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Endangered Resources Program, 1970 - 2006

By David L. Gjestson
[Summerized from the author’s book,
The Game Keepers:
Wisconsin Wildlife Conservation History, from WCD to CWD]

Edited by: Chuck Pils

Extensive timber harvest, wildfires, and market hunting were devastating to a wide variety of birds and mammals in the nineteenth century. Although habitat loss was instrumental in producing the extinction and extirpation of many abundant wildlife species like the passenger pigeon, the hunter’s gun was given a disproportionate share of the credit. Practically all the devastating hunting losses of birds and mammals were caused by unregulated market hunting rather than the regulated hunting seasons of the time. The resultant bad image has remained with the hunting fraternity through current times.

The evolution of a formal program to inventory, protect, and manage endangered and threatened animals (including nongame species), plants, and plant communities is an integral part of Wisconsin’s wildlife management history. (See Appendix for a chronology of nongame research and regulations from 1844 through 2005.) The establishment of federal and state laws to protect endangered and threatened species of vertebrates, invertebrates, and plants has been key to the development of that program; the strategic laws created between 1966 and 1978 had a profound effect on DNR involvement.

The DNR’s censusing of native flora and fauna had its origin within a small Bureau of Research steering committee in 1970. The statewide effort that followed is a remarkable story of agency success and public support. Numerous individuals were responsible for expanding the program over the years in an ever-changing series of events outlined in this summary.

First Nongame Project
Research of a former game species ironically became the first nongame project in Wisconsin. Prairie chickens had been hunted in Wisconsin for hundreds of years, but because of decreasing prairie chicken numbers, closed seasons were applied to an increasing number of counties from 1905 to 1928 until it was apparent that total protection was needed. The hunting season was closed permanently in 1929.

The study continued into the 1930s, and F. J. W. Schmidt was hired to assist Dr. Gross on January 10, 1932. A tragedy affected the research project in 1935 when Schmidt was killed in a fire at his home. All of the prairie chicken files and records were destroyed. Interest in continuing prairie chicken research ended for a while as the Research Bureau refocused on game species after Pittman-Robertson funds were created in 1937.

Prairie chickens were fading from the landscape in the 1940s, but no state agency had done much about finding out why. Dr. Frederick Hamerstrom was hired by the Wisconsin Conservation Department (WCD) to head up a Prairie Grouse Management Research Unit on August 15, 1949. The agency got a package deal in the process by hiring Fran a short time later. It was believed to be the first husband-wife hiring in the agency’s history. The pair would produce meticulous research over the next 20 years crucial for saving the species. Fran would also write numerous books related to the couple’s experiences.

Other Nongame Activities
Not much wildlife attention was given to any nongame species in the WCD throughout most of the 1950s beyond occasional Conservation Bulletin articles. Public interest no doubt increased along the way as WCD personnel made wildlife presentations in schools, and park rangers talked about nature in state parks. Research interest was mostly confined to obscure graduate studies at colleges and universities.

In the late 1950s, WCD naturalist and researcher George Knudsen noted declines in the Blanchard’s cricket frog. Other private and Fish and Wildlife Service research studies involving ospreys and eagles also got underway.

Former game manager Clifford Germain was hired as the Scientific Areas ecologist in 1966 and at the time was the only spokesperson in the agency for protecting rare plant communities in Wisconsin. Germain served for 20 years in that capacity and was personally responsible for protecting thousands of acres of endangered, threatened, and rare plants that would have otherwise been lost. He spoke out strongly against public and private land managers bent on applying management practices that could be damaging to some rare plants and worked diligently with them to create compatible compromises.

Federal Law Development
Federal laws leading up to complete protection of endangered and threatened species nationwide had their start in the 1960s. Inspired by the plight of the whooping crane, Congress passed the Endangered Species Preservation Act 1966. The law gave authority to the secretary of the interior to list native species that were endangered and encourage its management.

In 1969, whales, another species experiencing survival peril, captured public sentiment. The resultant political pressure to create laws to protect worldwide resources led to expansion of the 1966 law to become the Endangered Species Conservation Act in 1969. The new law expanded the secretary of the interior’s authority to list foreign species as well as prohibiting importation and sale of products made from them.

In 1973, an international conference in Washington, D.C., led to the signing of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Twenty-one nations signed the convention to restrict international commerce in plant and animal species believed to be actually or potentially harmed by trade. CITES participation would include more nations over the years, and conferences were held on a regular basis into the next century.

Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (Federal Register CFR 50, part 17, section 11) in 1973. This new law incorporated the laws of 1966 and 1969 into a much improved regulations framework that would serve as a base for plant and animal protection into the next century. Its purpose was “to conserve the ecosystem upon which endangered and threatened species depend.”

Wisconsin Program Evolution
Surveys initiated by the FWS started a nationwide effort to assess all fish and In response to those early federal requests, Bureau of Research director, Cyril Kabat, formed an Endangered Species Committee, composed of Dr. Ruth Hine, who served as committee chair, Don Mackie, Lyle Christenson, James Hale, Clifford Germain, and Tom Wirth, to provide special attention to a growing list of endangered species needs.

The Endangered Species Committee sent an annual letter requesting species status information to game managers, wardens, fish managers, park superintendents, and research biologists. This field assessment was the first statewide attempt to inventory Wisconsin’s native fauna and identify population weaknesses. Committee members analyzed the annual field reports and assembled a “Watch List” of species showing signs of decline.

Annual reports were passed along to the FWS and became the basis for the federal protection list. Wisconsin continued its reputation for being a pioneer in progressive wildlife management by becoming the first state to pass its own endangered species law in 1971 (it became effective in 1972). Administrative rules (DNR-enforced regulations) soon followed identifying species to be protected. Wisconsin became the first state to sign a cooperative agreement with the FWS to inventory and manage endangered and threatened species.

Into the 1970s, volunteer program chair, Dr. Hine, gathered data from the University of Wisconsin and DNR field activities to obtain the overall picture of Wisconsin wildlife health. In particular, Dr. Hine noted the poor nesting success of bald eagles and other birds of prey. She also discovered that mutations were occurring in several frog species. Because none of the limited funding ources was designated for field studies, incidental observations were her only source of information.

Dr. Hine responded to the growing public interest in declining wildlife through the news media and publications. She developed a series of informational talks about rare and declining wildlife and gave numerous talks statewide to the public as well as to DNR staff. Her efforts laid down an enduring foundation for the progressive endangered and nongame program that followed.

