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Harold Baillargeon took these photos of the 16 trumpeter swans on the Apple River last week. His wife, Ilene, said there were a number of waterfowl species congregating on the river due to early melt.

Sportsmen invited to provide input on proposals

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This year's Spring Hearings will have a slightly different spin to it. It is scheduled for April 9 starting at 7 p.m. in all 72 of Wisconsin's counties but the Department of Natural Resources portion will be informational only with no real rule changes being presented to be voted on.

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Several very interesting advisory questions will be asked, however, and the results could steer the DNR in a whole new direction moving forward.

The meeting will start off with county delegate elections, followed by DNR Wildlife, Fisheries and Natural Resource Board advisory questions.

Citizen resolutions will then be taken from the floor. Voting on these will follow and, if passed, will move on through the normal rule making process. The Conservation Congress advisory questions will then be presented.

Following all this, the Conservation Congress will hold a town meeting to get input from citizens on ways to simplify the regulations and eliminate barriers to hunting and fishing. With the use of the electronic ballots for voting, the meeting should move smoothly.

The DNR and Conservation Congress questions are standard fare and cover the normal run of subjects that have come out of past Spring Hearings resolutions and are fairly straight forward. Changes in the archery antlerless permit process, creation of a public versus private antlerless deer harvest system, use of crossbows for bear and turkey hunting, a sandhill crane season and statewide motor trolling are a few of the more interesting offerings.

The ones that I find intriguing and a bit troublesome are those that are formulated by the Natural Resource Board. The rules and regulations for hunting, fishing and the environment that we presently have in place have evolved over the years making Wisconsin one of the best states in the nation for promoting and conserving its natural resources. If something isn't working we redefine it until it does work.

The process overall may be considered slow by some but the process works with protecting the resource the prime objective. I feel change is good but thought and deliberation must be maintained before drastic change knocks us back into the stone age of resource management.

St. Croix County's hearing will begin at 7 p.m. sharp on April 9 and again will be held at St. Croix Central High School Commons, 1751 Broadway St., Hammond. This is a great opportunity to have your ideas heard.

Early Spring?

With our unusually early spring weather, abnormal behavior of both plants and animals can be expected. Reports of a wide variety of early avian sightings are coming in.

Mergansers, buffleheads, wood ducks and other waterfowl are already passing through to areas further north. Robins are back in full force and the turkeys are gobbling in the roost each morning.

Migrant birds are showing up at feeders and fields a month early. Low snowfall and warmer temperatures this winter have caused many geese and trumpeter swans to overwinter in the area. Each evening hundreds of geese can be viewed flying in from their feeding areas going to roost sites.

Because of open water and abundant food available all winter they never left to move south. They are now pairing up so the area may have a bumper crop of goslings this year. Too much of a good thing can be a very bad thing.

Each spring, migrating waterfowl stage on open ponds awaiting open water further north. This is the time when just about every species of duck can be seen as they patiently await ponds to the north to thaw to continue on the next leg of their journey. Because of early ice out, these visitors may just blow through this area not providing that window of waterfowl viewing opportunity.

Trees are starting to bud a month early. Maple syrup production needs cold nights and warm days to provide peak product. Warm nights and warmer days just don't cut it.

Ice out can come early causing water to warm prematurely. This can negatively affect spawning success and corresponding poor year classes lead to reduced catchable fish in future years.

Spring is my favorite time of year, but an early spring can have strange consequences.

Seasonal Wetland

By Tom Kerr

USF&WS

Just a few days ago, I went with Caitlin Smith, St. Croix WMD's private lands biologist, to visit one of the seasonal wetland basins restored through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. Through this program, sometimes called the Service's Private Lands Program, we work in partnership with landowners to restore wetland and grassland habitat on their property.

Seasonal wetland basins are an important part of the landscape but they were easily drained or filled. These small, shallow basins, often referred to as ephemeral wetlands, vernal pools or seasonal wetlands, provide important habitat for many species of wildlife. These shallow wetlands, often less than 18 inches deep, typically hold water during only a portion of the year. Usually, they fill up with spring snow melt or rains and are dry by early summer.

Although they only hold water for a relatively short period of time, they are extremely important to many species of wildlife. Waterfowl, especially breeding hens, rely on these basins to fuel up on high energy, protein rich invertebrates that are necessary for egg production.

But if you only look at these basins from a distance, you may miss many species that can only be seen up close or can only be heard because they are so secretive. Frogs, toads and salamanders rely on these small shallow basins for breeding and use the surrounding uplands for feeding.

Some species that may be found in our area include wood frog, spotted salamander, spring peeper and chorus frog. Many of these species are slowly disappearing from the landscape since their wetland breeding habitat is being destroyed, either filled in or so altered by runoff that they have poor water quality.

If you are interested in restoring drained or altered wetlands on your property, the Fish and Wildlife Service Partners program can help with habitat restoration. Through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, landowners can enter into a 10-year agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service to restore drained wetlands on their property. Depending on the size of the project, there is usually no cost to the landowner.

If you are interested in learning more about the program and discussing a potential restoration project, contact Caitlin Smith, private lands biologist at the St. Croix Wetland Management District, for a free consultation at 715-246-7784, ext. 115. You can also email her at caitlin_smith@fws.gov.

Restoration of these small seasonal wetland basins is an important step in providing habitat for many species of wildlife, not just the common species that we can see from the road. For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check out our website at www.fws.gov/mid west/stcroix/ or check us out on Facebook by searching for St. Croix Wetland Management District.

Warden Paul's Corner

Leftover Spring Turkey Permits

Remaining permits for the 2012 spring turkey hunting season will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis starting March 19. Leftover permits will be first issued for sale by zone, one zone per day, with each zone having a designated sales date.

Any remaining leftover permits for all zones will go on sale Saturday, March 24, and will continue until sold out or the season ends. The schedule is:

Zone 1 - Monday, March 19

Zone 2 - Tuesday, March 20

Zone 3 - Wednesday, March 21

Zone 4 - Thursday, March 22

Zone 5 & Zone 6 & Zone 7 - Friday, March 23

Any permits still remaining for all zones - Saturday, March 24

Deer Hunter Forum

Anyone interested in the opportunity to discuss local deer management issues, hunting seasons, and any other deer topic is encouraged to attend. The St. Croix and Pierce counties meeting will be held on Saturday, March 24, at Peace Lutheran Church, located at Highway 63 and County Road N (1/2 mile south of I-94), Baldwin, from 9 a.m. until noon. For more information contact Mike Soergel at 715-684-2914, ext. 111.

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