Draft Recreation Opportunity Analysis chapters available for public review and comments

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MADISON – The public has an opportunity through May 4 to comment on Recreation Opportunity Analysis that examines existing outdoor-based recreation opportunities and future recreation opportunities in eight regions throughout Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking comments on draft chapters developed from information collected from the public in the fall of 2017 on the following regions:

The public is invited to provide feedback and suggestions on the draft chapters. The draft chapters can be reviewed by visiting dnr.wi.gov, and searching the keyword “ROA.” A link to provide feedback is provided on the website. Public feedback for these five draft chapters is open through May 4, 2018.

Wildcat Mountain State Park is one of the properties in the Mississippi Corridor Region of the Recreational Opportunities Analysis. - Photo credit: DNR
Wildcat Mountain State Park is one of the properties in the Mississippi River Corridor Region of the Recreational Opportunities Analysis.Photo credit: DNR

The ROA process has been underway in other regions of the state. Earlier in 2017, the department analyzed and wrote draft chapters for the Upper Lake Michigan Coastal and Great Northwest regions. The department asked for the public to provide feedback for those two chapters. After considering the comments received, the department finalized these chapters. All the finalized chapters to the ROA can be found at this link ROA and scroll down to “Recreation Opportunity Analysis Document” tab.

For more information regarding the recreational opportunities analysis, search the DNR website for keyword “ROA.” To receive email updates regarding the ROA process, click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled “subscribe for updates for DNR topics,” then follow the prompts and select “Recreation opportunities analysis,” found within the list titled “outdoor recreation.”

Public meetings set for Superior Coastal Plain, Northwest Sands, and Northwest Lowlands Ecological Landscape regional master plans

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[EDITOR’S ADVISORY: These meetings have been rescheduled due to a forecast for inclement weather. The Ashland meeting will be April 24 and the Spooner meeting will be held April 25. The public comment period has been extended to May 3. ]

Public comment period open through May 3

ASHLAND, Wis. — The public will has an opportunity through two upcoming open houses and online information to learn more about the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s regional master planning process for properties located in three Northwest Wisconsin Ecological Landscapes: Superior Coastal Plain, Northwest Sands, and Northwest Lowlands. The three landscapes fall in portions of Polk, Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, and Iron Counties.

Copper Falls State Park is one of the properties included in the master planning process for the ecological landscape. - Photo credit: DNR
Copper Falls State Park is one of the properties included in the master planning process for the Northwest Wisconsin ecological landscape.Photo credit: DNR

A master plan, guided by Chapter NR 44, Wisconsin Administrative Code, establishes the level and type of resource management and public use permitted on department-managed properties. Under the regional master planning process, department staff will develop a plan for all properties located within a defined region. The regions are based on 16 previously defined ecological landscapes in Wisconsin, areas with similar ecological attributes and management opportunities. The Natural Resources Board approved the regional planning process at the June 2017 board meeting.

Properties within these three ecological landscapes regions with Chapter NR 44, Wisconsin Administrative Code compliant existing master plans will have their existing plans referenced during the planning process. Approximately 30,000 acres of DNR-managed lands will have new master plans developed. These lands contain a wide-variety of habitats and characteristics. These attributes and include the Apostle Islands and Lake Superior coastal estuaries, cold water streams and spring ponds, and barrens.

The properties in these ecological landscapes are also important in providing recreation opportunity. The popular Copper Falls, Big Bay, Pattison, and Amnicon Falls State Parks will all have master plans developed. A number of properties that provide fishing and hunting opportunities such as the South Shore Lake Superior Fishery Area and Beaver Brook Wildlife Area will also have new plans developed.

People can learn more about and engage in the planning processes for Superior Coastal Plain, Northwest Sands, and Northwest Lowlands regional master plans process online by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords “master planning” and selecting the ecological landscape they would like to learn about. In addition to opportunities to learn more about the ecological landscapes and department properties within them; people will also find opportunities to offer their input on the planning and management of the properties.

Two public meetings will be held in early April for the public to learn more about the planning process and to submit comments on the properties’ future management and use. Both meetings run from 5 to 7 p.m. and will be held (NOTE: these meetings have been rescheduled):

  • Tuesday, April 24, Ashland: Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center; 29270 County Highway G
  • Wednesday, April 25, Spooner: DNR Service Center, 810 W Maple St.

“People are welcome and encouraged to visit our websites and attend the public meetings to learn about the department’s property master planning process and to share their suggestions for future management and use of these properties,” said Diane Brusoe, property planning section chief.

In addition to the opportunities to offer input online or at public meetings, people may contact Phil Rynish, DNR planner, by email at phillip.rynish@wisconsin.gov, phone at 608-266-5854, or US mail at Phillip.Rynish@Wisconsin.gov, Wisconsin DNR, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI, 53707-7921.

