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Wisconsin DNR - News Releases

December 30, 2007
Press Release

Snowmobile season begins as many counties open trails

New 55-mile-per-hour nighttime speed limit in place statewide

MADISON -- With Wisconsin receiving some of the best early snowfalls that it has in years, especially in the southern portion of the state, many snowmobilers are tuning up their sleds and preparing to hit the trails.

An exhilarating fast ride and the camaraderie of friends make snowmobiling one of the most popular winter activities when conditions are right. But snowmobiling can also be a risky activity, especially if drivers overextend their abilities, travel on unsafe surfaces, or mix speed and alcohol on their rides, cautions Gary Eddy, snowmobile safety administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Wisconsin has already experienced four snowmobile-related fatalities this winter, Eddy says. Three of those involved snowmobiles breaking through thin ice resulting in drownings, and one as a result of a collision with trees in which alcohol is suspected to be a factor.

ìEvery one of the fatalities could have been prevented,î said Eddy says. ìWe constantly stress that there is no such thing as safe ice, especially early in the season, and that snowmobilers need to be very sure of ice conditions before heading out on frozen lakes. Rivers are especially treacherous as the moving water under the ice can result in very thin ice just feet away from where the ice may be much thicker.î

With many counties across Wisconsin now officially opening their trails, Eddy is also reminding snowmobilers of a new statewide 55 mile-per-hour nighttime speed limit. The DNR has been airing public service announcement on special cable television markets to remind people of the new law.

There were a total of 26 snowmobile-related fatalities last winter. In general, Eddy says, the highest percentage of snowmobile accidents and fatalities each year involve speed and alcohol.

ìSafe snowmobiling means driving at prudent speeds and waiting until after your done riding to drink alcohol.î he says.

There are also a number of safety suggestions that Eddy says snowmobilers should take to heart to make their sport more fun and safe:

  • Read the snowmobile regulations pamphlet (pdf). Many of the answers to the questions snowmobile operators ask are contained within the pamphlet. Following the regulations makes you a safer and responsible rider. Visit the DNR website to make sure you have the most recent copy.

  • Stay on the marked trails. Snowmobile clubs work hard to secure permission for trails on private property. Cutting corners or going off trail, upsets landowners and closes trails. Donít ruin the experience for others.

  • Stay to the right hand side of the trail, especially on hills and corners. Taking the middle of the trail on hills or corners is highly unsafe, irresponsible and illegal.

  • Make sure your snowmobile is maintained mechanically. Important parts such as carbides, wear bars, tracks, belt and plugs can all leave you stranded on the trail if not maintained or cause you to ride unsafely. Also, make sure your highlight is properly adjusted.

  • When crossing roadways, take your time and always yield to traffic. Stand-up on your snowmobile for the highest level of visibility. When traveling in a group, each snowmobiler needs to come to a complete stop and look both ways for traffic. NEVER rely on another person to direct you across a road. Take your own safety into your own hands. One mistake or mixed up hand signal by another person, may cost you your life.

  • Have a great time and enjoy all the beautiful miles of trails in Wisconsin. Slow your speeds down and donít drink and ride. Ride responsibly so that you can come home safe and ride another day.
Snowmobile registration, non-resident trail passes and age requirements

All snowmobiles operated in Wisconsin must be registered. Residents have two choices for registration: public registration for operating on public trails, and private registration for operating on private property owned or leased by the operator. Nonresidents may register their snowmobile in Wisconsin or they may operate their snowmobile in Wisconsin under their stateís registration but they must purchase and display a nonresident trail pass. Details on fees and other registration requirements and restrictions can be found on the snowmobiling education pages of the DNR Web site.

Any person who is at least 12 years old AND who is born on or after Jan. 1, 1985 is required to possess a valid Snowmobile Safety Certificate in order to operate a snowmobile on public trails, lands or frozen waters in Wisconsin. The operator must carry the certificate while riding and must display it to a law enforcement officer when requested.

Anyone under age 12 must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or person 18 years old or older on the same snowmobile when operating on public areas. No certificate or adult accompaniment is required for persons operating on lands owned or leased by the operatorís parent or guardian.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary Eddy ñ - (608) 267-7455

Wisconsin DNR turns 40 in 2008; first integrated resource management agency in Nation

Forty years ago, bipartisan legislation created the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources from a storied state fish and game department and what had been, until a few years previously, a collection of regulatory agencies perceived by some as toothless and duplicative.

