Climate Change in the Red Cedar Watershed
After a hiatus, the the Red Cedar Watershed conference was convened once again at UW-Stout. As in past years, the conference had a plethora of outstanding speakers and presentations. The focus of this years conference was how climate change is and will effect the Red Cedar Watershed. It was logical that a climate scientist should make the opening presentation and detail how the climate has changed in Wisconsin over the decades and how it will change in the future. Dr Jim Boulter is a Professor of Chemistry, Public Health and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Dr Boulter detailed how Wisconsin’s climate has changed since 1950. Overall, the average temperature in Wisconsin has warmed by 3° since 1950.
Source: Wisconsin’s Changing Climate 2021 Assessment Report WICCI
And, lucky for us??, the most extreme climate changes are occurring in Northwest Wisconsin. Precipitation is also increasing throughout the state. Southern Wisconsin is getting a lot more precipitation in the spring and summer, and over all precipitation in the state has increased by about 5 inches per year since 1950. Overall, there has been a 20% increase in winter precipitation in the state. Because of the warmer temps some of that increase has been in the form of rain, but not always.
The winter of 2019 in Western Wisconsin experienced massive snow falls that started in late January and ended in May. The snow got so deep that I could not throw it over the bank with my shovel and had to borrow my neighbor’s snowblower to get the job done. I fixed that problem by buying a snowblower the following fall. This year we experienced many storms that had both rain and snow. Hence the horrible icy conditions that made driving and walking hazardous most of the winter. My dog even had trouble staying upright walking around the block this past winter.
Source: Wisconsin’s Changing Climate 2021 Assessment Report WICCI
The warming trend will mean less snow cover in the winter in the long run. The warming night time temperatures will really impact the depth of the snow pack depth. I’ve observed the effect warm nighttime temps have on snow pack depth in two notable ways. I am a COCORAHS [https://www.cocorahs.org/ [Station WI-DN-15]] observer and as such have made nearly daily snow pack and precipitation observations since March of 2019. While warm days and cold nights will lower the snow pack some, warm days and warm nights causes a significantly greater reduction in the snow pack. The other notable time I experienced how warm overnight temps impacted the snow pack depth occurred on a late winter camping trip in the Rainbow Lake Wilderness Area. The trip began as a normal winter trip with lots of snow to haul my gear in on a wood toboggan. The second day of the trip the temps went above freezing which made snowshoeing a bit annoying but OK. I think the temps actually got even warmer over night and when I emerged from my sleeping bag the next day, the snow cover was mostly gone. I had to make multiple trips to pack my gear and the toboggan out of the wilderness.
The long term impacts of reduced snow pack could be multi fold. Snow cover, frost depth, and cold help to determine which plants, trees, insects and critters reside in Wisconsin. Boreal forest trees like birch and some pine are expected to be pushed out of our region and to only survive in extreme northern Minnesota and maybe Wisconsin. and possibly only in northern Minnesota. Sugar maples will have to drift northward out of the driftless area. Maple syrup season will begin earlier in the year than it does currently. Also sugar content of the sap may drop by as much as 30%. [https://maple.extension.wisc.edu/2022/07/29/maple-syrup-and-climate-change/] Hardwoods like oak, hickory and walnut will expand their range. [https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/climatechange/impacts]
Dr Boulter explained that there are three types of gases that are causing the increase in global temperatures: carbon, methane and nitrous oxide. Carbon is the most well known of the greenhouse gases, but the impact of methane and nitrous oxide is much stronger with smaller quantities. The EPA states that methane traps 27 to 30 times more heat than carbon, and that nitrous oxide traps 273 times more heat [https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/understanding-global-warming-potentials] While carbon is the most plentiful greenhouse gas, reducing the level of methane and nitrous oxide in the short term will yield a greater reduction in climate changes. Both nitrous oxide and methane have a much shorter life span in the atmosphere. Nitrous oxide floats around for about 100 years and methane has a life span of about 10 years.