The public comment period for the first phase of planning is open through May 3, 2018.

Over $34 million in federal funding allocated to Wisconsin for important management activities

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HORICON, Wis. — Wisconsin will receive over $34 million in funding for 2018 generated through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration acts.

These funds will be used to enhance habitat for fish and wildlife, among other important duties, and help bolster the state’s status as a world class outdoor destination. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke visited Horicon Marsh March 20 to announce more than $1.1 billion in annual national funding for state wildlife agencies throughout the nation.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (left) presents a check to Sanjay Olson, DNR Fish, WIldlife and Parks administrator. - Photo credit: DNR
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (left) presents a check for more than $34 million to Sanjay Olson, DNR Fish, Wildlife and Parks Division administrator.Photo credit: DNR

“American sportsmen and women are some of our best conservationists and they contribute billions of dollars toward wildlife conservation and sportsmen access every year through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts,” said Secretary Zinke. “The best way to increase funding for conservation and sportsmen access is to increase the number of hunters and anglers in our woods and waters.”

PRDJ dollars support a wide range of management activities. These funds, which are distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are derived from excise taxes paid by the hunting, shooting, boating and angling industries on firearms, bows and ammunition and sport fishing tackle, some boat engines, and small engine fuel.

“Whether through ensuring access to fishing spots, managing Wisconsin’s many habitat types for wildlife, or supporting any number of other important work done by DNR staff, this federal funding is extremely important to ensuring Wisconsin remains a world class outdoor destination,” said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Daniel L. Meyer. “We greatly value the partnerships we have with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior.”

Wisconsin boaters generate $1.18 billion of economic impact annually, while hunting contributes $2.5 billion annually in economic impact. Angling creates over 21,000 jobs while contributing roughly $2.3 billion to the economy annually.

Allocations of the funds are authorized by Congress. To date, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has distributed more than $20.2 billion in apportionments for state conservation and recreation projects.

For more information regarding the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, visit wsfrprograms.fws.gov [exit DNR].

County Deer Advisory Councils to gather feedback on season recommendations

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Antlerless quota, permit levels, and season structure; final meetings in April

MADISON — County Deer Advisory Councils will release their preliminary antlerless deer quota, permit level, and season structure recommendations for the 2018 deer hunting season next week. An online public comment period will begin April 2 and run through April 12 to collect feedback on these preliminary recommendations.

To view your county’s recommendations and provide feedback, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “CDAC.”

Antlerless quota recommendations and hunter success rates from previous hunts help determine the number of antlerless tags available for the 2018 deer hunting season, and help the Department of Natural Resources and councils work to reach deer population objectives within their county.

“The impact that CDACs are having on deer hunting in Wisconsin is impressive and growing,” said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist. “The public has a real voice in local deer management, and the council members weigh their decisions heavily on public feedback. So, if you have an interest in helping to shape the deer season in your county, this is an important opportunity.”

Wallenfang says that CDACs are considering a variety of factors like harvest data, population trends, and winter severity when they discuss harvest objectives and tag levels for 2018.

After the public comment period has ended, each council will reconvene during the week of April 16-19 to evaluate public feedback and determine final recommendations for the 2018 deer seasons which will be adopted by the Natural Resources Board in May. All meetings are open to the public and provide the opportunity for attendees to address the council. Meeting details for each county can be found at dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “CDAC.”

Spring issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources feature DNR 50th anniversary

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MADISON – The Spring edition of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine is on its way to readers, and the first issue of 2018 focuses on a celebration: It’s the Department of Natural Resources’ 50th anniversary. The agency and the Natural Resources Board that guides it were created in 1968 by a merger of the Wisconsin Conservation Department and Resource Development Department. The Spring cover story, “A DNR is born,” commemorates the event, while coverage in the magazine throughout the year also will mark the occasion.

Another anniversary is celebrated in this issue as well: This is the 25th year for field trips offered by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. “25 years of adventure” lauds the long-running and popular program and includes information on how to sign up for these statewide outings that run all year long.

An update on the DNR’s pheasant-rearing facility in Poynette is included in the Spring issue. “Hatching success at the State Game Farm” highlights upgrades that have modernized the facility, which hatches about 250,000 pheasant chicks each year to stock lands for hunting and birding.

In keeping with the magazine’s historic theme, a story titled “Natural leader, nature champion” profiles Gordon A. Bubolz, a business executive and Republican state legislator in the 1940s and ’50s who advocated for land preservation. High Cliff State Park and an Appleton nature preserve named for Bubolz are among the spots attributed to his work.

Two stories take readers to special places outdoors. “Wander these little wild spaces” explores the Milwaukee area’s many fields of green, while “Rooted in the past, a sanctuary grows” visits Faville Grove, a 675-acre parcel of prairie, woodlands, wetlands and savanna in Jefferson County. A fun short piece, “Porch-sitting makes way for ducklings,” about a nesting box and the badling of little wood ducks using it rounds out the magazine’s Spring stories.

