Apr 26 2021

Conservation Corner

Lake Property Owners, have you noticed erosion along your shoreline? This is a challenge that many shoreland property owners face, we would like to share some tips on how to keep your shoreland property in place!

The best way to identify and assess erosion problems is to check your shoreline regularly and monitor changing conditions. Warning signs of accelerated erosion problems include:

  • A large area of bare soil along the shore (especially on a steep/high shoreline bank).
  • Nearshore gullies caused by overland runoff from rooftops, driveways, and access roads.
  • A noticeable recession of the shoreline over time.
  • Large patches of unusually cloudy (turbid) water near a lakeshore, or unusually high stream turbidity (especially during periods of high water).

Choosing the best fit for your shoreland property depends on the quantity and speed of runoff from hard surfaces toward the water’s edge, and the amount of energy along the shore. Shoreline erosion on low energy sites can frequently be addressed by limiting the amount of foot traffic to, and along, the water’s edge. For example, you can create a purposeful path that meanders to the lake. You can also restore (or leave) native plants along the shore to create a no-mow zone. Further, you can allow aquatic plants to re-establish in the nearshore area.

Best Practices for a Healthy Lake

  • Fish sticks are strategically placed groups of whole, dead trees that are partially or fully submerged and anchored to the shore to create fish and wildlife habitat. These large woody structures also help prevent bank erosion by reducing the energy to your shoreline.
  • 350 ft2 native plantings stabilize banks with trees, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers that improve wildlife habitat, slow runoff, and promote natural beauty.
  • Diversion practices prevent runoff from getting into your lake or stream by redirecting water to areas (like a rain garden or rock infiltration pit) where it can soak into the ground instead.
  • Rain gardens create wildlife habitat and natural beauty while capturing and cleaning runoff.

Get Started

Before starting your erosion control project, consult with your county conservation and zoning department for local shoreland rules. It is also important to connect with the WDNR Water Management Specialist in your area.

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.

Apr 19 2021

Conservation Corner

What Causes Buds to Open in Spring?

Spring has finally sprung! Not only are crocuses, day lilies and daffodils starting to show up in our gardens, but many trees are also budding. It is a wonderful sight, giving us hope for longer and warmer days to come. Did you ever stop and think what causes trees to bud in the spring? Many think it is the length of day or the warmer temperatures, but the most important environmental cue for spring bud break is actually cool temperatures!

Dormancy (not growing or not active) is important for all tree species. It allows them to avoid the harsher conditions of winter. There are two stages in dormancy: endo-dormancy and eco-dormancy. During endo-dormancy, plants will not grow, even during warm conditions, due to factors inside the plant that inhibit or stop growth. This stage starts when winter begins and prevents trees from budding during an unseasonably warm stretch during the winter. During endo-dormancy, trees start to track the time spent above freezing, called chilling units. Temperatures between 40 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit are most effective. The duration of exposure needed to break dormancy varies by species and location, ranging from 500 – 1,500+ hours.

Once the chilling period is completed, usually in January in the Mid-West, eco-dormancy begins. This is when the conditions are not quite right, usually too cold, but the tree is ready to grow. When the temperature reaches the mid-40’s or warmer, growth begins and the buds start to break. These buds were formed the previous summer and spent the winter dormant and protected under bud scales. Now the young shoots break through and begin unfurling the leaves for this summer!

The new tissues coming out in the spring are very susceptible to disease, such as fungi, bacteria, phytoplasmas, and other pathogens. Spring bud break is the perfect time to treat your plants that have had problems with disease in the past. A pathogen from last year will probably be there again this year. The most threatening diseases in spring are:

  • Anthracnose on ash, maple, and oak
  • Apple scab
  • Fire blight on hawthorn, pear, crabapple
  • Needle casts on pine, Douglas fir, and spruce

Spring is also a good time to look for things that might have occurred over the winter. There are many kinds of winter injury that may have effected your trees. Temperature fluctuation, extreme low temperatures, wind, and animals can all cause damage. Here are some damages to look for:

  • Frost Cracks – deep longitudinal cracks from cold temperatures
  • Winterburn on Evergreens – browning or scorched leaf tip from wind
  • Spring Freezes – new leaves become flaccid and wither after a sudden hard frost
  • Salt Damage – browning of evergreens, leaf scorch, and branch die back
  • Girdling by Animals – mice and rabbits feed on young tree bark in the winter

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.

