Biologists ask paddlers, anglers, others to photo freshwater mussels

MADISON - With high water levels receding on many streams and rivers, state conservation biologists are now encouraging paddlers, anglers and other water lovers to take a few minutes to help protect some of the most important yet least known members of Wisconsin's aquatic ecosystems, native freshwater mussels.
A new video shows volunteers how to search shorelines or shallow water for freshwater mussels native to Wisconsin and known by such colorful names as white heelsplitter, fatmucket, Wabash pigtoe and flutedshell. Volunteers are asked to photograph the mussels they collect and return live mussels to the water, then report that information to DNR's Wisconsin Mussel Monitoring Program.
"We have 52 native mussel species in Wisconsin and 24 of them are endangered, threatened or special concern, meaning their populations are low or declining," says Jesse Weinzinger, a conservation biologist who coordinates the monitoring program. "We'd like to have your help in contributing information on where these mussels live so we can better understand their distribution and how to protect them."
Such information can help guide where DNR and partners work to protect and restore mussels. For example, staff work with transportation officials to help avoid or move mussel populations when road and bridge projects could potentially impact them.
Freshwater mussels, also known as clams, are important for healthy lakes, rivers and streams. They are not the invasive zebra mussels that potentially disrupt aquatic ecosystems and smother native mussels and are a major factor in declining native mussel populations, says Lisie Kitchel, who, like Weinzinger, works for the DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation Program.
"Native mussels are our good mussels and they are important for healthy lakes and rivers," she says.
Each native freshwater mussel can filter gallons of water a day, removing pollutants like mercury and other contaminants. They are food for raccoon, muskrats, otters, herons and other wildlife. They are even food for fish when the mussels are young.
Because native mussels filter environmental pollutants, Kitchel advises against eating them, but encourages people to submit reports about them.
"With 84,000 miles of streams in Wisconsin and more than 15,000 lakes, there are a great many sites we're not able to get to," she says. "Volunteers can help us fill in gaps in information."
She advises people to please take the time to properly evaluate the site they want to search for safety concerns before surveying, to follow the steps in the video and report what they find. Volunteers can report by setting up a free account on the popular reporting platform iNaturalist, which has a mobile app and a website, or by emailing photos and location information to the mussel monitoring program.
To find the training video, photos and descriptions of freshwater mussels and more, search online for Wisconsin Mussel Monitoring Program.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Bird conservation collaborative celebrates 15 years of progress

MADISON - A coalition of 180 Wisconsin organizations dedicated to conserving birds is celebrating 15 years of accomplishments, unveiling a new strategic plan to guide the next five years, and digging deeper into declining populations of purple martins, chimney swifts, whip-poor-wills and other insect-eating birds.
The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative has accomplished great things for Wisconsin's birds," says Craig Thompson, a Department of Natural Resources section chief and bird expert leading DNR involvement in the collaboration.
"Partners have identified critical habitat sites for birds statewide, developed actions to save 116 species most in need of conservation help, and provided opportunities to actively engage citizens in bird conservation through statewide monitoring efforts and Bird City communities.
"Our new strategic plan builds on these successes and sets the stage for even more cutting-edge conservation," Thompson added.
The collaborative, WBCI for short, includes bird clubs, hunting and fishing groups, government agencies, land trusts, nature centers, environmental groups, universities and businesses. Collaboration goals include conserving and restoring endangered, threatened, and rare bird species and their habitats, educating Wisconsin citizens about birds and bird conservation issues, and promoting bird-based recreation and the enjoyment of birds.
The group's annual meeting and workshop is set for Sept. 6-8 in Waukesha and registration is now open.
Karen Etter Hale, WBCI chair and Wisconsin Audubon Council's Director of Community Relations, says the collaboration "Has been, and will continue to be, an effective collaboration for birds, because of its many engaged and diverse partners. Our power is in our partnerships."
Etter Hale says the strategic plan refocuses WBCI to ensure its continued success in times of tight funding and growing threats to birds.
Michael John Jaeger, past president of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, says the strategic plan calls for WBCI partners to build on past efforts, most importantly addressing Important Bird Areas. "What WBCI has done is take the first step - identify these crucial sites," he says. "Now we need to build on that and bring our partners into working to advocate on behalf of the IBAs to better protect and enhance them."
Other high priority actions call for:
* Securing third-party funding for a WBCI coordinator, and identifying the position's organizational home. The coordinator was critical in driving the partnership's past success and filling that vacancy will allow more on-the-ground conservation work and public outreach.
* Finishing the Breeding Bird Atlas II, a 5-year effort to survey bird abundance and distribution. Results will help guide land management and other conservation actions for the next generation.
* Continuing citizen-based surveys for nocturnal birds and marsh birds, some of the most secretive birds and those for which there had been little information until WBCI began organizing volunteer efforts.
* Identifying gaps in monitoring and research and providing coordinated research and monitoring to aid in developing strategies for stemming declines in select species.
* Continue hosting annual conferences to build capacity and commitment to WBCI goals, and continue developing white papers to increase public understanding of risks to birds and how to reduce them.
Jaeger says that by working together to carry out these high priority actions and a slate of secondary actions, "we believe WBCI will significantly advance conservation of all native bird species, including the 21 percent of species with low or declining populations."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

