Wisconsin State Park System launching enhanced campsite reservation system

MADISON - Starting Dec. 17, campers booking a campsite at Wisconsin State Park System properties will be using a new, improved - and less expensive - reservation system.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is contracting with a new provider, Camis USA, Inc., that was awarded the reservation contract through a competitive bidding process. Camis USA currently operates reservation systems for Michigan, Maryland and Washington state parks. All reservations that have already been booked through Reserve America will automatically be transferred to the new system.
Prior to Nov. 30, customers should make sure their email and postal addresses and phone numbers are up to date in the existing Reserve America system. All that information will be transferred to the new reservation system.
There will be down time from Dec. 1 to Dec. 16, to allow for existing reservations to be transferred to the new system. No reservations can be booked during this time. Prior to Dec. 17, customers will be able to log into the new system through the DNR website and set up their accounts and view their current reservations. Campers who have used Reserve America in the past to make reservations only need to set up accounts in the new system to begin making reservations with Camis USA.
Under the new system, it will cost users $7.75 to make a reservation, compared to the current price of $9.65. Customers can also expect many enhancements when making reservations, including a better search function for campsites, and a mobile-friendly website that makes it easier than ever to make a reservation from a phone or tablet. The new system will also accommodate reservations for shelters and amphitheaters.
Campers can make reservations for sites up to 11 months in advance of their arrival, either online or by phone. The reservation phone number (1-888-947-2757) and access to the online reservation system through the DNR website will remain the same. Camis USA is in the process of opening a Wisconsin call center in Kenosha that will employ between 12 and 15 operators depending on the season.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Jackson seeks help for Christmas Bird Count

Compiler - La Crosse Area Christmas Bird Count

The La Crosse/La Crescent Christmas Bird Count is coming up on Saturday, Dec. 16, and I would love to have your help!  
As someone who has participated in the past or is a member of the Coulee Region Audubon Society community, I could especially use your help as a feeder counter. If you live in the count circle and are actively feeding birds at your home, I would love to have you count the birds in your yard on that day so that we could include your birds in our count totals.
Feeder counters must live in the count circle to participate. The following web page includes a map of our circle that you can look at to determine if you live in the count circle.
For those who have participated in the past, thanks again for your help and I hope that I can count on you again this year.  
For people who haven’t participated, I hope that you will give it a try!!
Please let me know whether or not you would be willing to participate this year. My work schedule is hectic so a response in the next few days would be a big help. If you are unsure of your availability, please let me know that, too, so that I can reach out again closer to the event.
I hope that you have a great Thanksgiving and holiday season and hope that I can count on your help!!
We will hold a potluck on Saturday evening – location and time to be announced. All participants in the count are welcome to attend with a guest.

Parks and Trails Legacy Advisory Committee seeks applicants

The Department of Natural Resources, the Metropolitan Council and the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission are seeking qualified applicants to serve on the Parks and Trails Legacy Advisory Committee.
“The Parks and Trails Legacy Advisory Committee plays a critical role in helping us achieve the vision Minnesotans have for use of the Parks and Trails Legacy funds and creates an accessible and equitable, integrated system of state and regional parks and trails in Minnesota,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.
The purpose of the Legacy Advisory Committee is to promote and coordinate implementation of the 25 Year Parks and Trails Legacy Plan. Funding recommendations for individual projects is not a part of this committee’s work. The plan can be found at legacy.leg.mn/funds/parks-trails-fund/plan.
The deadline for applications is Friday, Nov. 30.
The committee is made up of 17 members, including, to the practical extent possible, diverse geographical and demographic representation. The committee has a mixture of park and trail professionals and Minnesota residents. Among the skills desired for the committee are backgrounds in youth programs, natural resource education, resource management, marketing, new technology, tourism and business. Committee members should have expertise in two or more of the four strategic pillars of the plan:
* Connect people and the outdoors.
* Acquire land and create opportunities.
* Take care of what we have.
* Coordinate among partners.
Terms are two years with the option of being reappointed for a maximum of three terms. Meetings are scheduled every two months around the state, with an option to attend remotely.  
Interested candidates may complete the application form online at legacy.leg.mn/ptlac/member-application or print it out and return it to Paul Purman, Department of Natural Resources, Box 39, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155. Questions should be directed to Purman via phone at 651-259-5643 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
The year 2018 marked the 10th anniversary of the passage of the Legacy Amendment by Minnesota voters, and 2019 is 10 years since the first Legacy-funded projects. The committee hosted a series of regional events during 2018 to celebrate Legacy accomplishments and engage Minnesotans on the question “What’s Your Legacy?” A final report on the regional events will be available in January.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Stressed out? Visit a state park on Veterans Day

