Thursday, March 27, 2008

Prairie River announcement from the Wisconsin Fly Fishing Forum -> attend the Spring Conservation Congress Hearings on April 14 and vote YES on question 36 so that the natural resources board considers putting this item back on their agenda for their April meeting.

As many of you are probably already aware, back in February the Natural Resources Board voted 5-2 against extending the emergency special regulations on the Prairie. I am sending you this e-mail for informational purposes so that you may educate and encourage friends, family etc to attend the Spring Conservation Congress Hearings on April 14 and vote YES on question 36 so that the natural resources board considers putting this item back on their agenda for their April meeting.

This data has been gathered from numerous sources who stated that it could be shared.

Note that you do not have to live in the state of WI to vote on advisory questions, but you must be present to vote.

If you have any questions on this, feel free to contact me.

A little history

Back in roughly 2000-2001 the Friends of the Prairie River submitted a resolution to the DNR Natural Resources Board to implement a special regulations section approximately 5 miles long on the Prairie River. This is a regulation that would require artificials lures only and require larger size limits and lower bag limits if you wanted to keep a trout.

In 2002 the resolution made it to the Spring Conservation Congress hearings to be voted on. The rule passed statewide and was implemented in the new trout regulations for 2003.

In 2005 local fisherman in the area learned about these special regulations and were unhappy that they couldn't fish with live bait in this 5 mile stretch of water and keep smaller trout. The Prairie is over 30 miles long and I counted 30 access points for fisherman along the river that do not have special regulations on them. There are only 6 access points in the current Cat. 5. water.

By 2006 these upset landowners collected a petition and sub-mitted their own resolution to the DNR Natural Resources to have the regulations removed and put back to category 5 water.

In 2007 their proposal to remove these special regulations was on the ballot at the Spring Hearings and it passed statewide to remove the regulations for 2008 fishing season.

A missing piece of the puzzle was left out of the question when it was presented at the 2007 spring hearings. The DNR had done shocking surveys on this special regulation water and the surveys showed an increase (over 100%) in both the size and numbers of brook trout present. Even with our current drought situation in Wisconsin this showed that the special regulations were working and should remain in place.

Also during this time frame the DNR stopped stocking brown trout in the river in 2003. This section of the river contains a lot of spring upwellings that are used as spawning and rearing habitat for a good part of the rest of the river. In essence, now that the stocking program has been eliminated, this stetch becomes "The Hatchery" or nursery, if you will, for the entire river system. That is why this stretch should be protected.

Now, after the fact early in 2008, one of the Natural Resources Board members proposed that these regulations should be brought back to the table and put into an emergency extension since the shocking/survey data (that wasn't presented a the 2007 hearings) proved they were working. Unfortunately after the NRB had their meeting on Feb. 27th, the board voted 5-2 not to grant the extension. One thing that did come out of the meeting is that there will be another question on the 2008 spring hearings on whether or not the regulation should be re-instated. If there are enough votes, then the NRB may consider re-instating the regulations.

A few key things to note

We are faced with this situation because of a lack of leadership at the DNR that resulted in this issue in the first place.

In 2007 the when the question was posed at the conservation congress hearings, the DNR did not provide results of the survey data. This may have made a difference in the statewide vote if this information was shared with the public. It is my contention that if the biological information had been made available at last year’s Spring hearings – and it was not - the results might very well have been different. But that is not even the point, because it would hardly be different from arguing that there is an analogous rationale for a vote by Wisconsin motorists on whether to remove the state’s highway speed limits. Or that we should increase the bag limit on deer because a majority of hunters want more venison. Democracy is a wonderful concept, but some decisions affecting the public ought not to be left to a public vote – especially when the science – even “preliminary data” science – shows that it is contrary to good public policy

Why is the missing information important? When presented as being only a social question an audience would conclude that the special regulations had not had a positive impact and would see no reason to continue the regulation. The biological information would be critical to letting the audience know that the special regulations did indeed have a very positive impact on the resource.

This is/was portrayed as a "social issue" and not a "biological issue". I don't like the idea of a social issues driving the regulations in our state. If that is the case, this is going to set precedence for other parts of our state as well if we let this go.

Given the fact that the regs increase numbers of large trout, they have biological and social consequences. I think that some people, when they see terms like "non-biological" and "social issue", tend to think that the regs won't change the fishing, but only cater to "those fly fishing catch and release purists types." I really wonder whether we'd be where we are today if the original question hadn't been so poorly worded.

The issues have been described as social rather than biological – in that the fish population in the Prairie is considered self-sustaining. Yet the evidence – whether it is considered a “scientific” study or simply an informational exercise – shows clearly that the regulations produced larger fish and more fish in the area where the rules were in force. Further, the Board was not well served by the some of the DNR staff members who seemed relatively unfamiliar with many of the issues.

The DNR needs to stop listening to those that yell the loudest and take a stand on whats best for the resource and manage accordingly.The Board’s action, pending the results on the same question on the 2008 spring questionnaire, appears to be short-sighted in at least one regard - that the future of the fish in the Prairie River may be decided, not by what’s best for the resource, but what is most publicly popular.

