- FRANCIS of ASSISI: You called Sir?
GOD: Frank, you know all about gardens and nature.
What in the world is going on down there around my lakes? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles near my lakes.
ST. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Lake Dwellers. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.
GOD: Grass? But, it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to temperatures. Do these Lake Dwellers really want all that grass growing there?
ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.
GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make their grass grow really fast. That must make the Lake Dwellers very happy. Right, Frank?
ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.
GOD: They cut it? Do they then bail it like hay or feed it to their animals?
ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. They rake it up and put it in bags.
GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?
ST. FRANCIS: No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir. I’m afraid that’s right, Sir.
GOD: These Lake Dwellers must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.
ST. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
GOD: What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. I call it my natural circle of life.
ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Lake Dwellers have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
GOD: They what?! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose? ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.
GOD: And where do they get this . . . mulch?
ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.
GOD: Enough! I can’t think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?
ST. CATHERINE: “Dumb and Dumber”, Lord. It’s a story about….
GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.
Disturbing the exposed lakebed during low water levels is prohibited by law. Any lakebed, exposed or not, that is below the ordinary high water level belongs to the public, not the riparian owner. This article explains more:
Are Low Water Levels Bad For Lakes?
John Haack, University of Wisconsin Extension Basin Educator
The short answer is no. As water levels decrease, very beneficial plants are stimulated to grow along the shore. In fact, one of our state’s rarest shoreline plants, Fassetts’s Locoweed, requires big fluctuations of water levels to grow. According to aquatic plant expert Dr. Susan Borman, “Some aquatic plants require water level fluctuations and many like spikerush and bulrushes are really important for fish spawning and stabilizing sediment. They have whole community associated with them of fish fingerlings and invertebrates.” Borman states “If you talk to any fish manager, they say -at all cost – protect our bulrush and spikerush beds.”
According to Ed Slaminski, Department of Natural Resources Water Management Specialist “Manual removal of aquatic plants is only permitted in an area confined to a path 30 feet wide on your shoreline. Anything more than that, or done by any other mechanical or chemical means, needs a permit from the Department of Natural Resources.” “Disking or dragging exposed lake bed, below the ordinary high water mark (OHWM), with any type of motorized vehicle is not permitted,” explained Conservation Warden, Brian Knepper.
Exposed lakebeds around our lakes are naturally re-vegetating. In most cases the plants that are expanding across the lake bed are on public property. While lakeshore property owners have exclusive use of exposed lakebed, those areas are public properties and regulated by the State of Wisconsin.
Are our fishing habits affecting evolution?
Human actions are increasing the rate of evolutionary change in plants and animals in ways that may hurt their long-term prospects for survival, scientists are reporting.
Published: January 12, 2009
Change in the Wild
Hunting, commercial fishing and some conservation regulations, like minimum size limits on fish, may all work against species health.
The idea that target species evolve in response to predation is not new. For example, researchers reported several years ago that after decades of heavy fishing, Atlantic cod had evolved to reproduce at younger ages and smaller sizes.
The new findings are more sweeping. Based on an analysis of earlier studies of 29 species — mostly fish, but also a few animals and plants like bighorn sheep and ginseng — researchers from several Canadian and American universities found that rates of evolutionary change were three times higher in species subject to “harvest selection” than in other species. Writing in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers say the data they analyzed suggested that size at reproductive maturity in the species under pressure had shrunk in 30 years or so by 20 percent, and that organisms were reaching reproductive age about 25 percent sooner.
In Alberta, Canada, for example, where regulations limit hunters of bighorn sheep to large animals, average horn length and body mass have dropped, said Paul Paquet, a biologist at the University of Calgary who participated in the research. And as people collect ginseng in the wild, “the robustness and size of the plant is declining,” he said.
The researchers said that reproducing at a younger age and smaller size allowed organisms to leave offspring before they were caught or killed. But some evidence suggests that they may not reproduce as well, said Chris Darimont, a postdoctoral fellow in environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who led the work. The fish they studied that are reproducing earlier “on average have far, far, far fewer eggs than those who wait an additional year and grow a few more centimeters,” he said in an interview.