It’s no secret that nature helps sooth a troubled mind.
Consider spending an afternoon at a state park with a veteran this Veterans Day where the “awe” factor increases as the stress level decreases.
“A state park visit can provide a healthy dose of nature therapy,” said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota State Park and Trails. “All park visitors benefit from time outdoors and for those exposed to a lot of stress, the benefits can be especially acute.”
Free year-round vehicle permits, providing unlimited access to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas, are now available to:
* Active military personnel in any branch or unit of the United States Armed Forces.
* Veterans with a service-related disability.
These benefits were approved by Minnesota lawmakers in 2017.
Studies done by the Warrior Institute, Outward Bound, Sierra Club and others show that outdoor recreation enhances emotional, physical and physiological well-being. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the leading injury for American veterans.
An estimated 30 percent of Vietnam War veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime, and 20 percent of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It is estimated that less than 30 percent of veterans with mental health issues, however, will seek help.
“People generally find it difficult to seek help for mental health issues,” said Jodi Dehn, who is the DNR Yellow Ribbon Program Military Outreach Representative.
An antidote to trauma can start with something as simple as more time spent outdoors.
“The cost is minimal but the effect can be substantial,” she said.
The Yellow Ribbon Program designation acknowledges companies and agencies with exceptional and ongoing records of caring, commitment and compassion for military members and their families.
Special programs taking place at Minnesota state parks on or near Veterans Day include:
* Whitewater’s German POW Camp, 7-8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at Whitewater State Park (near Winona). Whitewater State Park once served as a prison to World War II Prisoners of War. This presentation explains how they got there, where they went later, and what life was like at the camp. For more information, call 507-312-2300.
* Veterans in the Vicinity, 11 a.m.-noon, Sunday, Nov. 11, at Sibley State Park (New London).The land at and near Sibley State Park was a site of conflict during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Join a naturalist on Veteran’s Day to remember and honor all veterans with ties to West Central Minnesota and Sibley State Park. Meet at the Lakeview Campground. For more information, call 320-354-2055.
To see all licenses, permits and passes that are available to military personnel and veterans, and the form of identification that an individual needs to show, visit www.mndnr.gov.
The DNR is recognized as a Yellow Ribbon Company for its support of active and retired military personnel and their families.
For more information, contact the DNR Information Center at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 888-646-6367 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Lakeville artist wins walleye stamp contest

Lakeville artist Stephen Hamrick won the Minnesota Walleye Stamp contest.
Judges selected his painting from among 11 entries for the annual contest that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sponsors.
The 2019 walleye stamp features Hamrick’s painting of a walleye swimming at night under a full moon near an angler’s leech-baited hook and slip bobber. Hamrick has won a DNR stamp contest 11 times. He also has won the waterfowl, pheasant, wild turkey, trout and salmon, and walleye stamp contests.
The voluntary walleye stamp validation costs $5, but the DNR does not require anglers to buy it to fish for or keep walleye. For an extra 75 cents, the DNR will mail the pictorial stamp to purchasers. The DNR also sells a pictorial collectible stamp without the validation for $5.75, and sells walleye stamps year-round. Customers can purchase walleye stamps at any time, even if they already have a fishing license.
Judges also selected Stuart Nelson of Cloquet and Josh Evan of Mapleton as finalists in the Oct. 25, contest at the DNR headquarters in St. Paul. The DNR offers no prizes for the stamp contest winner, but the winning artist retains the right to reproduce the work.
The DNR uses revenue from stamp sales to purchase walleye for stocking in Minnesota’s lakes. All license vendors still have the 2018 walleye stamp available for purchase. The DNR website at mndnr.gov/stamps has more information about stamps.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Wisconsin's rarest snake now slightly less so

