Week of December 15,  2003











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President in Iraq -- Eyewitness Account

Despite what the Democrats are saying, his secret and surprise visit was a tremendous thing President Bush did for our troops in Iraq. This is a personal, eyewitness account, by an Army Captain, of our Commander in Chief's Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad.  This account never made it into our newspapers.


Sent: Thursday, December 12, 2003 7:43 AM


Subject: President in Iraq -- Eyewitness Account


An Email from a Captain in Iraq


We knew there was a dinner planned with ambassador Bremer and LTG Sanchez. There were 600 seats available and all the units in the division were tasked with filling a few tables. Naturally, the 501st MI battalion got our table. Soldiers were grumbling about having to sit >through another dog-and-pony show, so we had to pick soldiers to attend. I chose not to go.


But, about 1500 the G2, LTC Devan, came up to me and with a smile, asked me to come to dinner with him, to meet him in his office at 1600 and bring a camera. I didn't really care about getting a picture with Sanchez or Bremer, but when the division's senior intelligence officer asks you to go, you go. We were seated in the chow hall, fully decorated for thanksgiving when all kinds of secret service guys showed up.


That was my first clue, because Bremer's been here before and his personal security detachment is not that big. Then BG Dempsey got up to speak, and he welcomed ambassador Bremer and LTG Sanchez. Bremer thanked us all and pulled out a piece of paper as if to give a speech. He mentioned that the President had given him this thanksgiving speech to give to the troops. He then paused and said that the senior man present should be the one to give it. He then looked at Sanchez, who just smiled.


Bremer then said that we should probably get someone more senior to read the speech. Then, from behind the camouflage netting, the President of the United States came around. The

mess hall actually erupted with hollering. Troops bounded to their feet with shocked smiles and just began cheering with all their hearts. The building actually shook. It was just unreal. I was absolutely stunned. Not only for the obvious, but also because I was only two tables away from the podium. There he stood, less than thirty feet away from me! The cheering went on and on and on.


Soldiers were hollering, cheering, and a lot of them were crying. There was not a dry eye at my table. When he stepped up to the cheering, I could clearly see tears running down his cheeks. It was the most surreal moment I've had in years. Not since my wedding and Aaron being born. Here was this man, our President, came all the way around the world, spending 17 hours on an airplane and landing in the most dangerous airport in the world, where a plane was shot out of the sky not six days before.


Just to spend two hours with his troops. Only to get on a plane and spend another 17 hours flying back. It was a great moment, and I will never forget it. He delivered his speech, which we all loved, when he looked right at me and held his eyes on me. Then he stepped down and was just mobbed by the soldiers. He slowly worked his way all the way around the chow hall and shook every last hand extended. Every soldier who wanted a photo with the President got one. I made my way through the line, got dinner, then wolfed it down as he was still working the room.


You could tell he was really enjoying himself. It wasn't just a photo opportunity. This man was actually enjoying himself! He worked his way over the course of about 90 minutes towards my side of the room. Meanwhile, I took the opportunity to shake a few hands. I got a picture with Ambassador Bremer, Talabani (acting Iraqi president) and Achmed Chalabi (another member of the ruling council) and Condaleeza Rice, who was there with him.


I felt like I was drunk. He was getting closer to my table so I went back over to my seat. As he passed and posed for photos, he looked my in the eye and "How you doin', captain." I smiled and said "God bless you, sir." To which he responded "I'm proud of what you do, captain." Then moved on.

High Court attacks 1st Amendment

"A Sad Day For the Constitution..."

So noted NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre when, on December 10, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to uphold the major provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), also known as McCain-Feingold.


As has often reported, the issue that has been of greatest concern to NRA, some congressional leaders, other non-profit organizations and citizens at large is the law's prohibition on the running of broadcast ads (termed "electioneering communications") that mention candidates for federal office during the critical 30-day period before a primary election and 60-day period before a general election. This First Amendment "blackout" period is a direct attack on free speech.


The First Amendment declares, in part, that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech." Yet, the high Court's divided decision opens the door to precisely that, the abridgement of free speech. By allowing Congress to severely restrict issue ads in the crucial days before a primary or general election, the ruling contravenes the basic principle of our First Amendment rights, and grants Congress inordinate authority to regulate the flow of money in politics and political races.


In a powerful dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said, "Who could have imagined that the same court which, within the past four years, has sternly disapproved of restrictions upon such inconsequential forms of expression as virtual child pornography, tobacco advertising, dissemination of illegally intercepted communications, and sexually explicit cable programming would smile with favor upon a law that cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the

right to criticize the government."


Scalia went on to wryly note, "The first instinct of power is the retention of power, and, under a Constitution that requires periodic elections, that is best achieved by the suppression of election-time speech."


Justice Anthony Kennedy called the provision "a new and serious intrusion on speech."


Justice Clarence Thomas noted that, following the Court's reasoning to its logical conclusion, the next step will be "outright regulation of the press."


The egregious decision also means the burden of fighting back against the anti-gun lobby in the weeks leading up to elections will fall squarely on the shoulders of the NRA's political action committee -  the Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF)  The NRA-PVF is funded by contributions from members and pro-gun supporters, and is used solely for the purpose of assisting the campaigns of pro-Second Amendment candidates.


