Water safety always begins with a life jacket

MADISON, Wis. – With more than 15,000 lakes and 84,000 miles of rivers and streams, thousands of Wisconsinites and visitors flock to shorelines for a chance to get on the water.
What makes for a fun activity can also quickly turn dangerous.
In Wisconsin, 89% of the 2019 boat fatalities were not wearing life jackets. Nationwide, that statistic from national groups is more than 90%.
So far this year, the Department of Natural Resources has documented 14 deaths related to boating activity. Four remain under investigation. The 10 confirmed incidents involved capsized vessels, falling overboard or the individual voluntarily leaving the boat. Nine of the 10 individuals were not wearing life jackets. In one case, the victim had a jacket on – but it was incorrectly secured.
“Our hearts break for the families and friends of those who don't make it home,” said DNR Chief Conservation Warden Casey Krueger. “These are painful reminders to remember your safety when you plan an outing that involves any Wisconsin waterbody.”
The DNR reminds the public to include safety measures when planning activities near and in bodies of water. Water safety tips stem from a foundational belief of having respect for the rivers and lakes and their shores. Be smart and stay aware because potential danger is often not visible to the human eye.
“When on, or even near the water, always have an eye on safety. A life jacket can be the assurance your loved ones will make it home,” Krueger said. “Put on your life jacket before you get in the boat, or your canoe, or your kayak or paddleboard or wade along the shoreline. Keep it on until you get back to land. Once your life jacket is on, you can focus on the fun.”The DNR does not track all drownings – only those fatalities linked to the use of a recreational activity item, such as a boat, kayak or canoe. Boating incident reports to date for 2020 and previous years, as well as the annual overall recreational incidents, can be found on the DNR website by clicking on "Annual Reports."
Life jackets will keep you on top of the water if you walk off an unexpected drop-off, a current overpowers you or you fall out of a boat. Putting on a life jacket before wading, playing along shores or getting in a boat gets you ready to focus on the fun.
“There are jackets designed for various sports. I wear one that is so comfortable that I can forget I have it on. The notion that you can put it on as an emergency is happening is unrealistic. Things can go wrong in an instant,” said DNR Recreation Warden Jason Roberts. “Wardens have responded to numerous drowning deaths only to find a life jacket stuffed inside a kayak or floating near the capsized canoe. Or in some cases, the person voluntarily leaves the vessel without a jacket, and fails to make it back.”

* Enjoy the waters sober and know your limits. Alcohol blurs a person’s judgment, reaction time and abilities. If you are a poor swimmer sober, you are worse with alcohol in your system.
* River shorelines and sandbars pose unseen dangers. Higher, fast-moving water also can tax an individual’s boating, paddling and swimming skills. What may look like a flat, inviting river or stream, may disguise a fast-moving current pulling debris out of your sight and under the surface – and could put you in danger without a lot of warning.
* Rivers present continually changing conditions – most often choreographed by the ever-changing currents. Currents are powerful forces that can reconfigure shorelines, carry and hide debris, and construct or destroy sandbars that otherwise look solid.
Wear a life jacket as you explore any shoreline.
* Waves and currents can overpower a person of any size. Currents not easily noticeable standing on the shore can be strong enough to overpower a person and make even the strongest of swimmers unable to swim against it.
* Keep an eye on the weather and let someone know where you are going.
* Paddleboarders should be competent swimmers and need to wear a life jacket. Wisconsin and U.S. Coast Guard law treats paddleboards the same as kayaks and canoes. This means there must be a personal flotation device for each person on board. However, the best way to obey this law and to ensure your safety is to just wear the life jacket.
* Take a safety class. It is easy to complete. It's fun, quick and online – and more than worth your time.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Refuge trapping permits to be issued by mail

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge  announced that refuge special use permits and trap tags for the 2020-2021 furbearer trapping season will be issued by mail.
Trappers who received trap tags and returned their fur catch report for the 2019-2020 season will receive instructions for obtaining their permit and tags at the address listed on their permit. New trappers should contact the office nearest them to request an application packet.
Offices are located at the following: Winona District, Pools 4, 5, 5A and 6 Phone 507-454-7351 La Crosse District, Pools 7 and 8 Phone 608-779-2399 McGregor District, Pools 9, 10, and 11 Phone 608-306-0024 Savanna District, Pools 12, 13, and 14 Phone: 815-273-2732.
Regulations require that trappers possess a refuge permit and trap tags as well as a valid 2020-2021 state trapping license to trap furbearers on the refuge.
Each trapper will receive 40 trap tags with their permit. All traps placed on the refuge must have a tag attached.
Refuge trapping permits are issued for a fee of $30.00 for trappers 18 years or older and $5.00 for trappers under age 18. Only checks can be accepted.
Trappers who did not return their fur catch report for the 2019-2020 season will not be issued a trapping permit for this year.
Additional information can be found in the Refuge’s Furbearer Management Plan available on the web at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/upper_mississippi_river/ or by contacting one of the District offices.

SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Whitewater State Park campground getting upgrade

One of Minnesota’s most popular state parks is getting an upgrade this summer to better serve campers, thanks to state bonds and dedicated funds from the Parks and Trails Legacy Amendment.
Whitewater State Park is located midway between Rochester and Winona. Work began in April on the park’s Cedar Hill Campground.
When the project is completed by the end of this year, the campground will feature:
* A new accessible shower building with a solar thermal hot water system, LED lights, and low flow fixtures to reduce energy and water demands.
* Four new accessible vault toilets.
* Additional accessible campsites and longer parking spurs at campsites to accommodate the larger recreational vehicles.
* Upgraded electrical service at campsites in the Upper Cedar loops.
* Improved drainage and storm-water management.
* Tree and shrub plantings to provide more screening and shade.
* A new campground septic system.
* New paved roads, designed with better traffic flow to minimize camper disturbance.
The $3.98 million Cedar Hill campground upgrade is being paid for by the constitutionally dedicated Legacy Fund (55 percent), and state asset preservation bonds (45 percent).
The project is the next step in a comprehensive redesign of the park’s campgrounds to enhance campers’ experiences while eliminating the hazards associated with flash flooding on the Whitewater River. This effort began in 2011 and has included decommissioning of the Gooseberry Glen Campground and establishment of a new Minneiska Campground.
With its shady valleys, dramatic bluffs, miles of hiking trails and excellent trout fishing all within a relatively short drive of the Twin Cities and Rochester, the 2,700-acre Whitewater State Park consistently ranks among the top 10 most visited Minnesota state parks. To learn more about camping and other recreational opportunities in Minnesota, visit the DNR website.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Botanists identify, contain new invasive grass in La Crosse

The serendipitous discovery of an aggressive invasive grass never before documented in Wisconsin sparked a rapid response effort in July culminating with Department of Natural Resources staff and partners surveying the property and hand-pulling small patches of the plants and spraying larger patches with herbicide.
As a result, invasive species experts believe the invasive species, Japanese stilt grass, is contained on the Coulee Experimental State Forest in La Crosse County.
"We were very fortunate the Japanese stilt grass was spotted early by a person familiar with the plant and who knew how to report it," said Kelly Kearns, DNR invasive plant specialist. "As a result, we were able to get out there and get on it. This was a textbook example of early detection and control, and why citizen reports of invasive species are so important."
Kearns calls on users of the property to keep an eye out for this highly invasive grass. To identify possible Japanese silt grass, take a closeup photo of the plant, collect a specimen of the entire plant, and check the identification and resources tab on the DNR Japanese stilt grass web page to make sure it is the right species and not a look-alike.
Japanese stilt grass likely will only be found in shaded forests or forest edges, along roads, trails or streams. The key identification features are a silvery stripe of hairs down the middle of the leaf's upper surface and wiry stems.
The plant can be reported through the Great Lakes Early Detection Network cell phone app or people can send an email with its location, population size and closeup photo to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Japanese stilt grass is an annual grass that produces seed in just one year, allowing it to gain a foothold in forests very quickly and blanket the forest floor within a few years. Stilt grass chokes out native plants, harms wildlife habitat and reduces tree seedling survival. Patches of stilt grass also create a highly flammable fuel source potentially leading to bigger and more intense wildfires.
The grass has been found and is spreading in all states east and south of Wisconsin except for Maine. It is listed as a prohibited species in Wisconsin under Wis. Adm. Code ch. NR 40. Control efforts are required for prohibited species and it is illegal to buy, sell or transport.

The right person at the right time
Amanda Weise, a botanist for the University of Minnesota, was volunteering for the DNR's Rare Plant Monitoring Program on a weekend and saw the invasive grass. Until this July, Japanese stilt grass hadn't been found in Wisconsin.
Weise, who is originally from New England, was very familiar with Japanese stilt grass. She collected and pressed a specimen of the plant, took photos and checked EDDMaps, an invasive species tracking website. She found that there were no verified reports yet in Wisconsin and submitted her report via the EDDMaps app on her phone.
Because the site was on a state forest and immediately adjacent to a State Natural Area, the DNR was able to quickly respond by sending staff to carefully survey all the roads, trails and streams in the area. Weise was on site and gave DNR staff a quick identification lesson. Staff flagged every patch, recorded its coordinates and hand-pulled small patches.
Larger patches along the road and parking area were sprayed by DNR State Natural Area crew members. They will return every year to re-survey and treat the area until no more plants are found.

