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


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.


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.