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Recently the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District received the prestigious "Take Pride in America National Volunteer Award for a Non-Profit Organization." Some of the group's members are pictured with the award.

Friends group lends helping hand to Wetland Management District

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It was three years ago that a group of conservation-minded individuals sat down with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Manager Tom Kerr to discuss ways in which to cooperate with the St. Croix Wetland Management District and help accomplish their goals as set forth by the National Wildlife System.

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Six months later, Articles of Incorporation were filed and the "Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District" (FSCWMD) was formed as a viable 501(c) (3) organization.

The goal of the FSCWMD as stated concisely in their mission statement is "to restore, protect, enhance and expand the land and natural resources managed by the St. Croix Wetland Management District. It is organized for the purpose of supporting, assisting, and promoting the St. Croix Wetlands Management District with interpretive, scientific, historical, recreational and educational activities and services throughout the eight-county district."

While the district encompasses eight counties, the large majority of the Waterfowl Productions Areas (WPAs) managed by the district are located in St. Croix, Polk and Dunn counties. Because of this, these three counties make up the focus area for FSCWMD but care is taken to include the other counties when and where possible with Friends group activities.

From the start, the Friends group set out to establish a "boots on the ground" style organization. Dues are set at a $10 annual fee but a $5 discount is given if a $15 federal duck stamp is purchased along with the membership. Funds generated from the purchase of duck stamps are used to purchase more waterfowl production areas.

Numerous partnerships and projects have been fostered over the short existence of the FSCWMD.

• "Friends and Neighbors Night Out" is an educational event that brings together neighbors and friends to view equipment, participate in nature walks and demonstrations and have any questions they may have answered.

• Each spring volunteers participate in waterfowl pair and brood surveys. Training sessions for waterfowl identification are held prior to the surveys. Data for these surveys are utilized to monitor waterfowl production over time and to document effective management practices. Songbird surveys are also held in local Bird Conservation Areas.

* Partnerships are formed with various conservation clubs to provide funding for the taxidermy of a variety of waterfowl species and other birds which are used as educational tools for wildlife identification. Hunters donate most of the waterfowl to be mounted. Mobile displays are provided to local libraries and other public locations. The exhibits are also available for use by local conservation organizations.

• The high school prairie plug program is a cooperative venture where New Richmond High School and middle school students grow prairie plant plugs in their school greenhouse as part of their agriculture class and FFA programs. The prairie plugs are used to help restore the biological diversity in local oak savanna and native prairie projects. Plugs are planted by the students on their annual High School Service Day.

• The FSCWMD have been the recipient of two National Wild Turkey Federation grants that have been used for oak savannah restoration and "Conservation Day on a WPA" events.

• A grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation provided funding for the writing and printing of a "Birding Auto Tour Guide." This guide highlights area WPAs and public land that provides quality viewing of both local and migratory wildlife.

• The Friends Group co-sponsor the annual "Conservation Day on a WPA" with Boy Scouts of America's Eagle River District and the St. Croix Wetland Management District. This year more than 500 scouts, parents, presenters and organizers were in attendance. Eighty one Scouts took advantage of the special invasive species merit badge being rolled out at the event.

• Numerous educational wildlife seasonal walks and outings are held each year and many public presentations by USF&WS staff and Friends Group members are given. All are open to the public. The Aldo Leopold's "Green Fire" was recently shown at the New Richmond's Gem Theater with narrative provided after the showing.

Recently the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District received the prestigious "Take Pride in America National Volunteer Award for a Non-Profit Organization." Each year, the award winners are selected by a panel of judges from hundreds of qualified nominations representing outstanding examples of stewardship across the country.

According to Assistant Secretary of the Interior Rhea Suh, "through their efforts over the past year, 468 people contributed 4,807 volunteer hours to the St. Croix Wetland Management District. These numbers are only a small measure of the success of the group - the real value is the involvement of over 450 people in the management and understanding of their Waterfowl Production Areas."

If you want to know more about the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District, visit their website at http://fscwmd.org or call 715-246-7784. You won't be disappointed.

Warden Paul's Corner

Safe use of ATVs

Several hunting seasons are currently open in Wisconsin, and many hunters are using all-terrain vehicles to assist them with accessing hunting areas, carrying game out of the field and transporting hunting equipment.

Some of the main complaints received involve ATVs being operated in unauthorized areas on public lands. Hunters need to know if they are on county, state or national forest lands, and they need to contact the appropriate office ahead of time to find out the rules and laws regarding ATV use.

Other important safety and law reminders include:

• Always wear a DOT approved helmet. Hunters are more apt to come across low hanging branches; uneven or steep terrain. Serious injuries and death can occur even at the slowest of speeds.

• Complete an ATV safety course. All riders at least age 12 and born after Dec. 31, 1987 must complete a course prior to operating an ATV. This course may be completed either in a classroom or over the internet.

• Just as with other vehicles, firearms and bows must be fully unloaded and enclosed in a carrying case.

• Remove mud, dirt and any vegetation from your ATV before using it in other areas. ATVs can easily transport invasive plant species or seeds that are harmful to local habitats.

• Do not operate in or around waterways or wetlands. ATVs are only allowed to cross waterways at bridges, roads or legal fords. ATV use in these areas is illegal and causes serious habitat damage that is very costly to repair.

For any questions, call Warden Paul Sickman at 715-684-2914, ext. 120.

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