Clean shoes, gear and report invasive species
Because there are no other known local sources of Japanese stilt grass, the plant was likely accidentally brought to the site on the shoes or gear of a hunter or hiker coming from an infested area in another state. The seeds can spread down streams and get caught in tires, boots and the feet of animals, moving along trails and roads.
Kearns asks people to keep a boot brush in their car and clean off their shoes, gear and pets before and after a hike to prevent the accidental spread of seed.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Zebra mussels confirmed in Itasca County's Bowstring Lake

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed zebra mussels in Bowstring Lake, located mostly within the Leech Lake Reservation in Itasca County.
Itasca County invasive species staff contacted the DNR after finding two adult zebra mussels attached to old, submerged tires in separate locations outside reservation waters on the northeast side of the lake. DNR invasive species specialists determined that at least one of the mussels had likely been in the lake for more than one year.
A subsequent survey of the entire north shore of Bowstring Lake by Itasca County invasive species staff revealed a number of adult zebra mussels. Their distribution was described as “widespread but not numerous,” suggesting early detection.
Water from Bowstring Lake flows into Sand Lake and eventually into the Bigfork River and north to Hudson Bay. Zebra mussels were confirmed in Sand Lake in 2013 and have been confirmed downstream nearly 20 miles in recent years. Navigation from Sand Lake to Bowstring is not common, due to the nature of the connecting river and water levels. The DNR and Itasca County invasive species programs have paid close attention to Bowstring Lake because of its close proximity to waters where zebra mussels were previously confirmed.   
The DNR has contacted the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe with information about the confirmed zebra mussels.
Whether or not a lake is listed as infested, Minnesota law requires boaters and anglers to:
* Clean watercraft and trailers of aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species.
* Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keeping them out during transport.
* Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.

Some invasive species are small and difficult to see at the access. To remove or kill them, take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another waterbody:     
* Spray with high-pressure water.
* Rinse with very hot water (120 degrees for at least two minutes or 140 degrees for at least 10 seconds).
* Dry for at least five days.
Zebra mussels can compete with native species for food and habitat, cut the feet of swimmers, reduce the performance of boat motors, and cause expensive damage to water intake pipes.
People should contact a Minnesota DNR aquatic invasive species specialist if they think they have found zebra mussels or any other invasive species.
More information is available at mndnr.gov/ais.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Winners announced in Friends of the Refuge Headwaters photo contest

Winners in four categories were chosen by judges in the Friends of the Refuge Headwaters’ (FORH) Winter on our Refuge Photo Contest.
Submitted photos were taken on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge or Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge.

Results are:
Scenic Views of the Refuge
1st: Entrance to the Refuge by Theresa Kuschel of La Crescent, MN.
2nd: Fresh Snow by Meg Hurkman of Winona, MN.
3rd: Snow Dunes by Lisa Reid of Trempealeau, WI.

Wildlife and Plants of the Refuge
1st: Trumpeter on a Chilly Morning by Lisa Reid of Trempealeau.
2nd: Immature Eagle, Fairest of Them All by Deb Newquist of La Crosse.
3rd: Tundra Takeoff by Deb Newquist of La Crosse.

Connecting People with Nature on the Refuge
1st: Kick Sledding by Denise Vujnovich of La Crosse.
2nd: Bench by Meg Hurkman of Winona.
3rd: Snowshoe by Deedee Nadeau of Winona.

Young Nature Photographers
1st: Blinded by the Light by Lewis Shira of Winona.
2nd: Boy in the Treetops by Milana Shira of Winona.
3rd: Melting of the Mississippi by Milana Shira of Winona.

Winning photos will be on display at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge on the second floor of 102 Walnut Street in Winona, MN beginning August 5. Additional exhibitions at other locations will be announced.  
Friends of the Refuge Headwaters are a citizen-based, non-profit organization that partners with and supports the Winona District of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in meeting the refuge vision and goals.

SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Green Tier program celebrates milestone anniversaries

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is celebrating the milestone anniversaries of its Green Tier participants.
Companies that participate in Green Tier help the DNR work toward its vision of protecting and managing our state’s natural resources while supporting the economy and well-being of Wisconsin residents. Participating organizations use a systematic approach to minimize the environmental risks of their work and align their business objectives with environmental stewardship.
“I am impressed by the ingenuity of Green Tier participants in finding opportunities to reduce their environmental impacts while finding efficiencies and value for their business,” said DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole. “These organizations not only meet their environmental requirements but they also went above and beyond in finding ways to improve their footprint and protect Wisconsin’s natural resources.”
We celebrate the milestone anniversaries of the following Green Tier participants:

15 years
Holsum Dairies LLC – Irish Dairy, Hilbert
Veridian Homes, Madison

10 years
3M, Cumberland Cardinal IG (SGIG), Spring Green
Cortec Spray Technologies, Spooner
Cortec Coated Products, Eau Claire
Legacy Communities Charter, Statewide
Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs, Statewide

5 years
Durr Universal, Inc., Stoughton & Muscoda
Kimberly-Clark – Neenah Cold Spring Facility, Neenah
Michels Corporation, Brownsville
Waupaca Foundry, Waupaca
Wisconsin Printing Industry Superior Environmental Performance Charter, Statewide

View the full list of Green Tier participants and learn about their continual environmental improvement efforts on the DNR website.
The DNR would like to thank those celebrating these milestones this year and all participants for their efforts supporting Green Tier and protecting Wisconsin’s natural resources.
Green Tier is a voluntary program for Wisconsin organizations. The program empowers and provides credible recognition to organizations who are on the path to sustainability by helping them use a systematic approach to minimize environmental risk. Green Tier adds value by helping align business objectives with environmental stewardship.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR