DNR public hearings: Crane hunting season, milkweeds, and more

Sandhill crane colt,  photo by Arlene Kozio

Sandhill crane colt, photo by Arlene Kozio

What do you think about opening a hunting season for sandhill cranes in Wisconsin? How about statewide encouragement of planting milkweeds to support monarch butterflies? Or maintaining funding for the Stewardship Fund, which provides grants for land acquisition and conservation?

You have a chance to tell the DNR just how you feel!

On April 10, the Wisconsin DNR and Wisconsin Conservation Congress are hosting public hearings in every county in Wisconsin to get your feedback on these and 85 other topics relating to natural resources conservation in the state.

This is an important opportunity for us as Wisconsin citizens and the DNR’s primary stakeholders, to weigh in on the agency’s actions and priorities – particularly now, when the DNR faces many organizational changes and the future of our state’s environment is uncertain.

This document contains all 88 topics on the DNR’s questionnaire, but three topics directly related to Madison Audubon’s work are listed below. If you care about these and/or other issues listed in the questionnaire, plan to attend your local meeting on April 10, 7:00 pm.

> DNR’s webpage describing the meetings, includes links to questionnaire and locations


From the questionnaire:

Monarch caterpillar munching on a commonmilkweed leaf,  MAS photo

Monarch caterpillar munching on a commonmilkweed leaf, MAS photo

QUESTION 64: Support increased planting/maintenance of milkweed (540116)

Monarch butterflies are important pollinators in Wisconsin. Population levels have declined in the U.S. by 90% over the last 20 years. The U.S. Dept. of the Interior is considering placing the monarch butterfly on the Endangered Species List, and the Wisconsin DNR is actively encouraging efforts to preserve this species. Milkweed plays a critical role in the habitat needs of the monarch (female monarchs only lay their eggs in/on milkweed plants), and it is believed that much of the population decline is due to the disappearance of milkweed. Several city, towns, and villages in Wisconsin identify milkweed as a noxious weed by ordinance and take aggressive actions to remove or prevent the planting of it within their communities.

64. Do you support having the DNR encourage local governments to remove milkweed from local noxious weed ordinances and encourage the planting and maintenance of quality milkweed plots? 64. YES____ NO_____

From MAS: Wisconsin is home to at least 10 native milkweed species (Common – Asclepias syriaca, Butterflyweed – A. tuberosa, Swamp – A. incarnata, Purple – A. purpurascens, Showy – A. speciosa, and Whorled – A. verticillata, Tall Green – A. hirtella, Prairie – A. sullivantii, Sidecluster or Wooly – A. lanuginosa, Oval-leaf – A. ovalifolia)(1,2), all of which support caterpillars of monarch butterflies by providing the one and only plant material the monarch caterpillars will eat: milkweed leaves! In addition, the flowers provide nectar for a myriad of pollinators, including but not limited to monarch adults. These plants have evolved to live in Wisconsin and are a historical piece of the biotic community here.

As part of our outreach efforts, Madison Audubon provides common milkweed seeds to community members to increase the planting and awareness of the importance of this species, particularly as a way to support monarch butterfly populations.


Prairie landscape at Faville Grove Sanctuary,  photo by Roger Packard

Prairie landscape at Faville Grove Sanctuary, photo by Roger Packard

QUESTION 78: Maintain Stewardship Fund (450316)

In 1989, funding for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program was funded at $25 million per year and in 2010 reached a high of $86 million. Currently the Stewardship Fund is budgeted at $33.2 million dollars per year. Stewardship funds are used to purchase and develop lands for hunting, fishing, trapping and recreating, lake and stream access and easements, partnerships with local governments, and protection of unique parcels of land. Other benefits include timber harvest, tourism, many different kinds of outdoor recreation and increased water quality.

78. Do you support the Legislature continuing to fund the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund at adequate levels with wise use of the funds by the NRB and the DNR? 78. YES____ NO_____

From MAS: The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is an extremely important tool for organizations like Madison Audubon to achieve their mission-work around land acquisition, restoration, and protection. As described in an earlier post, we encourage individuals to write to the program manager to request reconsideration of changes to the program that would reduce its efficacy. Funding for this program is fundamental for its continuation and success.


Sandhill crane landing on April ice,  photo by Arlene Koziol

Sandhill crane landing on April ice, photo by Arlene Koziol

QUESTION 80: Sandhill crane hunting season (540616) (requires legislation)

There are 700,000 sandhill cranes in North America and 17 states have hunting season including two states in our flyway: Kentucky and Tennessee. A management plan approved by 31 states and Canadian provinces in eastern North America established that the Eastern Population of sandhill cranes was large enough to be hunted and established a process for a state to apply for a limited quota based hunting season. In Wisconsin, the state legislature must approve a quota-based hunting season on sandhill cranes before the DNR can develop a season.

80. Do you support legislation which would give the DNR authority to begin the process to develop a hunting season for sandhill cranes? 80. YES____ NO_____

From MAS: Along with the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology (read their position post here) and other organizations, Madison Audubon is firmly against opening a crane hunting season. This is largely because of the decimation the species experienced in the early 1900’s, and their slow but steady recovery as a result of strong conservation efforts. An open hunt has potential to impact local populations by reducing overall numbers and dividing breeding pairs, as well as regional populations by reducing the potential for the species to expand from Wisconsin into other locations in its native regional range (Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, etc.). In addition, there is very strong evidence that sandhill crane hunting results in accidental take of the much more endangered whooping crane due to their similarities in appearance. The impact on these species can be significant.


Please make your opinions known at the April 10 meetings!