Jun 22 2021

2021 Essay Contest Winners Announced by FCAL

Forest County Association of Lakes (FCAL) is proud to announce this year’s essay contest winners from the 5th and 6th grades of Crandon, Laona and Wabeno schools. 

This year’s essay theme was “ Aquatic Invasive Species and How They Affect Forest County Lakes and Streams”.  The essays were judged by 12 volunteers from FCAL.  They were judged on content, composition and originality.  3 prizes are awarded to each school:  !st place wins $100, 2nd place wins $50 and 3rd place $25.  The Crandon 5th grade moved the judges for Crandon to create 2 honorable mention awards this year of $10 each.  In addition to these cash awards, the winners and their parents are invited to attend FCAL’s Fall Banquet in October where the winners will be honored by the FCAL members attending. 

And the winners are: 

Crandon: From left:  Auron Garrow HM, Kylie Thiel HM, Pam Schroeder FCAL President, Cilla Packard 3rd place, Lindsey Mihalko 2nd Place, Peyton Hauser 1st place.  
Wabeno: From left:  Kendric Allen 6th grade teacher, Addisyn Lochen 1st place, Torie Rosio 3rd place, Ava Hanmann 2nd place, Pam Schroeder FCAL President. 
Laona: From left:  Melissa Chrisman, Elementary Principal, Pam Schroeder, FCAL President, Cameron Tilton, 1st Place, Braiden Kelley, 3rd place, Mike Chrisman, 5th grade teacher. 
Laona: From left:  Dan Lazzeroni, 6th grade teacher, Melissa Chrisman, Elementary Principal, Pam Schroeder, FCAL President, Faith Novak, 2nd place, Michelle Ferm, 5th & 6th grade reading teacher. 

Jun 17 2021

Conservation Corner

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land &Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at lcc@co.forest.wi.us.

As a musky fisherman, I consistently hear walleye fishermen stating that they’d catch more walleyes if it weren’t for the muskies eating them all.  They’ll say, “if we’re not catching walleye, then something else must be.”  But, people’s beliefs about who’s eating who often venture into the “myth” level of misunderstanding.

Let’s start with the big bad muskellunge. As our largest predatory freshwater fish in Wisconsin, it’s easy to picture a “musky” gobbling up all the little walleye in a lake. But, research has shown something very different. While walleye do show up in musky diets on occasion, great musky lakes in Wisconsin are often some of the best walleye lakes as well. This doesn’t mean that the two species are best buddies or that they have a symbiotic relationship. More likely, it is evidence that both species do well in the same general habitats. In most big, deep, cool lakes you’ll find both species doing pretty well. It is certainly not a “one or the other” scenario.

There is a somewhat different story with largemouth bass, but even this interaction is more complicated than it may seem on the surface. Largemouth bass abundance has been increasing in many Wisconsin lakes, while at the same time walleye have decreased. There are a number of likely factors driving this relationship. Climate change is making lakes warmer, sometimes weedier, and often clearer.  

Largemouth bass, on the other hand, thrive in warm, weedy lakes. While the two species may have some direct interactions, we are really seeing entire lakes shifting towards more of a home field advantage for largemouth bass. This is especially true on lakes that were already on the smaller/clearer/shallower end of the spectrum for walleye lakes. f you are a little disheartened after reading these myths, I wouldn’t blame you. But, managing expectations and setting a baseline level of understanding about the species is an important first step before the real work can begin.

The DNR will be working hard this year to update Wisconsin’s Walleye Management Plan to provide the best strategies to meet these and other challenges walleye face. They will also be identifying key areas where partner groups, like lake associations, can help with maintaining great walleye fishing opportunities across the state.

Jun 07 2021

Conservation Corner

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land &Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at lcc@co.forest.wi.us.

 Tips for helping to prevent oak wilt disease

It’s best to avoid cutting, pruning or damaging oak trees this time of year to prevent the spread of oak wilt disease.

Oaks are most vulnerable to the disease during the growing season, especially from April 1 to July 15.

“Disease prevention is key,” said Ben Walker, a silviculturist with the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. “Once oak wilt becomes established, it can kill otherwise healthy trees in as little as three to four weeks.”

Oak wilt is a fungal disease spread by sap-feeding beetles and underground root grafts. Through mid-July, the beetles fly and feed on new cuts and wounds on oak trees. They can pick up fungal spores from an infected tree and carry them on their bodies to healthy trees.