Commenting on the Court's decision, LaPierre said, "You're going to have to put an asterisk by the First Amendment, and a footnote, because for many months of the year it's no longer in effect." He went on to say, in no uncertain terms, that NRA still has many ways to make its position known in federal elections. "They didn't say we couldn't mention the U.S. Congress, or the Senate. And we will run advertising directing the American public to information sources as to where they can find the truth, and the facts, and who's for them and who's against them. This is a sad day for the Constitution, but the 4 million members of the NRA will continue to be heard. That I can promise."

Nat'l - NRA Seeks Status As News Outlet

The National Rifle Association is looking to buy a television or radio station and declare that it should be treated as a news organization, exempt from spending limits in the campaign finance law.


"We're looking at bringing a court case that we're as legitimate a media outlet as Disney or Viacom or Time Warner," said NRA's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre.  "Why should they have an exclusive right to relay information to the public, and why should not NRA be considered as legitimate a news source as they are? That's never been explored legally," he said.


The nation's gun lobby is talking with potential investors about an NRA broadcast outlet and is considering all possible funding sources, including gun manufacturers, LaPierre said. If the NRA were to be considered a media organization, it would be free to say what it wanted about candidates at any time and spend corporate money to do so, such as for commercials.


The group, financed in part with corporate money, is now banned under the campaign finance law from running ads, just before elections, that mention federal candidates who are on states' ballots.


LaPierre said even without a television or radio station, the

group's communications reach is extensive enough that it should be considered part of the media. The NRA is one of the biggest magazine publishers in the United States and provides news over the Internet, LaPierre said. The group has close to a dozen publications, including American Rifleman and American Hunter magazines.


LaPierre said the organization may pursue the media exemption even if its previous challenge to the campaign finance law should prevail in the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule soon. The NRA could ask the Federal Election Commission whether it qualifies for the media exemption, take the issue to court, or both.


The finance law, which took effect in November 2002, bars interest groups financed with corporate or union money from airing television and radio ads the month before a primary and two months before a general election if the ads identify federal candidates, are paid for with corporate or union money and target candidates' districts.


News organizations are exempt from the restrictions. That allows them to cover the news, write editorials endorsing or opposing candidates, and air interviews.  The NRA and its lawyers will "look at every option to continue to exercise our First Amendment rights," LaPierre said.



Weekly Great Lakes Water Level Update for Dec 12, 2003

Current Lake Levels:   Lakes Superior, Michigan-Huron, and St. Clair are 8, 18, and 9 inches, respectively, below their long-term average.  Lake Erie is 4 inches below its long-term average while Lake Ontario is 7 inches above its long-term average.  Lakes Superior is currently 2 inches below its level of a year ago, while Lake Michigan-Huron is at the same level as last year.  Lakes St. Clair and Erie are 1 and 4 inches, respectively, above their level of a year ago, while Lake Ontario is up 16 inches from last year.

Current Outflows/Channel Conditions:  The Lake Superior outflow through the St. Marys River into Lake Huron is expected to be below average during the month of December.  Flows in the St. Clair, Detroit, and Niagara Rivers are also expected to be below average, while flow in the St. Lawrence River is expected to be near average in December.

Forecasted Water Levels:  Despite an unusual rise during the month of November in Lakes Michigan-Huron and Ontario, all of the lakes will return to their pattern of seasonal decline over the next four weeks.  Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron are expected to decline 3 and 2 inches, respectively.  Lake St. Clair is expected to decline 1 inch over the next four weeks, whereas Lakes Erie and Ontario are expected to decline 1 and 2 inches, respectively. 


Alerts: Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels.  Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings.



General - New Web site highlights Mississippi River fish

ONALASKA, Wis. -- People who want to know the ups and downs of bluegill abundance near La Crosse, catfish south of the Iowa/Wisconsin border, or walleye near Alma, or where those worrisome, jumping Asian Carp have been found now have a new Web site to find answers.


A new graphical fish database is now available through the Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP) on the Internet at  www.umesc.usgs.gov/data_library/fisheries/graphical/fish_



The project supplements an existing USGS Web-based “raw-data” retrieval system by automatically summarizing pertinent information

in the huge, complex database for anyone with a specific request and basic “point and click” computer skills.


The LTRMP is the nation’s largest river monitoring program. It was established in 1989, and it provides ecological data for natural resource management on the Upper Mississippi River System. The Web site is the result of cooperative efforts by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse River Studies Center, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Onalaska Field Station.



General - Stowing your life jackets

The U.S. Coast Guard says life jackets must be stored in convenient places distributed throughout accommodation spaces. Each stowage container for life jackets must not be capable of being locked. If practicable, the container must be designed to allow the life jackets to float free. Each life jacket kept in a stowage container must be readily available.


Each life jacket stowed overhead must be supported in a manner that allows quick release for distribution. If life jackets are stowed

more than 7 ft above the deck, a means for quick release must be provided and must be capable of operation by a person standing on the deck. Each child size life jacket must be stowed in a location that is appropriately marked and separated from adult life jackets so the child size life jackets are not mistaken for adult life jackets.


The stowage locations of the personal flotation devices carried in addition to life jackets must be separate from the life jackets, and such as not to be easily confused with that of the life jackets.