Apr 12 2021

Conservation Corner

As the last of the ice is finally gone, many people look forward to getting their boats back in the water.  This also means groups will once again head to boat launches in an effort to keep Aquatic Invasive Species [AIS] out of the lakes.  AIS can be determinantal to a lake’s health.

Eurasian Water Milfoil, Rusty Crayfish and Zebra Mussels have all been found in lakes in Forest County.  Once they’re in there it is very hard to get them out. Most of the time you’re just not going to, but luckily most of them can at least be managed.

The Clean Boats, Clean Waters program is a large part of that effort.  The county conservation office works with them and other agencies, lake associations, and volunteers to monitor boats coming in and out and public boat launches.

Last year, volunteers and paid staff spent their summers monitoring lakes in Forest County.  One of the more challenging parts of the effort to stop AIS spread is securing the funding.  Historically, counties were in that position where they have someone hired and then they put in for another competitive grant and then they don’t get it. Somebody ranks higher and they end up having staff leave because of the job goes away.

Fortunately, the DNR’s new Lake Monitoring and Protection Network will help.  It sets up AIS funding more like a contract and less like a grant. The DNR will distribute the funds based on a number of factors like AIS presence, the amount of surface water, and public access availability.

The state is also encouraging neighboring counties to work together to monitor lakes in the area.  The DNR just can’t afford to give full time aquatic invasive species coordinator program money to every county.  So, they’re counting on counties to either cover the gaps or to regionalize. 

Forest County recently agreed to work with Langlade and Oconto County to help fight AIS.  The new program will be managed by the Lumberjack Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D).  The agreement allows the three counties to combine their funding and hire a full-time tri-county AIS Coordinator.  A new coordinator was recently hired and will maintain an office in Langlade County, but expect to see him/her out and about throughout the county.

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.

Apr 05 2021

Conservation Corner

In Wisconsin, April 4-10 is ‘Keep Wildlife Wild’ Week.  Our year-round activities bring us outside to enjoy the natural environment and view our wildlife resources.  Wild animals are valued by many, and it’s important to observe them at a respectful distance to keep them wild and allow for their ‘wild life’ to continue.

During the warmer months of spring and summer, the frequency for wildlife encounters increases, especially with young wild animals.  While most of our ‘wild’ encounters are harmless, there are times when well-intentioned people interfere with wildlife situations because they incorrectly assume a young animal is orphaned.

Remember that the best chance for a young wild animal’s survival is with its mother.

Here are some tips for determining whether a young animal is truly orphaned.  For the protection of all young wildlife, do not revisit a nest site and don’t let your dogs and cats near the area.  To help you determine whether a young animal is an orphan or not, the DNR has a pull-down list of specific animal species on their website.

So why should we keep wildlife wild? 

  1. Stress:  Wild animals view people and pets as predators and are highly stressed by the sights, sounds and smells of being in close proximity to humans or our pets.  The stress can cause serious health problems and even death for a wild animal.
  2. Diet:  Wild animals have specialized dietary needs that aren’t easily met in captivity.  Young wild animals require a specific, complete diet.  If they don’t receive proper nutrition, they can be deformed for life.  Do not feed wild animals human food because the non-natural food items will most likely cause more harm and will not provide nutritional benefits.
  3. Disease:  Wild animals carry many different diseases and parasites, some of which are transmissible to domestic animals or humans.
  4. Habituation:  Wild animals need to learn normal social behaviors from their own species.  Wild animals that learn non-normal behaviors from humans or pets will likely not survive if they’re released because they haven’t learned the correct survival skills, they have lost their natural fear of humans and predators and they may be unnaturally habituated to human activity.  As young animals grow, they can still demonstrate dangerous wild animal behaviors that can threaten human and domestic animal safety.
  5. It’s illegal:  Most wild animals are protected under state and federal laws and can’t be taken from the wild or possessed by unauthorized people.  Raising a wild animal as a pet is not only against laws, but isn’t doing the right thing for the animal.  Wisconsin’s captive wildlife regulations allow a citizen to possess a wild animal for up to 24 hours for the purpose of transferring that animal to an appropriately licensed facility or person, such as a wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian.  Wildlife rehabilitators are licensed, trained and equipped to provide temporary care and treatment to injured, sick and orphaned wild animals for the purpose of release back into the wild.  Never attempt to rehabilitate wildlife on your own.  Wild animals can carry disease that can be transferred to you or your pets.  They are also capable of inflicting injury to themselves or others as they fight to defend themselves against a perceived threat. 