MADISON - One of Wisconsin's rarest snakes is now a little bit less rare.
The western wormsnake (pictured), a small, nonvenomous and exceedingly rare snake, was found in a new site in Grant County in 2018, bringing the number of known sites in Wisconsin to three.
"It is such a rare snake it was exciting for the species and for conservation that we added a third site," says Rori Paloski, a Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist. "We had not had a new site documented in decades."
Western wormsnakes (Carphophis vermis) are fossorial, meaning they spend nearly all their active time underground or under rocks. Those reclusive habits, their rarity and the fact wormsnakes are one of Wisconsin's smallest snakes, growing to only 12 inches, adds to the difficulty finding them.
That's why the discovery of the new site this summer by University of Wisconsin-Platteville students Caleb Cizauskas and Hanna Tydrich, is such good news. The two were working with UW-Platteville Professor John D. Peterson, under a grant Peterson received, when they discovered the snake.
Peterson, while on contract with the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program to search the two known historical locations for wormsnakes, did confirm a healthy population at one of those sites.
A citizen scientist, John Burris, documented a single wormsnake at the other known location. Burris had just been out for the day with friends looking for snakes when he found a wormsnake in a small section of a fallen tree limb. He reported it to the NHC Program. All three known sites are in Grant County.
Other Wisconsin snake news from 2018 wasn't as positive. NHC biologists successfully captured, measured and tagged eastern massasauga rattlesnakes to begin long-term monitoring for this state endangered and federally threatened species, but their efforts also unearthed the first Wisconsin massasauga testing positive with snake fungal disease.
Snake fungal disease, SFD for short, to date has been found in 10 snake species in Wisconsin. In other states, including Illinois, it has been known to extirpate local snake populations. SFD can prevent snakes from effectively feeding and drinking, and cause them to bask conspicuously, making them more susceptible to predators, Paloski says.
"It wasn't a surprise to find it, but it's unfortunate," she says.
Paloski and other NHC conservation biologists found only the one massasauga with SFD, so they hope it is an isolated incident, but future monitoring will help answer this and other questions about the disease.
The fungus associated with SFD is believed to be naturally found in soil at background levels, "but something appears to be causing it to be more prevalent in recent years," she says.
Please submit photos of snakes with symptoms - lumps along their face, neck and body - to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge honors volunteers

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge Winona offices recently honored volunteers and their guests at a volunteer recognition event.  
During 2018, more than 100 volunteers contributed more than 1,200 hours of service representing nearly $28,000.
Volunteer activities included assisting with the refuge booth at community functions, biological surveys, youth fishing days, river cleanups, invasive species monitoring and control, and youth educational activities.
The 2018 Volunteer of the Year award was shared by Roger Harms and Jay McLaren both of Rochester, MN. The two men were recognized for their efforts in mapping and establishing the Chippewa River Canoe Trail, a nearly seven-mile paddling trail located near Nelson, WI. The two men also annually assist refuge ranger Ed Lagace with maintenance of four water trails on the refuge which have obtained National Recreation Trail status.  
The volunteer program is an excellent way to gain experience, help wildlife, meet interesting people and is open to all ages and abilities. If you would like to enjoy a productive and rewarding experience as a refuge volunteer, call 507-494-6236.
SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service