IL – Lake Michigan Bass regs under review

Comment period open till January 18

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has announced they are accepting public comments on the current and proposed bass regulations for the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan.


Currently ILL regs say all bass caught in Lake Michigan must be released. However the  IDNR is proposing a rule change for 2004 that would permit fishermen to keep one largemouth or one smallmouth bass from Lake Michigan a day, as long as the fish is at least 21" long.    State officials and anglers agree the current catch and release only  regulation is not needed to protect the species and there will be no risk if the new rule is implemented.


That's probably because catching 21" bass in Lake Michigan is a rarity, and one would be lucky to catch one or tow a year, let alone

the new proposal that would allow one over 21" per day.


The rule and other Lake Michigan fishery issues, notably yellow perch, were discussed at a recent IDNR Lake Michigan program public meeting held at the DNRs Des Plaines office on November 12


The public comment period for consideration of the new rule allowing anglers to keep one bass at least 21" long – as well as the issue of maintaining the remainder of the Lake Michigan bass fishery as catch-and-release only, is now open for comment. Comments must be received by Jan. 18. Comments may be mailed to Jack Price, Legal Dept, Illinois DNR, 1 Natural Resources Way, Springfield, Ill., 62706.


Or they may be sent via e-mail to [email protected]

IL – Firearm Deer Season harvest totals 103,961

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Hunters in Illinois harvested a record 103,961 deer during the 2003 firearm deer season, DNR Director Joel Brunsvold announced. That preliminary harvest total for 2003 compares with a harvest total of 102,823 deer taken during the 2002 firearm season, and eclipses the record harvest set in 1995.


The preliminary second-season (Dec. 4-7) harvest total of 39,780 compared to the second-season harvest of 34,902 in 2002. This year’s preliminary first-season (Nov. 21-23) deer harvest was 64,181 compared with a first-season harvest of 67,921 in 2002. The figures do not include deer harvested during hunts on state sites where special permits are issued.


"We are very pleased with the results of the firearm deer hunting season. It was a very safe one with very few accidents reported during first season and none reported during second season," Brunsvold said. "A lot of hunters were excited about the new regulation allowing the use of handguns during the firearm season. Thousands of hunters voluntarily participated in our chronic wasting disease surveillance effort, allowing our biologists

to collect samples from deer at check stations. The cooperation of hunters in battling CWD is so important and our hunters in Illinois came through once again."


More than 4,000 tissue samples were collected from hunter-harvested deer at check stations in 36 counties during the firearm season. The samples are being tested for the presence of CWD, a fatal neurological disease that can affect deer and elk but is not contagious to humans or livestock. CWD cases thus far have been found only in three counties in northern Illinois (Boone, McHenry and Winnebago).


Preliminary check station harvest reports for the 2003 firearm season show that Pike County led the state with a total harvest of 4,043, while Adams County was second with 2,951. Approximately 288,000 firearm permits were issued to deer hunters in Illinois this year. 


The handgun-only deer hunt in selected Illinois counties is Jan. 16-18, 2004. The statewide archery deer hunting season resumed Dec. 8 and continues through Jan. 15.


IN - Kernan, IPL announce agreement on forestland

About 1,500 acres of upland forest near Paragon will be protected as a state forest and recreation area, Gov. Joe Kernan and the Indianapolis Power and Light Company announced last week. The land, which is owned by IPL, is part of 4,050 acres that were to have been auctioned at 10 a.m. Monday. The remaining 2,550 acres will be placed up for bid as scheduled.


"Morgan County is a rapidly developing area with a very bright future. It is important to preserve wildlife habitat and greenspace for public recreation as communities grow," Kernan said.  "State forestry and wildlife officials identified the most important part of the forest land that was to be included in the auction, and IPL agreed to sell this land to the state," Kernan said. "This is great news for Morgan County, IPL and all Hoosiers who value nature."

IPL began meeting with state and local officials about the property in Morgan County nearly 17 months ago. During that period, IPL received inquiries from many parties. IPL and state officials have worked many hours over the past few weeks to find a way to meet the needs of everyone involved.


The state and IPL have agreed to terms that enable the state to purchase the property outside of the auction process, while providing a fair market price to IPL for the land.


The land being purchased by the state is a mature, upland forest located east of Burkhart Creek and north of Indiana 67. It is bordered on the north and east by privately owned forestland. The state DNR will manage the land as part of Morgan-Monroe State Forest. The property will be enjoyed by wildlife watchers, birders, hikers and hunters.


MI - Winter B.O.W. weekend set for Upper Peninsula Mar 5-7

Women seeking an opportunity to develop their outdoor skills are invited to register for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources_ 3rd annual Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Winter Weekend, Mar. 5-7, 2004, at the Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp in Crystal Falls.


Participants can select instruction from a list of nearly a dozen outdoor-related activities, including cross country skiing, dog sledding, skijoring, snowmobiling, ice fishing, winter-shelter building and reading the winter woods. Some indoor activities also are offered, including archery and fly tying. Professional instructors offer basic and advanced instruction tailored to participants_ individual abilities.