Dr. Darimont said it was unknown whether traits would change back if harvesting were reduced, or how long that might take.
The researchers also noted that the pattern of loss to human predation like hunting or harvesting is opposite to what occurs in nature or even in agriculture.
Predators typically take “the newly born or the nearly dead,” Dr. Darimont said. For predators, targeting healthy adults can be dangerous, and some predator fish cannot even open their mouths wide enough to eat adult prey. Animals raised as livestock are typically slaughtered relatively young, he said, and farmers and breeders retain the most robust and fertile adults to grow their herds or flocks.
But commercial fishing nets and other gear that comply with conservation regulations typically trap large fish while letting smaller ones escape. Trophy hunters typically seek out the largest animals. And for some fish in some areas, as much as 50, 60 or even 80 percent of the stock may be caught every year.
“Targeting large, reproducing adults and taking so many of them in a population in a given year — that creates this ideal recipe for rapid trait change,” Dr. Darimont said.
Some fisheries scientists have said their studies of fish stock had not shown a correlation between fishing intensity and growth rates. And some wildlife conservationists question the idea that hunting can have harmful effects on species.
Dr. Paquet said that although he had confidence in the new findings, he knew there would be questions about the analytical methods he and his fellow researchers used. “That’s expected,” he said. “That’s how science proceeds.”
He said he had anticipated that the work would be “contentious” among trophy hunters. “Essentially, we are saying, ‘You should not do this because it is having effects even you might not like,’ ” he said.
Daniel Pauly, who directs the Fisheries Center at the University of British Columbia, said the new findings “make sense.”
Though Dr. Pauly said he had not seen the new work, he recalled similar changes in black chin tilapia, fish that live in brackish water. He said in an interview that he had studied the fish more than 30 years ago, when he was a young graduate student doing field work in Ghana.
After decades of heavy fishing, the size of the typical adult fish had shrunk to about 10 centimeters from about 15 centimeters. But at the time, he said, “I did not realize what was happening.”
Some fisheries managers are already suggesting that conservation regulations should be changed to safeguard larger fish in protected species. “Lots of people argue for that because the big ones are so fecund,” Dr. Pauly said. But he said customers in fish markets typically prefer larger fish. And if fishers are not permitted to keep the big ones, they “must catch enormous quantities of fish to have a good tonnage.”
A version of this article appeared in print on January 13, 2009, on page D3 of the New York edition.
EFFORTS TO STOP THE EXOTIC SPECIES INVASION CONTINUE
The Bayfield County Lakes Forum recently began an aggressive program with support from the DNR and UW Extension to prevent the spread of exotic species to the inland lakes in the county. As of the end of 2002, the DNR reported that no inland lakes in Bayfield County were infested with either zebra mussel or Eurasian Watermilfoil (EWM). County lakes were at risk of being infested because Chequamegon Bay, several lakes in Sawyer County and Minong Flowage in Douglas County have EWM infestations. Lake Superior is also infested with zebra mussels, ruffe, round goby, spiny waterfleas and fishhook waterfleas. In 2004 EWM was found in Tomahawk Lake and in the Pike Lake Chain. In 2007 it was found at the Hermitage marina.
In 2006, the Forum partnered with the County Tourism Department. After making Tourism aware of the need to protect our lakes from EWM, the BCLF helped acquire a $50,000 grant that funds our county AIS prevention work. It enabled the monitoring of infested lakes and the hiring of Stefania Strzalkowska, our County AIS Program Coordinator. Bayfield County is one of very few counties that have hired AIS coordinators.
In March, 2007, the BCLF drafted a resolution prohibiting the transport of aquatic plants. They later convinced the Bayfield County Board to create an ordinance. The Forum then worked in partnership with the AIS Coordinator and the County Conservation Department to write the ordinance. The County Board approved the ordinance in October. It is now illegal to transport aquatic plants on Bayfield County roadways. This will go a long way to stop the spread of EWM, VHS and other invasive species. The Forum is now sharing this experience with other northwestern Wisconsin counties and hopes to foster similar coalitions.
