Michigan DNR encourages public to enjoy baby animals ... from a distance

With the arrival of spring, wild animals are giving birth and hatching the next generation. Baby red foxes
appeared in dens during the last days of March and the first days of April. The first litters of cottontails will appear soon. Great-horned owls have already hatched and are growing up in stick nests high above the ground. Mourning doves have made nests, and some have already laid eggs.

As springtime brings an increase in sightings of nestlings and baby animals, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) encourages Michigan residents to get outside and enjoy the experience of seeing wildlife raising its young, but reminds them that it is important to remain at a distance.

"These are magical moments to witness but, unfortunately, sometimes the story has a different ending when people take baby wild animals out of the wild," said DNR wildlife biologist Erin Victory. “Please resist the urge to try to help seemingly abandoned fawns or other baby animals this spring. Some people truly are trying to be helpful, while others think wild animals would make good pets, but in most cases neither of those situations ends well for the wildlife.”

"We appreciate the good intentions of those who want to help, but the animals are better off left alone than removed from the wild," Victory added.

Victory explained that the species that are most problematic are white-tailed deer and raccoons. “Deer seem so vulnerable and helpless, but really they stay still because that is a mechanism to let them be undetected. Raccoons seem cute and cuddly, but they grow up to be mischievous and aggressive. It’s best to just leave them alone.”

It is not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns unattended for up to eight hours at a time. This behavior minimizes the scent of the mother left around the fawn and allows the fawn to go undetected from nearby predators. While fawns may seem abandoned, they almost certainly are not. All wild white-tailed deer begin life this way.

Most mammals have a keen sense of smell, and if humans touch them, their parents will abandon them. Other wildlife, such as birds, should not be handled either. Adult birds will continue to care for hatchlings that have fallen from their nest, and although most birds do not have a strong sense of smell, if people move them, the adults may not be able to locate and care for them.

The DNR advises:
  • It is illegal to possess a live wild animal, including deer, in Michigan. Every day an animal spends with humans makes it less likely to be able to survive in the wild.
  • Many baby animals will die if removed from their natural environment, and some have diseases or parasites that can be passed on to humans or pets.
  • Some "rescued" animals that do survive become habituated to people and are unable to revert back to life in the wild.
  • Eventually, habituated animals pose additional problems as they mature and develop adult animal behaviors. Habituated deer, especially bucks, can become aggressive as they mature, and raccoons are well-known for this, too. 

"Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are trained to handle and care for wild animals. They know the peculiarities of diet for the birds and animals they assist. They also know how to release them so they can survive in the wild," said Victory, "If you know of a deer or other animal that has truly been orphaned – and remember, most are not – a licensed rehabilitator may be able to help."

For a list of licensed rehabilitators visit http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr or call your local DNR office.

Registration now open for DNR’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman summer program in Upper Peninsula

Women seeking to improve their outdoor skills can now register for the 16th annual Becoming an
Outdoors-Woman (BOW) summer program, held the weekend of May 31 to June 2 at Big Bay Health Camp, located approximately 30 miles north of Marquette.

Sponsored by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, this BOW program offers instruction in more than two dozen types of outdoor activities, including kayaking, wilderness first aid and survival, lake and fly fishing, fly-tying, geocaching, shooting sports, boating and outdoor cooking.

Volunteer BOW instructors provide basic and advanced instruction that is uniquely tailored to each participant's individual ability, helping the participants learn the basics in a short amount of time.

The $180 registration fee includes all food and lodging, as well as most equipment and supplies. Participants will be housed in a universally-accessible dorm-style facility with numerous amenities, including a pool, sauna, tennis courts, hiking and biking trails and easy access to Lake Superior. The BOW summer program also includes special evening programs, such as hikes, group bonfires and more.

Class information and registration materials are available online at www.michigan.gov/bow, and registration can be paid online at www.michigan.gov/estore. The summer program typically fills quickly, so early registration is encouraged. The deadline for registration is Friday, May 10.

A limited number of BOW scholarships are available to help low-income participants with the cost of registration. For more information, contact Sharon Pitz at 906-228-6561 or pitzs@michigan.gov.

BOW is a noncompetitive program in which each individual is encouraged to learn at her own pace. The emphasis is on the enjoyment, fun and camaraderie of outdoor activities, and sharing in the success of one another.

For more information about the various BOW programs offered in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/bow.

Midwest Living magazine's top 24 campgrounds

Following the country’s recession, interest in camping and RVing soared, especially in the Midwest. In fact, the National Association of Parks and Campgrounds reports that more Midwesterners cite camping as a hobby than people in any other region. Now, the May/June 2013 issue of Midwest Living magazine rates the region’s best 24 campgrounds.

Canning Creek Cove Park in Council Grove, Kansas
“We got into RVs and took them across the Midwest, visiting campgrounds and interviewing dozens of campers to find the best places to stay,” said Kendra Williams, senior travel editor. “Every amenity, including the cleanliness of restrooms and things to do for the kids, the scenic vistas and prices and even summer events were factored” when deciding who made the cut.

The result is a comprehensive list of fantastic camping spots, including five “supercampgrounds” that offer a winning combination of scenery, family-friendliness and amenities.

