Monday, 13 August 2018

Oak Landowners’ Workshop

Large open growth form oak tree

Oak trees are the iconic tree of the driftless region of Wisconsin.

Save the date Saturday, September 29, 2018 for the Oak in the Driftless Landowner workshop in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The session runs from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM CDT. While targeted to landowners in the driftless area, landowners across southern Wisconsin will benefit. If you own land with oak trees or live south of the tension zone and want to re-introduce oaks to your property, this session will help get you on your way.

Conservation Digest is proud to support organizations like the Aldo Leopold Foundation and My Wisconsin Woods.

Location

University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County
1006 Connie Rd
Umfoefer Building
Baraboo, WI 53913

Schedule

Morning sessions include:

* Oak ecology
* Improving wildlife habitat
* Properly harvesting trees
* Tree planting
* Identifying and controlling invasive species
* Using prescribed fire
* Managing for deer and turkey
* Understanding what your trees are worth
* Programs and resources available to woodland owners
* Developing a plan for your woods

Lunch

Afternoon field trip options include visiting woodlands that focus on:

* Invasive species control
* Tree planting
* Shelterwood harvest – a two-step method of tree harvesting that encourages oak to grow.
* Patch-cutting – a method where landowners can create small openings in their woodlands to encourage oaks to grow.

Other topics covered during the field trips include wildlife habitat improvements, using financial programs, prescribed fire, and how to implement a management plan.

Registration

Early Bird Registration Fee: $25 (Individual) or $40 (Couple) ends August 26th.

Registration Fee after August 26th: $35 (Individual) or $50 (Couple) ends September 17th.

Click here if you plan to attend.

Door prizes are being donated by McFarlanes’ Retail and Service Center in Sauk City.

Sponsors

Workshop sponsors include: The Aldo Leopold Foundation, McFarlanes’ Retail and Service Center, My Wisconsin Woods, National Wild Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and UW-Extension.

June 2018

Monday, 18 June 2018

Pollinator Week Kicks Off Today

National Pollinator Week runs from June 18 – 24, 2018. Pollinators are necessary for the production of most of the fruits we eat, as well as coffee and chocolate. Livestock that produce meat and dairy products depend on forage pollinated by bees, butterflies and moths.

Habitat loss due to development and high density agricultural practices mean less forage for native pollinators. Pesticides (especially neonicotinoids) kill not only bees,  but butterflies and moths, as well as their caterpillars. Invasive non-native plants have been found to reduce pollinator abundance and diversity. They also disrupt pollinator services to some native plants, which could reduce seed production. Help protect native pollinators and increase their numbers on your  property.

Here are some fun activities from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to help celebrate throughout the week:

  • Activity guide (Go! Wild) – learn about pollinators at Rocky Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, then match plants to pollinators and enjoy other games. Can you guess which animals pollinate plants in your yard?
  • Podcasts – listen to broadcasts about native bees, endangered pollinators, pollinator gardens and backyard habitat, and a view a video clip from Green Springs Garden. Are you providing good habitat for pollinators in your yard?
  • Webcasts ( Pollinator Live and Monarch Live) – take a trip on these websites to “see” monarch habitat across North America and learn about the great migration of monarchs, or learn how bees and other pollinators benefit people and how to attract them to your schoolyard.
  • USFWS monarch butterfly website – learn about its lifecycle and migration, and how you can help save this iconic species.
  • The Nature’s Partner’s Curriculum – fun activities for clubs, schools, and families to learn about pollinators. Children may need some help from adults with many of these activities.

For more information check out http://www.pollinator.org.

May 2018

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Palmer Amaranth Alert: Check CRP Seed Mixes

Palmer amaranth can produce 500,000 seeds per plant.

Native to the desert southwest, Palmer amaranth can produce 500,000 seeds per plant and has developed resistance to glyphosate (Roundup).

DATCP Lists Palmer amaranth as Prohibited Noxious Weed 

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer protection (DATCP) recently issued a new emergency rule listing Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) as a prohibited noxious weed seed. Including it in a seed mix will now result in a civil or criminal violation for the seed labeler.

Palmer amaranth is a broadleaf weed that grows 2-3 inches a day. It commonly grows 6-8 feet tall, but may reach 10 feet. This plant has separate male and female plants, and the females may produce as many as 500,000 seeds. 

Though native to southwestern states, it became established in the southeast and began moving north. Pollinator seed mixes that contain Palmer amaranth were sold for use on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio. More than half the counties in Iowa now report the new invader.