A 1973–74 department reorganization reduced the number of central office bureaus from 24 to 21. Two of the affected bureaus were Fish Management and Game Management. When the two bureaus were consolidated, the new name became the Bureau of Fish nd Wildlife Management, likely because of its expanded nongame responsibilities. n August of 1974, the Wildlife Section (as it was called then) of the new bureau created a position consisting of a half-time waterfowl biologist and half-time nongame biologist. Ronald Nicotera was appointed to the position under the title “waterfowl and nongame specialist.” His individual efforts brought new emphasis to the nongame aspects of traditional game management.

In 1975, with the initial input from Nicotera, the administration changed field titles from “game manager” to “wildlife manager” (wildlife staff specialist positions were created at each district office after April 1975). For various reasons, including awkward communications and staff cohesiveness, the fish and wildlife functions were restored to individual bureaus in 1976.

Nicotera also spent a considerable amount of time at the state capitol in 1977 stirring up interest in expanding the coverage of the endangered species law to include broader nongame protection. In May 1978, the state law was amended to protect vanishing plants in addition to broader animal protection provisions.

New Office Created
The department administration was now convinced that endangered and threatened species didn’t quite fit in any of the traditional programs and that it warranted separate bureaucratic consideration. The new title of Office of Endangered and Nongame Species (OENS) was created, and in September 1978, longtime chief of Wildlife Research, James Hale, was appointed to direct the program.

The first annual budget for the fledgling OENS was $100,000 provided by hunting and fishing license revenues. Hale’s limited staff still consisted of LTEs Brynildson and Jurewicz. Working with data and reports collected by Dr. Hine and Nicotera, they assembled Wisconsin’s first official endangered and threatened species list consisting of 102 plants and animals. Simultaneously, effort was extended to work with DNR property managers to identify and protect important habitat including nest sites, and spawning grounds of declining species.

The Scientific Areas program continued to operate under Cliff Germain as an independent entity in the DNR. Germain was a staff of one starting in 1966 but was able to hire a University of Wisconsin student LTE, Bill Tans, who was an expert in plant identification. Bill worked for Cliff for three to four years in the late 1960s and was later hired to become part of the Bureau of Endangered Resources staff in the 1980s.

The federal Wolf Recovery Plan was completed in 1978, setting the stage for several other species plans to follow. Recovery plans became the standard vehicle for addressing the restoration of endangered and threatened species nationwide.

Reorganization and New Leadership
In August 1982, OENS and the nongame management staff were combined with the Scientific Areas program under the new title “Bureau of Endangered Resources” (BER), and the Endangered and Nongame Species and Scientific and Natural Areas programs became formal sections under Randle Jurewicz and Clifford Germain, respectively.

The Scientific and Natural Areas Section was responsible for administering 181 Natural Areas (46,081 acres). (Today, more than 500 State Natural Areas exist in Wisconsin.) Important accomplishments included the following:

Consolidation strengthened each of the components with uniform budgeting and planning as well as improved the efficiency of its daily operations. The creation of the new bureau marked the start of more comprehensive protection of non-harvested plants and animals as well as rare plant communities; in 1982, the endangered and threatened list included 42 animals and 87 plants.

Hale retired in 1983 and was replaced by Ronald Nicotera, who had been serving as the assistant division administrator the past four years. By this time, the BER staff had grown to six permanent workers and four LTEs with an annual budget of about $270,000.

Nicotera was successful in introducing a new tax check-off law that Hale and others had worked on over the past three years. The new law passed in the 1983–84 legislative session, effective for the 1983 tax season. It enabled Wisconsin residents to contribute a portion of their income tax refund to the state’s Endangered Resources Fund.

The law creating the tax check-off for the Endangered Resources Fund was essential to the growth of the endangered resources program, but it contained a provision that required the DNR to pay back the Conservation Fund (the segregated fish and wildlife license account) all of the money that had been used since OENS was created in 1978. With the recognition that the requirement would bankrupt the new Endangered Resources Fund for years, the provision was epealed from the law in 1985.

Other important legislation implemented in 1985 established Wisconsin’s Natural Heritage Inventory (NHI) as part of The Nature Conservancy’s national network of biological inventories (Latin America and Canada were eventually added to the network). The inventory is a computer-generated program of all species in Wisconsin and both enables data entry as new information becomes available and permits rapid retrieval of information as it is needed. The technology has essential for tracking what was becoming a huge natural resources base.

Cliff Germain retired in June 1986 completing an illustrious career with the agency dating from his first job as a game manager in Woodruff working for Ralph Hovind.

Another Leadership Change
Ronald Nicotera retired January 13, 1992, and Chuck Pils became bureau director. The new budget for 1992–93 was $1,825,000. With expanded funding, the permanent staff had grown to 23 employees including three employees under contract from The Nature Conservancy.

Several hundred records of rare plants, animals, and communities were added to the inventory base to bring the total to more than 14,000 species. Nineteen new natural areas (1,930 acres) were purchased, and 21 others were designated State Natural Areas (4,305 acres).

The highlight of 1994 was the creation of the endangered resources license plate, a funding idea of Bureau director Pils. A number of wildlife species were considered for the license plate logo, and the timber wolf was selected based on the support generated by the public through a statewide art contest to determine the featured endangered license plate logo.

The DNR worked collectively with The Nature Conservancy to introduce in the Legislature the bill that created the endangered resources license plate funding source. Over $6 million was added to the Endangered Resources Fund from sales over the next ten years. The program also received $21,000 through the Adopt an Eagle Nest program.

Bureau Director Chuck Pils spent a great deal of his time during the mid-1990s traveling to Washington, D.C. to generate congressional support for proposals that would create a stable revenue source for BER. He also worked to enlist the support of various private Wisconsin conservation organizations along with the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation to support such funding.

The first attempt to create new federal funds was entitled “Teaming With Wildlife.” This proposal was a tax on birdseed and recreational equipment like binoculars and canoes. The idea received a considerable amount of discussion around the country but didn’t receive the necessary support for legislation.

Another proposal surfaced called “Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 1999” (CARA). This proposed legislation redirected a portion of the off-shore oil and gas revenues from the Gulfs of Mexico and Alaska into a special nongame fund earmarked for the states. It was a huge source of potential funding with Wisconsin’s share alone amounting to up to $27 million annually. Unfortunately, this proposal also met resistance in Washington and was rejected.