First case of CWD reported in Marinette County

MADISON - Due to the detection of chronic wasting disease in a captive white-tailed deer, Marinette County is now listed as a CWD-affected county and a baiting and feeding prohibition is in effect.
This represents Marinette County's first known occurrence of the disease.
Florence County is within a 10-mile radius of the breeding farm on which this positive deer was found. State law requires that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources enact a ban on feeding and baiting of deer in counties or portions of counties within a 10-mile radius of a captive or free-roaming domestic or wild animal that tests positive for CWD or tuberculosis. As of July, baiting and feeding of deer will be prohibited in 43 Wisconsin counties including the additions of Marinette and Florence.
The location of this positive is also within a 10-mile radius of Forest County, thereby renewing the baiting and feeding ban in that county.
Individuals may still feed birds and small mammals, provided the feeding devices are within 50 yards of a human dwelling and at a sufficient height or design to prevent access by deer.
For more information regarding baiting and feeding regulations and CWD in Wisconsin, and how to have adult deer tested during the 2018/2019 hunting seasons, visit the department's website, dnr.wi.gov, and search "baiting and feeding" and "CWD sampling" respectively. To report a sick deer on the landscape, search keywords "sick deer" or contact a local wildlife biologist.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Blue-green algae bloom season is here

MADISON - Heavy rains and high temperature are fueling the growth of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, in water bodies around the state, so the Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources and Health Services are teaming up to present an informational webinar about the health risks of blue-green algae. Some blue-green algae can cause illnesses for people and animals who accidentally ingest or inhale it, or have prolonged skin contact with the algae.
The webinar is July 16 at noon. Participants can log on to learn more about blue-green algae and its health effects, how to differentiate blue-green algae from other algae and ways to stay safe this summer when spending time on the water. People may participate through the DNR media website.
"Blue-green algae are in all lakes and rivers in Wisconsin, but they only become a problem when they grow to high concentrations, called blooms, on some water bodies," said Gina LaLiberte, DNR statewide blue-green algae coordinator. "Actively growing blooms are usually green and have a 'pea soup' appearance, but blooms may also appear as blue, white, red, or brown scums that may be foamy or in mats."
While not all blue-green algae produce toxins, the presence of blue-green algae blooms in lakes, ponds or rivers may indicate a potential health hazard, LaLiberte said.
"One easy way to identify potential risk from blue-green algae is that if adults are in knee-deep water and can see their feet clearly, the risk of acute illness is low to moderate for adults, but it's still a good idea to choose the clearest water possible for small children and dogs, and to avoid swallowing water that could contain other bacteria, viruses and parasites," LaLiberte said. "When you can't see your feet, keep children and dogs out of the water and consider having the whole family pursue another activity that day."
Public health officials encourage people to avoid swallowing any water and to always wash off after swimming in any lake, pond or river. Dogs should always be rinsed off with clean water to remove algae from their coat. If people have any doubts about the appearance of water, they should stay out. They should ensure that children and pets do not swim in or drink water with a blue-green algae bloom.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, common symptoms of exposure to toxic blue-green algae blooms include rashes, gastrointestinal ailments and respiratory irritation. People experiencing symptoms that may be due to blue-green algal exposure should contact their health care provider or the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Animals have a higher risk of dying after exposure to blue-green algal toxins because they are smaller in size and may ingest large amounts of toxins from drinking lake, pond, or river water or licking algae from their coat. Symptoms in dogs can include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or even seizures. If your animal shows any of these symptoms contact your veterinarian immediately.
People are also encouraged to report potential algae-related illnesses in both people and animals to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services by filling out the Harmful Algae Bloom Illness or Sighting Survey or by calling 608-266-1120.
To help track the occurrence of blooms around the state, blooms may be reported to the DNR at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Descriptions of bloom size, duration, location with lake, town and county name, and photos for verification are particularly helpful.
Blooms tend to grow when there is a lot of sunlight, water temperatures are high, and there is little wind. In Wisconsin, blooms typically peak from July through September.
More information is available by searching the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for "blue-green algae."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Wisconsin's Great Waters photo contest winners crowned

