GREEN BAY – Anglers, conservationists and landowners with stream-front property are invited to an informational meeting from 6 to 9 p.m.Thursday, Aug. 27, at the Wittenberg Community Center about opportunities available through Wisconsin’s Stream Bank Protection program.
The program – which involves the purchase of conservation easements – provides for public fishing access to high-quality trout and smallmouth bass streams and fosters “stream rehabilitation” projects to improve fish habitat and water quality.
At the meeting, staff from the Department of Natural Resources will seek feedback from the public on proposed additions to the stream-bank eligibility list, specifically streams in the northeast region of the state and primarily in a focus area that includes a large part of Shawano County and neighboring portions of Marathon, Portage, Waupaca, Lincoln and Langlade counties.
DNR staff also will provide general information on the Streambank Protection Program, which since its inception in 1989 has proven itself to be popular with both anglers and landowners.
Under the program, DNR uses funds from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program to purchase stream-bank easements from willing landowners. Each easement conveys the right of public access and the right to manage vegetation within a 66-foot corridor on each side of the stream.
Land values for each stream parcel are calculated by real estate appraisers and the easement rights are perpetual. Hunting and trapping rights are not included within stream bank easements and remain under landowner control.
The DNR has used easements for decades to provide anglers with access and to engage in stream improvements on private property. Fisheries biologists work closely with a wide range of conservation groups throughout Wisconsin to assist in these efforts.
“A local team approach involving partnerships with Trout Unlimited, conservation clubs, land trusts, local landowner advocates and county land conservationists will be critical to the success of the program as it moves into northeast Wisconsin,” said DNR fisheries biologist Jonathan Pyatskowit.
Trout Unlimited chapters in Wisconsin TU’s central and northeastern regions are already sharply focused on this new initiative, said Tom Lager, president of TU’s Fox Valley Chapter.
“We want to partner with whoever we need to help make this happen,” Lager said. “This is one of the key things we are going to be focused on for years to come. The Stewardship funding will pay for easements. We will be providing funds and labor to help implement the program.”
While the stream bank protection program in northeast Wisconsin will be modeled on the successful program in the southwest, it will also recognize important differences in the region’s geology, topography, vegetation, history and culture.
“A lot of these streams have seen the historic impacts of logging,” Lager said. “Some are shallow and wide, and their substrate is not as conducive to trout spawning.”
Revitalized streams improve property values, Lager said. TU members are willing to help sell the program and to work with landowners, to showcase work on central Wisconsin streams, with stabilized banks and narrower, deeper and swifter channels of clean, cold water.
While such work is a key part of the program, Pyatskowit said, the purchase of a stream bank easement does not mean habitat work will occur in every case. In many instances, it will simply mean the landowners receives a financial benefit, trout fishermen gain access to the stream and DNR biologists join the landowner in protecting the 66-foot riparian zone on either side of the stream.
“Overall, the trout streams are doing fine,” Pyatskowit said. “Most of the stretches we’ve picked for inclusion are Class 1 trout streams that support natural reproduction. In many cases, the main goal is to keep it that way.”
At the Aug. 27 meeting in Wittenberg, participants will help biologists determine which stretches of which streams should be priorities for the program. The community center is in village offices at 208 W. Vinal St. in Wittenberg.
For application materials and more information about the program, interested individuals can search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keyword “streambank.” DNR staff is working on an update to this page, which should be ready in advance of the informational meeting.
Interested landowners can contact their local fisheries biologist for more information. A list of biologists across the state who are able to assist landowners with stream bank easements can be found online at http://dnr.wi.gov/files/pdf/