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.