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.


October 2017

Friday, 13 October 2017

17 New Whooping Cranes

Whooping Crane jumping.

Whooping Crane jumping at its home in Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Photo credit USGS – PWRC.

Getting ready for the long migration south, this year’s class of 17 whooping crane chicks will soon be joining the flocks across Wisconsin. Seven costume raised chicks were released at the White River Wildlife Area in Green Lake County. The remaining eleven parent raise chicks were released to join flocks in Marathon, Dodge, Winnebago and Marquette counties. The chicks came from the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

The class of 2017 will soon be leaving on their long journey to their wintering grounds in Florida. An 18th chick is recovering from an injured wing and will be released once it injuries are completely healed. The Operation Migration Team is a non-profit that has lead efforts to re-introduce Whooping Cranes to the eastern United States. They recently posted a summary of Whooping Crane news on the Journey North website.



August 2017

Thursday, 03 August 2017

Whoop It Up in Baraboo

Two Sandhill cranes standing on a sidewalk.

Two wild Sandhill cranes wander outside the Wisconsin DATCP labs in Madison, WI. [Photo courtesy of Anette Phibbs]

Want to learn more about Wisconsin’s Sandhill and Whooping cranes, as well as cranes from around the world? Come to the Cranes of the World Festival on Saturday, August 5, 2017 from 9:00AM to 5:00PM at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

In 1975 there were only a few hundred Sandhill cranes left in Wisconsin. Overhunting in the early 20th century and the pesticide DDT completely eliminated Whooping cranes and nearly wiped out Sandhills from the state. Today, thanks to the work of the International Crane Foundation, these incredible birds have made a successful comeback.

The folks at the International Crane Foundation began work in 1973 on cranes when little was known about them and their numbers were crashing around the world. From their humble start in Baraboo, the ICF has become the world’s leading international crane conservation group. Their projects in Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia have helped to stabilize crane populations globally. This one-day event is their way of sharing what they have learned with their neighbors.

Many landowners want to know more about cranes so that they can better manage them. The Cranes of the World Festival offers property owners an opportunity to talk to the experts about crane conservation and best management practices for their land.

The International Crane Foundation is located at E11376 Shady Lane Road, Baraboo, WI. For more information email:


October 2016

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Why We Burn

Crew prepares for burnThe Illinois Prescribed Fire Council recently released a comprehensive report on the controlled burning state of that state. In its Illinois Fire Needs Assessment, the group details the reasons for prescribed burning, the number or acres currently being managed with fire, as well as the acreage that would benefit.

According to the report, only 1/8th of the needed acres are currently actively being managed with prescribed fire. Because of this, much of the habit acreage in Illinois is ecologically degrading. Approximately 20% of the current habitat acreage is so degraded that it will not currently support prescribed fire.

Rather than giving up the report makes specific recommendations that are relevant for private landowners and public land managers across the midwest. Among these are increasing public support for private landowners, in the form of training and mentorship so that they have the knowledge and skills needed to manage their property.

For more information on prescribed burning check out the Illinois Nature Conservancy prescribed fire FAQ page.

September 2016

Monday, 19 September 2016

Lend a Hand; Gain Great Memories

Saturday, September 24, 2016 celebrates the 23rd National Public Lands Day. Hundreds of thousands of your neighbors will be volunteering at public lands across America, cleaning up parks, removing invasive weeds, repairing and building the trails that we all enjoy.

You value nature and conservation. You work hard to make your land a better place for the wildlife and plant communities that call it home. Share that enthusiasm by giving a few hours on Saturday to help out a conservancy, park, wildlife area or forest in your area.

Click here to find an National Public Lands Day event year.



February 2016

Monday, 08 February 2016

Super Sunday

Here in Wisconsin, it is a rare year indeed when Super Bowl Sunday features bright sun calm winds and temperatures in the mid 40s. We knew as early as September that a strong El Nino weather pattern was developing in the southern Pacific. The local TV weather meteorologists predicted above normal temperatures and below average precipitation.

Today, those predictions kept intruding as I parked atop Dunlap Hollow Road and headed for the trailhead at Phil’s Woods County Park in Roxbury. Nestled in the northwest corner of Dane County it is so small that Dane County Parks neglected to include it on the county parks map. It barely has a parking lot, which is plowed shut for the winter. What Phil’s woods has in spades is a spectacular view of the Wisconsin River Valley and Baraboo Hills.

A gift to the county by the Lafollette family, this park was part of the farm owned by the former governor. Its steep terrain declares this place has refused to succumb to snow and ice that covered most of Wisconsin and ground its rough features clean. Its slopes are a crazy mix of oak, hickory, birch and cedar, intermixed with cherry and black walnut that are obvious newcomers to this place.

As I cross an open field at its top, newly restored from cropland to prairie, I am following in the tracks of a man and his dog. The dog rarely moves from his master’s side despite having the fifteen acres to romp. At the ridge, an old fence line marks the southern boundary of the park.

Along the edge of honeysuckle separates parkland from the adjoining farmer’s field sits a well worn Leopold bench. One end is soggy but the left side is dry and inviting. Before me looking back across the slumbering prairie opens a magical vista; eons of natural history woven together to create a scene so beautiful it invites skepticism. How is it that this setting is real and not the contrivance of a Hollywood cinematographer? How is it that I am here at noon on Sunday feasting on it alone?

The air is mostly still with only an occasional murmur in the treetops. The only sound is the rhythmic boom of shotguns coming from the gun club off County Road Y. While some of my lefty friends might find the rumbling disturbing, I find it reassuring. These are the guys I have worked with for forty years. They are out sharpening their skills for next fall’s pheasant and quail season. But those “environmentalists” who mistake them for blood thirsty thrill seekers could not be more wrong. Hunters are outdoor enthusiasts first.

Hunters are overwhelmingly ethical with a deep understanding of the outdoors; spending far more days and nights in the woods during the off-season than they do hunting. Not only do they pay license fees to support wildlife management, but most belong to groups like Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Quails Forever and Trout Unlimited. Their volunteer efforts are responsible for restoring and protecting the world-class waterfowl resource know as Horicon Marsh, as well as the renown trout fishery in the driftless area of southwestern Wisconsin.

My musings are suddenly disturbed. But rather than breaking the mood, this interruption is more like the timely stage direction meant to complete the scene. Moving low above the treetops coming from Praire du Sac, a bald eagle climbs higher circling the Wisconsin River in broad sweeps from northeast to southwest than back. Each time climbing a bit higher into my view. Being noon, the Sunday brunch at the dam is finished and it is time to check out the hunting downstream. This time of year, eagles concentrate around those small patches of open water that afford a chance for an easy meal. And my day is all the more blessed for their presence.

On the walk back, I notice that portions of the park seem well cared for, while others are choked by prickly ash and buck throne. Along with the honeysuckle that bordered the prairie, these invasive shrubs remind me that the price of maintaining natural areas is high. Park volunteers, naturalists and contractors battle to protect our beautiful woodlands. Most parks have “Friends” groups that provide much of the labor needed.

Back at the car, I head home but stop to visit Dwight at his ice shanty on Lake Monona. The ice is slushy but he assures me there is still 8 inches; plenty of ice for walking on. The perch were biting earlier, but are apparently tailgating this afternoon, ahead of the Super Bowl. Dwight tells me the cold weather forecast for the coming week will likely improve the fishing. A tip-up flag jumps and Dwight is scrambling the twenty yards that separates him from his next victory. I take that as my cue to head home and prepare for the big game.

January 2016

Sunday, 31 January 2016