Their goal was to increase efficiency, integrate environmental programs to better protect natural resources, and be more responsive. Four months into my job as DNR Secretary, Iíve seen firsthand that the department is delivering on those early expectations. We remain committed to continually evaluating what we do and how we do it to better protect our beautiful state and better serve todayís and future citizens.

Wisconsin has much to celebrate as we approach the New Year. On July 1, 2008, your Department of Natural Resources turns 40. As the nationís first conservation ìsuperagency,î bringing together traditional fish, game, forestry, and parks with environmental protection functions, the DNR has lived up to that distinction. It has been a leader at home and in the nation, building on the foundation of landmark federal laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Acts, Wisconsinís public trust doctrine and citizensí strong conservation ethic.

The DNRís dedicated employees, working together with lawmakers, conservation and environmental groups and individual citizens, have made tremendous progress in cleaning up Wisconsinís skies, its lakes and rivers. For example, the Milwaukee River, once an open sewer for the state's largest city, now boasts 37 species of fish in a stretch formerly impounded by the North Avenue Dam, thanks to extensive pollution clean ups, dam removals, habitat restoration and fish stocking programs.

The strong combination of pairing conservation programs with environmental ones assures healthy habitat to sustain people and wildlife. Bald eagles have rebounded beyond our expectations, the wild turkeys DNR reintroduced in the 1970s now cover our landscape, and our unique, internationally noted population of the prehistoric lake sturgeon remains robust. Citizens enjoy access to waters and outdoor recreational opportunities that are second to none, including for hunting, fishing, and bicycling on the nationís first rails to trails system.

Wisconsin boasts more forests than at any time since we began systematic forest inventory in the 1930s; weíve been a national leader in assuring our state, county and private forests are managed sustainably. Weíve built a nation-leading program to clean up contaminated properties and return them to productive use.

Here are just a few more milestones the DNRís integrated approach has helped Wisconsin achieve:

  • Wisconsin in 1970 became the first state to ban DDT to protect eagles and other birds, helping spur the recovery of our nationís symbol.
  • Wisconsin established the nationís first Ice Age National Scientific Reserve, preserving for future generations important features left by glaciers more than 11,000 years ago.
  • Wisconsin in 1983 became the first state to meet the nationís Clean Water Act interim goal with all municipal wastewater treatment plants meeting at least secondary treatment with many more doing even better. Many of our most polluted rivers in the 1960s now support thriving fish populations.
  • Wisconsin became the first state to receive authority from the federal government to carry out its own drinking water program and has since assured its citizens some of the cleanest drinking water in the world; year-in and year-out, fully 97 percent of all public water systems have met all health-based standards.
  • Wisconsin in 1984 established the most comprehensive program in the U.S. for managing and protecting groundwater. In that same year, Wisconsin became the first state to pass a law to control acid rain to protect sensitive lakes in northern Wisconsin.
  • Wisconsin was the first state to restore protection of its wetlands when federal law stopped in 2001.

Weíve made more progress in the last year: securing the future of the Stewardship Program to purchase lands for the next 10 years, completing significant work on cleaning up the Lower Fox River, and continuing to blaze a new relationship with business to allow them to thrive while going beyond environmental standards in protecting our air, land and waters. Weíll be marking these and other achievements in the coming year in the Wisconsin DNR News, the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, our Web site, and other venues.

We can all be proud of the Wisconsin weíve created together in the last 40 years. We remain dedicated to being the best DNR in the nation, and to assuring clean air and drinking water, diverse natural resources and recreation opportunities, and a healthy environment for the future.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Matt Frank - (608) 261-7580

Additional natural resources highlights from 2007

Fox River PCB cleanup progresses - The cleanup of PCB contaminated sediment continued on the Lower Fox River. In Little Lake Butte des Morts, contractors removed about 130,000 cubic yards of sediment in 2007, bringing the four year total to approximately 335,000 cubic yards. Plans are in place to continue work in 2008 and proposed changes to the cleanup plan could allow the Little Lake Butte des Morts cleanup to be completed as early as 2009. Further downstream, contractors removed slightly over 176,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from a "hot spot" adjacent to the DePere dam. A federal order was issued in mid-November requiring the responsible companies to continue the cleanup activities in the river from Appleton to Green Bay, with preparatory work in 2008 and in-river dredging and capping to begin in 2009.

Request to redesignate the Milwaukee-Racine Ozone Nonattainment Area - In June, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a request to redesignate the six-county Milwaukee-Racine area from being a moderate ozone nonattainment area, to attainment of the federal eight-hour ozone standard. Ozone monitoring stations in the Milwaukee-Racine Nonattainment Area recorded three years (2004-2006) of complete, quality-assured ambient air quality monitoring data demonstrating attainment with the eight-hour ozone standard.

Lakeshore State Park Dedicated - On June 20, Gov. Jim Doyle dedicated Lakeshore State Park. Located on a man-made 17-acre island east of the Henry W. Maier Festival Park Grounds in Milwaukee, Lakeshore State Park is the first urban park in the Wisconsin State Park System and features a signature pedestrian bridge, perimeter trail, quiet water basin with a pebble beach for small watercraft, public boat slips, and accessible fishing areas. For more information see a news release on the Lakeshore Park dedication on Governor Doyleís Web site.

Spring turkey hunters register record turkey harvest ñ Hunters set a new harvest record, registering 51,306 turkeys during Wisconsinís 2007 spring wild turkey season. This was a 9 percent increase from the 2006 spring harvest of 46,662 birds.

Audit finds state protecting wetlands ñ An audit of DNR's wetland permit program by the Legislative Audit Bureau issued in May confirmed what that the agency was issuing permits faster and approving more projects and at the same time significantly reducing wetland loss.

10,000 acres protected through Stewardship Program - Gov. Jim Doyle Governor Doyle declared June 27 ìStewardship Dayî in Wisconsin and announced the purchase of eight parcels of land totaling 10,700 acres across the state worth nearly $15 million. Seven purchases were made possible by acquisition or grants from the Stewardship Fund totaling $9.97 million. All 10,700 acres are open to a variety of recreational opportunities ñ from hiking and canoeing to hunting and fishing. The purchases will also help to protect vital habitat for fish and wildlife throughout the state such as herons and the state-protected prairie chicken. For more information see a news release on Stewardship Day on Governor Doyle's Web site.

Stewardship Reauthorization ñ In October, Gov. Jim Doyle signed a 2007-2009 Wisconsin State Budget that increased the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program from $60 million per year to $86 million per year beginning in 2011 through 2020. The Stewardship program was established in 1989 to preserve Wisconsin's most significant land and water resources for future generations and to provide the land base and recreational facilities needed for quality outdoor experiences. To date, Stewardship has funded the purchase of hundreds of properties accounting for tens of thousands of acres in 71 of Wisconsin's 72 counties, including: the recent 50,000-acre Wild Rivers Forest Legacy project; the 10 mile Dells of the Wisconsin River project; the Turtle-Flambeau and Willow flowages in northern Wisconsin; the Peshtigo River State Forest and the Gov. Tommy G. Thompson Centennial State Park in northeastern Wisconsin; and urban Hank Aaron State Trail and Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee. All together, the Stewardship Program has protected 485,000 acres of land for natural resource benefits, wildlife habitate and public otdoor recreation.

500th State Natural Area dedicated ñ In August, Lake Laura Hardwoods, an 852-acre old-growth forest in Vilas County was permanently protected through designation as the 500th State Natural Area in Wisconsin. Wisconsinís State Natural Areas Program was created in 1945 by Aldo Leopold as the first state-sponsored natural areas protection program in the nation. It has since grown to become a national model, with more than 300,000 acres enrolled in 70 of the stateís 72 counties.

DNR Unveils New and Improved Call Center ñ In November, the DNR expanded its Customer Call Center operations to ensure that the agency is more accessible than ever before. Enhanced features included: expanded hours with call center staff available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week through a toll free number 1-888-WDNR INFo (1-888-936-7463); bilingual services with staff fluent in Spanish and Hmong ; and an Online Chat service that allows people to reach call center staff through the DNR Web site.

