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What's your opinion of DNR changes? Hearing set Monday at Ellsworth High School

MADISON - Citizens across Wisconsin have an opportunity to share their opinions on proposed rule changes or to present ideas on management of Wisconsin's fish and wildlife resources at the 2010 Department of Natural Resources Annual Spring Fish and Wildlife Rule Hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress annual county meetings.

The hearings and meetings will be held starting at 7 p.m. April 12 at Department of Natural Resources staff representing fisheries, wildlife and law enforcement will be available before the start to answer questions related to the spring hearing questionnaire. The dual annual hearing and meeting is a keystone in Wisconsin's history of providing opportunity for citizens to share their opinions on proposed changes or new ideas in the management of Wisconsin's fish and wildlife resources.

The Pierce County meet will be held at Ellsworth High School in the Cafertorium.

This year the questionnaire contains 97 questions. Sixty of these questions are rule change proposals from the department, and the remainder are advisory questions proposed by the Congress or the Natural Resources Board. During the DNR hearing portion, citizens will be allowed to vote on changes to fish and wildlife rules proposed by the DNR. All votes recorded are advisory only and are presented to the Natural Resources Board at their May meeting in a summary of public opinion.

Proposals related to wildlife include: allow the use of atlatls for hunting of small game (an atlatl is an arm-powered device for throwing a spear-like dart); two separate questions would allow youth ages 16 and 17 to participate in the youth deer hunt and youth turkey hunt as currently only 10-15 year olds may participate; allow the use of magnifying scopes on muzzleloading firearms for deer hunting; and allow transportation of deer carcasses from Wisconsin's CWD management zone and deer and elk carcasses from other states where CWD has been identified to areas in Wisconsin where the disease has not been found if the animal is taken to a licensed meat processor or taxidermist. Deer and turkey hunting in state parks is available on a park-by-park basis and not all state parks participate.

New state park firearm or muzzleloader deer hunting opportunities are proposed for Nelson Dewey in Grant County, Buckhorn in Juneau County and Big Bay in Ashland County and a turkey hunting season is proposed for Hartman Creek in Waupaca County.

Anglers will find more than two dozen statewide fisheries questions to weigh in on, including a series of questions for two issues relating to northwest Wisconsin lakes, according to Joe Hennessy, the DNR fish biologist who coordinates regulations.

Several questions revolve around a walleye recovery plan for 21 lakes in northwestern Wisconsin where walleye populations have declined, and natural reproduction has vanished at the same time that bass populations in those lakes have significantly increased. The plan would remove bass length limits, increase walleye length limits, and stock larger walleye in an effort to move the lakes back to walleye-dominated fisheries. Prohibitions on motor trolling have been favored by some angler groups and have been handled by the DNR on a county-by-county basis in line with local preference. Currently motor trolling is allowed county-wide in 18 of the state's 72 counties.

During the Wisconsin Conservation Congress portion of the meeting, citizens will elect local delegates to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, indicate support-nonsupport for a number of fish and wildlife rule change proposals developed by the congress, and may introduce citizen-initiated resolutions at their local meetings. The Wisconsin Conservation Congress is a legislatively created advisory body to the state Natural Resources Board.