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Great Lakes Article:

State plans voluntary conservation efforts
The DNR will use $1 million in federal funds to protect at-risk wildlife
By Anna Krejci
Green Bay News-Chronicle

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is turning to local residents and specialists for suggestions on how to voluntarily protect species in Wisconsin from appearing on an endangered and threatened species list.

The department, with the help of university experts and professionals outside the department, has already identified 163 species "of greatest conservation need" in the state. A small percentage of the species are on an endangered list already. A total of 556 species were evaluated.

The department intends to protect the 163 identified species of wildlife by designing a plan that makes Wisconsin eligible for $1 million from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's State Wildlife Grants Program. In recent years, Wisconsin has received similar funds from the federal agency's program.

The federal funds will be dispersed to organizations outside of the DNR that apply for grant money. Grants will be awarded based on the quality of the conservation projects presented. Robinson said the DNR is in the process of determining what types of organizations will be eligible.

By October, the department intends to complete the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan for which it has enlisted the help of DNR specialists and others. The DNR initiated the plan's design in late 2003 and in the spring it will make public a draft of the plan. It will outline how to implement conservation goals.

Pat Robinson, Northeast Wisconsin's regional ecologist for the DNR, said local property owners can do things themselves to conserve forested and wetland areas in Brown County.

It can be anything from growing tall grasses or other vegetation around a river or creek to creating a habitat for certain species to transforming grassland into forest by planting trees, Robinson said. Local governments could opt to incorporate a scarce habitat into their individual comprehensive plans, plans recently required by state law in which local communities make long-range development plans encompassing diverse land use, transportation methods and housing options.

Robinson cited some examples of local species that warrant greater conservation concern. The pickerel frog, wood turtle, Caspian tern, American woodcock and the woodland jumping mouse are on the list.

"These 163 species are part of the entire wildlife that makes up this area," Robinson said. Guarding the birds, mammals, fish and amphibian populations is important because they form a hunting and fishing base for sport, make for enjoyable wildlife observation and contribute to the food chain, he said.

Some of the species on the list are significant because their population in Wisconsin is larger than anywhere else in the country or in the world.

Such species include the Blanding's turtle, lake sturgeon, canvasback duck and the Canada warbler.

Organizations that have been working on the plan with the DNR include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wisconsin Chapter of the Wildlife Society, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Wisconsin Association of Lakes, Milwaukee Public Museum, The Ruffed Grouse Society, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, WE Energies, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the Natural Resources Foundation, Gathering Waters, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USDA/NRCS and the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology.

Area residents, conservationists and species experts can attend an informational meeting on the plan 1-3:30 p.m. or 6-8:30 p.m. Monday at the UW-Extension, Agriculture and Extension Service Center, 1150 Bellevue St. For more information, call Robinson at 492-5894.







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