MADISON - Nine photographers earned top honors for their entries in the Department of Natural Resources' tenth annual "Wisconsin's Great Waters" photography contest.
Their photos will be featured in the 16-month calendar that the DNR Office of Great Waters produces each year. A new video highlights all the winning photos. Details about the contest, along with all of this year's contest entries, can be found on the Office of Great Waters page of the DNR website.
Mark Straub of New Berlin, Michael Knapstein of Middleton, John Sullivan of La Crosse and Cheryl Bougie of Green Bay earned first-place honors in the contest's four categories.
Philip Schwarz of Menomonie, Kelly Johnson of Eau Claire, John Cardamone of Bloomington IL, Scott Pearson of Eagle River and Toben Lafrancois of Cornucopia grabbed second place for their photographs.
Photographers from across Wisconsin and beyond submitted more than 200 beautiful photos of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and the Mississippi River. This is the first year that the Office of Great Waters included the Mississippi River in the contest.
Along with the annual photo contest, the DNR coordinates a "Wisconsin's Great Waters" writing project and received 16 submissions this year which can be found on the Office of Great Waters website. They include descriptions of stewardship efforts, poems, short stories and other creative pieces. This year's writing project entries will be featured in the calendar as well according to Susan Tesarik, the Office of Great Waters water specialist who coordinates the contest.
The 2018-2019 Wisconsin's Great Waters calendar will be available this later this summer at DNR regional offices and state parks.
"The annual photo contest and writing project is a fun way to share the many ways we interact with and value the Great Lakes and Mississippi River," said Office of Great Waters Director, Steve Galarneau. "As these photos and writings clearly show, the Great Lakes and Mississippi River are among Wisconsin's most cherished natural resources."
DNR's Office of Great Waters is currently accepting writings and photos of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and the Mississippi River for next year's contest. "Wisconsin's Great Waters" photo contest and writing project information and submission instructions can be found on the Office of Great Waters website. Visit dnr.wi.gov and search "Great Waters Photo Contest."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Proposal would open 35 miles of state forest roads to motorized access for hunting

BOULDER JUNCTION, WI - The public has an opportunity to submit comments on a proposal to open 35 miles of existing roads in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest to motorized access from Sept 1, to the last day of the December four-day antlerless gun-deer season to provide additional access for fall hunting opportunities.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking comment on an "Implementation Plan for Motorized Access for Fall Hunting." Public comment period is open from July 9-23.
The state Natural Resources Board amended the NHAL master plan in October 2017, to included elements related to road access and fall hunting use.
The implementation plan proposes 35 miles of existing roads to be opened to provide additional access for fall hunting opportunities from Sept. 1 to the last day of the December 4-day antlerless gun-deer season, which this year is Dec. 9. None of the proposed roads connect to all-terrain vehicle or utility vehicle trails, routes, or Town roads designated as ATV/UTV routes, therefore ATV/UTV use is not proposed at this time.
Roads would be opened in two phases: Phase one, 21 miles opened Sept 1, 2018, and Phase two, 14 miles opened in 2019. Roads proposed to be opened are existing forest management roads used frequently for management activities. The road base and footprint exists and located on dry ground. The vast majority of proposed roads are located in forest product management areas and currently used for management purposes throughout the year.
The public can review the proposed implementation plan and comment online by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "Northern Highland" and clicking on the tab for "management and business."
Established in 1925 to protect the headwaters of the Wisconsin, Flambeau and Manitowish rivers, the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest is the largest state forest, occupying more than 232,000 acres in northern Wisconsin. The forest provides employment and economic support to rural and urban communities through the production of forest products, recreation and tourism.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Limited quantities of tree seedlings available

EAGLE RIVER, WI - Trees For Tomorrow (TFT) has a limited number of tree seedlings remaining for public purchase.
Seedlings cost $1.50 per seedling and are available until inventory runs out, typically at the end of summer or early fall.Since 1945, TFT has offered quality tree seedlings to the public at an affordable rate to encourage people to give back to nature by planting trees.“To reverse deforestation in northern Wisconsin, Trees For Tomorrow offered two seedlings for every tree cut,“ said Juli Welnetz, office manager. “The purpose was to encourage land owners to plant trees and practice sound forest management principles. We’re proud to be able to continue this tradition today.”
Tree species are carefully selected to match the local climate in which they are being planted. Heartier varieties do well in the sandy soils found in much of Wisconsin. Trees For Tomorrow’s 2-year-old seedlings include red (Norway) pine, white pine, a white spruce hybrid and northern white cedar. Each containerized seedling has been grown in its own “cell” in nutrient-rich soils and have better survival rates than bare-root seedlings.  “The seedlings can even be kept in their containers for weeks prior to planting if watered regularly,” Welnetz said. Trees can be planted almost anywhere. They naturally enhance the air quality, reduce noise and help improve water quality. Trees are an important commodity in tourist areas that rely on natural resources to draw outdoor enthusiasts.For more information or to place an order, call (715) 479-6456, ext. 226, between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Please place your order in advance so it will be ready for you when you arrive. Orders can be shipped for an additional fee. Proceeds support educational programs at Trees For Tomorrow.Trees For Tomorrow is an accredited nonprofit natural resources specialty school that serves school groups throughout Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois. TFT’s mission is to promote sustainable management of our natural resources through transformative educational experiences.

SOURCE: Trees for Tomorrow