Wisconsin Natural Resources – now publishing quarterly in Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter – has adjusted its regular features slightly. A letter from DNR Secretary Dan Meyer has been added to Page 2, where he checks in with seasonal updates. The back-page feature, formerly called “Wisconsin, naturally,” has been renamed “Outside in Wisconsin” to reflect a broader reach beyond State Natural Areas and include all state properties. The Elroy-Sparta State Trail is in the Spring spotlight.

“Reader’s Write” letters and feedback are included in the magazine as always, and the “Back in the day” feature remains, too, moving to the inside back cover. In a nod to DNR’s 50th anniversary, the current “Back in the day” piece on fishing for walleye is excerpted from the 1968 Conservation Bulletin.

Fishing also is highlighted in the annual Wisconsin Fishing Report, a Spring issue insert, with all the information needed for a successful fishing season.

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine is available for $8.97 per year. Subscribe at 1-800-678-9472 or online at wnrmag.com.

Prescribed burns proposed for many DNR properties in central and southern Wisconsin this spring

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MADISON — Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff plan to conduct prescribed burning on several department-managed properties in the west central, southeast, and southern Wisconsin this spring.

To view a list of proposed spring 2018 prescribed burns on DNR properties and more information regarding prescribed burning in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords “prescribed burning.”

Prescribed burning is part of an ongoing effort to preserve and restore the landscape found within DNR properties throughout Wisconsin. These burns reduce leaf litter, improve wildlife habitat, redistribute nutrients and help control invasive species.

The window for conducting prescribed burns is relatively small, due to special weather conditions required. The moisture level of groundcover, wind speed and direction, and relative humidity must be just right for a safe and successful burn. Please note that planned burns may or may not occur, based on these factors.

Prior to any prescribed burns, trained personnel assess the area to determine wind direction and speed, relative humidity, grass moisture and safety requirements. Qualified personnel control fire behavior using comprehensive planning and specialized fire equipment. Local police and fire officials are notified when and where burns will take place.

Bird Survey Organizers Encourage Volunteers to Survey Areas in Need, Attend Regional Workshops in April

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ASHLAND, Wis. – With just two of five breeding seasons left to go, organizers of a comprehensive survey of birds that nest in Wisconsin have identified more than 300 locations where volunteers are needed to help gather information for the survey, known as the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II.

“This is a perfect time to choose a location where you can help look for breeding birds and report them,” says Nick Anich, atlas coordinator and a conservation biologist with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “The bulk of bird species will nest in June and July but some resident birds are getting started already, and it’s a good time to head out to a location near you and poke around, explore some habitats and see what’s out there.”

Volunteers for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas survey report birds engaged in nesting behaviors. An unusually high number of red crossbills moved into Wisconsin last fall, and early breeders can now be found building nests and sitting on eggs.  - Photo credit: Ryan Brady
Volunteers for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas survey report birds engaged in nesting behaviors. An unusually high number of red crossbills moved into Wisconsin last fall, and early breeders can now be found building nests and sitting on eggs. Photo credit: Ryan Brady

Participating volunteers are already submitting observations from around the state of early breeding bird species like great horned owl, bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, common raven, red crossbill, and pine siskin sprucing up their nests or sitting on eggs.

The goal of the Atlas is to help document the distribution and abundance of all birds breeding across the state. This information will help scientists, land managers, and birders get a better understanding of the population size, preferred habitat, and range of each species and how those have changed since the last Atlas survey 20 years ago.

The survey splits Wisconsin into nearly 7,000 blocks of land, equally distributed throughout the state, with about 1 in 6 of these blocks of highest priority. These blocks must be fully surveyed by the time fieldwork is completed in 2019 to allow for good comparisons with data collected in the same locations 20 years earlier, Anich says. Organizers are urging birders to visit wiatri.net/projects/WBBA/WBBAmap.cfm (exit DNR) to register to become the principal atlaser for one of the remaining open blocks.

Bird lovers can help complete a comprehensive survey of birds that nest in Wisconsin by volunteering to record their observations in those locations with red and yellow blocks. Locations with red blocks are particularly in need of help - Photo credit: Nick Anich
Bird lovers can help complete a comprehensive survey of birds that nest in Wisconsin by volunteering to record their observations in those locations with red and yellow blocks. Locations with red blocks are particularly in need of helpPhoto credit: Nick Anich

Even with 1,500+ volunteers having participated to date, there are many easy-to-reach blocks still available, especially in the northern two-thirds of the state, says Ryan Brady, a DNR conservation biologist and science lead for the survey.