Given the fact that many different user groups are competing for the same resource, as a state we have more than enough water available to provide different varied outdoor opportunities for everyone. The five miles of special regulations on the Prairie river should be a shining example of all the users willing to try a variety of management practices resulting in opportunities ranging from the possibility of a higher density of trophy fish on the five miles of special regulations water, to the opportunity on the remaining 30+ mile's of fishable water on the Prairie to catch a meal for the table and the opportunity for the entire water shed to experience these larger and more plentiful fish as they migrate throughout the system.

We also need to hold the DNR to its job of supporting whats best for the resource. It wouldn't hurt to remind the DNR of its Mission Statement. "To Protect and Enhance our Natural Resources" .... and to provide "a full range of outdoor opportunities".

The Natural Resources Board has, as its first responsibility, to consider the effect of the measures it passes, or declines to pass, on the resource, - in this case, the fish in the river.

We need to impress upon the Department that the fishery has the potential of going down like other streams in this area. Twenty years ago, the Wolf, Peshtigo, Popple, and even Montreal were streams of note. The fishery on these streams has been lost. The Pine and border Brule appear to be on a similar course. The Prairie was hanging on, but it just lost a valuable layer of protection. While angling pressure isn't the only problem facing these streams, the Department failed to address their decline. Even as these waters faced multiple threats, the Department allowed liberal harvest on them. The DNR has jumped fast on addressing VHS. To ensure enough walleye for all users, it is rare to find a water body where a daily limit can be harvested. The inconvenience of reading a trout regulation is nothing compared to having to jump lakes for 5 walleyes. DNR also doesn't follow a one size fits all in managing muskies and actively advocates for them in hearings - even rejecting th!
e "Little Johnny" argument. The same individuals will not advocate for cold water. We should support the measures taken to protect the warm and cool water fisheries, but we need to impress upon DNR that attention needs to be given to cold water fisheries because they too are threatened.

One of DNR's favorite buzz words is "partnerships". Groups such as TU, Friends of the Prairie River, Brule River Sportsman's Club, Kinni Land Trust, etc. provide manpower and funding to the DNR. Partnerships is a one way street. Conservation minded anglers buy licenses and trout stamps, too. The "takers" never give back. It is about time the DNR acknowledges its partners.

As lame as the "what about the kids" argument is, it is emotional and needs to be removed from the discussion.

The Congress needs to understand that fisheries management is not a popularity contest. Leadership of the Congress needs to get the word out among its membership to defer to science.

A small group of individuals had influenced the DNR to put this social question on the ballot, and other similar vocal individuals and groups want to influence rule makings to eliminate all category 5 trout waters in the state. This is a movement we all need to be aware of and take notice. The next group may organize to assault the size and slot limits that have been created on other species (that you fish) and that have resulted in quality fishing in Wisconsin.

Don’t buy into the argument that this water is for elitist fly fishers. There is no fly-fishing only regulations that applying to any trout waters in the state. All it takes to fish a special regs. water is a spinning gear outfit. The artificial lures restriction does not prevent kids from fishing. In fact most of them probably already have a spinning rod.

Category 5 regulations were formulated to provide a greater diversity of angling experiences, especially opportunities to fish populations of wild trout that have a natural size and age distribution unaltered by harvest. Such opportunities are the kind anglers might expect in remote destinations far from home. Now anglers in Wisconsin can experience that kind of fishing near home. Those kind of opportunities should not be canceled out on the few waters that are now designated as Category 5.

Science gives us the opportunity to measure the impacts of regulations and determine whether the goal of a regulation is being accomplished: Do we want larger fish in a stream, or do we want to be able to catch and keep them as soon as they reach eight inches? We survey walleyes, panfish, muskies, bass and sturgeon to determine impacts of angler harvest and other factors. Why shouldn’t we treat trout management in the same way?

So Now What?

I think it is imperative that as many people as possible show up and vote on this question in April so it doesn't fall off the radar screen. According to the NRB board Brief of Action, one of the board members stated that if the Prairie River question is passed during the 2008 hearings then this item would return to the April 22-23 2008 Natural resources board agenda. I think we need this issue to stay on the agenda instead of trying to get it back on the agenda as an item in 2009 or 2010. It may be harder to re-visit this if we let it go.

One thing to remember, this vote is not just about the Prairie River, it concerns all special regulation streams throughout the state. There are a number of other groups that are waiting to see what happens with this vote and you can be assured that if we lose this vote, many other special regulated streams will be at risk.

A “yes” vote on Question #36 would ask the Natural Resources Board to reinstate the regulation. While this question is specific to just one river, a resounding “yes” is a vote for science-based management of fish resources throughout the state.

Informational Links on this Issue (Article Page 3) (Reference Page 31-32)

Any questions? Feel free to contact me.

Written by Joe Krznarich

1 comment:

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