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DATE: March 31, 2003 FILE REF: mmcmin030603

TO: Marsh Management Committee

FROM: Andy Nelson, Wildlife Team Leader

SUBJECT: March 6, 2003 Meeting Minutes

Spring has sprung! As I write these notes the Marsh is bustling with birds making their way north. Widgeon, gadwall, mallards, shovelers, teal, and coots spin and tip on the Bachhuber and swallows are flying high overhead.

Our March meeting began with the customary series of management updates. Andy reported that wildlife staff has continued to devote almost all of their time to CWD duty. CWD duty is scheduled to conclude on or about March 31. After that staff will return to normal duties until at least autumn.

Andy shared the engineering plans for the East Burnett flowage. DU continues to refine the plans for the 303-acre project.

Dodge County held its annual deer herd status meeting. Locally the herd is in good shape and appears healthy based upon the results of CWD testing. As a result, 2003 should see a normal deer season with ample antlerless tags.

As you all know, DNR wildlife funding problems are currently an acute concern. However, current funding projections show that this problem may become chronic if license revenues do not make a significant increase by 2004. Specifically, significant portions of wildlife field operation funds are in jeopardy of being lost if current trends are not reversed. This would directly impact the ability of Horicon staff and the MMC to implement management plans and habitat restoration initiatives. The Governor’s budget does propose to substantially improve this forecast through license fee increases. Additional information on the license fee issue and impact of budget cuts is attached.

Anyone interested in providing testimony on the proposed budget is invited to do so in hearings before the Joint Committee on Finance in Madison on April 9. If you are planning to testify please let Andy know so your interests can be shared with Department leadership.

Next, we shared reports from the field among our muskrat surveyors. Tom Schnaderbeck, Ron Tobianski, Jim Reinhard, and Troy and Chris Maaser all walked transects this winter to assess muskrat hut numbers as an index to overall muskrat population. All transects located muskrat huts. Many showed increasing trends from prior years. One route that showed a decrease. Tallies are still being compiled. However, it looks like our muskrat hut surveys are showing increase of 50% or more on average. One of the most encouraging signs is that the distance from huts to open water is increasing. This means that the muskrats are creating eat-out areas around their huts within otherwise dense stand of cattail. Time will tell if this is a good indicator of increasing population density.

On a negative note, the muskrats have endured a very tough winter. With cold temps and little snow cover, we have had extremely thick ice cover. As a result many muskrats were froze out of their huts. Coyotes, raptors, and automobiles have hit these “runner rats” hard as they foraged on the ice.

Many thanks to Ken and Pat Byrne for a fine spread of cheese, crackers, soda and other snacks. The social time surrounding our break was a great time for some informal chatter about topics of mutual interest. Thanks also to Dean Schaeffer for volunteering to sponsor our snacks for the April meeting. If anyone would like to pitch in and help Dean, please give Andy a ring at 920-387-7868.

After break we got back to business by touching on our need to develop work team charters. Andy had committed to getting 3 of these team charters in place prior to our March meeting. However, other work prevented this from happening. Nonetheless, Tom Schnaderbeck was able to draft a charter for a prairie restoration work team. This charter is short and to the point. I am including a copy of the charter with this letter for others to follow in developing new work groups. Bring your ideas to the April meeting!

PRAIRIE RESTORATION WORKGROUP:

There will be work party on Saturday April 12, 9:00-1:00. In an effort to create greater expanses of grassland nesting cover we will be working on removing a tree and brush fence line which divides two fields of prairie grasses. Meet at the gate on Mieske ditch road, just off of swan road. From Horicon take county E west approx. 1.5 miles. Turn right onto Swan Road, travel approx.1.7miles. Turn right onto graveled Mieske ditch road at the 90-degree corner. Bring work gloves, safety glasses and hearing protection. If you have experience operating a chain saw and own one, bring it along. Gas and Oil will be provided. Any questions contact Andy Nelson or Tom Schnaderbeck at 920-387-3270.

Finally, the group took some time to talk about the “Next Big Project.” Our assumption is that the NAWCA grant will enable us to complete the East Burnett Impoundment in the next 2-3 years. However, it is not too early to start thinking about work beyond that. Various partner organizations are beginning the drive to raise funds for the next project at Horicon. It is time to begin planning how those funds could be used to continue the work of the MMC towards rejuvenating the Marsh.

Once again, there was much interest surrounding projects which would disrupt the vast sea of cattails. A number of members are very interested in investigating projects which restore the natural hydrology of the Marsh through strategic ditch plugs and channel restorations. In the coming months we will need to continue to work and plan for this next habitat initiative.

Our next meeting is April 7, 2003 at 6:30 p.m. at the DNR Service Center. Please join us and bring a friend for a fun and informative meeting.

Agenda:

Management Updates
Work Team Charters
Break
Next “Big” project planning
Summer burns and Pothole Restoration plans

Attendance:

Todd Cook Ken Byrne Tom Schnaderbeck Norman Langlois
Ed Miescke Jim Reinhard Terry Vrana Keith White
Andy Nelson Dean Schaeffer Ron Tobianski Gary Kahlhammer
Mark Kakatsch

 

Marsh Management committee prairie restoration workgroup

The purpose is to create a volunteer work group that would assist the department in the restoration of oak savannahs and reestablishment of prairie on project sites bordering the Horicon Marsh.

Work parties would be held one Saturday per month for four to six hours, (excluding summer months). Work projects would be associated with the establishment of prairie on newly acquired land on Island Road and the restoration of approx. 20 acres of oak savannah. Projects would consist of removal and chemical treatment of trees and shrubs, soil preparation and seed planting, control of noxious weeds by mowing and herbicide, and seed gathering and cleaning.

In the future, additional projects could be the ongoing evaluation and documentation of the Savannah restoration project, (such as identifying prairie plants as they reappear). And identifying new project areas for restoration.

Tom Schnaderbeck

 
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