Exotic species damage our lakes in many ways. They can multiply rapidly and replace native populations of plants and animals. EWM can grow so thick that boating becomes nearly impossible and unsightly mats of vegetation interfere with swimming and other aquatic activities. People on the Pike Chain in Iron River recognize the damage caused by exotic species. The rusty crayfish, introduced by fisherman dumping bait, destroyed most native aquatic vegetation and greatly reduced fish reproduction in those lakes.
According to Roger Dreher, Past President of the Bayfield County Lakes Forum, immediate action must be taken to prevent EWM and other exotics from invading county lakes. All those who use the lakes or whose businesses depend on lake users must help fight the invasion.
BCLF volunteers placed signs at all boat landings, public and private, warning boaters about the problem and giving instructions on how to prevent infestations. Information on exotic species will also be distributed to resorts, campgrounds, marinas, sports equipment stores and bait shops. The DNR and Forest Service are assisting in this effort.
It is particularly important that fisherman and boaters who transport their boats from one lake to another take precautions to prevent the spread of exotic species. It is illegal under 2001 WI Act 16 to launch a boat or boating equipment with aquatic plants or zebra mussels attached. All boaters should:
1. Drain all water from the boat or trailer, including the bilge, live well and engine before leaving the landing.
2. Empty bait buckets and destroy unused bait in the trash or on shore, not in the water.
3. Inspect all surfaces of the boat and trailer. Remove any plant or animal material before leaving the boat landing area. Deposit the material in a waste container or on shore where it cannot be washed into the water.
The old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies. According to the DNR, lake groups spend between $800 and $1,000 per acre to control EWM. It cost over $60,000 to attempt to eradicate EWM from Clear Lake in Sawyer County. In the vast majority of cases, EWM cannot be eradicated, so the costs of control will be perpetual. In Clear Lake, EWM is pulled annually by divers in an attempt to prevent it from taking over again.
For more information, contact your local DNR office or UW Extension department. To volunteer to assist BCLF in this effort or to make donation to help defray volunteer costs, call (715) 798-3163 or email Jim.Brakken@Yahoo.com today.
Do your part for CLEAN BOATS, CLEAN WATERS: STOP THE INVASION!!
The Wisconsin Public Trust Doctrine
Three separate but related articles by Roger Dreher, Past President of BCLF
In this article we will discuss the “Public Trust Doctrine” and the following questions:
- What is the public trust doctrine?
2. How is the doctrine defined in Wisconsin law?
3. What rights in surface waters belong to the public?
4. Do the rights of the public end at the waters edge?
The public trust doctrine is the legal foundation for statutes, regulations, ordinances and court decisions which affect activities on and in the open water, near shore areas and on the shorelines. In summary, the doctrine holds that the public owns the waters of the lake and the lake bed, and the state has a responsibility to preserve and protect the public interest in these waters.
The public trust doctrine is based on provisions of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which became part of the Wisconsin Constitution (Article IX, paragraph 1). Over the years, many statutes and court cases clarified the meaning of the doctrine. The Water Resource Act of 1965 extended the public trust doctrine to include shore lands. The land mark Wisconsin Supreme court decision in Just v. Marinette (1972) upheld regulation of shore lands because the condition of the water body is affected by the condition and uses of the adjoining shore land areas.
Initially, the doctrine protected commercial uses of lakes and streams such as for navigation and log transportation. Subsequent statutes and court decisions expanded the rights of the public to include the following uses:
– Commercial and recreational navigation
– Water quality
– Fishing and hunting
– Harvesting plants and their fruits
– Enjoyment of natural scenic beauty
– Other recreation on water or ice.
The public rights do not include access to the water over private lands.
Those who own land adjoining public waters have certain rights to use their lands and the adjacent waters. These riparian rights will be discussed in another article.
