Plus, Do You Know About Snow Fleas? And 2021 Park Passes Available

Plus, Do You Know About Snow Fleas? And 2021 Park Passes Available




Find Your Adventure With 2021 Park Passes

Plus, Meet Wisconsin’s First Woman Chief State Forester

“Dawn At Cave Point,” 2018 Great Waters Photo Contest. Cave Point County Park in Door County. / Credit: Michael Knapstein

Spring is just around the corner! Plan for adventure this year by purchasing your 2021 park pass or state trail pass.

Annual vehicle admission stickers offer admission to all state parks and forests for the calendar year. The 2021 annual stickers are valid through Dec. 31, 2021.

A state trail pass is required for all people age 16 or older biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding or in-line skating on certain trails. A state trail pass is not required for walking or hiking. Wisconsin state trail pass fees are the same for residents and non-residents.

Three Ways To Purchase

  • Online: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has an option to purchase certain annual Wisconsin State Park vehicle admission stickers online. Annual Wisconsin Resident, Annual Wisconsin Resident Senior and Non-resident Annual stickers can be purchased online. Additionally, one Reduced Rate Annual sticker (for a vehicle registered to the same household address) can be purchased online at the same time with a full-price sticker. Annual state trail passes and daily admission stickers and passes are not currently available for purchase online.
  • At a state park: Annual and daily admission stickers and state trail passes can be purchased at Wisconsin State Park System properties via self-registration, electronic kiosk or drive-up window service. Please call ahead to check on availability and hours.
  • Over the phone: Annual admission stickers and state trail passes are available to purchase over the phone by calling 1-888-305-0398 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week, except holidays.

Snow Fleas: What Are They And Why Are They Coming To The Surface?

Easily mistaken for specks of dirt or debris, snow fleas are tiny soil-dwelling animals that gather on the surface of the snow on warm winter and spring days.

Technically, they are species of winter-loving springtail hexapods that are usually found in groups. Snow fleas are not related to true fleas and they do not bite, sting or otherwise cause harm to animals. If it’s warm enough, you might see their dark-colored bodies standing out against the white snow. Cold weather drives snow fleas back below the surface to wait for better weather.

Snow fleas are tiny (around an eighth of an inch long) and wingless. They crawl around on the snow slowly but can spring forward rapidly, moving three to four inches in a single movement. A unique, fork-like structure called a furcula folds under their bodies, and when released, it allows the tiny animals to jump. Snow fleas can’t control the distance or direction of their travel, but this mechanism remains useful for avoiding predators.

Snow fleas live in humid environments, including soil, leaf litter, under bark and in decaying logs. With diets consisting of decaying vegetation, fungi, bacteria, pollen, algae, lichens and insect feces, snow fleas help break down organic matter and release nutrients back into the soil. They provide these services in many settings, including forests, lawns and gardens.

Visit the Wisconsin DNR’s website to learn more about tiny creatures, pesky invasives and other creatures that impact forest health for better or for worse.

Meet Wisconsin’s First Woman Chief State Forester

This Women’s History Month, we’d like to take a moment to appreciate a woman who’s making history at the Wisconsin DNR: Chief State Forester Heather Berklund.

“As the first woman in Wisconsin’s history to hold this role, I know she will bring diverse perspectives to the table in her work,” said DNR Secretary Preston Cole when he appointed Berklund to her role on Oct. 12, 2020.

Berklund began her forestry career with the Wisconsin DNR in 2000, serving as a field forester in Merrill, Crandon and Mercer for more than a decade before becoming the Ashland-Iron team leader and then the Woodruff area leader in 2016.

Berklund earned a Bachelor of Science in forestry from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and has continued her education through forestry short-courses in Germany and Mexico. She participated in the 2019 Women in Government leadership academy and received the Division of Forestry 2014 Supervisor of the Year award.

“I look forward to leading the Division of Forestry on a successful path as we adapt to changes in the climate and cultural needs,” Berklund said. “The state forestry program has a long history of innovative, well-respected state foresters. I hope to continue this legacy moving forward by showcasing the value that forestry brings to both our state and nation.”

We’re lucky to have you, Heather. And congrats on making history!

Learn more about Heather here.

Winter Prescribed Burns In Local Marshlands Reduce Fire Hazards
And Improve Vegetation

Wisconsin DNR prescribed burn crews conducted the first prescribed burn of the year on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, at Vernon Marsh Wildlife Area in eastern Waukesha County.

The DNR conducts prescribed burns to reduce fire hazards, reduce invasive plant species, stimulate wildflowers and grasses, control brush and improve habitat for local wildlife.

One of the March 2 burn objectives was to reduce the thick layer of dead vegetation present at the site, thereby providing ecological benefits and also reducing wildfire risk within and around the burn unit. When cattails — a natural fuel — burn, they produce much more heat than typical grassland plants.

For the safety of DNR burn crews and the general public, prescription burns on cattail marshes occur while winter snow is still present, when wildfire risk is lowest. Cattails inherently release a tremendous amount of heat (BTUs) when burned, and fuel loads (tons/acre) tend to be much higher than in upland areas. Cattails also tend to create larger pieces of ash, particularly when a significant amount of these fuels are burned at once. These factors, plus the compacted nature of the vegetation, generate a darker and thicker smoke plume than seen in a grassland fire. Winter provides a far safer time to conduct these events, as summer prescribed burns on cattail marshes can be more difficult to control and pose additional smoke management risks.

Around 5-10 winter burns occur every year in Wisconsin, primarily in wet prairies and wetlands such as cattail marshes. A significant number of these burn units are located in southeastern Wisconsin. Winter prescribed burns are unique events in Wisconsin, as they occur during a narrow window with just the right weather and snow cover conditions.

This window occurs when enough snow has melted to expose the cattail litter in the marsh, but the ice is still thick enough to support equipment and DNR staff as they ignite the area. Winds must be strong enough to push the fire through the vertical cattails but not strong enough to cause control issues. Planning a burn can take months and crews must be ready when the appropriate weather condition (or “prescription”) is right for the burn.

In addition to the fuel reduction benefits of prescribed cattail burns, removing dead vegetation through fire also reinvigorates vegetation for wildlife. Cattail burns increase the amount of open water, providing increased and more navigable areas for waterfowl to feed and rear their young. Historically, periodic fire (either lightning or human-caused) would remove the dead vegetation while stimulating native plant growth. Marshes, wetlands and the native species that live there have adapted to periodic fire and even depend on it.

Learn when and where DNR prescribed burns are occurring across the state here.