Wisconsin trout programs share success stories
On Sept. 18 I attended the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Trout Committee meeting held in Viroqua.
Over the past 20-plus years, a concerted effort has been made to move the Trout Committee meeting locations around the state to selected areas where new and innovative things are happening on the cold water related front. Novel management practices have been highlighted, with demonstrations ranging from beaver control to feral trout introductions on the tours that followed the meetings.
Committee members can then take the information they gleaned from these tours back to the groups they represent and perhaps implement them locally.
Members also have a chance to fish some of the local streams before and after the meeting. This year was no exception and, following a very productive Friday night meeting, our Saturday tour highlighted the Neproud Property at the confluence of Spring Valley Creek and Coon Creek in Vernon County.
Over the three-hour course of the Friday committee meeting, we addressed a number of issues and reviewed four resolutions that were presented at the 2009 Spring Hearings. From these resolutions the committee deliberated, then formulated two advisory questions that will appear on the 2010 Spring Questionnaire if approved by the Executive Council at their meeting in January.
One topic suggested public input on extending the inland trout season until Oct. 31 and the second concerned opening the inland trout season a week prior to the regular fishing season, which opens the Saturday closest to May 1.
The next day we formed a caravan from our meeting location and drove the short distance to our first tour stop to observe the cooperative project funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Services, Trout Unlimited and the Department of Natural Resources. It is a project which combines non-game and game species habitat restoration that will also benefit trout.
The effort incorporates many different types of expertise and a variety of research that will monitor the effects of the project on many different species of both plants and animals. Molded into the project plan is the creation of reptile and amphibian sanctuaries and restored prairie habitat. Removal and terracing of the 15 feet of top soil deposited from the top of the coulees over the past 100 years will also prevent further erosion. This is a win-win-win situation. The resource, the researchers and the area residents all benefit!
Fisheries biologist Dave Vetrano had his crew shock a short stretch of the stream. It was truly amazing the number of brown trout that can find food and sanctuary in this relatively small stream. The trout appeared very healthy and ranged from two-inch fingerlings to 14-inch dandies.
Dave made the comment that in this region, trout can be found in concentrations of 2,000 to 3,000 fish per mile and when you see water there will be trout. "If you build it, they will come," certainly holds true in this case.
On our drive to the tour location near Coon Valley, my wife noticed a sign reading "Norskedalen" with an arrow pointing up a side road. Upon completion of the trout outing, we drove up the valley a short distance to Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center.
Sal is never one to miss an opportunity to see something unique or interesting if the opportunity presents itself. Norskedalen roughly translated means "Norwegian Valley."
The valley must have reminded the original settlers of their homeland because the farm site was built in a long narrow valley with steep hills surrounding an original Norwegian house and numerous outbuildings. All were set in a horseshoe arrangement to allow easy access to all the buildings from the house.
A few years back we had the opportunity to take a walking tour of Norway. The buildings and décor of Norskedalen reminded us of the old original farm sites observed on that trip.
Following the 45-minute guided tour of the farm site, we toured the numerous displays and exhibits in the main heritage center building. It was truly an enjoyable and educational experience. The professionalism and engaging mannerism of our tour guide and the friendliness of the center's attendant was reminiscent of our own New Richmond Heritage Center. If one is in the area a stop at Norskedalen is highly recommended!
Hunt Down Hunger
This year the St Croix County Sportsman's Alliance and the Green Bay Packers are joining together to help promote the Wisconsin Deer Donation Program in St. Croix County. Special collector caps have been purchased by the Alliance for a special drawing to be held at each of the four locations in the county that have agreed to accept donated deer harvested during the 2009 deer gun and bow seasons. These caps are blaze orange or blaze orange camo and have the Packer "G" emblem on the front. Each hunter donating a deer in St. Croix County will be eligible for a special drawing for one of these caps.
The participating meat processors are Glenwood City Lockers, Deer's Food Locker, Power's Wildgame Processing and Mike's Deer Cutting.
WPA of the Week
Stanton Prairie Waterfowl Production Area
Stanton Prairie Waterfowl Production Area is a 236-acre Waterfowl Production Area managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the St. Croix Wetland Management District.
The WPA is located northeast of New Richmond and was purchased with federal duck stamp dollars, which duck hunters are required to buy and people interested in conservation are encouraged to buy to support habitat conservation. Over the past two years, the Fish and Wildlife Service has been working on restoring this WPA to a prairie, oak savanna and wetland complex similar to the landscape historically found in large portions of St. Croix County. Restoration of a WPA is a long process and may take five to 10 years to accomplish.
Invasive trees were removed from the oak savanna two years ago and several wetlands were restored last fall by plugging ditches or removing rocks from the basins.
This fall, we will continue removing invasive trees and pines from the WPA. The trees will be used as bio-energy in the St. Paul co-generation plant to supply an alternative form of energy and reduce the use of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. Removal of trees is an important step in restoring large open areas of grassland.
Many populations of grassland-dependent birds have declined dramatically in the past 50 years due to several factors including the loss of good nesting habitat. Some of these species will not nest near trees and some have a minimum "block" size, which is the smallest area of grassland that they will nest in. In general the larger the expanse of grassland habitat, the better it is for grassland dependent birds such as northern harriers, blue-winged teal, bobolinks, meadowlarks, Henslow's sparrows, upland sandpipers and short eared owls.
Eventually, the WPA will be planted to native grasses and forbs, but it may be several years before that happens since we need to prepare the seedbed in an effort to have a successful prairie planting. Seedbed preparation involves weed and brome control using chemical or cropping for several years.
Prescribed fire will also be used to continue the process of establishing grassland on the WPA. Although fire, tree removal and grass planting may disrupt wildlife in the short term, the restoration of quality prairie wetland habitat will provide long term benefits to many species.
For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check out our Web site at www.fws.gov/midwest/stcroix/.