The 2019 Conservation Congress hearings will be held on April 8th at 7:00 PM. The Dunn County hearing will be held, as usual, at the Dunn County Fish and Game Club House. For a listing of all the other hearing locations in the 71 other counties in the state click on this link: https://dnr.wi.gov/About/WCC/Documents/spring_hearing/2019/2019hearinglocations.pdf
A major change for the Spring Hearing is that it will be possible to fill out the questionnaire on-line. A live link will be posted on the Conservation Congress web page that will go live at 7:00 PM on April 8. The link will be live for three days. The Conservation Congress has adopted this procedure for using the on-line option: “Individuals in attendance at the Spring Hearings can choose to fill out the paper input form the night of the hearing or take a random verifiable number that can be submitted through the online system. The random verifiable number will allow an individual’s input to be tallied along with the input provided by in-person attendees in the county in which they attended.
Individuals who are unable to attend a Spring Hearing in person can provide input through the online version (without the random verifiable number). This input will be compiled and considered with the overall input but will be separate from the county-specific (in-person) input.” The Conservation Congress page can be found with this link: https://dnr.wi.gov/About/WCC/springhearing.html
Overall there are eighty-eight questions this year. The first forty-nine questions are DNR generated questions and the remaining thirty-nine are from the Congress. Changes to fishing rules make up the largest number of questions.
Questions 20 through 26 propose changes to the regulations for fishing on the Mississippi River. Questions 20 and 21 propose changing the bag limit for walleye and sauger in pools 3 through 8 to a combined 4 fish with a 15-inch size limit for walleye and none for sauger. The new proposed limit for pools 9 through 12 is a combination of 6 total walleye and sauger with no size limit. The suggested regulation changes are due to research showing that the fish grow faster but live shorter lives in the Mississippi than in other Minnesota or Wisconsin Waters. Also, the Sauger population is declining in the upper pools. Question 22 seeks to lower the white bass limit from 25 fish daily to 10 daily in pools three through 9. This change is being suggested because research has shown that white bass live much longer than previously thought so lower limits are needed to protect the white bass population. Question 23 proposes lowering the sunfish, crappie, and yellow perch bag limit in pools 3 through 9 from 25 to 15 fish per day. Pan fish are subject to strong fishing and harvest pressure, so the lower bag limits are designed to protect the currently healthy population of panfish in the Mississippi. Question 24 looks to lower the daily bag limit for Shovelnose Sturgeon from 10 to 3. Again, this lower bag limit is designed to protect the shovelnose sturgeon population. Not a lot of information is known about the shovelnose sturgeon other than it is a long-lived fish. It seems prudent to the fish managers to lower the limits to avoid harming the fish. If approved, Question 25 would lower the daily bag limit on Northern Pike from 5 to 3 and only one of the three fish can be over 30 inches. This change is designed to protect the population and to help create a trophy fishery for Northern Pike. Question 10 and 11 are a statewide fishery’s question for bass. Question 10 would allow the DNR to exempt permitted fishing tournaments from special local regulations and instead use the common state wide total of 5 fish per day with a 14-inch size limit. Question 11 proposes a year-round bass season but would only allow harvest of fish during the traditional bass season.
Several Questions pertain to hunting and trapping. Question 4 asks if the closing time for hunting pheasants on public land, like Dunnville Bottoms, should be changed from 2:00 PM to 12:00 to reduce hunting pressure on stocked birds.
The first Conservation Congress question is number 50 and it proposes an increase in the setback along water ways to 30 feet to help stop suspended solids and nonpoint pollution of our waters that cause algal blooms.
Question 52 proposed a new pilot program to help curb the spread of CWD. The Payment for Positives Program’s (P4P) goal is to use hunting to target herds most likely to have CWD by paying landowners and hunters cash for turning in CWD positive deer. Payments are suggested to range from $750 per deer to $1250 per deer. Sponsors of the program are suggesting that the legislature use approximately one percent of deer hunting license fees to fund this program. The pilot programs are designed to see if the program would remove more CWD positive deer from the herd and increase the testing and reporting of CWD infected deer.
Question 56 seeks to restore the tagging requirement for harvested deer. Question 56 proposes a statewide ban on feeding and baiting of deer. Question 70 seeks to restore funding for public lands.
Questions 78 and 79 seek to enhance hunter safety. Question 78 propose restoring the age limit for youth hunting back to 10 years old after the age limit was eliminated last year by the legislature. Question 79 would restore the requirement that on a mentored hunt only one gun may be carried between the mentor and mentee.
Questions 82 and 83 call for an increase in the Inland Trout Stamp fee (82) and an increase in the Great Lake Trout and Salmon Stamp (83). The new revenue would help pay for trout stream restoration and improvements, and funding for staff, maintenance and upgrades to fish hatchery’s that stock the Great Lakes.
