Mar 15 2021

Youth Education Committee Hosts Virtual 64th Annual Conservation Awareness Poster and Speaking Contests

The Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association (WI Land+Water) hosted
its 68th Annual Conservation Conference virtually on March 2-5, 2021. The youth speeches are
always the highlight of the conference and usually kick-off the WI Land+Water conference. This
year, with a virtual conference, the Youth Education Committee hosted its 64th Annual
Conservation Awareness Poster and Speaking Contest and first virtual competition.
Students from across Wisconsin submitted their speeches about relevant conservation topics,
and these were judged prior to the start of the conference. WI Land+Water Association
members and guests were able to view the first-place winning speeches and vote on the
conservation posters that were displayed on the virtual conference platform.
The first-place winning speakers from the elementary, junior and senior divisions were viewed
by over 400 conservation professionals and guests from across the state. Speeches had to
address a relevant, soil and water conservation issue, with emphasis on the impact of the issue
in their locality or in Wisconsin.

For the poster contest, the first-place winners in the primary, elementary, middle, junior and
senior division will move on to represent Wisconsin at the National Association of Conservation
Districts (NACD) Poster Contest held at the NACD annual meeting in 2022. The conservation
poster awareness theme this year was “Healthy Forests=Healthy Communities.”
“Despite all of the challenges that this pandemic has presented this past year, we were thrilled
that so many students from across the state of Wisconsin participated in our virtual
conservation awareness poster and speaking contests,” said Matt Krueger, WI Land+Water
Executive Director.

The conservation awareness poster and speaking contests are two of the many programs that
the Youth Education Committee coordinates to educate and inspire Wisconsin’s youth about
the importance of stewardship and caring for our natural resources.

“It is encouraging to know that students took the time to research and speak out about
compelling conservation topics and took the time to share their viewpoints on how healthy
forests=healthy communities,” added Krueger. “Congratulations to the winning speeches and
posters and thank you to all of the students for your hard work and your commitment to
protecting and conserving our natural resources.”

The topics of the winning speeches were:
• “Live at 6-Interview with a Homeless Prairie Chicken,” by Caydie Thompson from
Trempealeau County, discussing the importance of native Prairie Chickens as an
indicator species helping to determine the health of our prairie ecosystems;
• “Healthy Forest, Healthy You” by Joseph Jarrell from Washburn County discussing how
forests are critical to our communities, health and environment;
• “Not so Boring News” by Paige Lietz from Marquette County, highlighting the negative
impact the Emerald Ash Borer has had on most of the Ash trees in our state.

Elementary Division: First place: Caydie Thompson, Trempealeau County, “Live at 6-Interview
with a Homeless Prairie Chicken”; Second place: Malia Szews, Oneida County, “Susie’s Quest”;
Third place: Keewin Wilson, Iron County, “Help Save Our World-Fight Climate Change.”
Junior Division: First place: Joseph Jarrell, Washburn County, “Healthy Forest, Healthy You”;
Second place: Emelia Berg, Pierce County, “Eastern Whippoorwill”; Third Place: N/A
Senior Division: First place: Paige Lietz, Marquette County, “Not so Boring News?”; Second
place: Gabriel Traicoff, Barron County, “Our Home and Climate Change” Third place: Annika
Waltenberg, Portage County, “Invasive, Evil, Delicious”

Primary Division: (K-1) First Place: Kamden Freund, Portage County; Second Place: Mackenna
Herrild, Sauk County; Third Place: Louise Witt, Douglas County.
Elementary Division: (2-3) First Place: Flynn Bushman, Shawano County; Second Place: Preston
Christianson, Portage County; Third Place: Kallie Sadler, Sauk County.
Middle Division: (4-6) First Place: Olivia Cordeiro, Ozaukee County; Second Place: Rylee Olson,
Monroe County; Third Place: Laurena Sauer, Clark County.
Junior Division: (7-9) First Place: Madeline Fuller, Outagamie County; Second Place: Aliya
Cynor, Shawano County; Third Place: Robert Merklein, Washington County.
Senior Division: (10-12) First Place: Sophia Roth, Green County; Second Place: Grace Bergeron,
Brown County; Third Place: Ahnna Bautch, Trempealeau 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

Mar 08 2021

Wisconsin Water Week

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

As you’re reading this week’s article, I’ll be at the Wisconsin Water Week Convention, ‘virtually’.  Wisconsin Water Week 2021, is a virtual interactive online event. 

 “The event is really of unprecedented scope in Wisconsin for bringing together professionals, government officials and the general public to learn and discuss water and water issues in our state,” said Mike Engleson, executive director of Wisconsin Lakes and Rivers Convention.