Organizational Changes
Pils reshaped his central office staff structure in 1998 by combining the separate Nongame and Natural Areas sections into one section entitled “Ecosystem and Diversity Conservation” to reflect the new management philosophy brought about by biodiversity discussions. The new title was more than a cosmetic change for the bureau. The principles identified in the 1995 report Wisconsin’s Biodiversity as a Management Issue – A Report to DNR Managers were now being applied in a variety of programs.

Pils retired in January 1999, and former assistant to the secretary, Howard Druckenmiller, replaced him as director. He served in that capacity until his retirement January 7, 2000. Signe Holtz became his replacement and would serve in that capacity beyond 2005. Current BER staffing can be found on the DNR Web site,

A Butterfly Success Story
Nineteen ninety-nine was a special year for the BER staff, who had been charged by the FWS with the responsibility of developing a plan to protect the Karner blue butterfly, a federally endangered species. This small butterfly was only found in portions of central and northeast Wisconsin.

On September 27, 1999, after five years of meetings, staff deliberations, and plan drafting, the final version of the Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan was approved and signed by U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. The labor-intensive effort by the DNR and 26 partners composed of various agencies and citizen participants came to a successful conclusion.

An innovative portion of the new planning procedure was to allow private landowners to legally “take” (remove) these protected butterflies from their property if such action would not effect the overall Wisconsin Karner blue butterfly population. This resolved a potential conflict with the law, and the plan itself ensured that this special resource would continue to exist on the Wisconsin landscape.

New Millennium Activities, 2000–2005
Comprehensive administrative rules were established for the first time in the state’s history on June 1, 2000, to protect native amphibians, lizards, and snakes. Biologist and herpetologist Bob Hay should get special recognition for the dedicated work he accomplished during this period. His unseen and unpublicized activities were instrumental in protecting these unique natural resources.

Wisconsin was in the national news again in May 2001 when eight reintroduced whooping cranes departed the Necedah National Wildlife refuge to begin a 48-day, 1,218-mile journey to Florida following an ultralight aircraft. The destination was the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife refuge on Florida’s west coast. Seven birds made it safely to the wintering area, and five returned to Wisconsin in the spring. The ultralight experience was extremely successful and was repeated in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, the fourth ultralight-led whooping crane migration was completed at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge on day 64 of their journey. Thirteen cranes made the trip safely, bringing to 48 the total of birds surviving to date.

The gray wolf’s removal from Wisconsin’s endangered and threatened species list on August 1 was another 2004 highlight. The wolf controversy became even more complex when the federal government relisted the gray wolf from threatened to endangered in 2004 because of a federal court decision invalidating its 2003 delisting. This meant future hunting of wolves was prohibited, and removal would only be allowed under a special permit for depredations.

By July 2005, the wolf population was estimated between 425 and 455. It was the fourth consecutive year exceeding the population goal of 250 outside of Indian Reservations.

Also in 2005, the first nesting attempt by introduced whooping cranes was documented. That fall, the fifth consecutive whooping crane migration was led by the ultralight aircraft, and 19 birds winged south. Four young “whoopers” were released later in Wisconsin by project biologist Richard Urbanek, who was testing an autumn release technique with the hope they would migrate with wild sandhill cranes. The ultralight experiment was a success, and Urbanek was confident that future flocks of Wisconsin whooping cranes would no longer need this migration assistance.

Wisconsin DNR’s endangered resources program received a national accolade in 2005 when the highly acclaimed Smithsonian Magazine recognized the DNR’s 1999 Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan as one of the top ten endangered species success stories in the United States. Special recognition was given the practical features of the plan: “This Habitat Conservation Plan provided a private property-owner friendly, flexible, and practical methods of protecting the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly.”

In 2005, the annual frog and toad survey that had been initiated by Dr. Hine and Mike Mossman in 1981 became the longest running amphibian monitoring program in North America.

Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan
Federal legislation created a Conservation Trust Fund in 2001 that established the State Wildlife Grants Program to prevent wildlife from becoming endangered. The new grant funding was established at $65 million in 2003 and was allocated to each state based on their size and population. Because the funding level was markedly reduced from the original Conservation and Reinvestment Act that had been rejected in Congress, “CARA lite” was used to describe the new program. To remain eligible for funding, each state was required to prepare a Comprehensve Wildlife Conservation Plan (CWCP) focusing on “Species of Greatest Conservation Need.”

More than 3,000 groups made up of hunters, anglers, environmentalists, and nature-related businesses organized under a “Teaming With Wildlife” coalition and successfully lobbied to increase the State Wildlife Grants Program funding to $70 million in 2004. Wisconsin DNR staffers worked through 2004 preparing an outline for the plan to protect wildlife and their habitats.

The plan was designed to include all animals currently listed as state or federally threatened or endangered species. The list included additional nongame species that often are overlooked because of funding limitations. The plan draft was placed on the DNR’s Web site and presented to the public in early 2005 and a final plan was completed and submitted to the FWS in August and approved in October.

Details of the plan can be seen on the DNR’s Web site,

The evolution of the endangered, threatened, and nongame species protection in Wisconsin is not complete. While controversy and funding problems have been conquered over the past 30 years of activity and limited field staffing successes have been achieved, the basic program remains grossly underfunded. Personnel shortages and the lack of adequate support money continue to force the agency to be highly selective in choosing what priorities can be addressed each biennium.

National political attacks on the basic validity of protecting rare and endangered resources continue despite what is viewed by the scientific community as a tremendous success story. Animals like the timber wolf, bald eagle, and whooping crane have been brought back from the brink of extinction to thrive despite intensive development nationwide. Numerous plant species destined to be obliterated have been saved. Unknown and underappreciated species varying from insects to whales now get public and scientific attention.

Vigilance is needed to prevent existing laws and funds from being eliminated. In the interim, the public needs to donate generously at tax time to support the program with a portion of their refund check. Individuals also need to become a regular correspondent to their state and national legislators urging them to increase funding levels for this vital natural resource program.

Selected Chronology of Conservation Events Impacting Endangered Resources

Thure Kumlien started studies that led to the publication of Birds of Wisconsin in 1903.

Increase Lathum published A systematic Catalogue of the Animals of Wisconsin, the first such effort in the state.

Birds, eggs, and nests protected in any cemetery or burial ground.

All "insect eating birds" protected within two miles of municipalities.

Wild pigeon nests and nest sites protected by law.

Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to prohibit killing of birds for “millinery purposes.”

Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey established.

Last passenger pigeon shot in Wood County.

Nongame birds protected by Audubon model law.