The $145 registration fee includes all food and lodging, as

well as most equipment and supplies (except as noted in the registration materials). Participants are housed in comfortable, dorm-style facilities. The fee also includes many extra activities and evening access to the camp's group sauna.


Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshops are for women 18 and older who wish to learn outdoor skills in a relaxed atmosphere. Those interested in participating are urged to register soon. Registration materials and course descriptions are posted on the DNR Web site, at www.michigan.gov/dnr .


For more information, contact Ann Wilson or Sharon Pitz at the DNR Marquette Operations Service Center, 906-228-6561, or e-mail [email protected]  or [email protected] .


MI - DNR hires 5 new wildlife biologists

Michigan DNR officials recently announced five wildlife biologists hired to fill vacancies from early retirements, advancements, or transfers.


Steven Chadwick is a new biologist in Southwest Michigan. He began his duties Sept. 28 at the Crane Pond State Game Area field office. He previously was a DNR Wildlife Technician in the Lansing office, since 2000. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University.


Christine Hanaburgh, Ph.D., began her new position Oct. 12 at the Barry State Game Area. She is part of the Southwest Management Unit. Christine was most recently employed by Historical Research Associates and has assisted the Wildlife Division with Federal Aid issues and tribal rights analyses. Dr. Hanaburgh earned her degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management from Michigan State University and conducted her research on the effects of management activities on wildlife in northern hardwoods.


Shelli Dubay, Ph.D., will begin at the Waterloo office on Nov. 9.

Currently a research biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Shelli's background includes wildlife disease and parasite studies involving wildlife species from mice to moose, and population monitoring of Gould's wild turkeys. Dubay earned her Ph.D. in Zoology and Physiology from the University of Wyoming.


C. Adam Bump began his new post at the DNR Bay City Operation Service Center Oct. 26. Adam previously worked as a regional wildlife biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society. He earned a Masters of Science Degree in Wildlife Conservation from the University of Massachusetts and a Bachelors in Fisheries and Wildlife Management from Michigan State University.


Mark Boersen begins working Nov. 9 at the Roscommon Operation Service Center. Mark comes from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, where he was the statewide Big Game Program Coordinator. Boersen earned a Masters Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from the University of Tennessee and a Bachelors Degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University.

MI - Illegal elk killing prompt investigation/arrest
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division is seeking information regarding the illegal killing of a mature elk. The incident occurred around Sept. 20, 2003, in Montmorency County, when a 600-pound bull elk was shot and killed with a 12-gauge shotgun. When discovered, the elk was intact except for its antlers, which had been removed.


"The remains of the animal were found in a fairly remote location, on public land off Crall Road, north of Growler Club Road in Vienna Township,"` said Sgt. Greg Drogowski, Gaylord Operations Service Center.


He added that a reward is available for information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for killing the elk. Any information pertaining to this or any investigation can be provided to the DNR’s Report-All-Poaching (RAP) Hotline, 800-292-7800.

Recently, a Wayne County resident was found guilty of killing another large bull elk. That incident, which occurred in November 2002, also took place in Montmorency County. Jason Kirk of Romulus pleaded guilty to the illegal killing of the elk and was sentenced last month in 88th District Court. Kirk was ordered to pay $1,655 in fines and court costs, plus $1,500 restitution for the loss of the animal. Kirk also was placed under a 30-day house arrest and will not be allowed to purchase any hunting license until 2006. Conservation Officer Kelley Ross led the investigation on behalf of the DNR.


“This animal’s antlers, meat and the firearm used to shoot the animal were seized in Wayne County, and the elk carcass, which had been buried underneath a camper-trailer, was recovered by officers in Montmorency County,” Drogowski said. He added this elk was the 13th largest elk ever taken in Michigan.



MN - DNR tables Leech Lake fishing regulations proposal

Anglers who fish Leech Lake will not encounter experimental fishing regulations next season.


The DNR has decided to hold off on implementing regulations that would have protected walleye from 17 to 21" in length and northern pike from 24 to 36". The decision follows two public meetings and a lengthy public comment period.


"We broadened our discussions, listened carefully and came

to the conclusion there was not an absolute need to adopt either regulation," said Harlan Fierstine, DNR area fisheries manager. "Our input process did not identify a strong public sentiment. Likewise, staff came to the conclusion there was not a strong biological need, either."


The proposed walleye regulation was intended to increase walleye numbers and average size by requiring anglers to release a greater portion of their catch.  The walleye regulation was also aimed at heading off potential problems with excessive harvest.

MN - Winter trout season on southeast streams opens on Jan. 1

Portions of 32 southeastern Minnesota trout streams will be open for catch-and-release winter trout fishing with barbless hooks from Jan. 1 through March 31.  Anglers may use live bait, artificial lures or flies during the winter season.  A trout and salmon stamp validation and a fishing license are required.


Minnesota's winter trout season opened on an experimental basis in 1988 on two streams for a total of 4.8 miles.  In 1991 the winter trout season expanded to four streams and 12.7 miles.  In 1997, portions of six streams and 27.6 miles were open to winter trout fishing.  In 1999, 12 streams and 48.4 miles were open to winter trout fishing. The latest change

occurred on March 1, 2003 with a total of 32 streams and 128 miles open to winter trout fishing.