Contact a wildlife rehabilitator immediately, if any of the following apply:

  • The animal’s parent is dead or no longer in the area
  • The animal has been attacked by a predator
  • The animal is bleeding and appears injured
  • The animal is emaciated, very weak, cold or soaking wet
  • The animal has diarrhea
  • There are flies, fly eggs, maggots, ticks, lice or fleas on the animal
  • The animal is in a dangerous location (busy street, parking lot, etc.)

Mar 30 2021

Conservation Corner : Climate Change

Last week, we marked the spring equinox on March 20, the first day of spring.  I’m sure many of us are thinking about the change of seasons and the hope of warmer days to come.  The warmer temperatures can also bring up the idea of climate change.  There are many theories as to what our climate will look like in the future, the fact is that atmospheric carbon dioxide is at its highest level Earth has ever seen and this is increasing the average temperature.

The main cause of climate change is the increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) production by humans in the form of burning fossil fuels like gasoline and coal. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, meaning it helps keep Earth insulated from outer space and holds in the heat of the sun. This is important for life on Earth, but when too much carbon dioxide is produced, too much heat is retained in the atmosphere, creating an increase in the planet’s average temperature.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has only been recorded since 1958 at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, but data from thousands of years ago can be reconstructed from air bubbles trapped in the ice of glaciers.

Forests constantly adapt to changing conditions. Climate change has many factors that can affect the health of your woodland or property, including new weather patterns, rising temperatures, and changes to seasonal precipitation. These factors can create even more problems for your property, such as increased frequency and intensity of pests, invasive species, wildfires, and storms. Here are some tips I’ve found to consider to protect your property, especially your woods:

  • Keep Forests as Forests: Larger and more connected forests are more resilient and less impacted by stressors. Prevent fragmentation of your woods with a management plan and a legacy plan.
  • Reduce Stressors: Diverse forests with healthy trees tolerate pests and diseases better.
  • Address Vulnerabilities: Keep a variety of native tree species on your property as well as a variety of ages of trees.

The impact of climate change can be projected using forest impact computer models. The Climate Change Response Framework has a lot of useful information for landowners. They even have projections on which species of trees will likely decrease or increase due to the changing conditions. Take a look at their full documents to compare all species of Northern, Southwestern, and North Central Driftless Wisconsin.

Species likely to decrease:  
Balsam fir
Black ash
Black spruce
Northern white-cedar
Paper birch
Quaking aspen White spruce
Yellow birch
Species that may increase:  
American basswood
American elm
Black cherry
Bur oak
Ironwood
Northern pine oak
White ash
White oak

Bolded species are found in the lists for all areas of Wisconsin. The non-bolded species are for northern Wisconsin only.

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

Mar 22 2021

Shoreland Lighting: A Special Concern

As Spring approaches and our lakes open up, one of the issues that came to my attention is Shoreland Lighting.  During the daytime Shorelands are heavily used for recreation.  Artificial lighting allows us to engage in nighttime activities that would be impossible or unsafe under normal nighttime conditions. Whether it’s boating, fishing or simply sitting on the porch to read, our enjoyment of the night is enhanced by the use of artificial light. At the same time, our rivers and lakes at night provide a quiet open dark space that gives us privacy and an opportunity to enjoy the heavens.  Balancing the ability to see at night with the desire to preserve the beauty of the night is the goal of sensible shoreland lighting.