The 24 campgrounds featured in the May/ June 2013 issue include (*denotes “supercampground”):

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park in Middlebrook, Missouri

North Dakota
South Dakota 
The five “supercampgrounds” featured in the May/June issue received special accolades for their combination of “creature comforts and unbeatable views.” The clean restrooms and well-stocked camp store are a plus for Brown County State Park in Nashville, Ind., but The Little Gem Restaurant’s pork tenderloin sandwiches and fried buttermilk biscuits (dusted with cinnamon and sugar) are an even bigger hit. While at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Neb., kids will go ga-ga over its outdoor water park, mini golf course and pedal boats. Adults will enjoy the scenic view overlooking the Platte River.

Two honorable mentions named in the article, Clay’s Park Resort in Lawrence, Ohio, and Slattery Vintage Estates in Nehawka, Neb., are recognized for their more pampered approach to camping, also known as “glamping.” Clay’s Park Resort features Amish-made, queen-size beds situated in posh-style tents overlooking a lake in addition to big-name music concerts. At Slattery Vintage Estates, glampers can sip wine, dine on wood-fired pizzas and enjoy live music. In the morning, a three-course breakfast awaits in their wine-tasting room.

The May/June issue is currently available on newsstands, and the article is online at www.midwestliving.com/campgrounds.

Volunteers make Lake Hudson Recreation Area a better home for pheasants, other wildlife

Volunteer Nelson Evers and Hayes State Park ranger Pam Bobb roll up some
pulled fencing during a recent work day at Lake Hudson Recreation Area.
(Michigan DNR photo)
Michigan’s Pheasant Restoration Initiative got a boost recently as about a dozen volunteers from the Lake
Hudson Pheasant Cooperative showed up to work with Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division employees to take out an overgrown fence row between two grassy fields at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The goal is to create a large block of habitat that will be more hospitable to pheasants and other grasslands residents as well.

The Lake Hudson area is in one of three, three-county pilot areas the DNR Wildlife Division has identified as potential pheasant restoration hubs. It is somewhat unusual in that it is not a wildlife management or game area, but part of the Parks and Recreation Division.

The Lake Hudson Recreation Area consists of 2,800 acres of land as well as a 500-acre lake, which is a well-known muskellunge fishery. The area boasts 50 campsites and a day-use area with a beach and is also a dark-sky preserve. Area staff has identified about 500 acres to be managed as grasslands as well as perhaps as many as 200 more that could be converted to grasslands, explained area manager Jim O’Brien.

DNR staff recently mowed about 250 acres that had grown up into brush for conversion to quality grasslands, O’Brien said.

The work at Lake Hudson is ongoing, said Ray Fahlsing, who heads the stewardship program with the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. Fahlsing said the DNR has cobbled together a number of funding sources as well as enlisted volunteers to get the job done.

Pheasants Forever member Ken Prats lives just down the road
from one of the core areas designated by the Department of
Natural Resources for pheasant habitat improvement.
The Lenawee Chapter of Pheasants Forever donated $5,000 that the DNR is using for tractor fuel and
herbicide, Fahlsing said. In addition, volunteers from the Monroe County Chapter of Pheasants Forever recently cleared 20 acres of brush.

“They pulled brush out by the roots and then mowed the entire 20 acres,” Fahlsing said. “It was quite the operation, better than any contractor I’ve ever worked with.”

Volunteers from the Washtenaw County Chapter of Pheasants Forever cleared an additional 10 acres, Fahlsing said.

“And we were able to obtain some grant money to pay for removal of another 6,000 feet of fence rows,” Fahlsing said. “We’re fitting all kinds of pieces together to get this done.”

A number of fields are currently in agriculture under share-cropping operations, he added. As those leases expire they will be converted back into grasslands.

“We want to see bobolinks and short-eared owls and all kinds of species that use grasslands, not just pheasants,” Fahlsing said.

Pheasants Forever member Rachel Oldfield (R) watches Alex
Hallett (middle) and an unidentified volunteer rip out a partially
buried wire fence. The volunteers were on hand at Lake Hudson
Recreation Area for a recent habitat work day.
Ken Prats, a retired trucker who lives on a farm near the recreation area that he has enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), was one of the volunteers who spent the day removing and piling up brush – which will be burned – as well as removing old wire fencing and pulling out fence posts.

“We’ve got big aspirations that this program is going to pan out,” said Prats, 55. “We’ve always had a good bird population around here, but where the land was in crops, there were just birds here and there. Once we got it into CRP, the first couple of years we had good rains and the grass came up real well and the birds just proliferated.”

Nelson Evers, a painting contractor from Tecumseh who described himself as one of the “core members” of the Lake Hudson Pheasant Cooperative, said he was encouraged by the turnout.

“We want to clear these fences so we can take these three fields and eventually have one 90-acre parcel all in one piece,” Evers said. “The members are pretty passionate about doing this.

“We started out with just a couple of guys and we had 12 or 13 people show up for this work day. There were some sons and daughters and mothers out here. It’s kind of a family thing. And they’re all workers – that’s the important thing.”

Volunteers spent about three hours on the project on a cold, wet Saturday, reducing the fence row to piles of
brush and a few stumps.

Along with volunteers, Department of Natural Resources Parks
and Recreation Division employees take out an overgrown fence
row between two grassy fields at Lake Hudson Recreation Area.
“Lake Hudson is a great example of co-op partners rallying around the pheasant initiative,” said Al Stewart,
upland game bird program leader with the DNR. “They’re actively working to get things going on the ground.”