Our National Parks by John Muir was published.

Sale of protected game prohibited. Birds of Wisconsin by Ludwig Kumlien and Ned Hollister was published.

Cory's Birds of Illinois and Wisconsin was published.

Cory's The Mammals of Illinois and Wisconsin was published.

The convention between Canada and the United States to protect migratory birds became effective December 8.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act between U.S. and Canada (1936 Mexico, 1972 Japan, and 1976 Russia).

Friends of Our Native Landscape formed.

Fishers extirpated in Wisconsin.

Last wolverine trapped in Sawyer County.

Picking of lotus prohibited.

Last pine marten taken in Douglas County.

Animal Ecology by Charles Elton was published.

Picking of arbutus, orchids, and trilliums prohibited.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act amended to authorize the purchase of waterfowl refuges.

Aldo Leopold published the Game Survey of the North Central States (including discussion of prairie chicken decline).

Albert M. Fuller published Orchids of Wisconsin.

Leopold published Game Management, which included discussions about nongame management.

Aldo Leopold was hired by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation to start a game management program at the university. He accepted the position on July 6 and became the first in the country to have the title “Professor of Game Management.”

Teaching of conservation made compulsory in schools.

Ridges Sanctuary established in Door County for protection of wildflowers.

Leopold formally changed his university title to “professor of wildlife management” during the fall semester.

Wisconsin Society for Ornithology organized.

Wisconsin Conservation Commission established a Natural Areas Committee at the request of commissioner Aldo Leopold.

Publication of Leopold's Ecological Conscience, Norman Fassett's Natural Areas Preservation, and Albert Fuller's Saving Wisconsin's Wildflowers.

State Board for the Preservation of Scientific Areas established, the first such group formed in the United States.

The first scientific area designation was applied to Parfrey’s Glen located in Sauk County.

Wisconsin Wildlife by Arthur Jorgenson was published.

Prairie Chicken Foundation of the Dane County Conservation League and the Society of Tympanuchus Cupido Pinnatus started a land gift program to buy prairie chicken habitat in central Wisconsin.

The Vegetation of Wisconsin: An Ordination of Plant Communities by John T. Curtis was published.

ORAP legislation enhanced state land acquisition. Wildlife, People and the Land edited by Ruth Hine (multiple contributors) and H. H. T. Jackson's Mammals of Wisconsin was published.

State Board for the Preservation of Scientific Areas renamed the Scientific Areas Preservation Council.

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was published.

“The Wildlife Resources of Wisconsin” by Ruth Hine was published in the Blue Book.

Federal Endangered Species Preservation Act passed into law. It enabled the Department of Interior to list endangered domestic fish and wildlife and to spend $15 million per year to buy habitat for listed species. It also directed federal land agencies to preserve endangered species habitat on their lands “insofar as it is practicable and consistent with their primary purpose.”

Federal Endangered Species Conservation Act expanded law protection to foreign species and prohibits product imports.

DNR Endangered Species Committee was created by Research Bureau Director Cyril Kabat and was composed of Lyle M. Christenson, Clifford E . Germain, James B. Hale, Dr. Ruth L. Hine (Chair), and Thomas Wirth.

First Earth Day created by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson.

Scientific Areas Preservation Program initiated the Breeding Bird Census Program.

State Endangered Species Act (Chapter 275, Wisconsin Laws of 1971) went into effect. Wisconsin was the first state to apply for a cooperative agreement with FWS that committed the state to managing endangered and threatened fish and wildlife.

Federal Endangered Species Act passed into law. New provisions distinguished between threatened and endangered species, allowed listing of a species that is in danger in just part of its range, allowed listing of plants and invertebrates, authorized unlimited funds for species protection, and made it illegal to kill, harm or otherwise “take” a listed species.

American Game Policy was modified to highlight the importance of all wild living resources.

Endangered Resources in Wisconsin, co-authored by Ruth Hine and Betty Les, was published.

First Conservation Bulletin article on endangered resources was published. Written by Ruth Hine, it was entitled “What’s a Missing Lynx to You?”

Game manager title changed to wildlife manager by the Bureau of Fish and Wildlife Management.

National Endangered Species Act was amended on May 19 to protect endangered and threatened plants. Other provisions created a process for exemptions and required critical habitat to be designated when a species was listed.

Wildlife management policy was established in Chapter NR 1, Wisconsin Administrative Code.

Wisconsin DNR Office of Endangered and Nongame Species was established including 58 endangered and 44 threatened species. James Hale was appointed as the first Director.

The Vanishing Wild, Wisconsin’s Endangered Wildlife and its Habitats by Betty Les was published. It was the first booklet showing detail of all endangered and threatened fauna in the state.

Life Tracks series written by Inga Brynildson was published (Canada lynx, pine marten, timber wolf, common tern, Forster's tern, piping plover, doublecrested cormorant, osprey, peregrine falcon, bald eagle and barn owl).

Bureau of Endangered Resources (BER) was established by combining the Office of Endangered Species with the Scientific and Natural Areas program. James Hale continued as the bureau director.

Federal Act amended to require determinations of species status based solely on biological and trade information without consideration of possible economic or other effects. Other provisions included a one year time constraint for a rule requirement after a species was listed, experimental populations of listed species received different rule treatment, and a prohibition was inserted against removing listed plants from federal land.

BER Director Hale retired and was replaced by Ronald Nicotera.

Endangered/threatened Species Recovery Plan series was initiated as a standard methodology in Wisconsin.

Tax checkoff was established by law to fund endangered and threatened species programs.

The Nature Conservancy's Natural Heritage Inventory was added to the BER program.

Scientific Areas Preservation Council was renamed Natural Areas Preservation Council.

The Proceedings of the 47th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference (December 17, 1985) was published as Management of Nongame Wildlife in the Midwest: A Developing Art, edited by James B. Hale, Louis B. Best, and Richard L. Clawson.

BER newsletter, The Niche, first published.

Trumpeter Swan Recovery Program initiated with a goal of 20 breeding pairs by 2000.

Stewardship land acquisition program created (Wisconsin Act 31) allowing the state to borrow $250 million to acquire and develop land for recreational use, wildlife habitats, fisheries, and natural areas.

FWS listed the spotted owl as a threatened species.

Endangered species license plate created. The $25 license plate fee was segregated in an “Endangered Resources Fund” and funneled directly to BER.