For more than 30 years the convention annually has been a gathering of water lovers of all stripes, including lake and river stewards and other leaders. Co-sponsors include the Wisconsin DNR, UW-Stevens Point and UW-Stout.

Speakers include climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, and Marissa Jablonski, executive director of the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin at UW-Milwaukee.

The first ever Wisconsin Water Week will feature 3 days of content-rich presentations and panels on Monday-Wednesday.

Monday will emphasize “Water Cycles,” including groundwater and climate, the two largest but mostly invisible pieces of our shared water inheritance.

Tuesday will explore “Water Bodies,” delving into the science of monitoring and managing lakes, rivers, wetlands, and watersheds, and evaluating their health. This includes the flora and fauna in and around these water bodies and how they interact.

Wednesday will focus on “Water Actions,” featuring examples and stories from the field that demonstrate how people and communities are tackling water challenges – even during these turbulent times. 

On Thursday March 11, how people and communities tackle water challenges is featured at about a dozen regionally-focused sessions anchored by Red Cedar Watershed Basin in western Wisconsin, which has been sponsoring its own conference for the past 10 years. Keynote speakers at the Red Cedar event are Tia Nelson, managing director of climate at Outrider in Madison, Adam Reimer of the National Wildlife Federation, and Judith Schwartz, author and journalist.

Friday is designed to be a day of action, with local events (in person, if possible) including workshops, trainings, and field trips, most organized by your local groups.

Cost for the statewide event titled Navigating in Turbulent Times, is $20 per day. Each regional event retains the registration fee, Engleson said.

Engleson said the registration site that contains the convention’s agenda and speakers list is: go to

Feb 26 2021

Cost Share Program

The recent warmer weather has reminded our office that it’s time to start thinking about Shoreland Restoration.  Property Owners, are you aware of the Forest County Cost-Share Program?  This is a program administered by the Forest County Land and Water Conservation Department.  The Grant money is provided by the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade, & Consumer Protection (DATCP) to fund the program.

Under the program, the landowner pays for all project costs and is reimbursed for up to 50%.  The reimbursement is based on available funds allocated from DATCP.   If a landowner decides to apply for the program, standards of DATCP (Chapter ATCP 50) & the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) must be followed.

            The Program allows for:

  • Restoration of the buffer zone with native plants, shrubs, and trees.
  • Erosion control methods such as rip rap, biologs, & other bio engineering methods (as permitted by the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR).)

            The Program covers:

  • Native vegetation for buffer
  • Erosion control materials
  • Excavation costs
  • Labor for installation – costs for a contractor can be reimbursed or landowner labor can be reimbursed at a rate of $10.00 per hour.
  • Geotextile fabric

            The Program does not cover:

  • Removal or installation of docks/piers.
  •  Removal or installation of steps, walkways, lifts, etc.
  • Materials such as wood, brick, plaster, blacktop, or demolition material for rip rap use.

            If you’re interested in the Program, you can access an application from the Forest County Website ( under the Land Conservation Department, by contacting the Land Conservation Dept. at (715) 478-1387, or by email:

            Once the application is received a site visit will be done by county staff and a DATCP engineer to determine eligibility and consult with the landowner(s).

            If property is determined eligible, we will conduct a survey of your property/project and a plan will be designed.  Once you approve of the plan, you will have to obtain permits from the appropriate agencies (DNR, Corp of Eng., Local Zoning).  You will also have to obtain two (2) bids for your project to be submitted for approval from the Land and Water committee.  A contract and maintenance plan will be signed by you and the Project may begin!

Again, if you’re interested or have questions, contact Forest County Land & Water @ (715)478-1387 or email:

Feb 19 2021

Your Lake in 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

The lake you live on or near is a very different place when iced over for the winter, but it’s still a living system with many mysteries to explore.  Here are a few things you may not know about the life of a frozen lake

It all starts with steam.
f you look out on your lake on a very cold October morning, you’ll probably see wisps of steam rising from the water.  The steam forms as warmer, moist air, just above the water, rises to meet the cold, drier air above. The moisture condenses into tiny droplets to form what’s known as steam fog or water smoke. This is usually the first sign that the water is cooling as time for ice formation approaches.

Ice doesn’t like waves.
Have you wondered why your lake won’t freeze when the days and nights are windy? It’s because wave action constantly fractures tiny ice crystals as they form, keeping solid ice from taking hold. This is the same principal that explains why fast-moving rivers or streams don’t freeze.  In these conditions, the water can actually supercool, remaining as liquid below the freezing point of 32 degrees F.  When the wind dies down and temperatures drop, a thin sheet of ice covers your lake.

