsin’s forest community and the resulting loss of dense, brushy areas that grouse need for cover has resulted in lower numbers of grouse in the region in recent decades.

“Ruffed grouse are closely associated with dense, young forest cover,” said Witecha. “Young forests are generally the result of some disturbance, like logging or intense wildfires. Forest management and fire prevalence in southern Wisconsin have declined in recent decades, leading to more mature forest communities that are not as suitable for grouse.”

For more information regarding grouse hunting in Wisconsin, search keywords “ruffed grouse hunting.”

Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership

Beyond managing state-owned lands, Wisconsin DNR is working to provide young forest cover through an extensive collaborative effort known as the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership. This partnership provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners interested in managing for young forest. The program is helping to create habitat for ruffed grouse and other wildlife species, and helping maintain healthy and diverse forest communities.

Young Forest Partnership video
Video Credit: DNR

To learn more about managing habitat for ruffed grouse and other wildlife species, search keywords “young forest.”

DNR opens public comment period on scope of strategic analysis for wild rice management

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MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking public input as the agency begins a strategic analysis for wild rice management.

Wild rice beds are associated with high biological diversity and provide numerous ecological benefits that extend throughout the food chain. Protecting and managing important areas where wild rice thrives will help ensure the persistence of many Wisconsin wildlife species for all to enjoy. Wild rice is a culturally important plant to Wisconsin’s Native American tribes, which have a special and longstanding connection to wild rice.

Wild rice is an annual aquatic grass that produces a seed that is delicious and nutritious for wildlife and humans.
Wild rice is an annual aquatic grass that produces a seed that is delicious and nutritious for wildlife and humans.
Photo Credit: DNR

The management of wild rice involves a diverse range of issues. DNR chose to use the strategic analysis process to evaluate and describe the latest scientific, natural resource and socio-economic information related to the management of wild rice. This analysis will be used to develop statewide management approaches for wild rice.

The public is encouraged to provide comments about topics to be addressed in the strategic analysis. Individuals can submit comments through July 18, 2016. The agency’s draft
list of strategic analysis topics is available by searching the DNR website
using for keywords  “wild rice
and selecting the link for “wild rice management
strategic analysis
” in the right side navigation panel.

Comments may be emailed to DNRWildRiceSA@wisconsin.gov or mailed to: Jon Simonsen, DNR Rhinelander Service Center, 107 Sutliff Ave., Rhinelander, WI 54501. All comments received during the scoping period will be shared on the DNR website.

Following the public scoping period, the DNR will review the input received to help define the topics and information to be considered in the analysis. The public will be notified when the strategic analysis document is available for review. A formal statewide plan for wild rice management will not be developed until after the strategic analysis process is complete.

Cedarburg student wins 2017 state park sticker design contest

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MADISON – A design of two people canoeing on a lake with the sun setting in the background won the 2017 Wisconsin State Park admission sticker design contest for Emily Olson, a senior at Cedarburg High School. The winning design will be printed on state park and forest annual vehicle admission stickers and will be displayed on more than 265,000 vehicles.

2017 winning design by Emily Olson, Canoe Scene
2017 winning design by Emily Olson, Canoe Scene

Olson will receive an engraved plaque, a 2017 annual vehicle admission sticker featuring her design when they become available in December and a state trail pass.

Second place was won by Holly Peterson of South Milwaukee High School whose entry depicted wood violets and third place was won by Stephanie Unger of Appleton North High School, with a design of a raccoon.

Honorable Mention went to:

  • Makenna Race of Cedarburg High School for her design “Bird in Trees”
  • Trent Huebner of Slinger High School for his design “Grey Treefrog on Leaf”
  • Megan Taylor of Preble High School for her design “Biker and Tree”
  • Elizabeth Schad of Cedarburg High School for a design of “Binoculars”
  • Caity Lucas of Oregon High School for her design “Loon on the Lake”
  • Hailey Schmitt of Slinger High School for her design “Birch Tree Scene”
  • Briana Connell of Eau Claire North High School for her design “Robin.”

The vehicle admission stickers provide access to more than 60 state park, forest and recreation area properties across Wisconsin. The stickers are required on all motor vehicles stopping in state parks and recreation areas. Some state forest and trail parking areas also require a sticker.