Lake Hudson, in Lenawee County, is part of the Lenawee-Monroe-Hillsdale County pilot area. The others are in Clinton, Gratiot and Saginaw counties, and in Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac counties in the Thumb.

“There’s a co-op developed in Barry County actively engaged in the initiative, too,” Stewart said. “We’re working to get local co-ops formed throughout southern Michigan, though we’re concentrating on the pilot areas to really get things moving.”

The DNR envisions eventually creating and preserving 200,000 acres of pheasant habitat, Stewart said.

“The focus is on working on a landscape scale, with public lands as the core of the activities, but expanding into private lands as well,” he explained. “In the past, habitat improvements have centered on small areas. This is an attempt to do things on a big scale.”

To learn more about the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative, visit www.michigan.gov/pheasant.
Michigan’s Pheasant Restoration Initiative got a boost recently as about a dozen volunteers from the Lenawee County Chapter of Pheasants Forever showed up to work with Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division employees to take out an overgrown fence row between two grassy fields at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The brush piles will be burned and the fields will be sprayed with herbicide before the fields are planted with warm season grasses.

Gov. Snyder approves more than $23 million in Natural Resources Trust Fund grants for public outdoor recreation projects

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder earlier this month signed legislation approving $23,348,700 in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) grant appropriations, funding 76 recreation development projects and land acquisitions in 43 Michigan counties.

The Natural Resources Trust Fund board, appointed by the governor, evaluated 142 applications seeking $37,880,200 in funding. In a competitive process, all eligible applications were evaluated based on scoring criteria developed by the MNRTF board. Sixty-six development and acquisition grants will go to local units of government and 10 Trust Fund grants were awarded to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“Better, more accessible outdoor spaces and recreation opportunities are central to building strong communities that appeal to residents, visitors and businesses,” said Gov. Snyder. “The Trust Fund has a powerful track record of driving positive change in Michigan. That’s in large part due to the Trust Fund board’s collaboration at the local level and thoughtful evaluation of community recreation resources and needs.”

The Trust Fund began with an agreement in 1976 to balance conservation with oil and gas development on state-managed land. The program replaced one non-renewable resource (minerals) with another non-renewable resource (public land) and created a permanent endowment.

The Michigan Constitution requires that oil, gas, and other mineral lease and royalty payments be placed into the Trust Fund. Proceeds are used to acquire and develop public recreation lands. In any fiscal year, up to a third of all mineral lease revenues, plus the interest and earnings of the Trust Fund, may be used to fund these grants.

In addition, the MNRTF makes annual payments in lieu of taxes to local units of governments on property that has been purchased with grant money.

Designed as a sustainable funding source for public outdoor recreation projects throughout the state, the Trust Fund provides grants to fund the development and acquisition of parks and green space, create viable trail networks, provide valuable outdoor experiences in urban areas, and generate economic benefits to communities.

“The Trust Fund helps create a better future for public outdoor recreation in Michigan,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “These grants support the governor’s vision of securing Michigan’s title as the Trail State, improving local economies, leveraging tourism potential and enhancing the quality of everyday life.”

Since 1976, more than $965 million has been awarded by the Trust Fund for land acquisition and development of public recreation facilities in all 83 counties across the state. This figure includes $164 million for trail-related projects.

For more information about the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund – including a complete list of the 2012 MNRTF grant awards – view the report embedded above or visit www.michigan.gov/mnrtf.

Michgan state-owned land available at auction now through May 2

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering more than 25 state-owned properties in four www.michigan.gov/landforsale. The auction began Wednesday, April 3, and will run through May 2, 2013. Properties in Berrien, Manistee, Menominee and Newaygo counties are available for bid.
Michigan counties for sale by sealed-bid auction at

These properties range in size from less than an acre to 200 acres. They vary in character from riverside and lakeside parcels to forested properties. Sealed bids must be postmarked by midnight on May 2, and will be opened on May 8.

Details about each property (including the minimum bid amount, photos, map, property descriptions and conditions of sale) are available by clicking on Land Auction. Instructions to submit a bid can be found on the printable bid form behind the property information.

Other unsold land from previous auctions remains available for purchase at the listed price. View these properties by clicking “Surplus Land to BUY NOW!”

Printed property information and bid forms may be requested from Real Estate Services Section, P.O. Box 30448, Lansing, MI 48909-7948 or by calling 517-373-1250.

These are tax-reverted lands; the proceeds provide future outdoor recreational opportunities in keeping with the mission of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Pittsburgh Happenings

Pedal On, Pedal On
Modeled after bike share systems in Boston, Denver and Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh will soon have a citywide bike share system in place. Five hundred bikes will be available for visitors, residents and business people to use for short-term use. The bikes will be used for “point-to-point” trips and can lock into any of the 50 solar-powered stations planned throughout the city. The 500 bikes are designed to be sturdy, vandal-proof and with safety in mind. The bike share is intended to enhance mobility within the city, promote tourism, and provide a fun and healthy way to visit the city’s diverse and exciting neighborhoods.