To minimize possible harm to trout populations, anglers are encouraged to consider the following:

After catching a fish, minimize its exposure to cold air by keeping it in the water as much as possible

Avoid walking through shallow riffles, which often contain trout spawning beds.


Areas open for winter trout fishing on Jan. 1 are listed in the 2003 Fishing Regulations Handbook.  Maps showing the sections of streams open to winter fishing are on the DNR Web site at: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/trout_streams/winter.html

MN - DNR offers cross-country ski pass at 1,750 locations statewide

As the snow begins to fly, the Minnesota DNR is offering  the Great Minnesota Ski Pass at 1,750 locations. The ski pass is part of the DNR's Electronic Licensing System (ELS) for hunting and fishing licenses.   The cost is $3 for a daily ski pass, $10 for an annual ski pass, and $25 for a three-year ski pass.


Minnesota cross-country skiers help support the development, maintenance  and grooming of public ski trails through the purchase of the ski pass. It was initiated in 1983 by the Minnesota Legislature at the request of cross-country skiers.  Cross-country skiers, age 16 and older, must have a ski pass on most public ski trails.  


"People can use the ski pass on about 170 cross-country ski trails, totaling more than 1,700 miles of opportunity," noted Paul Nordell of the DNR's Division of Trails and Waterways. "Some additional costs may be encountered at certain ski trail

locations, but this is the basic fee that drives the statewide ski-trail passport system."


Daily ski passes can also be purchased at most state parks and Twin Cities regional county parks. For immediate availability, the DNR offers the ski pass online at  www.dnr.state.mn.us/skiing/  or by telephone toll free at 1-888-665-4236. Applicants will  receive a temporary authorization number to use until  the ski pass arrives in the mail. Internet and telephone license sales are charged an additional $3.50 convenience fee.


General information and a list of ELS locations is available on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us . Information is also available by calling the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll free 1-888-646-6367.


Trail snow condition reports, updated every Thursday after 2:30 p.m., are available by calling the DNR Information Center at the above phone numbers, or on the DNR Web site.

MN - TIP call results in fines totaling over $1,300 in walleye over-limit case

Two Minnesota anglers were recently fined over $1,300 for over-limit of walleye in Chippewa County in west central Minnesota.


On Sept. 28, Conservation Officer Shane Kirlin of Madison received a call that two individuals were keeping illegal length walleye at Brendemoen Bridge on Lac qui Parle Lake near Watson, Minn. The individuals were allegedly catching fish then placing them in a cooler in their vehicle.  Upon arriving in the area, Kirlin observed one of the individuals carry a walleye to the vehicle and place it on the rear seat of the car.

As Kirlin approached the vehicle, he saw a cooler on the rear seat.  Fu Xiong, 33, St. Paul, and Teng Xiong, 35, Brooklyn Center, gave the officer permission to look in the cooler where he observed numerous walleye. Kirlin proceeded to measure and count 38 walleye, 35 of which were under the legal limit of 15". The walleye daily and possession limit is six.


Fu Xiong was issued a citation for an over-limit of walleye, fined $340 and charged $330 restitution. Teng Xiong was also issued a citation for an over-limit of walleye, fined $340 and charged $330 restitution.


MN – Firearm season reflects harvest of record number of white-tailed deer

Minnesota deer hunters harvested a record 253,300 white-tailed deer during the firearms deer seasons that concluded Nov. 30, according to a preliminary summary of deer registration by the DNR.


The 2003 firearms deer harvest increased nearly 25 % from the 2002 total of 203,600, and is up more than 10 % over the previous record firearms harvest of 229,200 in 1992, according to Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator.  "Good weather, healthy deer populations, and a simplified system of distributing lots of licenses for antlerless deer all contributed to the record harvest," Cornicelli said.


Preliminary estimates also indicate a significant increase in the proportion of the harvest that consisted of antlerless deer, which is important for deer population management. "We needed a high harvest this year to help keep deer populations

within goal levels, so we are very pleased with these results," Cornicelli said.


The 2003 firearms total alone also surpasses the previous record statewide total deer harvest (by all methods) of 243,000 in 1992. That harvest included deer taken in the archery and muzzleloader seasons. Archery and muzzleloader seasons continue into December, so those 2003 harvest totals are not yet available. Typically, more than 19,000 deer are taken during those seasons. When all seasons are concluded, this year's total deer harvest should exceed 270,000, Cornicelli said.


Hunters purchased a record number of licenses to take antlerless deer this year, according to Cornicelli. The total number of firearms hunters increased by only 2.7 % more than 2002, but nearly 100,000 more licenses valid for antlerless deer were purchased this year.


OH - House passes Lake Erie boundary bill

COLUMBUS -- House members on December 10 approved a bill to use the water of Lake Erie as the boundary between public and private coastal land, a line designed to settle the ongoing property dispute between state officials and lakefront homeowners.


Under current laws the state DNR uses the lake's highest water mark of the last 100 years as the demarcation between private and public land. Private land owners building docks and break walls past that mark have been required to sign land leases for use of that area. But homeowners have insisted the state's authority doesn't begin until the lake's low-water mark, and have said the department's actions in requiring the leases are tantamount to stealing private land.