Sensible lighting can minimize the three most serious problems along our shorelands:

Glare:  The first principle of good lighting is to illuminate only what we wish to see. When we see a distant point of light across the water, when we are seeing light from the fixture itself rather than what the fixture is meant to illuminate, we are observing glare. Poorly-designed or poorly installed lighting causes glare that can severely hamper the vision of boaters, pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, creating a hazard rather than increasing safety.

Light Trespass: Light trespass is a light fixture on one property that illuminates an adjacent or nearby property.  Light trespass is not a legal concept, but rather a description of the nuisance effect of improperly aimed lights on someone else’s property.  We all have seen street lights, commercial lights or residential lights spilling over onto adjacent property, causing illumination where it was not meant to be. Because the waterfront is unobstructed, water reflects glare from shoreland lights over the water to trespass on distant properties.

Sky Glow:  Much of our exterior lighting shines directly upward, causing the sky above our cities to glow and washing out our view of the dark night sky. Billboard lights that shine upward, street lights that bounce light off pavement, and commercial and residential lighting open to the sky all contribute to sky glow.

Installing sensible shoreland lighting can be especially challenging because of the ability of water to both reflect light and provide an unobstructed view from far away. Anyone who has seen the moon rise over the water appreciates how reflective the water can be. Artificial light placed at the shoreland is free to carry across the water for long distances.

Waterfront lighting is often used to identify a pier or marina for boaters on the water after dark. Taverns and restaurants use neon signs to attract customers off the water. Dams and other structures use lights to warn of dangers to navigation.  Mills, factories, ballfields and other facilities near the water also light the shoreland.  While these uses of artificial lighting are legitimate, we must also take into con-sideration those people who can see those lights, but are not using them.

The most common shoreland lights are attached to homes, garages, piers and other structures on waterfront residential property. While we may notice the glare from an unshielded garage light across the lake, it’s likely that we’ve never ventured across the lake at night to see how our own home lights the night. Let’s start by making our own lighting sensible and unobtrusive, only then helping our neighbors “see the light.”

Solving shoreland lighting problems always involves working with our neighbors. You may have spent some time working on this problem, others may not have thought about it at all.  An easy first step to educating our neighbors and ourselves about a perceived lighting problem is to identify all the sources of glare along the shoreland.

If you are talking individually to a neighbor about a lighting problem, a careful explanation may be all that’s needed. Keep in mind that your neighbor probably has concerns about their safety and security and feels that their bright light is a good solution to their concerns. Above all, be tactful and courteous.  Understand some of the facts about different lighting fixtures, energy savings, and the differences between a good security light and a light that is just very bright.  Most people like to be helpful and cooperative when approached in a friendly and cooperative manner.

Municipalities in a number of states have enacted lighting control ordinances. These measures prohibit inefficient, low-quality lighting. Lake and homeowner associations or municipalities interested in regulating shoreland lighting can take example from the following section of the Oneida County, Wisconsin zoning code, which focuses on pier lighting:

  1. Flashing and rotating lights are prohibited.
  2. Lighting inside a boathouse and intended to illuminate its interior is permitted.
  3.  Lighting on exteriors of berthing structures shall be fitted with opaque shields to prevent direct visibility of the lamp to persons on public waters or adjacent lands more than50 feet beyond the berthing structure.
  4. Lighting not mounted on a berthing structure but designed to illuminate a berthing structure or its immediate vicinity shall comply with subparagraph 3 above.
  5. Lighting installed on, or intended to illuminate, seasonally-used berthing structures shall be turned off when not required for safety or security.
  6. Public marinas may install illuminated signs with opaque shaded or shielded lighting that provide information pertaining to applicable federal state or municipal rules and regulations relating to electrical, fueling, waste and sewage disposal or other safety and environmental matters. Such sign illumination shall not be visible off the berth structure.

Eliminating glare and light pollution saves money while reducing our impact upon our neighbors and creatures of the night.

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

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