Goin’ to Nashville
Southwest Airlines added a new daily nonstop destination at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT). Beginning Sunday, Sept. 29, travelers will be able to fly nonstop from Pittsburgh to Nashville, Tenn. The flight will depart PIT at 8:20 a.m. and arrive at Nashville at 8:50. The return departure from Nashville leaves at 5:30 p.m. and arrives in PIT at 7:55 p.m., except Saturdays. On Saturdays, the flight departs from PIT at 12:55 p.m. with a return departure from Nashville at noon. Flights can already be booked at southwest.com.

Fairmont Pittsburgh ‘Greenest’ of Them All
Fairmont Pittsburgh has been named Fairmont Hotel & Resorts 2012 Environmental Hotel of the Year. The award recognizes Fairmont properties around the world for outstanding commitment to the Green Partnership Program, a Fairmont environmental stewardship program. “The colleagues of Fairmont Pittsburgh have an obvious enthusiasm for environmental stewardship,” said Sarah Dayboll, Fairmont’s director of environmental affairs. “Their outstanding efforts regarding energy and carbon reduction, water conservation, waste minimization and environmentally focused local community partnership are a natural representation of our Green Partnership Program.

Pittsburgh’s Newest Attraction
Bird watchers take note: Two pairs of bald eagles have built nests in high-traffic areas near downtown Pittsburgh. And, the nesting rituals of the birds are fast becoming one of the region’s newest tourist attractions, according to published reports. The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania says there are frequently crowds watching the pair above the Allegheny River. And, the society even organized an outing to watch the birds – more than 200 people showed up to spy them through binoculars and viewing scopes.

2013 NCAA 'Men’s Frozen Four'
There’s no spring thaw with the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four taking place in Pittsburgh in April. All eyes are on center ice for the culmination of the 2013 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Ice Hockey Championships. The 2013 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four – the semifinals and national championship – take place at the CONSOL Energy Center, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The highest level of competition in college hockey skates into the ‘Burgh, April 11.13.

Bragging Rights
TripAdvisor.com, the world’s largest travel website, ranked PNC Park – home to the Pittsburgh Pirates – as the best ballpark in America.

Spring weather has bears and other wildlife on the move

Although it is still quite cold outside, Michigan’s wildlife knows the spring season is here (based on the
increase of daylight hours) and is beginning to wake up from its winter hibernation. Bears are one of the animals starting to emerge from their dens.

Food and mating are the two drivers behind the increase of wildlife that Michigan residents may be seeing lately. Since bears typically mate in June or July, food is the primary cause for the increase in bear activity during the spring.

"At this time of year, bears are looking for food," said DNR bear and furbearer specialist Adam Bump. "They are hungry after spending months in their dens, and while we might not think of bird feeders and trash cans as food sources, a hungry bear certainly may."

Each spring, as bears leave their winter dens and resume daily activity, wildlife officials begin receiving calls about bear sightings and even the occasional bear damaging bird feeders, trash cans and grills.

Birdseed is especially attractive to bears because of its high fat content and easy accessibility. Once bird feeders are discovered, bears will keep coming back until the seed is gone or the feeders have been removed.

"The majority of complaints we receive about nuisance bears in the spring involve a food source. The easiest thing people can do to avoid creating a problem is to temporarily take in their bird feeders and store other attractants, like grills, trash cans and pet food, in a garage or storage shed," Bump said. "Once the woods green up, bears tend to move on to find more natural sources of food, as long as they haven't become habituated to the birdseed or garbage cans."

Bears that are rewarded with food each time they visit a yard can become habituated to these food sources unintentionally provided by people. This can create an unsafe situation for the bear and become a nuisance for landowners if a bear continuously visits their yard during the day and repeatedly destroys private property in search of food.

DNR Wildlife Division staff members are unable to respond directly to each nuisance bear complaint, and instead ask that landowners do their part to help reduce potential food sources in their yards first before calling for further assistance. The trapping of nuisance bears is only authorized by DNR wildlife officials in cases of significant property damage or threats to human safety when other techniques have failed.

Anyone who is experiencing problems with nuisance bears and has taken the appropriate action to remove food sources for a period of two to three weeks, but has not seen results, should contact the nearest DNR office and speak with a wildlife biologist or technician for further assistance.

For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/bear.

Air Wick launches new collection in support of the National Park Foundation

Editor's note: To be honest, I'm tempted to chuckle at these Air Wick scents. How does the Grand Canyon smell anyways? But anything that helps to support our National Parks deserves our support, too. So here's a little something-something on the new National Parks collection from Air Wick.

New Line of Scents Builds Upon 'The Craft of Fragrance' Platform

Reckitt Benckiser's Air Wick brand is celebrating National Park Week (April 20 – 28) with the National Park Foundation (NPF), the official charity of America’s national parks, Air Wick® developed the scents inspired by the unique flora and fauna of popular parks such as the Grand Canyon, Denali and American Samoa. This collection brings a sensory park experience into the home.
announcement of six new limited edition fragrances that are inspired by the rare essence of our national parks and will be featured in its full range of air freshener products. 

The limited edition collection was crafted by fragrance experts who spend countless hours creating the perfect harmony of fragrance notes representative of the natural elements found in these national parks and pays homage to the brand’s “The Craft of Fragrance” creative platform.