The bill, which passed 75-20, establishes permitting procedures for all structures built past the lake's high water mark but declares public property to begin  "where the waters of Lake Erie make contact with

the land."  ODNR officials have said they will resume their fight against the bill in the Senate. But Vitas Cyvas, spokesman for the Ohio Lakefront Group, said the measure has already received a favorable response from several senators. He hopes a sponsor will step forward in the next few weeks and the issue will move quickly through that chamber.


Along with the boundary changes, the bill also eliminates land leases for non-commercial properties and allows construction permits to remain valid for the life of a structure -- both major points the homeowners fought for. The legislation also includes reorganization of ODNR's coastal management office and simplification of permitting requirements, which department officials requested.


PA - Commission Announces Next Executive Director

Illinois' DR. Douglas Austen selected for PFBC position

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) has named Dr. Douglas J. Austen as its choice for the agency’s next Executive Director.  The selection was announced during a special Commission meeting last week in Harrisburg.


Dr. Austen has more than 25 years of fisheries and natural resource management experience in a variety of top-level positions.  He is currently the head of the Technical Support Section of the Illinois DNR and an Adjunct Faculty Member in the DNR and Environmental Sciences at the U. of Illinois.  He has held his current post since 1996 and was responsible for the integration of a watershed and ecosystem approach to natural resources within the Office of Resource Conservation.  From 1994-1996, he was the Head of the Fisheries Analysis Section of the IDNR.


Austen earned a Doctorate from Iowa State University, the Department of Animal Ecology, in 1992.  In addition, he holds

a Master of Science Degree with an emphasis in Fisheries

Science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from South Dakota State University.  He is a Certified Fisheries Professional by the American Fisheries Society.  Dr. Austen’s work has been published in a variety of professional publications.


According to Samuel M. Concilla, President of the PFBC, the selection of Dr. Austen culminates a process reviewing many fine candidates.  "The Commissioners used a nationwide search to identify a new director to address the many challenges facing the Commission and our resource.  We are convinced that Dr. Austen’s knowledge, background and experience will stand him and the Commission in good stead as we move forward," Concilla said.  "I want to thank all those who applied for this important position."


Austen’s selection will undergo additional personnel reviews as part of the state employment process.  No effective date has been established for him to assume the responsibilities of PFBC Executive Director.

PA- PFBC NEWS - Schuylkill River Shad

Shad Stockings in Schuylkill Beginning to Produce Results

Adult American shad returning to the Schuylkill River in the spring of 2003 most likely originated as juvenile shad stocked there three and four years earlier as part of a restoration program, biologists with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission have confirmed.


The PFBC recently completed an analysis of adult shad collected from the river earlier this spring by fishery workers from the Philadelphia Water Department and a private consultant, Normandeau Associates. Of the 24 American shad analyzed at the PFBC’s Benner Spring Fish Research Station, all were found to have chemical tags indicating that they had been stocked by the Commission in the Schuylkill in either 1999 or 2000.


The PFBC began stocking the Schuylkill River with young American shad, called fry, in 1999.  Since then, an average of 500,000 fry have been stocked each year.  Eggs for the program were obtained from adults collected in the Delaware River and transported to the Van Dyke Hatchery in Juniata County, where the fry were reared for 10 to 30 days.  All of the stocked fry were tagged with a chemical tag to distinguish them from shad naturally produced in the wild.  Shad fry, as young as three days of age, are immersed in a tetracycline solution that is absorbed into growing bone tissue. At this early age, the otolith, or earstone, is the only true bone present in the fish. All other bones, still in their early stages of development, are comprised of cartilage. The otoliths grow by adding rings, similar to the rings in tree trunks, except that one ring is laid down each day.


Using specially equipped microscopes, researchers are later able to detect the chemical tag in the otolith of adults and determine if the fish entering the river as part of their spawning

migration originated from a hatchery or in the wild. Biologists are also able to confirm the age of the fish because unique tag sequences are applied from year to year. Fifteen of the fish collected from the Schuylkill River this spring were age four, including 14 males and one female.  The other nine fish were age 3 males, a surprising result since few male shad were previously thought to mature as early as three years of age.


The American shad is the largest member of the herring family. Adults commonly reach four to eight pounds. Shad spend most of their life in the ocean and return to freshwater to spawn. Each spring, adult shad migrate into coastal rivers from Florida to Newfoundland. Spawning takes place around dusk at water temperatures from 60 to 65 degrees. A single female shad can produce up to 600,000 eggs, but most average 250,000 eggs.


Fairmount Dam is the first of 10 dams blocking migration on the Schuylkill River.  Fairmount Dam has a fish ladder in place, but it is old and somewhat ineffective at passing shad.  The Philadelphia Water Department is replacing the old ladder with a more modern design that should be completed by spring of 2005. 


The state’s Department of Environmental Protection owns the next two dams, Flat Rock and Plymouth Dams.  A fish ladder is scheduled to be installed at Flat Rock Dam and Plymouth Dam is naturally breaching itself and will eventually be removed. 


Exelon Energy has agreed to build fish ladders at the next two upriver dams: Norristown and Black Rock dams.  The next pair of dams, Vincent and Felix Dams, are both breaching naturally and will be removed by DEP, eventually re-opening nearly 100 miles of habitat to migratory fish.