Identification

Palmer amaranth is related to water hemp and other “pigweeds”, common in Wisconsin, and a casual observer might confuse the two. The leaf stem on the first true leaves are longer than the leaf blade, where water hemp leaf blades are longer than the leaves. The most obvious difference is the length of the seed heads. Palmer amaranth has seed heads that can be 12 inches or longer. Hence it can produce vastly more seed than its native cousin. Purdue Extension has an excellent video that describes the distinguishing characteristics.

Herbicide Resistance

Strains of Palmer amaranth have developed tolerance for the herbicide glyphosate, making control much more difficult. Farmers in other states started using dicamba but are finding that off target herbicide drift is a real problem for both surrounding crops and natural lands.

Keep In Mind

DATCP has the following advice. If you are planting a pollinator or conservation seed mix:

  • Find out what Palmer amaranth looks like. You can find many clear photos in an online image search.
  • Buy local seed mixes if possible, with no pigweed or amaranth listed on the label.
  • Thoroughly clean equipment after seeding, especially if your seed mix came from out of state.
  • Call your University of Wisconsin-Extension office if you suspect you have found Palmer amaranth.

Follow these tips for conservation planting—without weed seed come from our neighbors at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture:

  • Do not purchase unlabeled seed
  • Check labels—and keep all labels used in a specific planting
  • If restricted noxious weeds are present make sure they’re present at a rate of less than 25 seed per pound
  • Don’t use seed with any prohibited noxious weed seeds
  • Ask seeding contractor for planting records including: seed lots planted in specific locations, planting procedures, site preparation and equipment used with equipment cleanout records
  • Keep invoices and paperwork
 Contact your local Extension agent for the most current information about this and other weed problems on your land.

April 2018

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Volunteer: Build Skill and Confidence

Volunteer using chainsaw to cut up a boxelder tree.

Want to learn firsthand skills you can use on your land? Your best bet just might be by helping somebody else. Every year dozens of volunteer organizations like the Nature Conservancy and Prairie Enthusiasts, Pheasants Forever and the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association donate thousands of hours to conserve the natural resources of our state.

Most of the work is done on public lands or non-profit nature preserves. Volunteer groups will sometimes give their time to help private landowners who have conservation projects that support their mission. Contact one of these groups when you plan your next conservation project. Some hunting groups provide free or low cost professional consultation to help you develop your wildlife improvement plan. They may also help you find matching grants to help pay for it.

Wisconsin DNR welcomes volunteers at their parks, as well as state wildlife and natural areas. State park volunteers assist with a wide variety of tasks from hosting campsites and staffing visitor centers to maintaining trails. There are more than 650 state natural areas (SNA) protecting the natural heritage of Wisconsin. SNA volunteers help protect rare plants and animals; getting up close and personal with some of the coolest natural resources in our state.

Volunteer This Weekend

Trout Unlimited is one of those groups that help all of us by doing conservation work on Wisconsin’s trout streams. This Saturday, you can learn several important skills while helping to improve the shoreline of Smith-Conley Creek, south of Ridgeway in Iowa County.

This volunteer work day runs from 9:00 AM to noon. The crew will remove large boxelder trees that are hazards to trout anglers and disrupting steam flow. This is a good opportunity to watch experienced sawyers at work and get more comfortable around chainsaws. You will also learn how to construct brush piles for burning or providing wildlife cover. Contact Jim Hess if you plan to attend or need additional information

One additional piece of equipment that is likely to be used is a powered capstan. It is a gasoline engine that can be tied off to a truck or large tree. The engine turns shaft, called a capstan, that resembles a sewing thimble. a long rope is tied off to a tree and loosely wrapped around the capstan. An operator starts the engine and take up the slack on the loose end of the rope. As the rope tightens, the spinning capstan pulls the tree an the other load end of the rope, while the operator hold tension on the slack end. Powered capstans are especially useful for removing fallen trees from stream beds. The first time I saw a powered capstan at work I put it on my Christmas list.

Find the Right Group

Wisconsin groups actively involved in conservation groups include:

Ducks Unlimited, Wisconsin
Ice Age Trail Alliance
Nature Conservancy, The – Wisconsin 
Prairie Enthusiasts, The
Wisconsin Waterfowl Association

Conclusion

If you want to develop your conservation skills while helping out in the community, consider volunteering a few hours this weekend. You will get plenty of exercise, meet some new neighbors and maybe pick up some pointers you can use to improve your property.

