Outdoor enthusiasts flock to spring hearingsOn April 12 the 76th annual Spring Hearing was held in each of the 72 counties in the state.
On April 12 the 76th annual Spring Hearing was held in each of the 72 counties in the state.
Fifty-six conservation-minded St. Croix County citizens attended the hearing held at St. Croix Central High School Commons in Hammond joining the more than 4,360 who attended the meetings statewide.
The majority of the 97 questions asked at the St. Croix County meeting met with favorable responses, including allowing scopes on muzzleloaders (29-22), allowing dividing deer, bear and elk into five parts prior to registration (38-13), St. Croix River catch and release sturgeon season (34-15), lead reduction in fishing tackle (33-18) and lowering crossbow eligibility age to 55 (27-22).
Question number 82, which asked that the appointment authority of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources secretary be returned to the Natural Resource Board, passed by a vote of 44-4 and passed statewide 3,337 to 407. This was actually the fourth time this question was on the questionnaire since 1995 and passed by a combined vote of 18,582 to 1,626 for a 91.5 percent approval rating. I’ll address this issue again in a later column.
Questions of interest that received a thumbs down was a concept to support deer antler restrictions (10-36), extend the inland trout season to the end of October (24-26) and open the inland trout season one week prior to the general fishing season (14-37). Both county and statewide vote totals are available on the DNR Web site for each of the 97 questions.
Two resolutions were put forward by local residents. One concerned moving the southern duck hunting zone line farther to the north to allow for later northern duck shooting, and the second was related to simplifying regulations on a broad scale. Results of these two resolutions are not available at this time.
Also, at the meeting, Dave Larson from Glenwood City and Mike Reiter from New Richmond were re-elected for two- and three-year terms as St. Croix County delegates.
Where do the voting results go from here? At the Conservation Congress state meeting to be held this year in Lake Geneva on May 6-8, the results of the voting on the DNR-based questions will be reviewed and a position taken by both the DNR and the Conservation Congress.
On May 26, at the NRB meeting held in Lake Geneva, the DNR and Conservation Congress will present their positions to the members of the NRB and they will then take a stance. From there the information goes to the Legislature, where it will be legislated and become law. If all goes according to plan, these questions that received a positive vote will be implemented in 2010 or 2011.
Along with the DNR-based questions, Conservation Congress advisory questions were voted on and if they generated enough interest, these advisory questions could appear as DNR questions at the upcoming 2011 Spring Hearing. This is grass root involvement at its finest and only Wisconsin has this system!
Over the past 31 years, Don Demulling Jr. and his dad have kept an accurate record of ice out dates on Cedar Lake. From 1980 to 2010, the earliest ice out recorded was March 22, 2000 while the latest was April 24, 1996. Ice out is defined by Don as Cedar Lake being able to be reached shore to shore via boat travel.
This year, with the recent warm temperatures, Don recorded Cedar Lake ice out on March 31 — more than three weeks earlier than last year. The ice out dates over the past 31 years span 33 days and highlights the fact that nothing in nature is predictable.
Following is a list of the recorded Cedar Lake ice out dates: April 18; March 28; N/A; April 10; April 11; April 9; April 7; March 25; April 6; April 17; April 5; April 7; April 10; April 19; April 8; April 4; April 24; April 18; March 30; March 31; March 22; April 15; April 16; April 12; April 13; April 9; April 9; March 31; April 8; April 23; March 31.
on Stanton Prairie WPA
By Tom Kerr –USF&WS
With the early spring, we have already been able to burn several grassland fields on area Waterfowl Production Areas.
People often ask why we burn. As one example of why we use controlled burns to enhance wildlife habitat, I’ll look at the Stanton Prairie Waterfowl Production Area located between 200th Avenue and 210th Avenue in Stanton Township.
The 232-acre WPA was purchase in 2005 using Federal Duck Stamp dollars and is managed for the prairie grassland, wetland and savanna habitat historically found in St. Croix, southern Polk and Dunn counties.
In late March, the Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a controlled burn, covering approximately 129 acres of the 232-acre WPA. The purpose of this burn was to reinvigorate the cool season brome grasses on the unit and knock back some of the brush in the 18-acre oak savanna restoration area in the center of the burn unit.
The WPA had never been burned since the FWS acquired it in 2005 and much of the cool season brome grass was growing with less vigor than when it was originally planted as part of a CRP contract in the 1990s. As these stands of brome grass get older, they typically do not grow as tall and provide less cover for nesting wildlife.
Fire is used to remove the thatch layer on the ground, return nutrients to the soil and blacken the soil so that it warms up and the grass responds with growth. Controlled fires early in the season tend to help reinvigorate these cool season fields and also produce less smoke since the grasses have not started to green up yet.
For the savanna restoration on the Stanton Prairie WPA, this controlled burn is part of a long term project to remove the trees and understory that have grown up among the burr and white oaks. These trees, including many invasive species such as buckthorn, Siberian elm and even native species such as box elder, are very aggressive and if left unchecked would eventually take over the savanna again.
Through a combination of fire and chemical treatment we are able to set back these invading species and prepare the savanna for seeding to a combination of native grasses and forbs. With the tendency of many of these invading species to re-sprout aggressively, it will take several years of fire and chemical treatment before this restoration area can be returned to the grass and forb understory found in oak savannas.
For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District or to download an aerial photo of the Stanton Prairie WPA, check out our Web site at www.fws.gov/midwest/stcroix.