Source: Wisconsin’s Changing Climate 2021 Assessment Report WICCI
Climate change is like a pot of water on the stove. With a little heat nothing much changes. With a bit more heat a gentle simmer can be achieved. With a lot of heat, the pot will boil and even boil over. The boiling over with climate change translates into more extreme weather events. Hence, there will be many more days when the temperature extreme of over 90 degrees occur with Southwest Wisconsin potentially having over 45 days of 90 plus temps per year. West Central Wisconsin will experience between 20 and 35 days of 90 plus days. Extreme rain fall events of 2 or more inches of rain will also increase with resulting increase in flooding. Westcentral Wisconsin could experience 10 or more rain events of 2 or more inches of rain per decade by 2050. The rains will be life threatening as well as very expensive because it will be necessary to constantly repair the damage caused by the floods. Rain will also occur less frequently so drought will happen in between the rain storms.
How will the critters that live in Wisconsin be impacted by climate change? Interestingly the white tailed deer population is expected to increase as more deer will survive the winter. (Sorry hosta growers.) One question that I find interesting is; Will the size of the individual deer shrink since large body size is an adaption to living in a cold climate? I have hunted in both Northwest Arkansas and Southeast Ohio. Both places have much warmer and less snowy winter and the deer are much smaller. They are about the size of a large German Shepard with antlers and longer legs. Additionally, there are more critters in the woods in these two places; some are fun some are not. Armadillos are cool to watch as they scurry and jump around the landscape. Some, like the nine species of poisonous snakes in Arkansas, are not much fun. When hunting in Arkansas, one keeps one eye out for game and one eye looking out for the copperheads and eastern diamondbacks that inhabit the Ozarks.
Other animals that may be negatively impacted by climate change include the common loon, snowshoe hares, and ruffed grouse.
Climate change will make growing food more difficult both as a gardener and as a farmer. Heavier rains means more soil erosion. More drought will make it harder to grow crops and extended drought will lower water tables so irrigation to overcome the drought may not be possible. More spring rains will make it difficult to plant crops. Winters with diminished snow cover and extreme cold temperatures will lead to winter kill crops like alfalfa and rye. Farmers and gardeners will have to adopt their farming and gardening methods to fit the new realities of climate.
So what can be done about climate change through mitigation, adaptation, and resilience? Fortunately, there are multiple options for each of the three ways to lessen the effects of climate change. And many of the mitigation, adaptation, and resilience actions are currently available to us. They just need to be implemented, which requires the will necessary to address the problems. There in lies the heart of the matter. Do we have the will necessary to solve the problem?
A future blog post will explore the actions that can lead to mitigation, adaptation, and resilience to lessen the impact of climate change.
Last snowshoe hike of the season
This has been a great season for snowshoeing. We have had regular snow all winter. Plenty of cold temps so snow conditions have been ideal for getting out and wandering around in the woods on the webs.
Ojibwa snowshoes are very versatile. The are maneuverable in the woods and float nicely on snow in the open prairie areas.
In addition to tromping around the usual haunts like Dunnville Bottoms and Menomin Park, I was able to hike in a couple of candle light events at Brunet Island State Park and Giezendanner School Forest. Straight Lake State Park was another worthwhile destination. There is some beautiful scenery in the park.
No winter would be complete with out a Primitive Biathlon. This year the only biathlon in the area was the Ironman Biathlon held at the Coon Valley Conservation Club near the end of January.
A few more photos from the season
48th Annual Fort Old Abes Rendezvous
Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
Using sourdough gives these cinnamon rolls an amazing flavor and texture. I like to measure out the sourdough starter 8 to 12 hours before mixing up the recipe. I then add a tablespoon of flour and sugar to the starter so starter can get nice and bubbly. This helps the dough rise and really brings out the flavor of the starter. Using the bread machine saves some time and simplifies the dough making process.
1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons soft butter
1 egg slightly beaten
3 1/4 cup bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
About 2 tablespoons milk
- Put all ingredients in bread machine as per machine instructions. Set for dough cycle and make sure dough is of the proper consistency.
- When dough cycle is done, remove the dough to a floured surface, punch down, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.
- Grease a 9 X 13 cake pan
- Roll out dough in a large rectangle shape. Rectangle should be bigger than the cake pan.