PA - Preliminary Bear Harvest 3rd Best ever

HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Game Commission reported today hunters took 149 black bears during a special six-day season in Poconos-based Wildlife Management Unit 3D. But when combined with the earlier three-day statewide bear season harvest of 2,846, the overall preliminary 2003 bear harvest of 2,995 fell short of the record harvest in 2000 of 3,075.


"Our bear hunters had a fine season," noted Vern Ross, Game Commission executive director. "The harvest is the third best in Commonwealth history and provided an unprecedented three 800-pound black bears. The state's four largest black bear harvests since 1915 have occurred over the past four years. Bear hunting couldn't be better here."


For the second consecutive year, the Game Commission held an extended bear season in the Poconos to reduce the area's overabundant bear population in communities and resort areas. Last year, the season was held in just Carbon, Monroe and Pike counties. This year it was held in all or parts of eight counties that comprise WMU 3D. The core area of the hunt remains in Pike and Monroe counties, but also includes portions of Wayne, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties.

Based on preliminary reports for the six-day extended season, Pike, with a bear harvest of 59, led all other counties in the second bear season, followed by: Monroe, 35; Wayne, 19; Luzerne, 11; Carbon, 10; and Lackawanna, 10.  When combined with the results of the three-day statewide season, the figures are: Pike, 147; Wayne, 130; Monroe 112; Luzerne, 103; Carbon, 44; Lackawanna, 37; Lehigh, 7; and Northampton, 6.


The three bears exceeding 800 lbs were taken in Pike and Monroe counties during the six-day extended season. The largest was a jaw-dropping 864-lb male bear taken in Dingman Township, Pike County, on Dec.1 by Douglas Kristiansen of Milford. Another, taken by Ray R. Reper of Branchville, New Jersey, was an 837 lb male harvested in Dingman Township, Pike County, on Dec. 1. The last of this 800 lb class was an 808-pound male taken in Middle Smithfield Township, Monroe County, on Dec. 1 by Jason A. Taddeo of Bethlehem.  In all, 17 of the 2,995 bears were more than 600 lbs.


After the Game Commission's Bureau of Wildlife Management has a chance to review all harvest reports, the agency will issue a final bear harvest report.


WI - DNR holds hearings on yellow perch limits

Opinions mixed on extending perch limit

State DNR representatives received input December 11 from local anglers on a proposed rule change that would affect the recreational and commercial angler’s take of yellow perch in the bay of Green Bay.


About 30 people attended a public hearing in Green Bay, and another 10 in the town of Peshtigo, to consider extending until June 2006 the reduced daily bag limits for yellow perch. All Anglers present were in favor of keeping the lower bag limits. Not surprisingly, commercial fishing interests wanted their quotas increased to 100,000 lbs, more than the current 20,000 lbs they are presently allowed.


DNR biologists aren’t sure why yellow perch numbers in the

bay have plummeted 90 % since the 1990s, but believe the fish aren’t successfully reproducing in the numbers they once did. The problem led the agency in October 2001 to slash the overall annual commercial take from 200,000 to 20,000 pounds and the daily bag limit for sport fishermen from 25 to 10. This rule is set to expire June 30.


If the Natural Resources Board adopts the new rule, it would extend the restrictions until June 30, 2006, to allow the yellow perch population to rebound before increasing the bag limits.


Bill Horns, the DNR’s Great Lakes fisheries coordinator, said the agency does not want to change the current rule, but still is gathering public comment before it makes a recommendation to its board in January. "We want the bag limit to stay were it is for another two years," he said.

WI - 3 Million Walleye & Muskie Reared

In Northern Wisconsin cool water fish hatcheries

SPOONER WI -- More than 3 million walleye and musky were raised at Wisconsin's two northern cool water fish hatcheries this past year. Most all of the fish were stocked in area lakes between July and October.

"We had good rearing seasons at the Governor Thompson Hatchery at Spooner and Art Oehmcke Hatchery at Woodruff," said Larry Nelson, fisheries operations supervisor for the 18-county Northern Region. He added that along with the rearing and stocking success his program also started a new cost saving project of rearing forage minnows to feed the game fish.

Below is a breakdown of the walleye's and musky reared:

Thompson Hatchery
Walleye 1.2-2 inches 1,665,482
Large Fingerling Muskellunge 12"- 47,509
Large Fingerling Walleye 8' 42,282
Oehmcke Hatchery
Small Fingerling Walleye 1.2-2" 1,308,000
Large Fingerling Muskellunge 12" 59,579
Large Fingerling Walleye 8" 31,611


Decreasing operational budgets and increasing production

costs forced the hatcheries to modify rearing plans. Staff at the Governor Thompson hatchery successfully reared badly needed small forage (3/4 inch) minnows to feed the small muskellunge and walleye. While over the years they have had a minnow-rearing program, staff have recently been refining the project to maximize their returns. This past year produced a notable savings.

"Normally it would cost us about $8 per pound to purchase these little minnows," Nelson said, "but we found we could rear them for about $1.50 per pound." He said the hatchery saved $13,500 in small forage costs this year and is hoping to save an additional $7,000 next year.

