With the crossbow and archery deer hunting season well underway and the nine-day gun season rapidly approaching, the state Department of Natural Resources and Northwoods counties are kicking the battle against the spread of chronic wasting disease into high gear.
The state began tracking CWD 20 years ago. The first wild deer to test positive for it were found in 2002, according to the DNR. Since then, the disease that kills deer and can quickly decimate a herd has spread to 56 of Wisconsin's 72 counties.
So far, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron counties' cervid populations have been spared the presence of this slow but steady killer, and hunters dearly hope it remains that way.
DNR regional campaign
To make sure that CWD isn't spreading northward, the DNR has launched a region-wide campaign — the first in the Northwoods since 2007 — to encourage hunters to drop off deer heads at sampling stations so the agency can test for the disease.
The DNR's goal is to examine at least 300 deer in each county in the northern part of Wisconsin, including Bayfield, Ashland and Iron counties, DNR wildlife biologist Todd Naas said. With this extensive sampling, the agency stands a 95% chance of detecting CWD if it's within 1% of the herd.
Naas encouraged hunters to place their deer's head plus three to five inches of neck in testing kiosks located
throughout Northwoods counties. Ashland and Bayfield counties have four DNR kiosks each, including in Ashland, Washburn and Iron River, and Iron County has five sites.
In the unfortunate event CWD is found, the DNR will take immediate action, Naas said — although the agency is still working on the specifics of a response plan — as deer are important to the environment and hunts are financially lucrative for the state and local communities.
Meanwhile, Bayfield County is taking additional measures that its Communicable Disease in Cervids Study Committee recommended in June to try to prevent CWD from entering its borders.
"No one wants it up here," said Ben Dufford, Bayfield County conservationist.
The county hired Northland College senior Matt Bolen on a part-time basis to lead the county's CWD information campaign. He recently began meeting with hunting clubs and other organizations to educate the public about the dangers of CWD and the importance of testing and proper disposal of carcasses.
About a week before the gun deer season begins, the county will place dumpsters for carcass disposal at DNR testing kiosk sites, Dufford said. If a carcass has CWD, there's less likely a chance that it will infect another deer if it's not left lying around the forest.
More testing sites
But the DNR isn't the only game in town when it comes to testing for CWD. The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, which helps 11 Ojibwe tribes manage natural resources and enforce conservation efforts, also offered to test deer.
Red Cliff Wildlife and Forestry Department will test for CWD free of charge. The Red Cliff fish hatchery will accept the entire deer, or just the head with about five inches of neck attached, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 715-779-3795 before stopping by.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission is accepting deer in Odanah on the Bad River Indian Reservation. For more information call 715-682-6619
The DNR is not charging to test for CWD and will provide individual hunters with the results of the examination within two to three weeks. For more information about DNR efforts to monitor the spread of CWD and a list of testing kiosk locations by county, visit dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/cwd.html.
CWD testing kiosks
(All are open for gun, and archery and crossbow deer seasons.)
DNR Service Center, 2501 Golf Course Road, Ashland.
Northland Foods, 108 S. Main St., Mellen.
Heritage Meats, 109 S. Main St., Butternut.
Clam Lake Junction, 60967 Highway 77, Clam Lake.
DNR Ranger Station, 203 E. Bayfield St., Washburn.
Timber Ghost Taxidermy, 8470 Highway 2, Iron River. P.J.'s Cabin Store, 1040 Lake Road, Barnes.
Grandview General Store, 22195 Highway 63, Grand View.
La Pointe supervisors suffered a major disappointment Monday when they opened bids to build a new Madeline Island Fire Hall to replace the one destroyed by fire on March 6.
No company submitted a bid for the general construction contract, opening the possibility that work on a new building will have to wait until 2020.
Town Administrator Lisa Potswald said interested contractors were busy this fall and thought transporting a 14,000-square-foot building to the island in December would prove to be a challenge due to the ferry's tenuous early-winter schedule.
"We're going to have to figure out what we're going to do," Potswald said.
La Pointe leaders have had a lot of figuring out to do since a fire of undetermined origin leveled the Fire Hall in March and destroyed all of the department's trucks, equipment and gear.
