Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Wisconsin Outdoor News: Unless Congress acts, wolf delisting years out

Unless Congress acts, wolf delisting years out
By: Jim Servi
First published in Wisconsin Outdoor News on November 3, 2017.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Steber

Washington D.C. – The August 1st ruling on the federal protection status of Western Great Lakes wolves by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was touted by sportsmen’s organizations as a short-term setback for wolf management, but one that would likely set the stage for ultimately returning Great Lakes gray wolves to state management. However, unless recently introduced Congressional bills are approved, that delisting process “may take 2-4 years,” according to George Meyer, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Executive Director.

The rationale is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) essentially needs to start the delisting process over with the Great Lakes wolves as a “distinct population segment.” The August 1st ruling states: “The central dispute in this case is whether the Endangered Species Act (ESA) permits the Service to carve out of an already-listed species a “distinct population segment” for the purpose of delisting that segment and withdrawing it from the Act’s aegis. We hold that the Act permits such a designation, but only when the Service first makes the proper findings.”

With that language, the USFWS can delist wolves in distinct locations, such as the Western Great Lakes region or Northern Rocky Mountain area of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming while maintaining Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection in all other locations. “Basically, the lower court decision from 2014, there were about ten things that the judge ruled on, one of them was the most damaging to relisting wolves in the Great Lakes and that was a provision that they could not be delisted until their former range was re-populated again,” Meyer explained, referencing the December 19, 2014 decision by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell that returned federal protection to wolves. “You don’t need to be a scientist to know that is impossible. Had that decision been affirmed, there was no way to ever delist (wolves) under the ESA.”

The Humane Society of the United States; Born Free, USA; Help Our Wolves Live; Friends of Animals and Their Environment argued that since wolf populations haven’t recovered in all their former range, that they must remain under federal protective status. Based on this most recent ruling, they have limited options for recourse. The first reason is due to the prominence of the court issuing the ruling. “The appellate court (U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal for the D.C. Circuit) issuing the ruling is really the second most powerful court in the country and is viewed strongly by the Supreme Court,” Meyer discussed, meaning the Supreme Court would likely not take up the case or would affirm their ruling. Second, is that the groups advocating for additional protection technically won the case. “They cannot go to the Supreme Court because they won the case. Now, they can ask the DC Circuit to add a word or two, but basically, they have to accept the opinion and that’s it,” Jim Lister, legal counsel for the U.S. Sportsmen Alliance, explained.

Assuming there is no appeal, the next step for the USFWS would be to re-start the delisting process with a specific focus on the distinct population segment of the Western Great Lakes gray wolves. USFWS guidance on Delisting a Species under Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act states: “To delist species, we are required to determine that threats have been eliminated or controlled, based on several factors including population sizes and trends and the stability of habitat quality and quantity.” That begins with developing a recovery plan with benchmarks from partners and stakeholders in the recovery effort. The aforementioned recovery plan has been in place for several decades with continuous monitoring efforts by the Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) along with substantial assistance from the US Forest Service, National Park Service, USDA-APHIS Wildlife Service, Tribal natural resource agencies, and the USFWS.

A 5-factored analysis is then completed, answering the following questions:

  • Is there a present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of species habitat or range?
  • Is the species subject to overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes?
  • Is disease or predation a factor?
  • Are there inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms in place outside the ESA (taking into account the efforts by the States and other organizations to protect the species or habitat)?
  • Are other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence?

These questions will need to be answered with the framework of the Great Lakes wolves as a distinct population rather than wolves as an entire species. With the recovery goals met and 5-factor analysis approved, the USFWS would then publish their proposal to delist in the Federal Register. At this point, three species specialists would need to conduct a peer review while seeking input from the public, scientific community, Federal and State agencies. If that process indicates continued support, as it has in the past, the USFWS would publish a final rule to delist, again in the Federal Register. At that point, Great Lakes wolves would be removed from the Endangered Species List and the population, now under state management, would be monitored for five years to ensure their sustainability.

“If you very carefully read the opinion, they (USFWS) need to fix three things they did wrong,” Lister, who has been actively following the appeal process for years, explained. “The simplest issue, the DC Circuit asked them to account for present impact of the loss of their historical range when recovery began. Essentially, they (USFWS) would have to say something like, we acknowledge that wolves roamed over much of North America, their range shrunk through the 1800s and first half of the 1900s, until only a pocket of wolves were left in Minnesota. With protective measures, over the next 50 years, the range of wolves has steadily increased. That 50 years gives us confidence that with their current range they are no longer in danger of extinction now or in the future.”