Growing fish have huge appetites. The Governor Thompson hatchery fed a total of 55,700 pounds of forage minnows to its walleye and muskie. Fifty-eight percent of the forage was reared at the hatchery or harvested by crews from outlying lakes and ponds, while 42 % was purchased from private minnow growers.

Because the Art Oehmcke hatchery does not have small minnow rearing capabilities, Nelson said the Woodruff facility would continue to purchase all of its forage. The average cost of minnows purchased at the Governor Thompson hatchery is about $36,000, and for the Art Oehmcke Hatchery $70,000.


WI - Hunters register more than 304,000 deer in nine-day season

MADISON – A preliminary total of 304,538 deer were registered by hunters at the close of Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer season. Hunters registered 277,755 deer during the same period in 2002 and 298,266 in 2001.


"We knew that 2003 had a lot of potential for hunters, what with high deer numbers, liberal seasons and plenty of tags," said Michelle Windsor, acting big game ecologist for the DNR. "We’re glad to see that even after what first appeared to be a sluggish opener, hunters prevailed and had a good harvest. There is still a lot of hunting opportunity left this year. We hope that the sportsmen and women of Wisconsin can take advantage of this and return to the woods. Deer hunting is fun, good exercise, and important to the conservation of our natural resources in Wisconsin."


Wildlife managers stress that considerable hunting opportunity remains. The late archery season also opened Dec. 1 and runs through Jan. 3.


This year tied the second safest gun deer hunt on record according to Tim Lawhern, DNR hunter education administrator, who received reports of 15 gun-related hunting incidents for the nine-day period; two of the incidents were fatal. Most of the incidents remain under investigation but at least five appear to be self-inflicted. Lawhern insists that most of the incidents were preventable if the cardinal rules of gun safety had been observed.


After a turbulent 2002 deer hunting season caused by the discovery of chronic wasting disease in wild and farmed deer and one captive elk, deer hunting license sales rebounded according to license sales records. Marilyn Davis, director of the DNR customer service and licensing bureau reported that 644,818 gun deer licenses had been sold by midnight Nov.

21, the last day to buy a license before the season opener on Nov. 22. This is a 4 percent increase over 2002 sales.


In addition to the rebound in license sales, reports from field biologists and conservation wardens indicated a "return to normal" for the deer hunt. Hunters appeared excited, showed smiles and pride at registration stations, and there was little talk about chronic wasting disease. One registration station in Black River Falls reported that a group of about a dozen hunters who hunt every year in the area brought in 42 deer; another camp in Jackson County had 16 deer.


Conservation wardens in Crawford County reported at least 11 wild pigs were shot opening weekend.


Hunters are keeping an estimated 75 % of the deer brought in from the CWD Intensive Harvest Zone this year say biologist working the registration stations in the zone. This is a marked increase from the 40 % kept the previous year.


In other areas of the state, the venison donation program is in full swing with more than 100,000 lbs of venison donated so far, according to Laurie Fike, donation program coordinator.


State wildlife managers are still interested in collecting deer heads for CWD testing from the CWD Herd Reduction Zone and Intensive Harvest Zone and a few areas around the state where testing numbers were a little lower that hoped for in 2002. As of Dec. 1, approximately 11,500 heads had been collected and 2,100 had been tested. Eighteen new CWD-positive deer have been found, which brings the total number of positive deer to 226 as of Dec. 2.


Updated collection and testing figures are expected daily as laboratory and data entry workers catch up on the heavy flow of sample deliveries produced by the hunt. Information is posted on the CWD pages of the DNR Web site.

WI – Change law so hunters could still buy license after deer hunt opens: DNR Change in law would cut red tape and let more hunters hunt

Madison, Wis. – Hunters who cannot legally buy a gun deer hunting license after the annual nine-day season opens each November would be able to purchase one under a change in state law the Department of Natural Resources is proposing.

Current law makes it illegal for most hunters to purchase a license after the nine-day gun deer hunt opens each November. This law was created decades ago to prevent people from killing a deer first, then buying a license.

“Given the current state of information technology, this law is out-dated, no longer necessary and keeps some hunters from participating in the gun deer season,” said DNR Secretary Scott Hassett. “We had a great deer-hunting season this year and I want to make it possible for more people to enjoy it and help manage Wisconsin’s deer herd.”


The DNR said hunters registered a preliminary total of 304,538 deer at the close of this year’s nine-day gun deer

season, well over totals from the previous two years.

An automated license system the DNR adopted in 1999 to streamline license purchases also makes it possible for conservation wardens in the field to check via computer if and when a hunter purchased a license. Recently, the department added the ability to purchase many licenses over the Internet.

Every year, the department hears from people who were unable to purchase their license prior to the opening of the season but want to hunt, according to Hassett. Currently, only juveniles whose 12th birthday (the legal age to purchase a license) falls after the start of the season and certain armed forces members can purchase a license once the season begins. Other legal requirements would still need to be met under the DNR proposal, including completion of a hunter’s education course if the applicant was born after Jan 1, 1973.

License purchase data show that more than 100,000 Wisconsin teenagers bought a deer-hunting license this year. The DNR sold 644,818 gun deer licenses by midnight Nov. 21, the last day hunters were able to buy a license before the 2003 season opener began Nov. 22.


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