In Winter, your lake has layers.
Underneath the ice, lake water has an interesting temperature or layering profile. The warmest, densest water, at about 40 degrees F, lies at the bottom. The coldest, least dense water, at 32 degrees F, lies right under the ice. The ice itself is the least dense of all, which is why it floats.  Ice expands by about 10 percent from the liquid state of water.  This explains why your bottles break if left outside overnight in winter.

Oxygen levels in winter.
Fish and other water creatures need a supply of oxygen to make it through the winter. Fortunately, beneath the new ice, the lake holds more oxygen than at any other time of year. That’s because cold water can hold much more oxygen than when it’s warm. At 32 degrees F, water holds almost twice as much oxygen as it would at 80 degrees F.

Fish need less oxygen in winter.
Fish, frogs, mollusks, crayfish, and other critters are cold-blooded. In cold water, their metabolism slows down, and they move about slowly, if at all. Less movement means, less oxygen needs or use.  They go into winter with the most abundant oxygen at a time when they need that oxygen the least.

What’s up with lakes “booming”?

Lake ice makes wondrous, almost musical, sometimes eerie sounds as it expands and contracts with changes in temperature.  If you’re on the lake when the ice is booming, or even if you hear a crack sizzle right past you and off into the distance, there’s no need to fear. Booming and cracking do not mean the ice is weakening.  Most of the time, the booming is a result of the lake making more ice.

Ice is tough and fragile?
There are different ways to measure the strength of ice. One is fracture toughness – how easily a crack spreads through a material. If you use fracture, ice is about one-tenth as tough as window glass. Then there’s tensile strength- how much force a substance can take when stretched from both ends. The tensile strength of ice is about half that of bricks. Its flexural strength, which measures resistance to bending under a load, is roughly the same strength as a pine board across the grain.

How much ice is safe for travel? The Wisconsin DNR’s guidelines for new clear ice are as follows:

• Ice fishing (person on foot) = 4 inches

• Snowmobile = 5 inches

• Car or small pick-up = 8-12 inches

• Medium sized truck = 12-15inches

• Optimus Prime = 100+ inches

How does Lake Ice melt?
As the weather warms, the snow on the ice surface melts first. Then the sun’s rays penetrate the ice and warm up the water below, while also warming areas of open water near shore. Warm air circulating above the ice contributes to the thaw, but it’s the warming water below that really does the trick.

Dec 02 2020

Wisconsin Wetlands

Did you know that there are six different kinds of wetlands in Wisconsin?  Wetlands can be classified as:

Marshes Marshes have water depths between six inches and six feet.  Some have standing water year-round, others for only part of the year.

Sedge meadows Sedge meadows are dominated by grass-like plants called sedges. Annually, they will be wettest after snowmelt and spring rains. By the end of the summer, little or no standing water remains, earning these wetlands the nickname “dry marsh.”

Forested wetlands Forested wetlands, often referred to as swamps, are dominated by trees. Coniferous swamps, lowland hardwood swamps, and floodplain forests are all common types of forested wetlands.

Shrub thickets Shrub thickets are wetlands dominated by shrubs and small trees less than twenty feet tall. In Wisconsin, we have two types: alder thickets and shrub-carr. Periodic disturbances like flooding, logging, or wildfire keep shrub thickets from becoming forests. Typically, the soil in shrub thickets is saturated with water.

Bogs and fens Bogs and fens are uncommon wetland communities with water chemistry (pH) at the extremes: bogs are acidic and fens are basic or alkaline. Because of their water and soil conditions, bogs and fens are home to rare and specialized plants. Bogs receive their water from rainfall and snowmelt.  Fens, however, occur in places where springs or seeps bring alkaline and sometimes calcium-rich groundwater to the surface.

Rare wetlands Wisconsin has two very rare wetland types found along our Great Lakes coasts: ridge-and-swale wetlands and interdunal wetlands.  Ridge-and-swale wetlands have dry sandy ridges alternating with wet areas (swales).  Interdunal wetlands are low spots carved by high winds in sand dunes bordering the Great Lakes.

Do I have a wetland?  Some land owners don’t know that they have a wetland.  Look for these signs during different seasons and weather on your property. Presence of water-loving plants, such as rushes, jewelweed, and marsh marigold. Not all wetlands have cattails. Soil saturated with water most of the year. Wetlands are not always wet. Water at, above, or just below the surface of the ground for at least a portion of the year. Wetlands may be “unusable” areas of a property, but have many important ecological functions for your land, including wildlife habitat, water quality, and flood storage. 