“Second, they have to address the impact on the chance of other wolves outside the Great Lakes region surviving if they (Great Lakes wolves) are delisted,” Lister continued. “They (Great Lakes wolves) have very little to do with wolves in California, Oregon, Washington, and the northern Rockies because of the vast gaps and unsuitable habitat. We thought the 2011 delisting addressed that, but the DC Circuit wants them to clarify. This shouldn’t be difficult considering they already have extensive records and solid evidence. And there are no wolves anywhere else in the Eastern United States, so by carving out the Great Lakes wolves, there will be no impact on recovery of wolf populations elsewhere. That’s what they need to prove and explain.”

“The most abstract and toughest to explain is the distinct population segment,” Lister acknowledged. “The ESA recognizes full species, essentially every wolf on the entire globe. When you take a distinct population segment, there are wolves that don’t fit, such as California or Washington, so they need to add another paragraph explaining why other wolves are kept on the endangered species list. The lawyers need to explain how the ESA has the flexibility to do that.”

The USFWS has been through this process several times before with gray wolves, and it is unclear how much will need to be completed again and what can be re-used, but it does appear they will have to start from the beginning. “The ruling was sent back to the USFWS and they can’t just mend what they’ve done,” Meyer said. “They have to start again at an early stage of the delisting process.” That process could take 2-4 years, but may prove to be unnecessary if either the House of Representation bill, HR424, or Senate bill, S1514, muster enough support for passage.

The House bill, Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2017, has 17 co-sponsors including five Wisconsin representatives and bi-partisan support. It is direct and to the point declaring, “This bill requires the Department of the Interior to reissue two rules that removed protections under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 for the gray wolf populations located in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes (all of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota, as well as portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio). In addition, this bill prohibits judicial review of the reissued rules.”

However, “the key has always been the Senate,” Meyer explained. “It (The Senate bill) has bipartisan support in Wisconsin and passed out of the Senate natural resources committee after several areas were added that brought in Democratic support. To avoid a filibuster, they need 60 votes and have 55 right now. They put the other things on to get five more votes, then it goes to the House, which would likely pass as is.” Looking more closely at S1514, titled “Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act” or the “HELP for Wildlife Act,” the additional elements include construction and expansion of public target ranges on Federal land, amendments to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Establishment Act, re-authorization of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and Chesapeake Bay Program, modifying the definition of sport fishing equipment under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and expanding partnerships to improve fish habitat conservation. Although the original focus was delisting wolves, the intent of the Senate bill is to add enough balanced provisions to gain passage through bi-partisan support.

The “Reissuance of Final Rule regarding Gray Wolves in the Western Great Lakes” is addressed in Section 7 of the Senate bill. It states: “Before the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall reissue the final rule published on December 28, 2011 (76 Fed. Reg. 81666), without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rule. Such reissuance shall not be subject to judicial review.” There is also a similar section reinstating the removal of Federal protections for the gray wolf in Wyoming. That final rule referenced on December 28, 2011 officially removed gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes region from the Endangered Species List, and returned management of gray wolves to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

There have been several other similar Congressional bills that have ultimately floundered. However, Meyer is “more optimistic” than he has been. “They are likely to have all that done by December and there is a better than usual chance it will get done legislatively, I’d say 60-40 chance, maybe 65-35 percentage chance, that it will get enacted into law.”

Photo courtesy of Jeff Steber

 

Exciting Stuff is Happening! Take 2

Do you ever have one of those things that you absolutely love to do, but it always takes a backseat to everything else in life? This blog is kind of like that for me. I love it and I love writing, but it always seems to be last on the priority list each day. One of my early resolutions going into 2018 is to be active and continue to add quality content for all of you.

The good news is that the blog had 1,554 visitors and 3,970 views so far this year, mostly from the 752 active followers. To all the supporters, thank you so very much.

The photo contest had some absolutely breath taking photos and we now have all the 2017 monthly winners set, so we’ll be able to see who the winner is for 2017 on New Years Day. I’ll have all those pictures compiled with the poll early next week.

More good news. One of my big goals for 2017 was to finish Forever Changed. And I did! Kind of… The first draft has been done for awhile now and I’m currently editing every chance I have to get the final product ready. We just hit 100 pre-orders for Forever Changed and the timing couldn’t be better. Queries are already being sent out to publishers and book agents as a first option for publishing. If that doesn’t work, I will be self-publishing in 2018. Exciting stuff! And it’s never to late to pre-order if you haven’t already.

The good news continues. My 90th article was just published and unless something goes drastically wrong, I will hit #100 in 2018. I guess that means I’m officially a writer. Still hard to believe since English was always my worst subject growing up. I sure hope my editors don’t read this:) New articles will be posted on Mondays, along with some of the dated articles, so even if you don’t subscribe to those papers, you can still stay tuned in.

Thanks again for all your support. This would all be pointless without all of you. Stories are meant to be read and shared and I can’t wait to hear yours.

 

 

 

 

Exciting Stuff is Happening!