 

 

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Groups Get Things Done

 

People have always worked to together in groups to get things done. Whether it is neighbor helping neighbor, professional organizations or government agencies, folks working together for common goals is how we make a difference.

The Groups section of the Conservation Digest provides links to hundreds of local, statewide and national groups that support conservation work. Landowners can find information, technical assistance, financial support and even volunteer labor to help them improve their property.

Rare plant expert discusses issues of invasive zebra muscles on Lake Michigan.

See What Is Available

You will find a wide range of organizations listed. They are listed according to their mission.

ACADEMIC/INSTITUTIONS
AGRICULTURAL
CONSERVANCY
ENVIRONMENTAL
FRIENDS
GOVERNMENT
HUNTING/FISHING
LAND TRUSTS
OUTDOOR/TRAIL
PRESCRIBED FIRE
PROFESSIONAL
WATERSHED
WEED MANAGEMENT
WETLAND
WOODLAND
YOUTH  

By connecting landowners with the right group, we help you learn from experts, improve your land management, and protect your property; now and for future generations.

Make Us Better

If you know of an organization you would like to see listed, contact us and let us know how to find it.

Please enter your email, so we can follow up with you.
Please tell us the name of the recommended group, as well as any contact information you have (i.e., address, phone, email, website address).

Thursday, 05 April 2018

Conservation Congress Spring Hearings April 9th

Conservation Congress District Map

WCC District Map

A sure sign of is the annual Conservation Congress. Each year, Wisconsinites get a chance to engage in direct democracy as each county holds a town hall style meeting. Sporting, outdoor and environmental groups show up to make their voices heard. This year’s spring hearings take place on Monday, April 9th at 7:00 PM. Every county holds it own hearing. [Click here for the location of the hearing in your county.]

Conservation Congress Agenda

The agenda for each meeting is the same:

  1. Registration
    Voting Instructions Notice of Public Hearing
  2. WCC – Delegate Elections
    Conservation Congress Delegate Election Process
  3. County Deer Advisory Council Update
    2018 Preliminary County Deer Permit Recommendation
  4. DNR – Wildlife and Fisheries Public Hearing DNR Fisheries Advisory Questions
    DNR Wildlife Advisory Questions
  5. Natural Resources Board Advisory Questions
  6. Citizen Resolutions
    Conservation Congress Resolution Process How to Write a Resolution & Sample Resolution
  7. Wisconsin Conservation Congress County Meeting Conservation Congress Advisory Questions

This year there are balloting for 360 elected delegates and 54 statewide questions before each county hearing. Among the topics up for consideration there are four questions about boat permits for non motorized watercraft. Another question deals with a $5.00 permit for use of fishery, wildlife and natural areas to provide money to help manage those 1.5 million acres of public lands.

Many of the questions deal with specific resource issues such as bag limits for certain fish species on particular lakes, trapping rules in specified areas. Check out the 2018 Spring Questionnaire for full details.

One question proposes lifetime fishing and hunting licenses. Two other questions have to do with conducting scientific studies that deal with several climate change issues.

WCC Executive Board

Conservation Congress Executive Board

Looming Software Crisis

A thunderstorm is brewing on horizon as the current computer system used to tabulate results from each of the 72 counties is so old that its supplier is totally cutting off support for the application at the end of 2018. So far, no replacement has been selected. As a matter of fact, there have not even been any specifications published. According to Wisconsin Outdoor News, the committee tasked with making recommendations is at the Conservation Congress convention in May.

WDNR Liaison Kari Lee-Zimmerman, “We’re not going back to paper ballots.” With that option off the table and continuing with the current software likewise unavailable, the time is getting late to come source, procure, install and test a replacement system by April 2019.

Sunday, 01 April 2018

Hardiness Increases Native Plant Success

Plant hardiness zone map of Wisconsin

Plant Hardiness zone map provided by USDA.

Deciding what plants will grow on your land takes some thought. While we all know that you cannot grow bananas in Ashland, figuring out what to plant where can be a challenge.

One of the first issues here in Wisconsin is the weather. Summers can be miserably hot while the cold … well, I don’t have to tell you how cold it gets. Still, where you live within the state makes a difference. Plants that grow well for you in Sturgeon Bay may die in the backyard of your brother-in-law who lives in Chippewa Falls. 

The difference (aside from your brother-in-law’s black thumb) because the climate between the two properties is their climate zones. Both cities lie along the same latitude but their climate zones are very different.