- Brush melted butter on to the entire surface of the dough, then sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon on top of the buttered dough.
- Roll the dough on the long side until it is in a long “log.” Dampen the top edge of the dough with a bit of water so the final long edge rolled dough sticks together.
- Cut dough crosswise into pieces that are about 1 to 1 ½ inches wide.
- Place rolls in greased pan. Leaving as much space as possible between the rolls
- Cover and let rise at least 60 minutes. I usually prepare the rolls the night before and let rise over night.
- Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes
- Let cool slightly and frost. To make frosting, place sugar and vanilla in a bowl, add a bit of milk and beat. Add a bit more milk if necessary. Frosting should be smooth and creamy.
2021 Spring Hearings will be on-line.
The annual Spring Hearings will be held on April 12, 2021 starting at 7:00 PM. The on-line portal will then remain active for 72 hours. A link and more information on the hearings are at this link [https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/about/wcc/springhearing]. The spring questionnaire is posted on the same link. This year there will be questions from the DNR on Fisheries and Wildlife Management. The Natural Resources Board has one question, and the Conservation Congress has 27 questions.
All of the DNR Fisheries questions propose changes that only effect local bodies of water. There are no proposed statewide rule changes. The first two questions by the DNR deal with the Walleye Fishery in the Ceded Territory. Question 1 would create a slot limit in Ashland, Iron, Price, Rusk, Sawyer and Vilas counties on waters between the Turtle-Flambeau Dam and the Thornapple Dam. The restrictions would not allow walleyes under 15 inches nor between 20 and 24 inches and only one walleye over 24 inches to be kept. The daily bag limit would remain at three. Question 2 would apply the same slot limit to Escanaba Lake in Vilas County. Questions 4-6 tinker with bass regulations on a number of lakes in the Northern third of the state. Question 4 will ad a slot limit to some lakes while questions 5 and 6 will remove size or slot limits. Questions 7 through 12 also propose changing size limits on a variety of lakes through out the state. Question 13 would lower the pan fish limit from 25 to 10 on Big Eau Pleine Reservoir, Marathon County; Big Round Lake, Polk County; Cranberry Lake, Price County; Lake Chippewa, Sawyer County; Huron Lake, Waushara County. Questions 16 -20 propose a variety of changes to trout regulations on different trout streams through out the state. The changes include bag limits, catch and release seasons, and size limits. Question 24 would maintain a daily bag limit of 5 trout and salmon on Lake Michigan and Green Bay and the tributaries.
The first of the five wildlife management rules would allow falconry on Richard Bong Recreation area after 2:00 pm when pheasant hunting closes. Questions 2 and 3 propose changing the date for the use of cable restraints for trapping and the zone framework for mink and muskrat trapping. Question 5 calls for moving the closing date on squirrel season from January 31st to the last day in February.
The Natural Resources Board’s only question suggests forming a collaborative scientific working group to control the spread of CWD. Some of the members of the working group would be Department of Natural Resources, Natural Resources Board, Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, Wisconsin Conservation Congress, County Deer Advisory Council, Wildlife Groups, Deer Farming Organizations and Native American Tribes.
The Conservation Congress questions, as is often the case, may prove to be some of the more controversial questions. Question 14 would permit the hunting and harvesting of Albino deer. Question 21 is of major significance to Dunn County residents. The questions calls for restoring local control to counties for shore land zoning regulations. Dunn County had passed compressive shore land zoning regulations to help stop the green algal blooms from taking over the lakes, but were forced to rescind many of the regulations when the law was changed. Question 9 would permit the use of unused Up River sturgeon tags on Lake Winnebago. Questions 7 and 8 would require in-person ATV/UTV and hunter safety classes instead of exclusively on-line courses. Question 19 suggests granting DNR wardens the authority to enforce trespassing laws. Currently only local and county law enforcement officers can enforce trespassing laws. Question 20 is designed to encourage the passage of a law to develop a statewide curriculum for comprehensive firearm safety courses in Wisconsin schools. Question 23 calls for a study to determine the effect of dog training and trialing on nesting birds. Currently dog training and trailing is prohibited between April 15 and July 31. This study could end the closure.