Do you ever have one of those things that you absolutely love to do, but it always takes a backseat to everything else in life? This blog is kind of like that for me. I love it and I love writing, but it always seems to be last on the priority list each day. One of my early resolutions going into 2018 is to be active and continue to add quality content for all of you.

The good news is that the blog had 1,554 visitors and 3,970 views so far this year, mostly from the 752 active followers. To all the supporters, thank you so very much.

The photo contest had some absolutely breath taking photos and we now have all the 2017 monthly winners set, so we’ll be able to see who the winner is for 2017 on New Years Day. I’ll have all those pictures compiled with the poll early next week.

More good news. One of my big goals for 2017 was to finish Forever Changed. And I did! Kind of… The first draft has been done for awhile now and I’m currently editing every chance I have to get the final product ready. We just hit 100 pre-orders for Forever Changed and the timing couldn’t be better. Queries are already being sent out to publishers and book agents as a first option for publishing. If that doesn’t work, I will be self-publishing in 2018. Exciting stuff! And it’s never to late to pre-order if you haven’t already.

The good news continues. My 90th article was just published and unless something goes drastically wrong, I will hit #100 in 2018. I guess that means I’m officially a writer. Still hard to believe since English was always my worst subject growing up. I sure hope my editors don’t read this:) New articles will be posted on Mondays, along with some of the dated articles, so even if you don’t subscribe to those papers, you can still stay tuned in.

Thanks again for all your support. This would all be pointless without all of you. Stories are meant to be read and shared and I can’t wait to hear yours.

 

 

 

 

The Business News: Wausau on Water

Wausau on Water Kicks-off Wausau Riverfront Development
Perseverance Pays Off for Family Enterprise

For years, the Wausau riverfront, between Bridge Street and the Dudley Tower, has been a development priority for the City of Wausau. Following the opening of River’s Edge Trail in December 2016, the highly-anticipated Wausau on Water, or WOW Family Entertainment Center, opened on December 26, 2016. Further developments on the 16-acre riverfront are already in process by the city.

“We’re a family entertainment center with something for everyone,” says General Manager and Co-Owner Evan Greenwood. “There is fun for the families in the game room, and parents can sit in the full-service restaurant while the kids play. We also cater to corporate events with our laser tag. We’ve already hosted birthday parties, reunions, and it will be a great place to watch the Packers.” Several local companies have already taken advantage of the laser tag as a corporate team-building retreat.

The facility features 40 brand new arcade games, a 6,000 square feet laser tag arena, three private rooms for events, and the sports bar and restaurant which is covered with windows to provide optimal riverfront viewing. “There isn’t a bad seat anywhere in our restaurant,” says Julie Greenwood, Co-Owner. “We designed it that way so everyone would have a great view of the river.” Their outdoor patio will also be opening soon and will not only overlook the beautiful Wisconsin River, but also a park being designed by the City of Wausau. That park will feature a kayak launch, exercise area, giant chess board, and other fun activities for all ages.

Getting everything in place for WOW didn’t happen overnight. It took over five years of coordination and a lot of perseverance from the Greenwood family. That persistence seems to have paid off though. Already, they have almost 6,000 followers on Facebook and business has been steady since their opening. Online reviews have also been boasting the same thing. One said, “Wonderful casual dining experience. Friendly staff. Great service. Beautiful view of the River Walk area.” Another claimed, “Stopped today for the first time. Very nice new place, on the river with a great view. Inside is very clean, nice wait staff and very good food, using local businesses for many of their supplies, very good quality food. Meat from Townline Market meats is always excellent. Buns from Kreger’s Bakery a couple blocks away also excellent. Many tv’s…”

Sourcing from local businesses is important for Wausau on Water. In addition to Townline Market and Kregers, as mentioned above, WOW is working closely with Nueske’s and Kim’s BS Sauce to support their menu. “Tell that cook you’ve got some great food,” a satisfied customer shares with Julie as he walked by to prove that point. Their food has already made a large splash with the USA Today as well. Daniel Higgins, food and drink reporter, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, came as a secret shopper and highlighted their Bourbon BBQ Brisket Macaroni Grilled Cheese. “This sandwich…pushes the limits of when a grilled cheese becomes just a sandwich with cheese,” claimed Higgins before adding to his mouth-watering review.

In addition to local sourcing, WOW Family Entertainment Center, has another important element of Wisconsin lore. Their bar will look familiar to Green Bay Packers fans since it once was the trademark bar of Curly’s Pub, located in Lambeau Field. When Curly’s was remodeling in 2015, they acquired it and saved it for their idea that has now become a reality. All their art work was also re-purposed from a friend that was updating their collection.

The family focus of their entertainment center is in keeping with their desire to build something together as a family. Five family members of the Greenwood family equally share ownership responsibilities. “I’ve always wanted to go into business with my Dad, and development on the riverfront was a perfect opportunity,” says Evan. “We all have an important role – my uncle, my mom, my wife, my dad, and myself – and have worked hard together to get things to where they are right now.”