Oak wilt can be very difficult and costly to control once a tree is infected. Underground spread through root grafts is common and many oaks can be lost quickly. Once established in an area, if not controlled quickly, spread to other nearby areas is almost inevitable.

Transporting firewood also creates a chance for fungal mats under the bark to carry oak wilt to new locations.

Silviculurists recommend using local firewood and following Wisconsin firewood rules.

While oak wilt has been established in the forest’s Lakewood- Laona Ranger District in northern Oconto County for more than 20 years, it was discovered more than 100 miles away in the Great Divide and Washburn ranger districts in Bayfield and Sawyer counties in 2018. Chance for control and containment in the northwest counties stand a better chance since infections are relatively new and more localized.

Oak wilt can reduce property values and recreational opportunities, while the forest products industry can also see reduced timber values.

“All landowners can help with prevention,” Walker said. “The most important thing we can do is protect oak trees during the growing season.”

Jun 01 2021

Conservation Corner

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land &Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at lcc@co.forest.wi.us.

Thorn Hired as FLOW AIS Coordinator

Lumberjack Resource Conservation & Development Council announced the hiring of Derek Thorn as the FLOW(Forest, Langlade, Oconto Waterways) AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) Coordinator.  Derek was born and raised in the Rhinelander area and attended Three Lakes High School, where he was first introduced to aquatic invasive species as a Clean Boats, Clean Waters Inspector for the Three Lakes Waterfront Association.  Derek attended the University of Wisconsin-Steven Point and received degrees in Water Resource Management, Wildlife Ecology and Management, and Biology.

Derek comes to the position with a wealth of experience, having worked for Oneida & Vilas Counties’ AIS teams and the WDNR. He has taught AIS prevention education and outreach programs, participated in purple loosestrife biocontrol, led Clean Boats, Clean Waters interviews and workshops, conducted aquatic plant surveys, mapping, and identification of native and invasive species and conducted creel surveys, population estimation surveys, and electro-fishing surveys.

Being a part of FLOW, as the AIS Coordinator, is important to Derek. Working to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species is something he values and finds essential. Thorn explained, “Learning about invasive species and protecting our native waterways was my main focus in college. I am incredibly happy I have the opportunity to continue making a difference in the world of aquatic invasive species. ”In his free time, Derek likes to spend time outdoors, fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, and kayaking.

The FLOW position is made possible through the WDNR Surface Water Program and a Community Project Grant from Lumberjack RC&D Council. Each county in Wisconsin receives a WDNR allocation to put toward AIS programming & prevention. Lumberjack RC&D Council, acting as the agent for Forest, Langlade & Oconto Counties, will administer WDNR AIS programming.

Tracy Beckman, Executive Director for Lumberjack stated, “We believe combining resources to be able to hire a full-time coordinator will bring sustainability to surface water programming throughout the tri-county area. Derek is exactly what the program needs and his enthusiasm and passion for the work shows in everything he does.”

Thorn will be responsible to implement WDNR programs such as the Citizen’s Lake Monitoring Network (CLMN), Clean Boats, Clean Waters (CBCW), AIS Snapshot Day, Landing Blitz, Drain Campaign and other DNR initiatives. He will also work closely with lake associations and Forest, Langlade & Oconto counties Land & Water Conservation Departments. To reach Derek, call715.490.3325 or email FlowAIS@LumberjackRCD.Org.

May 18 2021

Conservation Corner

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land &Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at lcc@co.forest.wi.us.

What’s in Mosquito Sprays?

Most residential mosquito control companies use insecticides known as pyrethrins, which are chemicals derived from chrysanthemum flowers that are toxic to insects; or more frequently, pyrethroids, which are synthetic chemicals that mimic pyrethrins. Whether natural or synthetic, these are broad-spectrum insecticides that are highly toxic to a wide variety of insects, not just mosquitoes.

Companies use pyrethrins and pyrethroids in their standard treatment options. Marketing efforts and corporate talking points correctly state that these pesticides are regulated and approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but that doesn’t mean they are without any negative environmental consequences. 