New national policy exempted landowners from prosecution for harming threatened species habitat on residential properties of five acres and less. A second policy also exempted landowners from prosecution if their conservation work attracts listed species to the property and future activities harm the species. Another policy guaranteed the participants in a habitat conservation plan that they would suffer no further restrictions without compensation, even if the species continued to decline.

Wisconsin’s Biodiversity as a Management Issue was published. It provided DNR employees with an overview of the issues associated with biodiversity and provided a common point of reference for incorporating its principles into DNR land management programs.

In the “Sweet Home [Oregon]” decision, the Supreme Court affirmed that alteration of a listed species’ habitat is considered a “taking” of that species and can be regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The state did not rule on whether such regulation requires compensation.

Congress placed a moratorium on further listings of species.

The FWS reported that, in addition to 957 listed species, 139 are proposed for listing, 179 are candidates likely to need listing, and nearly 4,000 more are “species of concern” that need monitoring but about which too little information is known to decide whether listing is needed.

State incidental take law created effective May 13.

Bald eagle removed from the endangered/threatened list.

Last issue of The Niche published. BER news now shown on the DNR web site,

Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan approved September 27.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership formed. Founding members included the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration Inc., International Crane Recovery Team, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and its Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, National Wildlife Health Center, and the Wisconsin DNR.

State Wildlife Grants (federally funded) created.

Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative launched May 12.

First flock of reintroduced whooping cranes (eight birds) trained to follow an ultra-light aircraft departed Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in October and began a 48-day, 1,218-mile migration to Florida following an ultra-light aircraft.

Habitat Management Guidelines for Amphibians and Reptiles of the Midwest by Bruce Kingsbury and Joanna Gibson was published.

Wisconsin Naturally, a Guide to 150 Great Natural Areas was published. It provided the public guidance for using state natural areas.

Timber wolf (gray wolf) removed from Wisconsin’s endangered and threatened species list.

Regional ecologists representing the BER program assigned to each of five DNR Regions.

Federal court action placed the timber wolf back on the federal endangered species list.

Whooping crane flock inventoried at 45 birds in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin initiated its required Comprehensive Wildlife Management Plan to remain eligible for federal wildlife grant funding.

Vehicle license plate revenues generated since 1994 for the Endangered Resources Fund passed the $6 million mark.

Strategies for Species of Greatest Conservation Need approved by the FWS making Wisconsin eligible.

Wildlife Management History

By David L. Gjestson
[Summerized from the author’s book,
The Game Keepers:
Wisconsin Wildlife Conservation History, from WCD to CWD]

(Click photos for larger version)

Era of Exploitation
The roots of the wildlife management history tree are embedded in early game regulations as uncontrolled hunting devastated wildlife populations. The first game laws were in 1851 when seasons were closed for deer, prairie chickens, quail, woodcock, and pheasants. Statewide timber cutting also had significant impact on wildlife habitat and wild fires fed by huge piles of slash turned the entire state into an inferno at times through the 20th century.

The first game warden in 1879, three “fish wardens” in 1885, and four “game wardens” authorized in 1887 had little impact in this vast territory covered by foot, horseback or canoe. As the force expanded in the next century, it also became the primary field arm for implementing game program activities through the WWII era.

The first seven-man conservation commission in 1909 focused its attention on fire control and forestry with virtually no mention of game related programs. Renewed and reorganized commissions in 1911, 1915, and 1923 did much for advancing concerns about conservation, but it wasn’t until the Conservation Act of 1927 that the wildlife management profession surfaced in the form of the Division of Game (created administratively in 1928).

A young forester by the name of Rand A. Leopold arrived in the state in1924 to work for the Forest Products Laboratory [he didn’t like his first name, so he only used his middle name….Aldo! ]. He was working on a manuscript for a book entitled “Southwestern Game Fields.” It’s in this document that the fundamentals of the game management profession are laid out for the first time. Interestingly, since game stocking was thought to be a primary responsibility, he called field men “wardens or game keepers”.

Game Division Evolution
Leopold along with the Isaac Walton League drafted the Conservation Act and was directly responsible for creating the Wisconsin Conservation Department (WCD) and its six-man commission. As an aside, they wrote that “it was essential to keep the Director separate from Cabinet appointments or the entire system would fail!” The Ikes envisioned Leopold would serve as the agency’s first director, but political favoritism eliminated him from consideration.

The 1927 WCD consisted of just three divisions: Forest and Parks, Fish Propagation, and Game Law Enforcement. The commission decided to add three more divisions in 1928: Game, Education and Publications, and a volunteer Research Division (later incorporated into the Game Division).

The first game superintendent appointed in 1928 was Wallace Grange (cousin of the famous football legend, Red Grange). Grange hired seven laborers to develop the first game project: a state game farm at Peninsula State Park, near Fish Creek, Wisconsin. As the facility was constructed, and pheasant propagation started, Grange unexpectantly left state service in 1930 and was replaced by William Grimmer, a military school superintendent. [Grimmer became the longest serving leader in the wildlife program’s history, serving until he died of a heart attack in 1955.] Pheasant stocking in the state got underway in 1933 and fox and raccoon stocking was incorporated too to bolster the fur market. WCD Director, Harley Mackenzie’s banker father foreclosed on some land near Poynette thought to be a better location for the state’s game farm, and the entire operation moved there in 1934.

Deer and their seasons occupied much of the agency’s game attention from the turn of the century. The 1930s were a time of alternating buck-only and closed seasons and a labor-intensive warden effort feeding deer as well as small game. At one time, over 50,000 game feeders are maintained during the winter. Refuges and closed areas also became popular game techniques and up to one million acres were enrolled by 1940.

Fish and game regulations were established by the Legislature through the 1930s, but the volume of proposed laws (often exceeding 200) was occupying too much of their time. The authority to open and close fish and game seasons, establishing bag/size limits, and methods of taking were given the conservation commission in 1933. That new responsibility led the WCD to establish a statewide “county game committee” in 1934 that evolved into the Conservation Congress by decade’s end.

With the creation of Pittman Robertson Act in 1937, money was not only available for land acquisition, but for sorely needed wildlife research. The first public hunting ground was established at Deansville (Dane Co.) in 1938. The first federal funded research project was for quail near Prairie du Sac in 1939, but the next in 1940 was more significant and set up biologists to study deer, waterfowl, grouse and pheasants. The combination of research facts and the increasing public land base was to become the foundation for the new profession.