Today the public trust doctrine is important for three major reasons: it gives the state authority to regulate the waters and shore lands; it requires that the state act to promote and preserve the public trust; and it defines state ownership of water bodies.
To learn more about the public trust doctrine see the University of Wisconsin-Extension publication G3622, Wisconsin Water Law: A Guide to Water Rights and Regulations, second edition (2001). This publication is available from the local UW-EX office or from Cooperative Extension Publications, 45 N. Charter Street, Madison, WI 53715.
In this article we discuss “riparian rights” and their relationship to the rights of the public under the public trust doctrine. The article addresses the following questions:
1. What is a “riparian”?
2. What rights does a riparian have to use of the waters and shore lands?
3. What happens if the exercise of riparian rights creates a conflict with public interests?
A “riparian” owns property adjacent to waters which are owned by the public and subject to the public trust doctrine. The riparian rights doctrine provides that owners of such property have an equal right with other owners to the reasonable use of the water and their land.
In most instances, riparian rights in the waters of a lake end at the ordinary high water mark (OHWM). However, the riparian has exclusive right to the shore for purposes of access down to the water™s edge regardless of its location relative to the OHWM. The exclusive access to the shore line was confirmed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Doemel v. Jantz (1923). It confirmed the principle “If your feet are wet, you are not trespassing”.
Riparian rights are defined in Chapter 30, Wisconsin Statutes and include the following:
– Right to use the water for domestic, agricultural or industrial purposes
– Right to access to the water for boating, swimming and recreation
– Right to trapping and harvesting
– Right to construct piers and similar structures
– Ownership of natural additions (accretions) to the shore line.
These rights are subject to two major restrictions. First, the use must be “reasonable”. Whether the use meets this test is decided on a case-by-case basis and will depend on how it affects other riparian owners and the public interest in the lake. Second, riparian rights are subject to the paramount rights of the public under the public trust doctrine and federal, state and local laws and regulations. These laws and regulation may prohibit some activities and require permits for others including dredging, filling, grading, construction of some kinds of piers and placing fish cribs.
The statutes, laws and regulations on riparian rights are designed to balance the private and public interests in the water and shore lands. When these interests conflict, riparian interests become secondary to the public interests. In State v. Bleck (1983) the Wisconsin Supreme Court held “such (riparian) rights are still subject to the public’s paramount right and interest in navigable waters.”
For more information on riparian rights see the University of Wisconsin-Extension publication G3622, Wisconsin Water Law: A Guide to Water Rights and Regulations, second edition (2001). This publication is available from the local UW-EX office or from Cooperative Extension Publications, 45 N. Charter Street, Madison, WI 53715.
Legal Basis for Shore Land Zoning
In previous articles, we discussed the public trust doctrine and the rights of “riparian” property owners. In summary, the rights of the public to the waters and use of them have precedence over some rights of the shore land owners. This situation creates potential conflicts between these competing interests. State laws, regulations and ordinances have been passed which define what shore land owners can do and not do on their property.
Zoning is not a new concept. For over 150 years, our courts have consistently held that the Constitution allows for public regulation of private land. The landmark United States Supreme Court case Euclid v. Ambler Realty (1926) upheld the basic constitutionality of local zoning.
Shore land zoning places limitations on lands located within 1000 feet of a lake, pond or flowage and within 300 feet of a river or stream. Wisconsin Statutes paragraph 59.692(1m) requires shore land zoning to “promote the public health, safety and general welfare” and to advance “efficient use, conservation, development and protection of the state’s water resources”. Wisconsin Statute paragraph 281.31(1) establishes the purposes of shore land zoning to “further the maintenance of safe and healthful conditions; prevent and control water pollution; protect spawning grounds, fish and aquatic life; control building sites, placement of structures and land uses; and reserve land cover and natural beauty.”
In State v. Kenosha County Board of Adjustment (1998) the Wisconsin Supreme Court found that “The basic purpose of a shore land zoning ordinance is to protect navigable waters and the public rights therein from the degradation and deterioration which results from uncontrolled use and development of shore lands”. The decision affirmed the finding in Just v. Marinette County (1972) that shore land zoning may limit certain changes in the natural character of the land near our waters because of the interrelation between that land and the adjacent waters.
Various statutes require counties and municipalities to enact shore land zoning ordinances and define responsibilities for administering and enforcing those laws. See Wis. Stats. 59.692, 61.351, 62.231 and 281.31. The DNR administrative rule NR 115 implements the statutory requirements. NR 115 requires counties and municipalities to enact shore land zoning ordinances and establishes certain minimum requirements. It also authorizes the DNR to adopt ordinances for a county or municipality that fails to adopt an ordinance or adopts one which does not meet the minimum standards.
NR 115 establishes certain minimum standards for development on shore lands outside incorporated municipalities. These include minimum lot sizes, maintaining a buffer strip and vegetation, building set backs from the water and regulation of non conforming structures. Counties may enact ordinances which are more restrictive than the minimum requirements of NR 115. If shore land subject to regulation under NR 115 is annexed by a municipality NR 115 standards continue to apply to that land.
The Bayfield County Shoreland Zoning Ordinance is available on the website: www.bayfieldcounty.org. Copies may be purchased from the zoning office (715) 373-6138. There is a free packet of information for shore land owners “Protecting Your Lake Shoreline Property” also available from the zoning office.
For a succinct discussion of zoning and its relation to land use planning, see www.uwsp.edu/cnr/landcenter/tracker/zoning.htm. Also see UWEX publication G3622, Wisconsin Water Law: A Guide to Water Rights and Regulations. This publication is available from the local UWEX office (715) 373-6104, or from UWEX Cooperative Extension Publications, 45 N. Charter Street, Madison, WI 53715, phone (608) 262-3346.
MOVING BEYOND FISHCRIBS
Butch Lobermeier, Land and Water Conservation Dept
The importance of complex woody debris in the near shore area of northern lakes can not be overstated. The ecosystem of the northern Wisconsin lakes has evolved over ten thousand years to the point that wood has become a necessity in the life cycles of many fish and other aquatic animals. Unfortunately, as the shorelines of lakes become more developed, the volume of wood available to the system diminishes drastically. It seems humans don’t appreciate the wood along their shorelines nearly as much as the perch do. The wood gets removed from the lake shores, often to the point that the near-shore woody habitat necessary for a healthy ecosystem is virtually eliminated.
An example of how little wood is available to meet ecosystem needs is illustrated in the work being done on Bony Lake in Barnes Township. This 191 acre lake was surveyed for critical habitat prior to the whole lake restoration project. This survey found only 80 pieces of wood that exceeded the minimum size criteria of 4 inch diameter and 6 feet long. This equates to about one piece of wood every 200 feet. In a natural lake, the density of wood is often more than one piece every five feet.
Fish crib construction is a common activity thought to improve the fishery. Cribs don’t produce fish; they just make them easier to catch. Nearly all production of fish, spawning activity, takes place near shore with large woody debris a necessary part of the habitat.
The Bayfield County Land and Water Conservation Department is working with DNR staff to change the focus on habitat enhancement activities on area lakes. Adding large woody structure to the shoreline is recommended on all voluntary restoration and mitigation plans. Installing 70 foot long trees in multiple tree complexes is more challenging than building a “log cabin” out of pulpwood. The benefits are well worth the effort however. Is there any natural feature in a lake that is the equivalent to a fish crib? The answer is, no.
The work being completed this year will provide demonstration sites where the finished complexes can be viewed. These projects can be cost shared through various programs and they all need to have DNR permits. It is anticipated that an infrastructure of contractors will develop to assist landowners wishing to install this vitally important component of northern lake ecosystems.
Staff at the Land and Water Conservation Department will be glad to assist individual landowners or to present a program on wood installations at association events. Wood is good.