Pyrethroids are relatively safe but should not be viewed as harmless. If you spill enough on your skin you might experience itchiness, numbness, nausea, and respiratory problems, among a rather long list of adverse events.  At very high doses pyrethroids can kill you, a fact known because some people have injected it (suicide) and in one case because somebody ate food that was cooked in pyrethroid concentrate (it resembles cooking oil).  There are also scattered reports that some pyrethroids are carcinogenic and estrogenic but I don’t think such effects are shockingly large, and to date they seem to be restricted to mouse studies. Each pyrethroid listed above has a slightly different toxicity, so to get more information, Google the name or read the linked material by clicking on their name.

There is no way for companies to spray these broad-spectrum insecticides in your yard without also killing other insects they come in contact with, including bees, butterflies, caterpillars, ladybugs, dragonflies and other beneficial insects, along with the mosquitoes.

How Sprays Hurt Bees and Other Wildlife

The focus of much of the toxicity testing by regulatory agencies has been on domesticated honey bees because their pollination services are critically important for our agriculture system and food production. Researchers have documented widespread contamination of honey bee hives with toxic pyrethroids, finding residues of these chemicals in the pollen that bees bring back to the hive, in beeswax, and on bees themselves, at levels that can be lethal to bees or cause harmful effects.

Much less is known about the impacts of these sprays on wild insects and other native wildlife, but mosquito-control insecticides have been linked with declines of native pollinators. It’s clear that wild native bees and other pollinators are also at risk from mosquito pesticides.

Wild bee susceptibility to insecticides directly correlates with the surface area to volume ratio of the bee, meaning smaller bees like alfalfa-pollinating alkali bees native to the west and southwestern U.S. are at even greater risk from mosquito sprays than honey bees. 

Recently, thousands of monarch butterflies were found dead in the Fargo-Moorhead area of North Dakota and Minnesota after aerial spraying of a 100-square mile area with permethrin to control mosquitoes. Monarch populations have plummeted at an alarming rate in recent decades.

Mosquitoes themselves play an ecological role, serving as pollinators and as a food source for other wildlife.

Other Impacts of Mosquito Sprays

Mosquito sprays aren’t just toxic to insects, either. Runoff can wash these chemicals from our yards into surface waters, where they can poison aquatic organisms such as fish and crustaceans, which are highly sensitive to pyrethroids. Pets exposed to pyrethroids can experience vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and other symptoms.

May 17 2021

Conservation Corner

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land &Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at lcc@co.forest.wi.us.

As the weather warms and people are returning to the Northwoods, we’ve been busy scheduling our Shoreland Restoration projects.  I’ve been reviewing/designing a few plans and a lot of them have fire pits incorporated in them.  Several of the plans had firepits on the shorelines of their respective lakes and per my suggestion I’ve been able to convince the landowners to move them away from the shoreline. 

Firepits close to a lake can contribute to phosphorous runoff into the lake.  I’ve developed some guidelines for locating firepits. 

  • Locate fire pits away from shore and dispose of the ash.  Leftover ash is very high in phosphorous.  If the firepit is close to the lake, rain can wash the ashes into the lake and contribute to excessive weed growth and algae blooms.
  • I recommend locating firepits at least 50 feet away from the lake

Nitrogen, potash and phosphorous are the nutrients necessary for plant growth.  Once again, phosphorous is the key nutrient needed for algae and aquatic plant grown.  When phosphorous reaches the lake, it can fuel overgrowth of aquatic plants and algae.  Algae and algae blooms give the water the greenish tinge and can cause the toxic blue-green algae scum on the shorelines.  Excessive plant growth can decrease water clarity, interfere with recreational use of the lake and diminish oxygen for fish.

Rainfall does contain some phosphorous, which can increase when it hits a surface and picks up additional phosphorous.  Of course, there are other ways phosphorous can enter our water:

  • Decomposition of leaves
  • Excessive fertilizer application
  • Erosion of soil
  • Improper pet or human waste management

Grass clippings, leaves and aquatic plant material that wash up on shore all contain phosphorous, which is released as the material decomposes.  Things you can do to prevent excessive phosphorous include:

  • Using a mulching lawn mower and leave the clippings on the lawn as a natural fertilizer
  • Collect and compost leaves and clippings, or haul them away from the lake
  • Leave a strip of taller grass or shrubs along the lake to catch windblown and surface debris
  • Don’t burn leaves near the lake as it can destroy the organic matter, but release the phosphorous which can then be washed into the lake

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