First Game Manager
WWII took a lot of men for the cause and its end in 1945 enabled the WCD to bolster the Refuges and Public Hunting Grounds Section by 30 men. The head of the section in Madison was Ralph Conway. He became the first Game Manager (by title) July 1, 1945. Others after January, 1946 included Harold Shine, Therm Deerwester, Earl Loyster, Alan McVey, Paul Kennedy, Les Neustadter, Harry Stroebe, George Curran, George Hartman, J. R. Smith, Fred Zimmerman, N. R. Barger, W. S. Feeney, Walter Scott, John Keener, and many others.

Despite the war, the Game Division established 100 public hunting grounds covering 283,000 acres by 1950. Habitat development was introduced in the form of the Rock County Woodlot Project headed up by Les Neustadter. Director Ernie Swift’s ideas for more field efficiency led to the creation of three administrative areas under area game supervisors: Area I (North)-Ralph Hovind; Area II (SW)-Therm Deerwester; Area III (SE)-Harold Shine.

The deer population continued to grow beyond carrying capacity, and deer starvation coupled with range deterioration led to an era commonly called “the deer wars.” The WCD backed by Aldo Leopold argued for more liberal seasons to harvest the antlerless segment of the herd while a buck oriented public and the Conservation Congress opposed it. With the evidence for overpopulation mounting, the agency finally got liberal seasons implemented in 1949, 1950, and 1951 harvesting a total of ½ million deer!

Reorganization to five administrative areas headed up by an area game supervisor occurred in 1949-50 and was the beginning of the very system DNR uses today. Interestingly, WCD Director Ernie Swift attempted to implement the Game Division’s five-area system for the entire department, but ran into a whirl-wind of controversy with forestry and law enforcement resistance that eventually forced him to resign from the department in 1954 (personnel officer, Lester P. Voigt was appointed to replace him).

The 1950s featured the creation of deer registration (1953), the party permit (1957), a new Game Division Chief (J. R. Smith, 1955), and an expanding public hunting ground system. Young John Keener, then working for the Deer Research Project, supervised the stocking of cappercailies on Outer Island that did much to sustain the fox and coyote population! An odd fact was that it wasn’t until 1959 that Law Enforcement turns the administration of the deer program over to the Game Division.

The 1960s can be characterized using the decade highlights. 1961 introduced the first ORAP legislation boosted land acquisition and Bill Creed adapted a sex-age-kill deer population model for Wisconsin’s use. 1963 produced the variable quota system for deer harvest (the same system used today). Kellet reorganization in 1967 ended the WCD and started the new DNR July 1,1968. Canada geese were starting to become a problem. John Keener became Game Management Bureau Director in 1969.

The 1970s started with the first Earth Day celebration. The point system was introduced in duck hunting and ORAP-200 was initiated. In 1971, six field districts were placed under the authority of one district director and the Fish and Wildlife bureaus are combined into one bureau (separated again in 1975). The state enacted the Federal Endangered Species Act in 1972. Environmental Protection programs receive new emphasis at the state and federal levels.

New Title and Program
Endangered species activities generated enough interest that game managers changed their title to “wildlife manager” in 1975. This was more than a cosmetic change to the profession as a considerable program effort began to be affected by ecological considerations and species other tan game species. An Office of Endangered and Nongame Species was created in 1978, and Jim Hale became its first director.

The 1980s had the agency headquarters moving downtown (GEFII), one-person Hunter’s Choice Permits replaced the old four-man party permits and turkey hunting was coming on strong. Spring turkey hunting started in 1983. Ron Nicotera replaced the retiring Jim Hale as the Bureau of Endangered Resources director. John Kenner retired in 1984 and Steve Miller replaced him. In 1984, group deer hunting became law, and Project WILD introduced wildlife education into school systems statewide.

Private lands management became a new priority with the hiring on the state’s first private lands manager in 1984; more positions followed. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) bolstered a sagging pheasant population in 1985 and the black bear season was closed for a year because of over harvest concerns. Steel shot was mandated for waterfowl hunting statewide in 1987. The first fall turkey hunting season was implemented in 1989. The Chippewa Tribe settled major disagreements about fish and wildlife management methods and population estimates in federal court that same year.

The 1990’s brought about changes that retired biologists could only roll their eyes at in awe! The deer harvest throughout the decade set records and usually exceeded the 300,000-kill level annually. As usual, the Conservation Congress doubted the DNR’s population estimates, but a Legislative Audit Bureau report in 1991 affirmed the agency’s methodology and the accuracy of their estimates. Steve Miller moved up in the administration to assistant division administrator and was replaced by Tom Hauge in 1992. Also in 1992, Chuck Pils became the new Bureau of Endangered Resources director.

Major agency reorganization in 1995-96 created Geographic Management Units (GMUs) as the core field structure and wildlife managers became “wildlife biologists.” Many (12) senior wildlife biologists became GMU leaders and were out of the Wildlife chain-of-command. Early retirement took about 20 of 56 remaining biologists. “districts” changed titles to “regions” and the Bureau of Research becomes the “Bureau of Integrated Science Services.” The over winter deer herd reached 1.7 million animals, but the Conservation Congress and various individual hunters continued to doubt the agency’s population estimates.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected in the deer herd in 2002. Simultaneously, a sagging economy had a crippling effect on state service. Over $20 million was spent in an attempt to eradicate CWD quickly, but a larger area was infected from 2005 through 2009. While the deer, pheasant, turkey, and waterfowl programs remain viable, traditional wildlife management (state and private wildlife habitat activities), conservation education, public hunting grounds leases, wildlife area maintenance, and public service contacts have been severely reduced, raising questions about the future direction of the wildlife program.

Selected Chronology of Conservation Events Impacting Wildlife Management


U.S. Department of the Interior established.


First law protecting nongame birds passed in New Jersey.

Law enforcement using “conservation wardens” materialized in Massachusetts and New Hampshire about 1850.


Wisconsin’s first game management laws passed.


Increase Lapham reported on the destruction of Wisconsin’s forests.


American Forestry Association established.


Rolla Baker appointed as Wisconsin’s first warden.


Division of Forestry formed within the U.S. Department of Agriculture


Office of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy created. Clinton Hart Merriam served as its first and only leader until the office became the Division of Biological Survey in 1896 and the Bureau of Biological Survey in 1905. Henry W. Henshaw headed the bureau from 1910 to 1916, and Edward Nelson served from 1916 to 1927.


Theodore Roosevelt and other hunters founded the Boone and Crocket Club to conserve America’s big game animals and related habitat.

Aldo Leopold was born.