Immediately after the blaze, the town borrowed ambulances, trucks and other equipment from agencies across the region, then embarked on a rebuilding plan.
Town officials now plan to meet with architectural firm Wendel of Eau Claire to review their options and the bids that did come in for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, plumbing, electrical, and site/utility work.
If the bids appear to be too high, Potswald said, the town has the right to reject them, and if new requests for bids are sent out and the project is delayed until spring, costs may come down.
Arnie Nelson of Nelson Construction Co. submitted a bid for site preparation and utility installation, Potswald said. It's possible work to flatten the site and remove the
foundation plus some blacktop could yet begin this year.
The town and Fire Department had been pushing hard to get work going this fall on a new emergency services building.
At its June 25 meeting, the La Pointe Town Board committed up to $2.3 million to rebuild the Fire Hall, and 21 town residents gave the green light at a meeting on Aug. 13.
Until a new Fire Hall is built, the Fire Department will run out of the public works building, and store equipment and gear at various locations on the island.
Enbridge Energy Co. has offered the Bad River Tribe more than $24 million to settle a lawsuit the tribe filed over expired leases on a pipeline that runs across tribal land.
Tribal Chairman Michael Wiggins Jr. told the Daily Press Thursday that the tribe rejects the offer, which he considers "Enbridge smoke and bluster."
Enbridge offered the tribe $12 million to settle claims associated with easements on the Bad River Indian Reservation land. The settlement would cover from 2013 — when existing leases expired — to the end of 2019.
The company also offered to pay the tribe $2 million annually, beginning in 2020, until Enbridge shuts down operation of Line 5 on the reservation, with another $10 million when a replacement route outside of the reservation begins operating.
At that point Enbridge would cease operations on the Bad River Reservation.
Other provisions in the proposed settlement call for payments of $10,000 a month to be made to the tribe's natural resources department. It also said that Enbridge would work with holders of individual properties affected by the pipeline to reach separate settlements.
Enbridge, a Canadian company, operates Line 5 between Superior and Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. The pipe movess over half a million gallons of crude oil natural gas liquids a day. The line crosses the Bad River Reservation but the tribe has refused to renew Enbridge leases, citing concerns about what the tribe says is a deteriorating pipeline that has been in place since 1953. For its part, Enbridge says that the pipeline is safe and is closely inspected regularly.
Enbridge and tribal officials met Sept. 24 in Ashland, but have not reached any kind of an agreement on the lawsuit or on a new lease.
An open letter to Wiggins and the Bad River Tribal Council was made public on the Enbridge website last week and shared on social media.
On Thursday, Wiggins denounced the offer, although
he refused to say directly that he or the tribe would formally deny it. He declined to comment on any portion of it specifically, but was highly critical of Enbridge in general terms.
"They are trying to dangle dollars before an impoverished community, before poor people. They are trying to intimidate the community, and I find it disgusting," he said. "The suit stands as much now as the day we filed it."
Wiggins said the letter was, "Enbridge documenting its own voice."
"Enbridge offering transcripts of its own voice shows the legitimacy of our litigation," he continued. "They need to deal with that outdated pipe."
Wiggins said a proposal to reroute Line 5 around the reservation was not an alternative.
"They are still on our watershed and our hydrology. None of that is acceptable," he said. "We are going to resist that every step of the way. We don't want them in the Bad River above us. For God's sake, there is no difference there. They are in the same watershed."
Wiggins refused to say whether he had the authority to reject the Enbridge proposal or if it required a vote of the tribal council or a vote of members of the tribe. The Daily Press was unable to contact any other tribal officials for an answer to that question.
Meanwhile, in a prepared statement. Enbridge spokeswoman Juli Kellner said Enbridge would like to extend operation of Line 5 on the reservation. She declined to answer questions beyond that statement.
"Enbridge remains open to discussing a settlement with the band based on a longer-term operation of Line 5 within the reservation where the band and Enbridge could commit to ongoing cooperation on maintenance, including band employment and economic development opportunities," she said. "With this on-reservation settlement, Enbridge would be open to rebuilding all or parts of Line 5 with on-going collaboration, input and participation."
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