Questions 85 and 86 support a ban on lead fishing gear (85) and ammunition (86). Lead is the primary material used in ammo and fishing tackle. Lead in tackle and ammo has also been shown to be a source of often fatal lead poisoning for 130 species of critters. There are non-toxic fishing tackle and ammo alternatives available.
Finally, one of the first orders of business at the Spring Hearings in electing delegates to the Conservation Congress. Every county has a team of five delegates that represents the county. The Conservation Congress is the only statutory body in the state where citizens elect delegates to advise the Natural Resources Board and the Department of Natural Resources on how to responsibly manage Wisconsin’s natural resources for present and future generations. The Conservation Congress is citizen democracy in action. It won’t function without your participation.
In the on-going efforts to contain and maybe eliminate some invasive species, the Lower Chippewa Invasives Partnership (LCIP) has opened its own independent office and hired an executive director, Chris Gaetzke. LCIP, which has been a 501c3 organizations for a number of years, received a startup grant from a family foundation to take this step. LCIP serves a five-county area-Dunn, Chippewa, Eau Claire, Pepin and Pierce. LCIP has been most active in Dunn, Pepin and Pierce Counties. With the hiring of an executive director, LCIP will be working to increase its efforts in Chippewa and Eau Claire Counties. LCIP assisted with the Erickson Park project in Chippewa Falls, WI during the past three years during the Leinenkugel’s Great Work Month events in September. LCIP has worked with many volunteers cutting and treating invasive plants to reveal the native species for everyone to enjoy this summer when the park opens up.
Mr. Gaetzke states that the move to a full-time director will allow LCIP to provide more services in the effort to control invasive species. LCIP provides assistance to both private landowners and local units of government. One service is the LCIP Invasives trailer. The trailer can be used by any group in the LCIP’s five county area and is fully equipped with tools including gloves, chain saws, sprayers, loppers, safety glasses, and more that are necessary to eradicate invasives in an area. LCIP also has a program to provide chemicals, training and sprayers to landowners for treatment of small areas that have invasive species.
Another promising initiative from LCIP is the Pull a Weed, Plant a Seed alternative plants program. This program gives guidelines for native plants that can be planted in an area after the invasive plants are removed. The concept is to keep the invasives from coming back by planting native plants that can out compete the invasives. Different species of plants can be used to foil the return of the invasives, depending on the habitat which Buckthorn, Garlic Mustard, Wild Bush Honeysuckle, Japanese Barberry and Japanese knotweed are removed. In sandy Loam soil American Hornbeam, Red Oak, Speckled Alder, Common Witch Hazel and False Solomon’s Seal are some of plants that can be used to keep the invasives from coming back. In areas with Silty Clay Loam Soil, some plantings can include Burr Oak, Black Cherry, Gray dogwood, and Winterberry Holly.
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LCIP also organizes many education programs on invasive species. LCIP will also be making presentations to many area clubs. The annual invasive species tour will occur on June 13th. The tour will be in Dunn County. (I participated in last year’s tour and it was enlightening how many invasive species could be found in a small geographical area). LCIP also works with schools to educate students about invasives and to organize invasive removal projects. Some of the schools that LCIP works with include Menomonie Middle and High Schools, Colfax and UW-Stout. Students from the Durand School District removed 1,520 pounds of garlic mustard from the Birch Creek Wildlife area last year.
One important service LCIP provides to landowners who realize that they have invasives on their property is the development of a management plan. (Chris can you describe the process here?)
LCIP also partners with The Wisconsin First Detector Network (WIFDN) which is a citizen science network that empowers people to take action against invasive species through invasive species monitoring, management, and outreach. WIFDN provides training and resources through a combination of webinars, instructional videos, and hands-on workshops, in addition to providing volunteer opportunities to citizen scientists. Wisconsin First Detector Network provides access to online training resources brought on invasive species experts from across the state. Training topics include terrestrial and aquatic invasive species biology, identification, and reporting. WIFDN emphasizes species of concern to Wisconsin (e.g. emerald ash borer, late blight, giant hogweed), but also discusses general resources for other species.
Invasives are a problem that affect everyone, and it will take everyone to fix the problem. So LCIP is primarily a volunteer-based organization. Mr. Gaetzke is the executive director, but he can’t do all the work alone. LCIP has a strong group of volunteers and do much of the on the ground work necessary to fight invasives. You too could be a volunteer. Mr. Gaetzke wants anyone with concerns about invasive species to come check out the new office at Bayview Office Park, next to the Menomonie Public Library at 700 Wolske Bay Road, Suite 275. Chris Gaetzke is usually there from 7:30 AM to 4 PM Monday-Friday.