Forest Reserve Act passed by Congress. Also known as “The Creative Act,” it authorized the president to set aside lands as forest preserves, which later evolved into the National Forest system.

Forest Management Act passed by Congress.


The Lacey Act was passed into law. The new law gave the U.S. Biological Survey jurisdiction over interstate commerce in game and furbearers as well as the importation of wild animals from foreign countries.


The International Association of Fish and Wildlife  Agencies was formed and provided essential forums for participants to address conservation concerns and stay abreast of issues and programs nationwide.


President Roosevelt established Pelican Island (off the coast of Florida) as the first national bird refuge.


The Division of Forestry became the U.S. Forest Service.


First Conservation Commission appointed in Wisconsin.


The 1913 Migratory Bird Act eliminated hunting seasons on most songbirds and shortened the seasons on migratory waterfowl in response to estimates indicating up to 90% of wildfowl populations had been decimated.


Wisconsin’s first “one buck” bag limit law established.


The 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act was established between the United States and Canada. More international treaties would follow.

Wisconsin Conservation Commission given the authority to close certain fish and game seasons upon receipt of public petition.


Aldo Leopold was hired as an assistant director for Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin.


The state Legislature created the Wisconsin Conservation Department.

Horicon Marsh was declared a state refuge.

Wisconsin Conservation Department and Conservation Commission established.


Wallace Grange hired as the first Game Department Superintendent.

First WCD wildlife research project started (prairie chicken investigations).


Migratory Bird Conservation Act established.

First governmental effort to manage Canada geese initiated by Illinois.

Wisconsin Game Department (Division) created within the WCD.

(A volunteer Wildlife Research Bureau was attached to the Game Division.)

The Game Division’s first pheasant production operation established in Door County.


American Game Policy adopted at the 17th American Game Conference.


The WCD initiated a statewide winter-feeding program for wildlife.


The federal Soil Erosion Service created within the Department of Interior.

Aldo Leopold published Game Management and was appointed as Professor of Game Management by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the first in the position of its kind in the nation.

The WCD given statutory authority to establish open and closed seasons, bag limits, and methods of harvest for fish and game.


Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act passed.

Migratory Bird Hunting Act passed (Federal Duck Stamp Program).

Annual advisory game committees and related public hearing process established (Wisconsin Conservation Congress) to advise the Conservation Commission.

Game Division pheasant production operation was moved to Poynette in Columbia County.


Soil Erosion Service in the Department of the Interior was renamed the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) and transferred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The “Deer Wars” began with the formation of the “Save the Deer” club in Sawyer County.


First North American Wildlife Conference held.

National Wildlife Federation created.

Poynette facility renamed “State Experimental Game and Fur Farm.”


Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act) created.

Federal biologist Frederic C. Lincoln published “The Waterfowl Flyways of North America,” which identified four biological flyways used by migrating birds.


First state public hunting grounds established at Deansville Marsh, eastern Dane County.

The State Experimental Game and Fur Farm facility became the Game Division field headquarters.


First field research on pheasants initiated adjoining the Nevin Fish Hatchery, Dane County.

The Bureaus of Fisheries and Biological Survey are moved to the Department of the Interior and the following year combined to create the Fish and Wildlife Service


U.S. Bureau of Fisheries combined with the Bureau of Biological Survey to become the Fish and Wildlife Service. The first chief of FWS was Ira N. Gilbertson.

First Pittman-Robertson wildlife research projects were initiated. Deer, grouse, waterfowl, and pheasants are the first priority projects.


Necedah National Wildlife Refuge was established in northern Juneau County.


Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee was created and included representatives from Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, and the FWS.

The last foxes raised at the state game farm were released to the wild in Wisconsin.


The “game manager” title was created for Ralph Conway July 1, 1945, marking the first time the avocation had an identity. Thirty men returning from the war were hired over the next year under that same title.


The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act was amended, and, as a result, the FWS established a River Basins Study program to help prevent or minimize damage to fish and wildlife resulting from federal water projects.


The FWS adopted four administrative flyways (Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific) for the purpose of setting waterfowl hunting regulations.

WCD Game Division reorganization established a statewide system of area and district offices for the first time.

The Game Division’s Public Hunting and Fishing Grounds Section replaced the Refuges and Public Hunting Grounds Section as state leased and owned lands became a major program emphasis.


The “Refuges and Public Hunting Grounds Section Manual” was published. The first comprehensive standards for the new game management profession.

Aldo Leopold died of a heart attack on April 21, 1948, fighting a grass fire on a neighbor’s land.


Wisconsin Federation of Conservation Clubs formed; it later changed its name to the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (1965).

A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold, was published posthumously.

Five-day antlerless deer season produced a record deer harvest of 159,112, the first time the harvest exceeded 100,000 in Wisconsin.

A fishing equipment tax introduced by Senator Dingell and Representative Johnson passed both Houses but was vetoed by President Truman on October 1949.


Seven-day any deer season produced  a United States record deer harvest of 167,911.


Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (commonly called the Dingell-Johnson Act) passed.


State Board for the Preservation of Scientific Areas established to advise on purchasing lands containing best examples of native plant communities remaining in the state.


Federal Flyway Council System established within the U.S. Department of the Interior to systematically regulate, manage, and research waterfowl


Deer registration required for first time.


William Frederick Grimmer, long time superintendent of the Game Management Division, died of a heart attack.


Fish and Wildlife Act passed and established national policy to protect and oversee the use of fish and wildlife. The Act divided the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service into two bureaus, the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries.

Soil Bank Act passed, which included a Soil Bank Program that paid farmers who retired cropland from production, very significant nationally as huge tracts of grassland (and no crop disturbance) produced abundant pheasants and ground-nesting wildlife.

Game manager Otis Bersing completed and published A Century of Wisconsin Deer, and Game manager Burton Dahlberg and researcher Ralph Guettinger completed and published The White-tailed Deer in Wisconsin.


Thirtieth anniversary of the Conservation Commission and the creation of the Wisconsin Conservation Department.

The Party Permit system was implemented to increase antlerless deer harvest.

The WCD ended all animal bounty payments.


The combined efforts of Madison school teacher Paul Olson, the Dane County Conservation League, and the newly formed Society of Tympanuchus Cupido Pinnatus initiated a prairie chicken habitat acquisition program in central Wisconsin.


The Law Enforcement Division turned over deer program administration to the Game Management Division.

The deer harvest was recorded by management unit for the first time.

