DNR slates spring hearings for April 10 across state

Paul A. Smith
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A walleye is measured after being caught. A proposed rule change would establish an 18-in minimum length limit and a daily bag limit of three for walleyes in southeastern Wisconsin. Current regulations feature a 15-inch minimum size limit and a five fish a day bag limit.

The 2017 Department of Natural Resources annual spring fish and wildlife hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring conservation meetings will be April 10 in each county of the state.

Commonly referred to as the "spring hearings," the meetings are held to gauge public support on fishing, hunting, conservation and environmental issues. The questions are presented as advisory or proposed rules changes.

The gatherings are free and open to the public.

This year's ballot features 88 questions, including 38 proposed DNR rule changes, 49 advisory questions from the congress and one from the Natural Resources Board.

The 2017 meeting agendas begin with elections of local congress delegates, followed by an update on preliminary deer management recommendations from the local County Deer Advisory Council, votes on proposed rule changes, a vote on the Natural Resources Board advisory question, submission of citizen resolutions and votes on congress advisory questions.

Citizens are allowed to comment for up to 3 minutes on any question or rule change.

Votes are cast on a computerized ballot; attendees may vote and leave or stay for the entire proceedings. Meetings typically last from 1 to 3 hours.

As established in state statute, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress serves as a public advisory body to the NRB and DNR. The congress has five elected delegates in each county.

Proposed fisheries rule changes include a uniform walleye regulation (18-inch minimum size limit, with a daily bag limit of three) on all inland waters of Kenosha, Racine, Sheboygan, Walworth and Waukesha counties (except Lac La Belle, where it would remain one fish with a 28-inch minimum).

The DNR also proposes to slightly modify trolling rules in inland waters of the state. The simplification would allow motor trolling with one line per angler and a maximum of three lines in a boat in seven counties (Florence, Iron, Lincoln, Oneida, Sheboygan, Vilas and Waupaca) and with three lines per angler in the other 65 counties.

Among wildlife proposed rule changes, the agency seeks to reclassify two non-native birds. Under the proposals, the Eurasian collared dove would be listed as an unprotected species and the monk parrot as a nuisance species.

The NRB will ask if citizens prefer a hook-and-line muskellunge harvest tag that would allow anglers to keep one musky per year.

Among congress advisory questions, one will asks if the public would like to see County Deer Advisory Councils have the ability to implement earn-a-buck regulations in their county as a herd management tool.

Another will seek to determine the appetite for a sandhill crane hunting season in Wisconsin. It will ask: Do you support legislation that would give the DNR authority to begin the process to develop a hunting season for sandhill cranes?

Both the earn-a-buck and sandhill crane issues would require a change in state law before they could be implemented.