The USDA plant hardiness zone map provides a convenient tool for determining the plant climate zone for your property. Nurseries and seed producers across the nation use this system to determine how they will guarantee hardiness for the plant stock and seed they sell.

Landowners should consider whether the place they want to plant has a microclimate that could alter their planting decision. Areas sheltered by buildings or south facing slopes might have warmer microclimates than the hardiness map. On the other hand, steep north facing slopes, especially those in dense woodlands, have microclimates cooler and wetter than the surrounding landscape.

Considerations other than hardiness

USDA hardiness zones should never be the sole criteria for selecting plants. Remember to look for plants that thrive with your soils and sunlight conditions. Those factors, just as much as cold tolerance, will determine whether your choices are happy or fail.

Our plants page contains other online tools as well as plant related resources and links to authoritative plant information.

March 2018

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Fire! Prescribed Burn Season Begins

Image of three person prescribed burn crew.

Line crew lights flanking fire in tight fire break.

The spring melt means that the very best time to control invasive brush and weeds starts this week across much of Wisconsin. Whether you manage an acre or several thousand, nothing beats controlled fire for land conservation.

Public land managers know this very well. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources start their annual burn season any day.

Controlled fire can knock down invasive trees, shrubs and weeds like nothing else. The Wisconsin landscape is adapted to fire. Many native plants tolerate low intensity fire and some even require it. Because controlled burns are used in the late fall or early spring, while native plants are dormant, most are completely unaffected.

Effective use of prescribed burns can get more done in a day than months of hand pulling or weeks of spot herbicide treatments. It is cheaper than broadcast herbicide treatments; without harming native plants.

Learn To Burn Safely

Crew checking backpack pump cans

Crew checking backpack pump cans

The Prairie Enthusiasts will hold a prescribed fire training class this Saturday. The one day class is designed for people without previous burn experience or those who want a refresher.

Here is a great place for those hesitant about using controlled fire to start learning the skills needed to confidently use fire on their land.

This training follows the guidelines of the Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council. Successful participation in this training, plus working on two TPE burns as an apprentice, provides qualifications to be a new crew member on TPE burns. Check out our event announcement for more details.

Line crews and UTVs set to start prescribed fire.

Two crews prepare for prescribed burn of prairie.

Build Skills While Giving Back

Volunteering with groups like the Prairie Enthusiasts of Nature Conservancy will give you the experience and confidence to put controlled burn to work for you on your property.

January 2018

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Landowners Get Help from CSP

CSP poster encourage landowners to participate.

You probably know about the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and may already be participating. But there are more things you can do around the farm or ranch to improve your bottom line while helping the land. The Conservation Stewardship Program provides help for forest landowners, ranchers and farmers. Your application must be received by March 2, 2018 to be considered this year for this funding but year. Applications received later will be considered for the 2019 growing season.

Apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to improve your operation and land health. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) uses CSP to help private landowners build their business while using conservation practices that improve sustainability. NRCS plans to enroll up to 10 million acres in CSP in 2018.

How Does This Work?

CSP lets you earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities, including: cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips and pollinator habitat. These go hand in hand with maintaining active agriculture production on your land. CSP also helps you adopt new technologies and management practices such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage & planting for high carbon sequestration rate, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.

Some of the benefits of CSP include: improved cattle gains per acre; increased crop yields; lower input costs; more and wider variety of wildlife. CSP activities can also improve drought resistance and storm water management.

The CSP website has a CSP Enhancements tool that lets you select your land use and conservation concern. Then it displays a list of recommended enhancement practices. There is a downloadable pdf file for each enhancement.

Contact your local USDA service center or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted for more information.

We’re Just Getting Started

CSP and CRP are by no means the only games in town. There are more programs that can help with both money and technical assistance.  The programs you choose will depend on your management goals; as well as current and planned land uses. Here is a listing of landowners programs, run by both governments and non-profit groups. You might just find the help you need for your next conservation project.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Great Brush Pile Burning

Author with leaf blower brush pile burning in the background.

There is more to burning a brush pile than dousing it with gasoline and throwing a match at it.

Mid winter is a great time for brush piles burning in Wisconsin. My wife Anette and I unpack the Forrester: first the sled; then the leaf blower, pump sprayer and torch fuel. Fill the chainsaw with gas and bar oil. No need to bring along extra as the saw will see limited work today. Some snacks, tea and juice will keep us happy through the upcoming afternoon. Finally, I tuck some dry kindling and a roll of old construction prints what will be our starter.

