Cooperative Habitat Improvement Project on Lake Menomin

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Trees are dropped into the water to improve fish habitat. The tree are cabled to their trunks to keep them from floating away and becoming a navigation hazard.

A cooperative effort between the Evergreen Cemetery Association Board of Directors and the Dunn County Fish and Game Club will result in improving habitat in Lake Menomin and in a small reduction in the algal blooms that plague the lake.
The combined efforts of these two organizations will continue the Tree Drop program begun on Lake Menomin a couple of years ago. Patrick Thibado, Sextant of the Evergreen Cemetery, explained the project from the perspective of the Cemetery Board. Mr. Thibado stated that the Cemetery is an integral part of the Lake. The island on which the cemetery is located was not an island at one point in time. When the lake level was raised by 10 feet in the 1950s, a section of cemetery land was flooded and now makes up the bay between the island and shore on the south side of the cemetery. The causeway that runs to the cemetery had to be built at that time to ensure continued access to the cemetery. Being an island, the cemetery has riparian habitat around its entire outer edge. Also, being an island, water quality has a major impact on air quality in the cemetery. What happens in the lake effects the cemetery, and what happens on the cemetery effects what happens in the lake.
The first time the Fish and Game approached the Cemetery Board, they discussed the idea but took no action. The second time, the Board agreed to take on the project. The Dunn County Fish and Game has been working to improve wildlife habitat in Dunn County for decades. Project coordinator for the Fish and Game, Gary Buss, stated that the project is a win-win project which improves habitat on the lake which benefit fish, wildlife and the community. Mr. Buss really likes the program because of all the scientific research which demonstrates how well the tree drops work.
After agreeing to the project, it was time to get the professional help in planning the project, which will occur on the north side of the island. DNR fish biologist. Marty Engle, (Mr. Engle has since retired from the DNR) surveyed the cemetery and plotted all the shoreline trees with a GPS. Trees with a short life span like poplar and birch or trees that could become problems like box elder or cottonwood were identified for cutting. Volunteers from the Dunn County Fish and Game will cut the trees and cable them to the stumps. The cutting that takes place this year is the first year of a two-year project. Additionally, the project is designed to last multiple years if necessary.
The concept behind the tree drops is that on a wild lake that is unmarred by residential or commercial sprawl there are a lot of trees in the water. Some trees fall along the shore and some fall perpendicular to the shore. The trees provide habitat to aquatic critters and help slow down erosion. Since this project is a habitat improvement project the trees will be dropped in the lake perpendicular to the lake shore. After the tree is in the water, a hole is drilled through the stump and the tree is fastened to the stump with a metal cable to prevent the tree from floating away. Scientific studies that have been done on tree drops have demonstrated that up to 15 different species of fish can inhabit one fallen tree. Mr. Thibado also stated that the trees don’t die, they become living under water plants. So the trees will provide fish habitat for years to come.
One concern about the project is that more anglers will fish from the cemetery land. A few sloppy anglers have left trash behind in the past and a few have violated cemetery rules by parking in the cemetery and blocking the road. Mr. Thibado noted that it’s hard to get a hearse past a car parked in the road. He requests that anglers park on the causeway and pack out all of their trash.
Unfortunately, the initial work on the project has been delayed twice by the unseasonable weather that is occurring. Both Mr. Buss and Thibado are hoping for some cold weather next weekend so the chain saws can be fired up. Anyone who would like to come observe the work is welcome. The hope is that other organizations will be interested in starting tree drop projects in different parts of Lakes Menomin or Lake Tainter, or on other lakes.

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