Published in The Business News on June 5, 2017.

 

Trail Cam of a Different Kind – Ruffed Grouse Drumming

One of my favorite sounds in spring is the thump, thump, thump as a ruffed grouse starts their drumming sequence in hopes of attracting a mate. We’re lucky that we usually hear one or two right outside of our house every year. A few years back I wanted to capture him on camera and set up my trail camera near his drumming log.

Here are the great pictures that I found when I returned:

On Wisconsin Outdoors: Birding Continues Growing in Popularity

Birding Continues Growing in Popularity
Searching for Wisconsin’s Most Unique Birds

Birding continues to grow in popularity around the United States with an estimated 85 million Americans taking advantage of the popular outdoor activity. Interest ranges from keeping a life list of birds and travelling to find new species to those that like to feed wild birds in their yards. Wisconsinites are lucky with over 400 different species recorded and an abundance of viewing opportunities in every corner of the state. We also host some very unique birds.

Photo Credit: International Crane Foundation

Birding is a natural outdoor hobby for those that hunt, fish, and camp throughout Wisconsin because you are already near the best locations. My interest was sparked by my uncle Mark, who teaches in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, and just notched his 500th bird. Started in 2002, my list of 269 birds, spanning 11 countries and 17 states, has many more adventures to go to match that lofty feat.

For anyone interested in great birding opportunities Mark had this to say, “I’d mention Wyalusing State Park as a place to visit. I also saw a Western Tanager and Harris’s Sparrow at the same time in Gay Mills in Crawford County, along with both cuckoos. Willets and Avocets were two rare sightings for me at Wyalusing beach. Thayer’s and Iceland Gulls in Milwaukee County were biggies for me as well.” Definitely some great places to explore and near the top of my list. To find the most unique Wisconsin birds, it will take some work, but like anything that requires hard work, the reward is also greater.

Standing nearly five feet tall, Whooping Cranes instantly come to mind as a unique Wisconsin bird. At one time, there were only 15 Whooping Cranes remaining. Thanks to Operation Migration, a program using ultralight aircraft to help the cranes to their migration grounds in Florida that recently ended, and other volunteers the population is now over 600, including those in captivity. Still endangered, and one of the rarest birds in the United States, a flock that hovers around 100 lives in Wisconsin each spring and summer before returning to Florida. They make their Wisconsin home where Mark discovered his first years ago, “I was able to add the Whooping Crane at the Necedah Wildlife Refuge,” he said happily recalling the memory as all birders do when asked about a personal discovery.

Kirtland’s Warbler’s are another extremely rare bird that can be found in Wisconsin. Placed on the endangered species list in 1967, they were thought to only breed in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Now they nest in the Upper Peninsula, Canada, and Wisconsin. From only two successful nesting pairs found in Adams County during monitoring in 2008, the monitoring census has grown to observations of 30 singing males last spring in Bayfield, Vilas, Marinette, and Adams Counties. Adams County reached a high of 12 successful nesting pairs in 2015 and is still the best location to find the elusive Kirtland’s Warbler. Habitat is vital when searching. They generally only live and breed in relatively large, dense stands of jack pines that are 5 to 20 feet tall (6-22 years old).

Piping Plovers are a small, endangered shorebird that live along the shores of the Great Lakes. Only a handful of breeding pairs have thrived in Wisconsin in recent years, but 2016 saw a big announcement for the Piping Plovers. For the first time in 75 years, Piping Plovers nested at the newly restored Cat Island Chain in the Lower Green Bay area. Prior to that, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was the only regular nesting sites. Several other areas have been established as critical habitat in Marinette, Manitowoc, Douglas, and Ashland County to continue that momentum.

All of these locations are great places to begin or continue your journey. The great thing about birding is you only need a backyard or local park to begin and Wisconsin has a lifetime of destinations to explore.

Published in On Wisconsin Outdoors on May 1, 2017

Wolves in Wisconsin – Part 4

As Wyoming is preparing for their first wolf hunt in four years, it appears Wisconsin may soon follow suit. During a recent meeting I attended, a representative from Senator Ron Johnson’s office indicated that they now have bi-partisan support to de-list wolves from the Endangered Species Act once again. This is something the US Fish and Wildlife Service, our federally funded agency that manages wildlife species, has been advocating for years until a federal judge with no wildlife experience returned them to the Federal Endangered Species List in 2014. Time will tell whether Congress will act.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Steber

Photo courtesy of Jeff Steber

First published in Wisconsin Outdoor News on January 24, 2014. Click below to read the entire article:

Jan 24, 2014 – With wolf numbers down DNR suggesting 2014 quota of 156 animals