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TO: Marsh Management Committee

FROM: Andy Nelson, Wildlife Team Leader

SUBJECT: October 3, 2001 Meeting Minutes


As usual, our meeting got rolling around 6:30 p.m. and comprised a full agenda. We began with a series of management updates from around the Marsh.

Diane reports that bird numbers on the Refuge are good. However, the Main pool is not as heavily used as it was last year. The Federal Carp trap has been active. Crews have cleaned several thousand pounds of large carp out of the trap, along with several dozen large northern pike. Construction projects on the Refuge are winding down with the end of paving in sight.

Andy reports that the public use surveys are available at all boat landings. So far returns have been modest. Hopefully, more will come in before our November meeting when we try to resolve this question. Waterfowl numbers on state end are a little thin going into the season. Even prime habitats are holding relatively few birds at this time.

Water levels in all sub-impoundments are nearing fall targets. Pumping has been temporarily stymied at the Bachhuber due to a mechanical glitch with the pump. Falling rain until more migrant ducks move in so that food supplies can be used to maximum value will restore levels in the goose pond. Premature flooding will only enable geese to clean out the seed before the ducks move in.

Hunting reports from those in attendance were very favorable for the youth hunt. Apparently the youth found good numbers of birds using potholes and the burned area by Steamboat Island. Opening day results were more mixed with marginal luck in many areas.

Water levels were a concern for several attendees. Specifically, some were concerned with the apparent drop of levels prior to opening weekend. To answer questions in this regard, Andy reviewed the September water log records as recorded at the dam in Horicon.

In a nutshell, the levels had been too high (75.6) earlier in the month and DNR crews were trying to slowly bring the level down to goal. Due to masking effects by strong north winds, the levels fell 0.2 feet (74.9) more than desired (75.1) at the dam. This may have exaggerated effects upstream on the Marsh. The problem was identified within 24 hours and the dam was closed to bring levels back as quickly as possible.

The discussion was concluded with a consensus understanding that staff would continue to operate the dam to achieve our 75.1 target. As always, we will try to negotiate wind, weather, and upstream water management activities as best we can.

Looking ahead, the Committee began a discussion of long-term water management on the Marsh. As the committee has done in the past, we are trying to lay out our water plans for the upcoming year.

We began by reviewing the results of recent water management practices. These can be summarized as being low summer levels with modest increases in the fall. This strategy, coupled with carp control has helped produce modest growth of submerged plants, expansion of water lily, abundant wild rice, and moderately expanding cattail. Overall, wildlife response has been favorable, especially among shorebirds and waterfowl. Muskrat numbers have yet to show much response to these habitat improvements. From a management perspective, this water scheme allows for effective summer burning of cattails and decent navigation access for fall users. Concerns about the current water management plan involve cattail expansion and the lack of a muskrat response to date.

As we began to discuss alternatives, Keith White aptly pointed out that the range of water management options is very narrow considering the limitations of the dam in Horicon. Specifically, the range of levels is approximately 0.9 feet.

In general, there was agreement that the current water management scheme had been productive in improving habitat conditions and that continuation of low summer/high fall levels would be desirable. There was specific concern for having high water levels in the fall/winter to encourage muskrat use of dense cattail. Likewise, there was support for using low summer levels to aggressively burn cattails during the growing season. It was noted that low summer levels help keep sunlight on the marsh floor and aid in submerged plant growth.

While there was support for continuing the current cycle of water management, the group decided to present their feelings as a recommendation to the rest of the MMC mailing list. In so doing, it is hoped that other members would have an opportunity to consider this information and add to the discussion at the November meeting. Pending the results of the November discussion, we hope to finalize a 2002 water management plan at our next meeting.

Andy also reported on the Nest Success Initiative and the Delta Waterfowl visit. Serge Lariviere and John Devney of Delta flew Horicon Marsh on September 10, participated in a ground tour of sites on HNWR, met with agency staff, and provided an evening public program to summarize the results of their work on predator management from North Dakota and Saskatchewan.

Delta liked what they saw around the Marsh and sees much potential for a scientific study. They see the Horicon landscape as a new challenge featuring a huge wetland complex and vastly more intricate and abundant predator communities. As a result, they have indicated they would like to come to Wisconsin to do a graduate study for 2 years. They have even suggested that they can provide most if not all of the funding required to complete the study, provided WDNR, USFWS, and other prospective partners at WWA and WTA can provide appropriate support. At this time the respective partners are considering the proposal. We expect some indication of whether the project will begin moving forward by our next meeting.

As fall progresses we continue to work on some meaty issues at the MMC. Thankfully, we’ve had a fresh influx of new energy and ideas from some of the recent additions to our group. We will need veteran and rookies alike to continue to build on the momentum we have achieved to date.

As we have discussed with some regularity in recent months, funding is a continuing issue we need to address to achieve our goals. To be effective at obtaining grants, donations, and raising funds the MMC needs to become more organized in its approach to financial matters. Specifically, Andy is requesting that all MMC members consider forming and participating on a Fundraising Committee.

Ideally, this committee will have 5-10 members who are capable of identifying potential funding sources, working with partners to apply for grants, soliciting donations, and overseeing various independent fundraising efforts that would benefit the management and restoration of Horicon Marsh. This committee needs people who can be passionate, informed advocates for the Marsh and the various MMC projects designed to improve it. Ideal Fundraising Committee members will have several of the following strengths: business savvy, organization skills, local knowledge, ability to cooperate with others on projects, extensive personal contact networks, past fundraising experience, high energy, determination, sales and marketing skills, and many philanthropic friends.

If you know someone who would be a great member of this committee, please consider making a nomination at our next meeting. Self-nominations will be gladly accepted.

Looking ahead to our next meeting on Tuesday, November 6, we will try to bring the issue of a Wetland Wilderness Area to some final MMC recommendation. The question of whether to establish a non-motorized use area on the state end of the Marsh has sparked much debate all summer. At our next meeting we will discuss the survey results and opinions among those gathered.

Our goal will be to reach a consensus decision on whether to ask the Conservation Congress to continue to pursue this matter on the Spring 2002 questionnaire, or to reject the proposal at this time, thereby ending the Conservation Congress efforts in this regard.

I anticipate that we will all have different personal opinions on this matter. We all know from past debates that there are strong emotions on both sides of this issue. However, I hope we can all look past our own concerns and try to reach a consensus on what course will best serve the interests of the Marsh. Then, when this matter is decided, we will need to move forward with our continuing mission to improve the Marsh ecosystem in a cooperative manner.

Other agenda items include:
Management Updates
Water Management Planning
Fundraising Committee Membership
Vegetation Survey Results

I look forward to seeing everyone on Tuesday, November 6th!

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