Prescribed burns spark better future for rare ecosystems

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources  completed a record number of prescribed burns within state natural areas in the fall to maintain and care for some of Wisconsin’s rarest ecosystems and a site containing significant effigy mounds.
These carefully-planned prescribed burns stimulate native plants and control invasive species. Prescribed burns are the most efficient way for the DNR to maintain state natural areas (SNAs) harboring remnant prairies, savannas and barrens.
“The fall of 2020 represented one of the best fall burn seasons that crew members can remember,” said Joe Henry, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Field Operations Team Leader. “It’s a milestone year.”
Altogether, DNR staff conducted 59 total burns in SNAs in 2020, 45 of them in the fall, representing 2,357 of the 2,994 acres impacted. Henry said these efforts helped make up for lost ground during the spring season when most burns were canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“There were some extended stretches of weather when it was dry, which created opportunities you usually don’t see in the fall,” Henry said. “DNR staff are so dedicated and passionate about prescribed burning, they made the most of the time.”
The fall prescribed burns followed additional safety protocols to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The DNR’s burn staff also modified their protocols to reduce smoke inhalation risks by crew members and area residents. These protocols included burning when weather conditions would not trap smoke low to the ground and ensuring they were fully extinguished by dusk.
Most of the SNAs where prescribed burning occurred were grasslands, which are among the rarest ecosystems in Wisconsin and globally. Less than 1% of the original acreage of prairies, oak savanna and barrens remain in Wisconsin. Historically, wildfires kept brush and trees from becoming overgrown and shading out the native grasses and wildflowers that many birds, pollinators and other wildlife need in these ecosystems.
 
Significant Effigy Mound site benefits from burns
One of the season’s highlights was a prescribed burn at the Orion Mussel Bed SNA on the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, which contains one of the best-preserved mound groups in Wisconsin.
Built by Native Americans during what archaeologists call the Late Woodland Period between A.D. 750 and A.D. 1000, the site features the Twin Lizards and Catfish mound groups, consisting of 15 mounds. The mounds include three birds, one bear, two lizards, one conical and eight linear mounds.
The DNR works with volunteers from the Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) to control brush and brambles overtaking the Twin Lizards site. The prescribed burn conducted by DNR crews from Fitchburg and the La Crosse area kill the brush above ground and help stimulate native plant growth.
Amy Alstad, Director of Land Management & Environmental Education at Holy Wisdom Monastery, resurveyed 47 prairies while a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin – originally studied by legendary Wisconsin botanist John Curtis – and found the value of prescribed burns for rare plant species and rare ecosystems. Based on Alstad’s research, native plant species which are vanishing at an accelerated rate best retain plant diversity and rare species when they receive regular prescribed burns.
 
More about SNAs and your tax form donation
State natural areas protect the best of Wisconsin prairies, forests, wetlands and other habitats that provide support for 90% of rare plant species and 75% of rare wildlife species.
Nearly all properties are open to the public to enjoy bird watching, hiking, hunting and fishing. However, most SNAs are largely undeveloped and do not have restrooms, trails and other facilities like state parks.
Although the DNR holds more than half of these sites in trusts for Wisconsinites, the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy and more than 50 other partners own and manage sites under a system established in 1951 spurred by Aldo Leopold and other Wisconsin conservation giants.
The DNR restoration and protection of SNAs are funded in large part through private donations, including gifts made through the Wisconsin income tax form. Donate today via your Wisconsin income tax form.
Donors' gifts are doubled by the state and help directly conserve rare species and SNAs. Look for the "donations" section on your tax form (line 21 on Form 1) or your tax preparation software and fill in an amount next to Endangered Resources. You can also let your tax preparer know you want to donate to the Endangered Resources Fund.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Environmental review set for City of Kenosha project

MADISON, Wis. – The City of Kenosha is an applicant for funding through the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP) to address deficiencies in its public drinking water system.
The project primarily includes the replacement of lead service lines throughout the City of Kenosha.
Activities related to this project are minor actions under Chapter NR 150, Wis. Admin. Code, for which no environmental analysis is required. However, following the SDWLP federal requirement 40 C.F.R. §35.3580, an environmental review must be conducted before funding this project. The SDWLP has determined that the project will not result in significant adverse environmental effects, and no further environmental review or analysis is needed before proceeding with funding the project.
The SDWLP is soliciting public comments regarding this decision and the potential environmental impacts of this project. Written or verbal comments are encouraged. Provide comments to: Kevin Olson, Community Financial Assistance, Department of Natural Resources, CF/2 101 S Webster St. PO Box 7921, Madison WI 53707 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The comment submission deadline is Feb. 10, 2021.
Based on the comments received, the SDWLP may prepare an environmental analysis before proceeding with the funding process. The analysis would summarize the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' consideration of the project's impacts and reasonable alternatives.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