A mid January thaw during last week put the burn day in doubt. Forecast snow on Sunday night meant plenty of snow cover for the Martin Luther King holiday and our brush burning. A moderate snow, light winds and weather in the twenties meant we will be comfortable all afternoon.

The sled is half full and that is just fine with me. Anette grabs the rake closes up the car are we leave the county highway behind. The local snowmobile club came through this fall after harvest and dragged a beautify trail across the corn stubble. Access to the Vermont creek will be quick and smooth. I throw the rope across my shoulder and make fast work of getting to the easement.

Our first brush pile was made during two days work in early and late fall. The pile is made up almost entirely of honeysuckle and buckthorn with a couple small boxelders for good measure. The first task is blowing the snow off the pile and clearing a small ring around the pile.

It takes one calorie to raise the temperature of one pound of liquid water one degree Fahrenheit. To melt that same pound of ice to liquid water requires 36,150 calories of heat. To take that pound of water from 32 degrees to its boiling point requires a mere 180 calories of heat. However, to boil off that heat and drive it out from soaking wet wood require a colossal 241,765 calories. This is called the latent heat of melting and the latent heat of evaporation.

That frozen wet wood on my burn pile needs to thaw out heat up and drive off its water, then continue up to the 700 degrees needed for wood to Ignite. Now consider that there is a cold wind trying to carry off the precious heat from my fire. No wonder it is so hard to get a brush pile to burn in the dead of winter.

Blowing the snow from the pile and around it suddenly makes a lot of sense. So does bringing along paper and dry kindling. These will make sure I have fuel that can easily light and stay burning long enough to dry our surrounding wood in the pile.

Torch fuel is a two to one mix of diesel fuel and gasoline. Diesel has a low ignition point but a high flash point which makes it much safer to work with than straight gasoline.

A wise friend finally put me straight about using accelerants on brush piles. “You don’t want the torch fuel to burn. You want the torch fuel to make the wood burn. Let it set there for ten minutes and see what difference it makes.” He was right! All my life I would pour fuel on a pile and light it, never understanding that the fuel was sitting on top of the wood and burning itself off without heating up the wood enough to get it to ignite.

Now I pour on a quart where I would have used a gallon. By walking away for ten of fifteen minutes, the diesel has time to soak into the wood. There is no big whoosh of flame, instead the dry kindling and paper take off and heat up the surrounding wood that is ready and raring to burn.

Snow on the ground means embers will not ignite surrounding vegetation, making it safe for a couple of people to burn several piles at once. Many towns are weary of issuing burn permits in the spring and fall when dry grass and leaves make spot fires from brush piles a real danger. Winter burn permits are easy to get and are easy to watch.

Anette keeps vigil using the rake to push remaining branches from the edges into the coals where they are quickly consumed.

I head upstream to a downed tree that needs to be cut and stacked. It takes a half hour to get the pile set, but because this is a black walnut that is not yet finished drying out, our efforts to burn the pile meet frustration. After several failed attempts, it is time to move on to a third pile.

Like the first pile this is one has plenty of honeysuckle, which burns easily, buckthorn that burns okay when dry and preheated, and boxelder that has laid there for several years. As this large tightly packed pile springs to life, Anette breaks out cookies, chocolate hot tea. The snow is flying all around; we relax and enjoy the now fading sun as it forces itself through the snow and cloud cover.

As the sun begins to fade, I once again take out the leaf blower. There is a large bed of coals and large sections of trunk burning in the middle of the fire. There remains plenty of brush around the downwind edge of the pile that I am in a hurry to dispatch. Braving the smoke, I rake the remaining unburned fuel into the hot center where it sits listlessly. The small pile seems to be waiting for an invitation to burn.

So I supply just such an invitation. My leaf blower comes out of the sled and springs to life. Its supercharges stream of air turns the bed of coals into a blazing forge. The coals become furious and through intense flames and heat that make short work of the remaining branches that threatened moment earlier to suffocate the those same coals.

A few minutes running around the edge of the fire with the leaf blower moves the mixture of snow, leaves and twigs at the margin out into the snowy barren reaches beyond. A wide patch of charcoal black mineral soil now separates the two worlds and provides a safe barrier for the remaining wood to finish consuming itself.

We pull back across the field and wipe off the snow from the bottom of the sled. It slides into the back of the Subaru as the last rays of sunlight fade.