The annual spring hearings are a cherished decades old Wisconsin tradition that was Initiated by Aldo Leopold. With the change to an on-line format, participation has greatly increased. Help keep the tradition strong by participating in the Spring Hearings.
Linzer Torte Cookies
Linzer Torte Cookies are somewhat similar to the famous German Linzer Torte. The dough is almond flavored and there is raspberry jelly in the middle. This cookie adds a twist with chocolate in the middle. It is not a difficult recipe to make, but it takes a a bit of time to make since there are multiple steps to completing the cookies and some rest times in between the steps. Give yourself plenty of time to make this cookie and enjoy the results.
2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
¾ cup butter softened
½ teaspoons almond extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup seedless raspberry jelly
Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. In a separate mixer bowl, cream butter and then add sugar, after well blended add eggs and almond extract. Gradually add flour mixture until all is well blended. Divide dough in half, and shape as round disk. Wrap each half in plastic and chill in the fridge until firm.
On a floured board, roll one of of the dough disks to about 1/8th inch thickness. Cut with a round cookie cutter. Cut circle out of center of ½ of the dough cookies. A donut/cookie cutter makes this step easy. Re-flour board and re-roll left over dough and repeat cutting process, until both dough disks are gone. Cook on ungreased cookies sheets at 350° for 8-10 minutes. Place on rack and cool completely.
Melt chocolate over hot water, or in microwave. Spread on full cookies rounds. Allow to cool. Spread raspberry jelly on top of chocolate and place top on cookie. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top of each cookie. Pairs well with hot chocolate.
Pheasant in Cream
4 deboned pheasant breasts
1/3 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
8 oz. portabella mushrooms
1 pint heavy cream
Add salt and pepper to flour and mix. Coat each piece of pheasant with the flour mix. Melt butter with garlic in a Dutch oven. When hot, brown the pheasant breasts on both sides. Remove the pheasant from the pan and add mushrooms. Lightly saute the mushrooms. Take Dutch oven off of heat. Remove the mushrooms and place the pheasant back in the Dutch oven. Put mushrooms on top of the pheasant and pour heavy cream on top of both. Put lid on dutch oven and bake at 350° for 60 minutes.
Travel Destination: Vernon County
The Kickapoo is a fun river to canoe. It is narrow, winding and very scenic
I have made several trips to Vernon County in the last year and have found that the county offers many activities to fill a long weekend. I started my most recent trip, by canoeing on the Kickapoo River and ended it with some amazing trout fishing. Vernon county also has many places to stop on the highways and byways to eat and to shop. Also, if big water adventures are your forte, the Mississippi River forms the Western boundary of Vernon County.
The Kickapoo river is rightfully one of Wisconsin’s most famous canoeing rivers. The upstream beginning of the canoeable portion of the Kickapoo is the village of Ontario. I will admit when I first saw the river I thought, this is a famous canoeing river? The Kickapoo is a narrow muddy meandering stream coming out of Ontario. I wondered if there was enough water in the river to float a canoe. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the river. I canoed the stretch between bridges 4 and 5 which meanders through Wildcat Mountain State Park, and it is a beautiful section of river. Being this is the driftless area, there are lots of rock out cropping’s and bluffs to enhance the scenic beauty of the trip. It is crooked enough to keep the canoeist busy guiding the canoe around the bends, the trees, and sand bars in the river. It is not a difficult river to paddle, but the river demands that you pay attention to it. It only took a few prys and draws to get around most of the obstacles in the river. Given the steep terrain that dominates the Kickapoo watershed, the river is vulnerable to flash floods so paying attention to the weather is important. Canoeing after the spring melt or heavy rains is not advised. Since the river is narrow and heavily wooded, many trees fall in or across the Kickapoo. There is a task force of riverine lumberjacks that cut up the trees that obstruct the river in the section that I floated. I would speculate that the canoe outfitters in Ontario are the organizing force for the river lumberjacks.