“Air Wick is thrilled to partner with the National Park Foundation to preserve and celebrate the purity and beauty of America’s over 400 national parks,” said Domenick Tiziano, Senior Brand Manager, Reckitt Benckiser. “While not every consumer has visited a national park, these fragrances are a catalyst for the senses, transporting the consumer to some of the nation’s most amazing places.”

The full range of products, available in stores now, retails from $2.99 - $5.99 and includes scented candles, freshmatic auto spray refills, scented oils and reed diffusers. Each of the six new fragrances evokes the scent and rare essence of one famous national park, helping families bring nature home:

Grand Canyon: Be awestruck by the breathtaking majesty of Grand Canyon National Park and discover
the subtle floral notes of delicate cactus blossoms carried in the warm summer breeze.

Virgin Islands: Find yourself in the idyllic paradise of Virgin Islands National Park and uncover the delightful notes of tropical plumeria and sweet honeysuckle.

American Samoa: Explore the lush paradise of American Samoa National Park to experience the sweet refreshing notes of native coconut and island palms.

Denali: Seek renewal in the sun-drenched valleys of Denali National Park to breathe in the clean notes of pure cotton grass and fresh spring air.

Gulf Islands: Bask in the fragrant scents that take you to the Gulf Islands, rich in white sand beaches and seashores that evoke sun-drenched sweet notes of a summertime paradise.

About the National Park Foundation
The National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, raises private funds that directly aid, support and enrich America’s national parks and their programs. Chartered by Congress as the nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation plays a critical role in conservation and preservation efforts, establishing national parks as powerful learning environments, and giving all audiences an equal and abundant opportunity to experience, enjoy and support America’s treasured places.

Open houses to be held on Ice Age Trail corridor alternatives through Rock County, Wisconsin

Wisconsin residents will have an opportunity to review and comment on alternatives for completing the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Rock County at three “open house” meetings that will be held in late April .

The National Park Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource, Rock County, City of Janesville, and Ice Age Trail Alliance will present four alternatives for completing the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Rock County.

Approximately 20 miles of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail already exist in Rock County, including segments at Storrs Lake Wildlife area, Milton and Janesville. The first of the four alternatives is to take no action on completing the trail. The remaining three alternatives all begin at the Walworth County line near Clover Valley State Wildlife Area and incorporate all of the existing Ice Age National Scenic Trail segments in Rock County.

Alternative 2: Johnstown Moraine/ Rock River East-- heads north from Janesville along the east side of the Rock River, avoiding the shoreline development before crossing the river at Indianford. It focuses on the glacial features of the Johnstown Moraine and Evansville historic districts before terminating at the Green County Line near Magnolia Bluff County Park.

Alternative 3: Johnstown Moraine/ Rock River West-, and Orfordville Moraine- crosses the Rock River and flows north from Janesville along the west side of the river avoiding the shoreline development before heading west near the junction of the Yahara and Rock rivers southwest of Fulton. It focuses on the glacial features of the Johnstown Moraine and Evansville historic districts before terminating at the Green County Line near Magnolia Bluff County Park.

Alternative 4: heads west from Janesville focusing on the old, eroded Orfordville moraine. This alternative provides an opportunity for views north towards the Johnstown moraine. It incorporates Footville and a sandstone erosional stack formation before terminating at the Green County Line near Magnolia Bluff County Park.

National Park Service and DNR staff and volunteers will be available to answer questions and explain the alternatives being presented. Attendees will have an opportunity to review maps and make comments, and suggestions. Comments also may be submitted electronically by logging on to parkplanning.nps.gov/iatr (exit DNR). After reviewing these comments and completing an environmental assessment, there will be a final round of open house meetings in 2014 to present the preferred alternative.

Ultimately, the corridor chosen for the Ice Age Trail will average 3 to 5 miles in width and will focus the efforts of the various partners, volunteers, agencies, and organizations working to complete the trail in Rock County. To successfully complete the trail, this corridor will be wider than what is actually needed in order to allow enough flexibility to work with landowners, since all participation in the Ice Age Trail project is voluntary.

Two weekday meetings and one weekend meeting have been scheduled, and will be held:
  • April 23, Milton - 5-8 p.m. with a presentation at 6 p.m. at the Milton House Museum, 18 S Janesville St.
  • April 27, Janesville - noon-3 p.m., with a presentation scheduled at 1 p.m., at the Rotary Gardens, 1455 Palmer Dr.
  • April 29, Evansville - 5-8 p.m. with a presentation at 6 p.m., at Creekside Place, 102 Maple St.
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail was authorized by Congress in 1980. When completed, the trail will be a footpath that meanders approximately 1,200 miles across the state of Wisconsin, tracing features left by the last glacier that swept over North America more than 10,000 years ago.

For additional information about the Rock County Open Houses, including specific information about event schedules and locations, please contact the National Park Service office in Madison at 608-441-5610.

Bears emerging from dens; take steps to avoid nuisance problems

As the remaining signs of winter melt away and black bears begin to emerge from their dens, homeowners
statewide are encouraged to take precautions to reduce the potential for problems with these hungry bruins.

Natural food sources are limited at this time of year, and bears are often attracted to bird feeders, garbage cans, grills, or other common attractants found in yards, says Brad Koele, Department of Natural Resources wildlife damage specialist.

"Taking steps to remove any food attractants will greatly reduce the likelihood of having problems with bears,” said Koele. “Black bears normally avoid contact with people. However, when food sources are available, bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food and can become a nuisance."