“Open blocks in Wisconsin’s northern and west-central counties commonly host more than 85 breeding species, and can offer special opportunities for volunteers looking for warblers, boreal specialties, or just quality time outdoors,” Brady says.

Volunteers interested in rural counties of central Wisconsin have plenty of exciting open-country species to look for as well, Brady says. Whooping crane, greater prairie-chicken and Henslow’s sparrow are among them.

Atlas Regional Kickoff Workshop Dates and Locations

Interested volunteers are encouraged to attend a regional workshop to learn more about the Atlas survey:

  • Western Region – April 14, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: National Eagle Center, Wabasha, MN
  • Eastern Region – April 21, 12-4:30 p.m.: Sturgeon Bay Library, Sturgeon Bay, WI

Workshops are free but registration is required. For details and registration, visit http://wsobirds.org/ atlas-2018-regional-kickoff-workshops

The Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II also has a number of field trips and smaller training events planned for spring and early summer months, all skill levels are welcome. Visit wsobirds.org/atlas-events (exit DNR) for details.

Anglers now enjoy a year-round season and five-bag limit for Lake Michigan lake trout

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MADISON – The lake trout fishing season on Lake Michigan is now open year-round and the bag limit is five fish per day under rules effective March 17, 2018.

Lake Michigan anglers can now enjoy a year-round season and a bag limit of five lake trout under rules effective March 17, 2018. - Photo credit: Jason Richter
Lake Michigan anglers can now enjoy a year-round season and a bag limit of five lake trout under rules effective March 17, 2018.Photo credit: Jason Richter

The five-bag limit and continuous open season make regulations for lake trout consistent with season structure and bag limits for other Lake Michigan trout and salmon, according to Brad Eggold, Great Lakes district fisheries supervisor with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The rules, adopted Feb. 28 by the state Natural Resources Board and effective upon publication March 17, seek to allow increased sport harvest opportunities for lake trout and maintain a sustainable population while pursuing restoration goals.

The increased bag limit reflects enhanced lake trout populations in certain areas of Lake Michigan and responds to anglers’ repeated requests to allow increased fishing opportunities for lake trout. Anglers made the requests over the course of 2016 and 2017 during DNR’s extensive stakeholder outreach and engagement to help determine the fish stocking plan for Lake Michigan trout and salmon from 2018-2020.

The rule establishes a sunset clause in 2021 reverting the season framework back to a two-fish bag limit with fishing allowed from March 1 through October 31. However, that sunset provision will be repealed through additional rulemaking if harvest information continues to show that a sustainable fishery can be maintained with the five fish bag limit, Eggold says.

For more information regarding lake trout fishing on Lake Michigan, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for “fishing Lake Michigan.”

DNR to waive fall turkey drawing; licenses on sale now

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MADISON – New this year, fall turkey hunters will no longer be required to apply or compete in a drawing for fall turkey harvest authorizations. Instead, one fall turkey harvest authorization will be issued at no additional cost with the purchase of a fall turkey or conservation patron license. Customers will need to specify their zone of choice when purchasing their license.

In addition to the fall harvest authorization issued with the purchase of a license, bonus fall harvest authorizations will be sold over-the-counter on a first-come, first-served basis. Select turkey management zones will have a set number of bonus authorizations available for $10 apiece beginning in August. Bonus authorization levels are determined after looking at turkey harvest and population data, as well as hunter feedback and harvest authorization sales, within each zone.

Wisconsin has seen a decrease in fall turkey harvest over the past decade. DNR surveys indicate the lower harvest is due to reduced hunter participation and effort, and not a reduction in the turkey population. In the fall, more people are hunting turkeys opportunistically while pursuing other species, rather than exclusively hunting for turkey.

The reduced harvest and hunter effort has led wildlife managers to believe a competitive drawing is no longer necessary for the fall season. The DNR will continue to monitor harvest and population data to ensure continued success of Wisconsin’s wild turkey management program.

For more information on the fall turkey season and turkey hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “turkey.”

DNR to hold public comment period, public hearing on Foxconn air permits

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MADISON – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on air permit drafts for the Foxconn liquid crystal display manufacturing facility proposed for construction in Racine County.

The department made available for public comment the applications, draft permits and analysis documents for four air pollution control permits covering the Foxconn facility. To view the documents search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword Foxconn. The DNR will accept public comments through April 16, 2018.

The DNR will also hold a public hearing on April 3 at 7 p.m. at the SC Johnson iMet Center, 2320 Renaissance Boulevard, in Sturtevant. Beginning at 6 p.m. the public may meet with DNR staff and ask questions about the project and the air permit review process prior to the formal public hearing.

Written comments may be sent to jonathan.wright@wisconsin.gov or to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Northeast Region Air Program, Oshkosh Service Center, Attn.: Jonathan Wright, 625 E. County Road Y, Suite 700, Oshkosh, WI 54901-9731.