Dairy association becomes 20th member of Green Tier ñ In November, the Dairy Business Association became the 20th entity and the first dairy industry member of the Department of Natural Resources Green Tier program (pdf). Green Tier is Wisconsinís innovative program for organizations that voluntarily pledge to go beyond environmental compliance. The charter is a partnership effort between DNR and the Dairy Business Associationís Green Tier Advancement Project. The goal of the Green Tier Charter is to provide opportunities for Wisconsin dairy producers and processors to achieve superior environmental performance by providing resources and support in the development, implementation and auditing of Environmental Management Systems (EMS), an eligibility requirement for participation in Green Tier.

Invasive species classification proposed to help prevent spread of troublesome invaders

Public meetings on proposed rule to be held around state in January

MADISON ñ A proposal to slow the spread of invasive species into Wisconsin by restricting the sale, planting or release of the most troublesome invaders is the topic of public informational meetings statewide in January.

The proposal classifies invasive species of plants, animals and nonagricultural plant pests into four different categories, two of which would be regulated and two which would not. The two regulated categories ñ prohibited and restricted ñ would make it illegal to import and export these species, buy, plant or release them, according to Ron Martin, who leads the Department of Natural Resources invasive species team that is developing the proposal.

ìThere are a number of species that are close to our doorstep, including kudzu and Asian carp species, and a number of others that are just starting to get established in the state,î Martin says. ìWe hope a comprehensive classification system will prevent new introductions of invasive species from occurring and slow the spread of those already here.î

The informational meetings will offer a chance for the public to learn more about the classification system proposal, developed to reflect the recommendations of the Wisconsin Council on Invasive Species. These public input sessions are also aimed at providing the DNR with feedback to further shape the proposal before it seeks permission from its policymaking board to conduct formal public hearings, says Kelly Kearns, a DNR invasive plant specialist involved in developing the proposal.

ìWe want to hear from the public whether this classification system works and if we have the right species in the right categories,î Kearns says. ìThis is the first time Wisconsin has developed a comprehensive invasive species law in the state. It should address many of the shortfalls we see in the current piecemeal approach to our regulations.î

Kearns also hopes to hear from the public on those situations in which people may get permits that would allow them to ìuse a restricted species in a way that would not cause problems.î

Invasive species are plants, animals and pests from other regions or countries that proliferate and have few natural predators or pathogens in Wisconsin to keep their populations in check here. Invasive species generally crowd out native species, which in turn harms wildlife that depends on native species for food and habitat. Invasives also can interfere with recreation, as Eurasian watermilfoil does when thick mats of the plant tangle in boat propellers, and they can affect industry and cost taxpayers and consumers money. For example, buckthorn and honeysuckle, by preventing forest regeneration, can cause short- and long-term damage to Wisconsinís $22.6 billion forestry and forest products industry.

More than 180 aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels, round gobies and spiny water flea have entered the Great Lakes in the last century, and more than 130 non-native invasive plants have been documented in Wisconsin.

People play a significant role in spreading invasive species, and the proposed classification system seeks to address the ways by which people contribute to the purposeful or accidental spread.

The public informational meetings will all begin at 5:30 p.m. on the following dates at the locations listed:

  • January 10, Spooner - at the Spooner Agricultural Research Station, W6646 Hwy 70.

  • January 11, Rhinelander - (Listening Session Also From 2-4 p.m.), Learning Resources Center Theater, Nicolet College, 5364 College Dr.

  • January 14, Madison - UW Arboretum, McKay Center Auditorium, 1207 Seminole Highway.

  • January 15, Milwaukee - Governor's Room, Tommy Thompson Youth Center (Gate 5) Wisconsin State Fair Park, 640 South 84th St.

  • January 16, Green Bay - Brown Co. Central Library, 515 Pine St.

  • January 17, La Crosse - La Crosse Central High School, Commons (Room 126), 1801 Losey S. Blvd.

More information on the meetings and the invasive classification proposal is available on the DNR Web site. People will also be able to submit comments on-line or in writing through the Web site or they may send them to: DNR Invasive Species Team, ER-6, DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Boos (608) 266-9276 or Kelly Kearns (608) 267-5066

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