Researchers William Creed, Art Doll, and Donald R. Thompson created an innovative “fawns per doe” survey, which would prove vital to deer population estimates into the next century.


The state’s public hunting grounds program exceeded 500,000 acres on 256 state-owned and -leased areas.


Canada geese began stopping in Wisconsin in larger numbers, with concentrations at Horicon Marsh creating crop depredation, delayed migration, and overharvest categorized as “The Goose War.” The resultant management attention marked the first time any game species other than deer and pheasants received major administrative and operational time over the past 30 years.


Wisconsin Legislature established the Outdoor Resources Action Program (ORAP), ten-year program of acquisition and improvement of state recreational facilities.

Wisconsin researcher Bill Creed developed the sex-age-kill (SAK) deer population measurement technique that revolutionized state deer management strategies.

State game managers measured deer range by deer management unit for the first time.

Legislation authorized unit-specific quotas for the antlerless harvest.


Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published warning of environmental poisoning caused by pesticides and other chemicals.

Dr. Harold E. Hanson discovered in Minnesota a flock of giant Canada geese (Branta canadensis maxima), a species thought to be extinct.

Using the SAK mathematical model, researchers established the state’s first deer population estimate of 432,000.

Over-winter population goals and antlerless deer quotas are set for each deer management unit for the first time.


First year of “variable quota party permit” system, which was applied in eight management units and the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.


The variable quota system for party permits extended to 32 management units.


Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which earmarked $900 million per year of offshore oil and gas revenues for federal state, and local land acquisition and development and for historical preservation.

Food and Agriculture Act established the Cropland Adjustment Program making five- to ten-year contracts with farmers for soil, water, forest, and wildlife conservation and to convert cropland to idle cover for wildlife or as a recreational resource.

The Food and Agriculture Act of 1965 established a Cropland Adjustment Program. The secretary received the authority to make 5- to 10-year contracts with farmers who agreed to convert cropland into uses which would conserve water, soil, wildlife, or forest resources; or establish or protect open spaces, natural beauty, or wildlife or recreational resources or prevent air or water pollution.

The Kellett Commission was created to study the consolidation of state agencies, including those with conservation and environmental responsibilities.


Endangered Species Act passed by Congress.

National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act passed by Congress, the first comprehensive legislation addressing the management of refuges.

The Reorganization Act created the Department of Natural Resources, under the direction of a seven-member Natural Resources Board, which replaced the Conservation Commission.


ORAP 200 - Outdoor Resources Action Program renewed.


Wisconsin extended the Outdoor Recreation Act Program (ORAP) to fund DNR land acquisition establishing a $200 million bonding program and renaming it ORAP-200.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created.

Wisconsin became the first state to ban DDT.

Founded by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, the first Earth Day was celebrated.

The “point system” bag limit was applied to Wisconsin duck hunting for the first time.


Wisconsin became the first state to pass its own endangered species law (effective in 1972).

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board adopted a wildlife policy by administrative rule, a first in the nation.


National ban of DDT took effect.

In Just v. Marinette the Wisconsin Supreme Court reaffirmed the Public Trust Doctrine (waterways are public highways and forever free) established in the 1787 Northwest Ordinance and adopted in the state constitution.

Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act passed.


Congress created the Endangered Species Act.


The Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife was reorganized and reclaimed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service name. Lynn A. Greenwalt served as its leader to 1981 and Robert A. Jantzen led thereafter.


The title of Wisconsin “game manager” was officially changed to “wildlife manager” in recognition of their broader resource management responsibilities.

The federally funded Waterfowl Production Area land acquisition program started in Wisconsin.


Wisconsin reintroduced the wild turkey in the state using stock obtained from the wild in Missouri.


Nontoxic shot (steel) was required for Wisconsin Waterfowl hunting in select areas of the state for the first time.


Wisconsin Legislature created a $3 waterfowl hunting stamp to provide revenue for protecting and developing wetlands.

The Office of Endangered Species was created within the Wisconsin DNR making the recognition of the program as a separate entity.


The Wisconsin ORAP program was extended by law again and titled ORAP-2000 to recognize its long-range goal.

The National Academy of Sciences undertook its first rigorous study of a phenomena called “global warming”.


First year for the Wisconsin issuance of free Hunter’s Choice deer hunting permits.

The Superfund program was created in to clean up the nation’s worst hazardous sites.


Wisconsin Legislature passed a tax check-off law in 1983 to fund DNR’s endangered resources program.

A Wildlife Damage and Abatement Program was created within the DNR’s Bureau of Wildlife Management.


Wildlife management land control by fee title and easement exceeded 420,000 acres in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin deer harvest exceeded 100,000 for the eleventh consecutive year, recording 256,887 in the fall harvest.


The Wisconsin DNR initiated a “Deer Hunt” television series hosted by long-time television outdoor program host, Dan Small, to provide basic information on deer hunting and answer viewer generated questions relating to the hunt.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was led by John F. Turner to 1993, Mollie H. Beattie to 1996, Jamie R. Clark to 2001, Steven A. Williams to 2005, and H. Dale Hall thereafter.


Legislation passed making the DNR secretary part of the governor’s cabinet  (subject to appointment) ending 68 years of independency under a commission or board.

Wisconsin DNR implemented its portion of a national Watchable Wildlife program.

Wisconsin Biodiversity as a Management Issue published.

Elk reintroduced in northern Wisconsin.


Major reorganization of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


Passage of the National Wildlife Refuge Act.

Bald eagle removed from Wisconsin’s endangered/threatened species list.


Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) introduced by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Wisconsin DNR created an automated license issuance system employing computers in replacing a 100-year old paper license system.


Wisconsin DNR’s Karner blue butterfly habitat conservation plan is approved.

Bald eagle removed from federal endangered species list.


Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative initiated involving 60 state organizations.

Eight whooping cranes reintroduced in Wisconsin make their first migratory flight to Florida.


Chronic Wasting Disease first detected in Wisconsin deer.


Wisconsin DNR’s Bureau of Wildlife Management celebrated the 75th anniversary of founding of its organization and the wildlife management profession.

Wisconsin DNR attorney, Tim Andryk, successfully defended mourning dove hunting in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.


Timber wolf (gray wolf) removed from Wisconsin’s endangered/threatened species list.


Great Lakes states and Canada sign an agreement to protect the waters of the Great Lakes.

Strategies for Species of Greatest Conservation Need approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service making Wisconsin eligible for state wildlife grants.

First documented nesting attempt in Wisconsin by reintroduced whooping cranes.