Highly habituated bears can be dangerous and may need to be euthanized.

“Preventing the problem in the first place is the best solution for both humans and bears,” said Koele.

 It is illegal to intentionally feed bears in Wisconsin. It is also important for landowners to make sure they are not unintentionally feeding bears by allowing a food source to be accessible near their home. Bird feeders are often a source for a quick meal, especially in the spring, and unsecured garbage cans or dumpsters are also potential attractants.

Wildlife biologists encourage residents to follow these steps to avoid attracting bears:
  • Don’t knowingly feed a bear;
  • Completely remove bird feeders, even during daytime hours. Bears are active during the day and may cause problems even if the feeders are out only during that time.
  • Reduce garbage odors by rinsing food cans before putting them in recycling containers or garbage cans;
  • Keep meat scraps in the freezer until garbage day, and if possible, keep garbage cans in a closed building until the morning of pick-up. Commercial dumpsters should be locked;
  • Keep pet food inside or inaccessible to bears even during daytime hours;
  • Keep barbeque grills and picnic tables clean.
If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise to scare it away. Then back away slowly or go inside and wait for the bear to leave. When scaring the bear away, make sure it has a clear escape route. Never corner a bear.

If a bear finds food such as bird feed or garbage near your home it will likely return. The visits will eventually stop when food is no longer available. Bears will periodically check sites where food was once available, so it may take several days to weeks before the bear will quit visiting a site once the food source has been removed.

If you encounter a bear while in the woods you should stay calm and not approach it. Give it space, walk away, and watch from a distance. Never approach a sow with cubs.

The Department would also like to caution that it is unlawful and unethical to shoot at bears. Each year the Department receives reports about bears that were shot with bird shot.

“Shooting bears with bird shot is illegal, extremely inhumane and could result in significant injuries or even is fatal to the bear,” said Koele. “There are a variety of non-lethal, humane abatement options available for resolving conflicts with bears.”

The Department of Natural Resources partners with USDA-Wildlife Services for responding to black bear complaints. Homeowners who are unable to resolve a conflict with bears should contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in Southern Wisconsin, and 1-800-228-1368 for properties Northern Wisconsin.

VIDEO: Pre-Trip Checklist from Mark Polk of RV Education 101 & KOA

Enjoy this 3:02 video from Mark Polk of RV Education 101 and KOA on pre-trip checklists.

Here's what Mark had to say about his video:
In this RV how to video Mark Polk with RV Education 101 http://rveducation101.com/ discusses some RV pre-departure checks snowbirds should make before leaving a destination they were at for extended periods of time.

KOA KOMPASS: http://koakompass.com/category/rvmain...

Illinois DNR encourages people to learn about how to live with Wildlife in Illinois

Human/wildlife interaction increases in spring and summer 

SPRINGFIELD – Spring and summer in Illinois bring a variety of human/wildlife interactions – and occasional conflicts. That’s why the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has partnered with the University of Illinois Extension Service to create and maintain the Living with Wildlife in Illinois website. The website is a helpful resource for Illinoisans who want to learn more about how to coexist with the wildlife of the state.

“Being close to nature is an amazing experience that everyone should enjoy, whether at a state park or in your own back yard. When those encounters become too close, we have an online resource accessible anytime to get important information. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes and see what the Living with Wildlife in Illinois website has to offer,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller.

The website link is http://web.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife/. It includes information on how to prevent wildlife damage, native wildlife in the state, and contact information for IDNR wildlife staff, Conservation Police, and nuisance wildlife removal.

IDNR does not lend traps or remove wildlife from properties. Individuals in need of having wildlife removed can find a list of IDNR-licensed nuisance wildlife control operators through the Living with Wildlife in Illinois website. These private operators will remove nuisance animals from property or buildings, usually for a fee.

The goal of providing this website is to teach people how to avoid human-wildlife conflicts through prevention and planning which can help to minimize the need to control nuisance animals.

Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic Fallingwater open for tours

Fallingwater is open for daily tours, beginning a 2013 season that includes a range of experiences, educational programs and tours.

“Visitors see something new every time they arrive at Fallingwater,” said Lynda Waggoner, vice president of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and director of Fallingwater. “The seasons, the time of day and the weather all contribute to new experiences for our guests.” 

Insight/Onsite Educational Experience for Adults
Insight/Onsite is a three-day seminar that combines quiet exploration, group inquiry exercises and mealtime discussions to provide participants with an understanding of modern architecture from physical, psychological and historical perspectives. Participants will join Waggoner and Fallingwater’s curators for this experience.

Insight/Onsite at Fallingwater is limited to eight people per session and will be offered from Tuesday, Sept. 3 to Thursday, Sept. 5 and from Tuesday, Sept. 10 to Thursday, Sept. 12. The pricing for this all-inclusive experience is $1,500 per person for double occupancy and $2,000 for single occupancy. For more information, contact Roy Young, curator of education, at 724-329-7823 or at ryoung@paconserve.org. 

Student Education
Fallingwater also offers a range of on-site educational programs for high school and college students, teachers and adult learners varying in length from three days to a week long. Information about educational programming is available at http://www.fallingwater.org/142/. 