Annual admission stickers cost $28 for Wisconsin residents or $38 for nonresidents. A family with more than one vehicle registered to the same household may purchase additional state park stickers for $15.50 for residents and $20.50 for nonresidents. A senior citizen annual sticker for $13 is available for Wisconsin Residents 65 years of age and older. The 2017 admission stickers will go on sale in early December.

This is the 26th year a Wisconsin high school student has designed the Wisconsin State Park admission sticker. The contest is open to students in grades nine through 12 or equivalent, attending public, private or parochial schools or home schooled in Wisconsin. Cedarburg high school students also won the 2010 and 2014 sticker design contests.

For more information on the state park sticker contest and to view other awarded design entries, search the DNR website for keyword “contest.”

Trapper education courses serve as great introduction to trapping in Wisconsin

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MADISONAnyone interested in trapping or in need of trapper education certification is encouraged to check out the online schedule and enrollment forms for trapper education courses.

Students learn more about Wisconsin's furbearers in one of the department's Trapper Education courses
Students learn more about Wisconsin’s furbearers in one of the department’s Trapper Education courses
Photo Credit: DNR

Students will learn more about furbearer identification and behavior, habitat requirements, trapping history, trapping techniques and placement, fur handling, trapping ethics, and trapping rules and regulations.

Those who did not purchase a trapping license in Wisconsin prior to 1992 are required to pass a trapper education course in order to trap in Wisconsin. Registration is $12 per student for both residents and non-residents. After completion of the course, residents will receive a 2016/2017 trapping license free of charge. Student with disabilities should specify any accommodations needed at the time of registration.

Few classes are offered during trapping season, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff encourage those who plan to trap this upcoming season to take a class sooner rather than later. Classes are limited to a number of students and tend to fill quickly.

To search for trapper education courses offered by the department, visit Go Wild’s course enrollment page and select “trapper” from the list. It is important to remember that not all counties provide trapper education courses – to search statewide, do not select a county from the initial list.

For more information regarding trapping in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords “trap” or “trapper ed.”

Volunteers needed for statewide breeding bird atlas

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ASHLAND, Wis. – With birds building nests, incubating eggs, or training their offspring in the ways of the world, now is a great time for bird lovers to grab their binoculars and pitch in to help conserve Wisconsin birds by reporting birds building nests, raising young and engaged in other breeding activities.

Organizers of the statewide Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas survey are recruiting volunteers to help update information about what birds breed in Wisconsin and where, and they are conducting free field trips June 11-12 (both links exit DNR) in many locations to introduce people to the survey and its methods.

“Now is a prime time for people to get involved in the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas,” says Ryan Brady, a wildlife biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources who leads the survey’s science team. “We’ve cleared migration and tons of birds are back and building nests or are on nests so just about everything you see can be reported.”

Aside from shorebirds, most of the birds seen in Wisconsin in June and July are birds that nest here, so volunteers don’t have to sort out which are migratory birds headed to or from Canadian nesting grounds.

Northern saw-whets are reasonably common species in Wisconsin but very hard to detect because they’re nocturnal. This sighting captured in video by Ryan Brady is only the third confirmation of the species in the atlas survey’s first two years.
Video Credit: Ryan Brady

Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas volunteers look for and document breeding behaviors of birds, everything ranging from a male singing a courtship song to a pair building a nest to a mother feeding her young. The survey seeks to confirm the presence and abundance of different species in every corner of the state.

Bill Mueller, director of the Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory, one of the other sponsoring organizations, says that people can volunteer for the survey according to their desire, expertise and time.

Birders who can identify many species are encouraged to sign up to survey a 3 mile by 3 mile block of land. Birders can intensively survey their block over one breeding season or spread it out over the five years.

Birders with interest but less bird identification experience or less time are encouraged to turn in individual sightings of nesting birds they see while they are outdoors hiking, biking, camping, or even while sitting in their backyard.

Volunteers can enter their data online using a customized atlas portal to eBird, a web-based reporting system many birders already use to keep track of their bird sightings and scientists use to harness the power of millions of birdwatchers worldwide. Such technology, along with advances in digital and smartphone cameras, also have made it easier and quicker to verify unusual observations.

“The second Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas is critically important to help us understand how Wisconsin bird populations are changing,” Mueller says. “And, it is fun, and a great way to learn more about the natural world.”

In addition to the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, DNR and the Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory, the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II is co-organized by the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative (exit DNR).

Read more about the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas and learn why one of the youngest volunteers, 17-year-old Joshua Cullum, is participating in “Teen dives into comprehensive bird survey,” in the June 2016 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.