Benefits of Wetlands: 
1. Reduce Flooding Damage: The absorbent nature of wetlands regulate water flow during heavy rains which can reduce damage due to flooding.
2. Improve Water Quality: The soils in wetlands are extremely absorbent and can retain excess nutrients, sediment, and heavy metals like a sponge.
3. Provide Wildlife Habitat: Breeding and nesting animals as well as endangered species have specific habitat requirements that wetlands can provide. Woodchucks, muskrats, and beavers also need the mix of wetland and woodland habitat.
4. Carbon Sink: The unique soils of a wetland can store carbon for 100’s of years which can help fight the effects of climate change.

Caring for your wetland: Spend time in your wetland: Take note of wildlife, plants, spring birds, storms, and water levels between seasons and year to year. Learn about your wetland’s health. Know where your wetland is within your local watershed, what soils you have, what plants you have, and how the wetland has changed over time. Make a plan.  Decide what your want to manage and create goals.

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

Nov 06 2020

Top 10 hunting violations during firearm deer season

As we gear up for the 2020 firearm deer season, DNR officials are expecting that this year’s higher hunting license sales will mean more new and experienced hunters in the woods. Here’s a list of the 10 most common hunting violations that conservation officers encounter every firearm season.

#1 – Using the wrong tag or improperly filling out a tag

Conservation officers often see the wrong kill tag on game – such as fish or turkey licenses on a deer. Often, this is a simple mistake made in the dark and can easily be corrected by re-tagging the deer as soon as you notice the error. 

Solution: Before field-dressing or moving the deer, kill tags should be filled out (including the month and date the deer was taken and the deer’s gender and number of antler points) and properly placed on the deer.

#2 – Not wearing orange

Some hunters remove their orange clothing once they get into deer stands or blinds. In the excitement of getting a deer, hunters may forget to put their orange clothing back on.

Solution: Commit to wearing hunter orange to keep yourself and others safe. Hunters are required by law to wear hunter orange as the outermost layer of clothing at all times.

#3 – Being unfamiliar with a firearm and how it functions 

Semi-automatic, lever, bolt and pump-action firearms are common choices among hunters, but each firearm functions very differently.

Solution: Take the time to familiarize yourself with your firearm and make sure it is properly sighted and functioning before you go hunting. Being able to safely handle your firearm is an important part of being a responsible hunter.

#4 – Committing safety zone violations

Each year conservation officers investigate property damage caused by firearms.

Solution: Rifle rounds travel long distances – hunters are responsible for where their bullets end up.  No one may hunt with a firearm within 450 feet of an occupied structure (including buildings, dwellings, homes, residences, cabins, barns or structures used for farm operations) unless they have permission from the landowner.

#5 – Trespassing

If a deer runs onto private property, the hunter cannot retrieve it without the landowner’s permission.  

Solution: Respect landowner rights and posted trespassing signs. If you’ll be hunting near someone else’s property, contact the landowner ahead of time; don’t wait until you’re tracking game.

#6 – Staking claims to public land hunting blinds

Confrontations over hunting spots, or the illegal posting (trespassing or hunting signs) of state-managed public land, happen every year.

Solution: Hunters should research and scout the land they plan to hunt – before hunting day. Brush, constructed blinds and tree stands on public land are just that – public. Regardless of who constructed, purchased or tends to these blinds, when they’re on state-managed public land, they are available on a first come, first served basis.

#7 – Littering

Leaving propane bottles, hand warmer wrappers, food wrappers, bottles and other trash causes problems for animals and people. 

Solution: Practice the “leave no trace” ethic. Whatever is brought into the woods should be taken back out. It is the responsibility of all hunters to be environmental stewards and clean up after themselves.

#8 – Baiting/attracting deer

Conservation officers stay busy responding to calls about illegal baiting.

Solution: Know the law. Baiting wild animals for hunting purposes is prohibited.

9 – Hunting out of hours or off-season

One of the most common complaints to the DNR’s Report All Poaching Hotline is about shots fired after dark. Often, these complaints are reported days later.

Solution: A hunter may legally shoot game 30 minutes before sunrise or until 30 minutes after sunset. Anyone who witnesses or suspects hunting outside of legal hours should immediately call or text the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline at 800-847-9367.

#10 – Harassing hunters

Conservation officers investigate acts of hunter harassment – which is when a person or organization intentionally sabotages another hunter’s quality opportunity to take game. Examples include spraying repellent around a hunter’s blind, creating loud noises and/or barriers that prevent or deter a hunter or game from accessing an area, or destroying other hunters’ equipment such as trail cameras and blinds.

Solution: Respect the law. Wisconsin law prohibits anyone obstructing or interfering with the lawful taking of animals. Hunter harassment is a misdemeanor offense.

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

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