DNR invites public input to enhance outdoor recreation

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invites the public to review and comment on a set of recommendations intended to bring measured growth, increased and equitable access, and a higher quality of outdoor recreation opportunities to Minnesotans and visitors.
The draft recommendations were developed by the Outdoor Recreation Task Force (ORTF), a diverse 21-member group selected by the DNR and Explore Minnesota following an open application process. The group's charge is to provide actionable recommendations to the DNR and Explore Minnesota on how to more effectively coordinate and advance outdoor recreation work statewide.
Task force members represent a broad and inclusive group of Minnesota’s outdoor recreation interests. The DNR and Explore Minnesota provided support to the ORTF as members discussed outdoor recreation needs and opportunities and developed their recommendations.
People can provide input on the draft ORTF recommendations through Monday, Feb. 15, on the DNR’s community engagement website. The engagement page includes the draft recommendations document and a questionnaire.
“The task force has worked hard over the last several months to develop recommendations to advance outdoor recreation work in Minnesota,” said Randolph Briley, special assistant to the DNR commissioner. “The DNR, Explore Minnesota and the ORTF look forward to hearing how these recommendations resonate with the public so that the ORTF’s final recommendations can best meet the needs of Minnesotans.”  
The ORTF has been meeting since April 2020 to create recommendations that enhance the state’s outdoor offerings. The task force’s goal is to propose thoughtful ideas that connect more Minnesotans to the health and wellness benefits of outdoor recreation, improve access to outdoor recreation and benefit the state’s economy by boosting recreation-related businesses.
“Recreation in Minnesota, including outdoor activities, is a major sector of the tourism economy in our state,” said Explore Minnesota Tourism director John Edman. “We’re eager to hear from people and learn about more ways to engage visitors with Minnesota’s outdoor recreation opportunities.”
All interested members of the public are encouraged to provide feedback on the ORTF recommendations. This input will move the state toward a more prosperous, accessible and equitable outdoor recreation community in Minnesota.
For questions about the task force, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To receive updates about the ORTF as the group reviews the public input and finalizes recommendations, register on the ORTF recommendations section of the DNR’s community engagement website.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


DNR accepting applications for fisheries, wildlife advisory committees

Minnesotans can apply to serve on committees that advise the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources about fisheries and wildlife topics.
The DNR seeks to fill open seats on the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee (MLFAC), and the Minnesota R3 Council.
MLFAC is the stakeholder group that advises the DNR on fisheries management for Mille Lacs Lake. Seats are available for a business representative and multiple at-large members. The advisory committee has representation from resorts, guides and other businesses; property owners; county government; DNR work groups that focus on walleye, bass, and northern pike and muskellunge; and other members of the public.
The group was established in 2015 to enhance two-way dialogue between the DNR and stakeholders about Mille Lacs Lake fisheries management.
The R3 Council is the public’s voice for recruiting, retaining, and reactivating hunters and anglers in Minnesota. Following a suggestion at a 2016 “R3 summit,” the DNR formed an advisory council to develop effective R3 strategies tailored for Minnesota. The group is guiding development of the first statewide R3 plan and includes representation from natural resources and community organizations, outdoor skills and education providers, local governments, and other members of the public.
The DNR will accept applications for both MLFAC and the R3 Council through Monday, Feb. 22. Committee and application information is available on the DNR’s MLFAC page and the R3 Council page. Applicants should review the charter for the group they are interested in joining – available on the respective application pages – and fill out an online application.
Members will serve two- to three-year terms and must commit to attending a majority of the committee’s quarterly meetings, which are currently conducted via videoconference. Each team and its work will benefit Minnesotans from all parts of the state and people of all backgrounds and geographies are encouraged to apply. Members will be selected with special emphasis on increasing committee diversity.
The application form also provides an opportunity to apply for other fisheries and wildlife advisory groups, such as the Deer Advisory Committee, that do not have seats currently open. Applications received on a rolling basis for these other communities will be reviewed as additional seats open up.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Environmental review on tap for Kaukauna safe drinking water project

MADISON, Wis. – The City of Kaukauna is an applicant for funding through the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP) to address deficiencies in its public drinking water system.
The project primarily includes the replacement of lead service lines throughout the City of Kaukauna.
Activities related to this project are minor actions under Chapter NR 150, Wis. Admin. Code, for which no environmental analysis is required; however, following the SDWLP federal requirement 40 C.F.R. §35.3580, an environmental review must be conducted before funding this project. The SDWLP has determined that the project will not result in significant adverse environmental effects, and no further environmental review or analysis is needed before proceeding with funding the project.
The SDWLP is soliciting public comments regarding this decision and the potential environmental impacts of this project. Written or verbal comments are encouraged. Provide comments to: Kevin Olson, Community Financial Assistance, Department of Natural Resources, CF/2 101 S Webster St. PO Box 7921, Madison WI 53707 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The comment submission deadline is Feb. 8, 2021.
Based on the comments received, the SDWLP may prepare an environmental analysis before proceeding with the funding process. The analysis would summarize the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' consideration of the project's impacts and reasonable alternatives.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


