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Riverway board receives updates on forest pests
Mark Guthmiller
DNR Forest Health Specialist Mark Guthmiller addresses the Riverway board

MUSCODA - Two topics occupied the bulk of the discussion of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board meeting on Thursday, March 10 – the release of the Department of Natural Resources draft master plan for the Riverway and a forest pests update from DNR Forest Health Specialist Mark Guthmiller.

While Guthmiller suggested that board members and the public look at the DNR website for more complete information on the pests the DNR is focused on, he presented a condensed list of those he thought most critical to the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway area.  The Riverway, along with the rest of Wisconsin’s forested areas, are faced by a number of challenges from invasive insects and diseases, Guthmiller noted before addressing Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), which he described as the “most prolific killer of trees in the state.”

While the core of the EAB infestation is in the Southeast corner of the state, Guthmiller noted that new cases had been confirmed last year in Dayton, Richland County and at Jamestown and Wyalusing, Grant County.

“Woodpeckers are one of the best indicators of pest activity, so signs of their activity is a good indicator to look for Emerald Ash Borer,” Guthmiller said.

Displaying images of a serpentine pattern called a gallery that is left underneath the bark of the ash tree, Guthmiller noted that pest leaves a distinctive trace which his department can readily identify by photo for landowners concerned about infection.

EAB can infect all ash trees, though the blue ash shows some signs of resistance, the specialist noted.

“Is there EAB trapping that will be going on actively in the Riverway,” asked Mark Cupp, the Executive Director of the LWSR.

Guthmiller indicated that a meeting had just been held to plan EAB trapping. While some areas adjacent to the Riverway would have traps, for now he expected to be watching for woodpecker activity as an indicator of need.

The specialist went on to cover Ash Yellows, Gypsy Moth, Oak Wilt, Heterobasidion root disease (Annosum root rot), Jumping worms, and Amur honeysuckle, which while not a disease, is an extremely aggressive non-native bush causing concern.

The DNR has begun surveying for twig beetle and thousand canker disease, which affects walnut and butternut trees, Guthmiller announced. The beetles carry the fungal disease as they burrow into the tree. The disease has not been detected in Wisconsin yet, but the DNR is monitoring for the disease that has been confirmed in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio due to the prevalence of the valuable hardwood Black Walnut throughout southern Wisconsin.

In a brief discussion of the proposed Master Plan for the Riverway, discussion was largely centered on the short time available to read and comment upon the document.

Cupp, noting that there were no officials present at the meeting because of the proposed Master Plan’s presence on the agenda, recommended that due to the size of the document which he described as “overall a positive step” for the Riverway, board members and others should focus on their areas of concern when making comments.

“I would like for board members to provide comments by March 24 and to have the Executive Committee approve a finalized memorandum to submit before the comment period ends,” Cupp told the board.

He pointed out that the comment period would be over before the board met again, so this was a way to ensure the board could give additional input. The board had provided input during the planning phase of the document previously.

“This thing was just put out last week and it’s 200 some pages,” added board president Don Greenwood, offering support for Cupp’s recommendation. Greenwood added that he had requested hard copies of the plan, but was denied on the basis of expense.

Office assistant Marsha Curtis explained that copies were $45 apiece.

“Overall, the document is a pretty great primer on what an astonishing natural resource the Riverway is,” Greenwood said. “It highly confirmed for me the importance of the project and gives you a great sense of the Riverway as a whole.”

Not all the input from the board had been included in the proposed plan, Cupp noted. But what was not included were primarily policy issues rather than management issues, which is what the document addresses.

It was agreed by the board members to follow Cupp’s recommendation for formulating a response.

“I do feel like they (the DNR) have pre-empted the conversation with the action to close down the Mazomanie beach,” Greenwood said. “I would hate to see that overshadow the importance of this document (by capturing all the media coverage).”

He pointed out that the decision to close the Mazomanie beach meant that clothed or unclothed, recreational users had lost access to 140-acres of Riverway lands.

Cupp reminded members that the board had passed a resolution in 2003 against allowing nudity in the Riverway. The DNR had chosen not to act on the board’s desire to see nudity prohibited at that time.

The draft master plan for the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, which also includes Tower Hill State Park, is available for public review and comment through April 8, 2016.

Two open house sessions with brief presentations by the DNR will be held:

• Tuesday, March 29 -
Tuffley Community Center, 104 Oak Street,
Boscobel from 5-7 p.m.

• Thursday, March 31 - The River Arts Center, 105 9th Street, Prairie du Sac from 5-7 p.m.

The complete draft master plan is available to view at public libraries in Sauk City, Mazomanie, Muscoda, Boscobel, and the Madison Central Library. It is also available for viewing at the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway office, Fitchburg DNR Service Center, Dodgeville DNR Service Center, and DNR Central Office.

The draft master plan, an online questionnaire and public comment forms are available online at

In other business, the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board:

• heard an update from Pattison Sand Company indicating that no sand mining was occurring within the Riverway portion of the Town of Bridgeport mine near Prairie du Chien;

• heard there was no action on permits required;

• was invited to a children’s karst educational event in Gays Mills on March 16 by Crawford Stewardship Project; and

• heard an update on Friends of the Lower Wisconsin (FLOW).

The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board will meet next on April 14 in Sauk City.