Fallingwater visitors may register to attend lectures presented by architectural experts. Details about these periodic special events will be posted on www.Fallingwater.org. 

Fallingwater Guided House Tours are offered daily – except Wednesdays – from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., now through Thanksgiving weekend.

Visitors may participate in special tours, such as the In-Depth tour, which provides a detailed view of the house. Guides on this two-hour tour have a broad knowledge and the experience offers access to secondary spaces not available on the regular tour. The number of visitors on this tour is limited and interior still photography is permitted for personal use only.

The Focus Tour offers groups of up to six people a private extended tour led by senior staff member. The visit begins with a walk down the original drive to the house and ends with a private luncheon prepared by Fallingwater’s on-site chef. Interior still photography is permitted for personal use only.

A Brunch Tour is available on most Saturdays and Sundays from May through September. On this tour, participants spend nearly two hours in the house with an experienced guide, followed by brunch on Fallingwater’s covered terrace as Bear Run flows beneath the house. 

Tickets and Reservations
Advance ticket purchase is strongly encouraged. For more information or to purchase Fallingwater tour tickets, visit Fallingwater.org or call Visitor Services at 724-329-8501. Visitor Services can offer more information about various tours’ age restrictions. 

Fallingwater is located in Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands about 90 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. The house is located along PA Route 381 between the villages of Mill Run and Ohiopyle. It is approximately 19 miles south of the Donegal exit (Exit #91) of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) or 10 miles north of US Route 40. For more information, visit Fallingwater.org.

Wisconsin State Parks continues its campgrounds electrification project

Thanks to warmer weather in the southern part of the state, Wisconsin DNR workers were able to complete some of the electrification work at Devil's Lake State Park.

On April 18, Devil's Lake State Park Quartzite Campground sites will be available for reservation. The reservations will be available for dates beginning May 23, 2013.

Campsites 1-25 will remain first-come first-served.

The following sites in Quartzite Campground have had electrical service added to them: 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30, 45, 46, 48, 50, 65 and 66.

Due to continued winter weather in the northern part of the state, an update for Peninsula State Park is not available.

The Wisconsin DNR continues to look forward to warmer weather which will permit the remaining work at Devil's Lake and Peninsula state parks to continue. DNR officials said they wish to thank everyone for their patience as they move forward with this project.

Information will be posted as it becomes available on project status and campsite availability for these two remaining properties. Reservations can be made online at the Wisconsin State Park reservation website or by phone at 888-947-2757.

DNR's fire program crew committed to keeping residents, forests safe

Department of Natural Resources fire officers take advantage
of favorable burning conditions to conduct a prescribed burn in
Southeast Michigan. Prescribed burns are used to improve wildlife
habitat, help with forest regeneration, restore and maintain native
plant life and control invasive plant species. While most prescribed
burning is done in the spring to late fall, burns can be conducted
during the winter under the right conditions.
Fire can be friend or foe.

Though most people consider the term “forest fire” in a negative context, there are a lot of positives associated with fire. For Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ fire officers, it’s their job to be the experts in both suppressing wildfires and also using fire as a management tool.

“We not only put fires out, we also use fire to achieve management objectives,” said Don Johnson, who is the acting head of the fire program in the DNR’s Forest Resources Division (FRD). “We do prescribed burns not only for our division, but for Parks and Wildlife divisions as well. We’ve also done burns for the Department of Veterans and Military Affairs and MDOT.”

Johnson explained that these carefully managed fires are necessary to restoring and maintaining Michigan’s natural ecosystems.

“We burn pine barrens, oak savannahs and prairies,” Johnson said. “And we also burn wetlands, where we are using fire to help us control invasive plants, especially phragmites. In these instances, the phragmites is sprayed with an herbicide and we then burn off the killed vegetation to allow for retreatment if needed.”

While prescribed burns are part of the program, the bulk of the fire program’s emphasis is on preventing and suppressing wildfires across much of the state. The DNR also sends fire officers on out-of-state fire assignments to assist in larger fires.

Fire officers discuss plans while working to suppress a wildfire
in the Upper Peninsula. Highly skilled officers from the Department
of Natural Resources and other organizations are specially trained
to understand how weather and environment affect fire behavior. 
Jim Fisher, FRD resource protection manager, said the DNR has 68 well-trained fire officers who must pass yearly fitness tests to ensure they can keep up with the physically demanding job.

“Our fire officers, and other department staff who have been trained to fight fires in addition to their everyday jobs, have to be in exceptional physical and mental health to be out on the fire line,” he said. “These men and women are trained to not only fight the fires, but also have to understand fire behavior and the influences of weather and fuels on that fire behavior.”

Fuels consist of both aerial fuels – leaves, needles and limbs, as well as surface fuels – dead and live grasses, leaves, needles and woody debris. The weather influences the condition of those fuels through drying caused by higher temperatures, little rain, low humidity and wind.

“Fire officers must understand how all these factors work together to create the fire behavior they may see on the fire line,” Fisher said. “If they do not understand and read these conditions properly they could put themselves, or their fellow fire officers, in a more hazardous situation.”

Johnson said the DNR provides protection on all lands in the state except those protected under agreement with federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service.

He added that the DNR protects about 30 million acres.