DNR seeks input on off-highway motorcycle trails master plan

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has initiated a statewide master planning project for off-highway motorcycle (OHM) trails.
As part of the planning process, members of the public are invited to provide comments regarding the desired types and locations of additional trails, any concerns about OHM trails and related issues. Both OHM riders and non-riders are encouraged to share their insights. Comments may be submitted via an online public input form, or by mail or email to DNR planner Joe Unger.
Local governments - such as cities, townships and counties - also are encouraged to provide input on potential opportunities or challenges related to OHM recreation in their area. Local governments wishing to participate may complete a separate online input form.
The public and local government input opportunities are open now through Feb. 15.   
The DNR will consider public and local government comments in drafting a master plan for OHM trails in Minnesota. The master plan will detail current use and trends of OHM riders in the state; describe the feedback received from Minnesotans; analyze and explore potential opportunities for expanded trails; identify any concerns needing attention; and identify strategies to guide the department’s management of OHM recreation.
Once the draft master plan is developed, there will be another opportunity for public comment.
For more information, visit the DNR’s off-highway motorcycle planning website. To sign up for the project contact list and receive updates for the project such as upcoming public meetings, contact planner Joe Unger at MN DNR Parks and Trails, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155; 651-605-5861; or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR releases latest sampling results for Madison area lakes

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources today announced the presence of elevated levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in surface water samples taken from Madison area lakes and along the Yahara River.
The DNR found elevated levels of PFAS in Lake Monona and Starkweather Creek in 2019, which resulted in a new PFAS fish consumption advisory for those two water bodies. The DNR collected surface water and fish samples in 2019 due to PFAS-containing stormwater leaving the Dane County airport into Starkweather Creek and Lake Monona.
Due to public safety concerns, the DNR collected additional surface water samples in 2020 on lakes Mendota, Monona, Upper Mud, Waubesa and Kegonsa, as well as along sections of the Yahara River between the lakes.
The DNR also collected samples from Lake Wingra and Nine Springs Creek. PFAS compounds were discovered throughout the areas sampled, many of those samples were at levels above what the DNR may consider acceptable.
PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals used for decades in numerous products, including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers and stain-resistant sprays. These legacy contaminants have made their way into the environment in a variety of ways, including spills of PFAS-containing materials, discharges of PFAS-containing wastewater to treatment plants and certain types of firefighting foams.
PFAS do not break down in the environment and have been discovered at concentrations of concern in groundwater, surface water and drinking water. PFAS are known to bio-accumulate in the tissues of fish and wildlife. They also accumulate in the human body and pose several risks to human health.
 
Surface Water Sampling
Lake Mendota was found to have values below 1.0 parts-per-trillion (ppt) for the PFAS compounds PFOS and PFOA. However, Lake Monona had values as high as 9.2 ppt PFOS and 2.4 ppt PFOA. Values for Upper Mud were 8.7 ppt PFOS and 2.3 ppt PFOA. Waubesa had levels of 7.8 ppt PFOS and 2.4 ppt PFOA, and Kegonsa 6.2 PFOS and 2.3 ppt PFOA.
Samples taken in 2020 were analyzed for 36 PFAS compounds, including PFOS and PFOA, at the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene.
“The sample results indicate that PFAS compounds are present in all of the Madison area lakes. Concentrations of PFAS compounds in Lake Mendota and Lake Wingra, located upstream of Lake Monona, have lower concentrations than Lake Monona and the subsequent downstream lakes and sections of the Yahara River,” said Adrian Stocks, DNR Water Quality Program Director. “Additionally, concentrations in Lake Monona of one particular PFAS compound, PFOS, were very similar to results from DNR sampling efforts of the lake in 2019.”
The 2019 samples showed 10 ppt to 12 ppt for PFOS and less than 3 ppt for PFOA. The DNR’s 2019 sampling of Starkweather Creek began following results of sampling completed at the Dane County Airport that showed elevated levels of PFAS. The stormwater system at the airport discharges to Starkweather Creek which ultimately enters Lake Monona near Olbrich Park. PFAS contamination was found in Starkweather Creek from its headwaters northeast and east of the airport, through its length to where it discharges into Lake Monona. PFOS concentrations ranged from less than 1 ppt to 3700 ppt.
There are known discharges of PFAS compounds to soil, surface water and groundwater on the airport property likely stemming from multiple responsible parties. The DNR has regulatory oversight in cases where there has been a discharge of a hazardous substance to the environment. The DNR is actively working with responsible parties to discuss next steps.
 
2020 Fish Tissue Sampling
The DNR continues to conduct comprehensive fish contaminant monitoring on the Yahara chain of lakes, targeting a variety of species for PFAS and other contaminants. Due to the time required to process and analyze fish tissue samples, the DNR expects the results of this testing are expected in spring 2021.
More information on how the DNR is addressing PFAS contamination in Wisconsin is available on the DNR website.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR