Chickadee Check-off is a great cause

There is no escaping the fact that all the various forms of income to the Iowa DNR for all of its legislated functions are under intense financial pressure. While the cost of materials, supplies, fuel and personnel may increase, the total amount of dollars available is on a downward trend. The long range outlook is not good unless the “cost-of-living” or in this case the realistic costs of maintaining services somehow is increased to keep pace with the real world. A system that would have more flexibility would be nice. Waiting for legislative approval once every 10 years or so for license fee increases does not cut it. Still, that is the system we have in Iowa, like it or not. Getting legislators to back timely and appropriate levels of fees is required. Iowa natural resource research, management and enforcement are not immune from the economic forces of the economy.

Nearly 400,000 (plus or minus) hunting, fishing and fur harvester licenses are sold in a year. The money goes into a constitutionally protected Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund which is the primary source of funding to manage Iowa’s wildlife, fisheries research and habitat lands. Law enforcement of the game laws is also funded to those jobs. If you are a fisherman, a hunter, or a trapper, the licenses you buy support your outdoor interests directly. The Trust Fund has a long successful history for which examples include the return of the wild turkey, Canada geese, River Otters, Trumpeter Swans and Peregrine Falcons. Fish programs include catfish, walleye, northern and muskie stockings in addition to trout. Fish research is a big part of the equation too for costs related to aquatic environments.

Income to the Iowa DNR’s wildlife and fisheries programs works out as follows: 36 percent comes from hunting licenses, 13 percent from fishing licenses, 5 percent by habitat fees, 6 percent from miscellaneous fees, 3 percent from boat, ORV, or ATV fees, federal matching funds of 24 percent, and the carryover from the previous year of 13 percent. The flip side of this coin, expenses show these numbers: Wildlife and fisheries habitat, development and boat ramp projects at 26 percent, Wildlife management at 27 percent, fisheries management at 19 percent, law enforcement with 23 percent and the balance of 6 percent to administration.

Please note that fish, wildlife and enforcement are not funded from tax dollars. Other segments of DNR programs, such as parks, preserves, administration or the environmental obligations are subject to legislative appropriations. These are also under the same squeeze to do more with less philosophy. At least in one instance, you can help be part of the solution with Chickadee Check-off contributions. Every dollar helps. This scribe encourages you to do so. All proceeds from the check-off support the Wildlife Diversity Program. That program attempts to put dollars behind the work to protect over 1,000 species of critters through habitat work, research studies and other cooperative endeavors.

The popular ARTIFACT ROADSHOW has returned to the Conservation Center at the Grimes Farm. Today, from 9 a.m. until noon, prehistoric tools, pottery or bone artifacts will be identified by program host Toby Morrow. Morrow is an expert in identifying the source of rock used to make an arrowhead, knife or spear point. Knowing where the rock came from can help tell stories of the centuries long trade between Indian nations across America. If you have a collection of fossils, arrowheads, stone tools or similar items, bring them with you. Morrow also can tell you approximately how old an item is based on its rock source and shape. He is the author of Iowa Projectile Points, a publication detailing the timeline of artifact development. Have fun and learn lots of interesting stuff this morning at the Artifact Roadshow.

TROUT are coming to two water areas in central Iowa soon. It is not Sand Lake this time. It is however Lake Petoka on the northeast side of Bondurant and Ada Hayden Lake north of Ames. Trout numbering 1,400 will go to Bondurant at noon today, and 2,200 will go to Ames at noon on Feb. 2. Fisheries biologist Ben Dodd is impressed at how local businesses and partners step up to promote events for families looking to give trout fishing a try. At each site, experienced anglers will be available to assist and help show the specific equipment needed to bring trout to the top of the ice from below the icy layer. Most of the trout will be 10 to 12 inch fish. A few brood trout in the 2 pound to 5 pound range will also be part of each stocking. A 2013 fishing licenses and trout fee will be required for most people. See the 2013 Iowa fishing regulations booklet for details on who does and who does not need licenses and trout fees materials.

ICE thickness at Green Castle and other area ponds and lakes is about 9 inches. Not too bad for us at this time of year. It is solid in most places but the best advice is to check it out carefully first. In contrast, the Devil’s Lake waters of North Dakota have 20 inches of ice now. That is strong enough to hold heavy vehicles, pickups, cars or special ice fishing houses on wheels devices that local folks have invented. A friend was at Devil’s Lake this past week, bringing walleyes through holes drilled in the ice. The outside air temperature was 20F while inside the ice vehicle it was warm enough to take off coats and hats. Really long periods of below zero weather at Devil’s Lake has in the past allowed the ice to reach over 36 inches of thickness. Extensions to ice augers are the rule in those cases.

Green Castles ice is solid. The deepest points still have about 13 feet of water. Add 9.5 feet for the water that was slowly drained from the lake this fall, and you now know that the lake still has 22 + feet of water when the lake is at pool level. If you go to Green Castle to fish through the ice, take note of habitat work already in progress. Around several of the fishing jetty points, recycled cable reels, last years Christmas trees and assorted concrete blocks have been stationed for the time when full lake water will cover them. But first, 2013 will be a keep the lake low year so that silt can be removed to the best degree possible and new jetties, rock structures, underwater reefs and other improvements can be built. The plan is to allow water to refill the lake once all the above features are complete. Look for a return of full water levels in 2014. One thing about mother nature and long term habitat improvement projects is this: She will take her own sweet time to do it while impatient humans have to learn to wait. In this case, there is nothing wrong with that.

Have you hear of VWMP? It stands for Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program. It is a statewide endeavor to get private volunteer citizens to take part in certain species watches and tabulations. Training workshops will be held in three locations during 2013 … O’Brien, Muscatine and Marshall counties during February or March. Marshall county’s training workshop will be March 23 from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the Conservation Center at the Grimes Farm. Call 641-752-5490 to register. Here is what it entails. There are more than 800 species of critters big to small in Iowa. Some are indicator type species that reflect habitat quality. DNR personnel cannot be everywhere and that is where dedicated and interested volunteers come into play. There are bird nest monitorings for two general categories, raptors and water birds. Each are somewhat sensitive to environmental changes (good or bad). Another class of critters to watch or listen to are frogs and toads. They are indicators of wetland habitat quality. If you are interested in volunteering for this program, check out the web site

Make note of the WILD GAME BANQUET coming up on Feb. 13, Wednesday night, at the Fisher Community Auditorium. This is an annual event hosted by the local chapter of the Izaak Walton League. League members will bring a favorite dish of wild game or fish to serve for the evening meal to begin at 6 p.m. The bowls of goodies will be labeled so you will know if you are eating elk, deer, bison, caribou or some other meat dish. Same for the fish side of things. All will be good. Tastes will dictate which bowl gets second helpings. Members and guests are asked to bring their own service and eating utensils. Drinks will be furnished. Once the eating is finished, a special program in ICELAND will be shown. It is a fantastic slide show set to music of a wildlife, waterfall and volcanic landscape wonderland. Presenters will be Ed Siems and Teresa Vokoun. They traveled to Iceland in 2011 to make a fantastic photographic journey to this land of the mid-Atlantic ridge of earth’s crustal plates. This scribe has viewed the slide show previously. It is a top notch program to see. Be there. You will not regret it.

The BEAR GROVE Chapter of WHITETAILS UNLIMITED will hold their banquet on Feb. 23 at the KC Hall in Marshalltown. All who are ardent deer hunting fans are welcome to join in on the fun that night. WTU works for habitat and wildlife management programs that benefit deer and other critters. There are chapters in all 50 states. Tickets costs are $45 for single or $20 for a spouse or child. Call Dennis Balmer at 641-474-2385, Juston Vaverka at 641-751-1251 or Kyle Hall at 641-751-9397 to purchase your tickets. This banquet will feature a great meal, and auction items and door prizes. Help support WTU.

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” -Frank Lloyd Wright

Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.