If you do not have a canoe or kayak and want to canoe the river, there are three outfitters in Ontario that cater to Kickapoo river travelers. They all have a very large livery of rental canoes and kayaks. Rumors are the outfitters can put up to 500 canoes on the river in a single day. Hence, it can get really crowded. My float occurred early on a Friday morning and there were only a few other canoeists out. But by late morning, when I loaded up the canoe, it was beginning to get busy. If canoeing without crowds is important, plan the trips for mornings during the week. Having the outfitters there also means, that if you do not have a canoe and want to canoe or kayak the river, it is simple to rent one. For information on canoeing the Kickapoo see this link
Wildcat Mountain State Park and the Kickapoo Reserve create a big block of public land for canoeing, hiking, and camping. The campground and picnic area at Wildcat Mountain are literally on top of a big ridge. (Calling it a mountain is a bit of a stretch). The road to the park entrance from Ontario is one of the crookedest roads I have traveled on. Wildcat has a nice, but small campground. Many of the campsites are cramped due to the limited space on top of the ridge. There is an extensive 21-mile trail system that can be used for hiking, horseback riding, skiing and snowshoeing.
The Kickapoo Reserve is an 8600, acre parcel of public land which is owned by the HoChunk Nation and the State of Wisconsin. It is governed by its own Board. It is a unique land in terms of management and ecology. The Kickapoo river runs through the middle of the Reserve and provides some very scenic canoeing. The reserve also has campsites near the river for the adventurous canoeist. But they are located a ways away from the river to reduce the danger from flash floods. meaning it is an uphill haul to get the gear and canoes from the river to the campsite. Additionally, there are hiking and carrying campsites along the trails of the Reserve.
Bringing a bicycle along with the canoe is important. The Kickapoo Reserve has an extensive trails system some of which is dedicated to mountain bikes and some of which is mixed use trails. Vernon county has lots of rural roads to ride on. The roads run through lots of hills and valleys, so the ride is steep and winding making for fun riding. The nature of the roads also creates some safety hazards so consulting the WI DOT bike map is a good idea when planning a route. Wilton, which is near the halfway point of the Elroy Sparta Bike trail, is only a 10-minute drive north of Ontario.
A small waterfall tucked away at the end of the Ice Cave Trail
If riding a horse is preferable to riding a bike, Wildcat Mountain and the Kickapoo Reserve a have a combined 55 miles of equestrian trails. Fifteen miles of the trails are in the park and forty miles in the Reserve. Horse Camp is located in Wildcat Mountain and is one of the nicer and most complete horse camps I have seen.
Some of the best trout fishing I have ever experience occurred on this trip. I fished a stream in the northern part of the county and caught many nice sized trout. One was a little too big as it busted my 4 lbs. line on my ultra-light spinning rod and made off with my favorite trout spinner while making a spectacular jump. I kept just enough trout to have a nice fish fry for supper. Many of the trout streams are Class 1 or 2 streams. Wisconsin classifies its trout streams as 1 (the best) 2 (really good) and 3 (OK). A quick glance at the trout stream maps shows that there are more miles of Class 1 and 2 streams than Class 3. There are numerous DNR fishing properties, easements, and other accesses points to the trout streams so accessing that secret trout fishing spot is relatively easy. The DNR, local conservations clubs and groups like Trout Unlimited have been working for decades to restore and improve the trout streams in the Driftless Region. As a result of all this hard work, the Driftless Area is now one of the premier trout fishing regions in the US.
A nice trout supper thanks to the efforts of many people and groups to improve the trout streams in the Driftless Area
A good night’s sleep and good food is vital to any great trip. Vernon County is a small rural place, so the lodging is small and rural. Wildcat Mountain is the biggest camping spot. Additionally, many of the small towns in the area have campgrounds and there are several private campgrounds scattered around the county. Small resorts with a few cabins and bed and breakfasts are scattered throughout the county. Local restaurants are abundant, and they usually feature a good Wisconsin fish fry on Friday nights.
Vernon has a plethora of actives for the outdoor enthusiasts. It is a good place to head for an activity filled weekend or for a longer vacation