A fire officer works to put out a “hot spot”
during a wildfire. Department of Natural Resources
fire officers must pass a yearly fitness test to
ensure they are capable of performing a
job that is physically demanding.
While the agency’s fire-suppression efforts are top-notch, fire program staff would much rather prevent a fire than fight one.

“Prevention is much more cost-effective,” explained Paul Kollmeyer, DNR wildfire prevention specialist. Michigan has a long history of preventing fires dating back to 1817 when territorial Governor Lewis Cass signed penalties into law for negligently setting fires and allowing them to escape.

Kollmeyer stressed that preventing wildfires is as important now as it ever was.

“Everyone needs to be mindful that any time they strike a match there is a responsibility to be cautious with that flame,” he said. “Even though the land is blackened by fires, houses and buildings can be destroyed too. People aren’t living in isolation like the early woodland pioneers; structures are commonly threatened at the scene of most wildfires today and larger fires place entire communities at risk.”

The DNR frequently develops new strategies to deliver fire-prevention messages and address specific problems. In recent years, there has been an emphasis on utilizing radio, movie theaters and television media campaigns that focus largely on the careless burning of debris – the leading cause of wildfires in Michigan.

Kollmeyer said it’s key for residents to remember that burn permits are required anytime the ground isn’t snow-covered. In northern Michigan, permits are issued through a simple process of checking availability on the Internet (www.michigan.gov/burnpermit) or by calling the DNR’s automated burn permit telephone system (866-922-2876). Southern Michigan counties issue burn permits through their local governments, allowing for specific ordinances to be incorporated into burning guidelines.

This year, attention will center on “ember awareness” and the need to quench hot coals from campfires, burn piles or discarded barbeque and wood stove ashes. Similarly, when the fireworks law was changed last year allowing access to more powerful fireworks, the DNR delivered a targeted message to users urging them to take precautions when handling near flammable vegetation.

Because careless burning of yard debris is the leading cause
of wildfires in Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources
puts a lot of focus on fire prevention. One way of preventing
outdoor fires from escaping is to check burning conditions by
obtaining a burn permit from the DNR. Burn permits are
required fornorthern Michigan residents. 
And you can’t talk about fire prevention without mentioning the campaign’s most well-known advocate.

“Smokey Bear remains an incredible icon,” Kollmeyer said. “People love having Smokey show up at an event. Just with his presence, a fire-prevention message is delivered.”

When it comes to wildfire detection, the DNR maintains a fleet of small airplanes that fly over forests to spot fires.

“We have five aircraft for fire detection, two in Roscommon and one each in Newberry, Escanaba and Houghton,” Johnson said. “We also contract for additional planes in the Lower Peninsula. Detection pilots not only spot fires, they also provide us with important intelligence – where the fire is, where it’s going, and what might be ahead of it, which helps us in evacuations. We couldn’t function without them.”

The acts of wildfire prevention and suppression are truly cooperative efforts.

There are 1,075 fire departments in Michigan and almost all respond to wildfires each year. Through joint efforts, the DNR aids departments with training and by increasing capability to respond to fires through the offering of excess federal equipment and grants to purchase wildland fire gear. Since the local fire department is the first to arrive at the scene, there is a benefit to everyone by increasing local capacity to manage wildfires that occur in their jurisdiction.

Michigan is a member of the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact along with Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba, to cooperate on fire-prevention and firefighting efforts.

“We do a lot of joint training,” Johnson said, “It’s higher-level training that we couldn’t get done individually, but we can collectively.”

When a big fire breaks out, members of the compact will be called upon to assist in fire-suppression activities.

“During the Duck Lake Fire last year, one of the big planes and a support team from Minnesota came and helped,” Johnson said. “And a number of folks from Wisconsin – with four tractors and engines – were deployed through the compact.

“In 2007, Wisconsin sent several tractors to the Sleeper Lake Fire and they never even billed us.

“They refused to bill us,” Johnson said. “They said, ‘That’s what friends are for.’”

To learn more about the DNR’s fire program, get tips and guidance on preventing wildfires, or sign up to receive wildfire management and other forestry-related updates from the DNR, visit www.michigan.gov/firemanagement.

'Earth Day in the Parks' promotes natural resources stewardship for students

Seventh annual event will be held across the state on several dates in April and May 

SPRINGFIELD – More than 1,000 students will visit Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) state parks in April and May for the seventh annual Earth Day in the Parks event series. Earth Day in the Parks is an initiative of the IDNR to introduce students to environmental stewardship. 

“Students participating in Earth Day in the Parks will have an opportunity to perform meaningful natural resources stewardship activities, including planting native wildflowers and grasses, building bird feeding stations and removing invasive, exotic plant species,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. 

Sponsored by the IDNR Office of Strategic Services and Office of Land Management, Earth Day in the Parks offers students the opportunity to get outdoors and work in nature. Their hands-on experiences will lead them to develop a sense of ownership of the natural resources in our state while also increasing available wildlife habitat. Students and teachers are encouraged to return to the park to study the effects of their work.

“This is more than just a field trip. It’s an investment in a future generation of potential conservationists,” said Director Miller. “We hope these students will continue to visit the parks, not only to witness the success of their projects, but perhaps to volunteer and develop a personal connection to a natural place.”

School groups were selected by random drawings from an application process held earlier this year. Money from the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund through tax check-off donations help to support the events being held at state parks through May 1st.