DNR to Offer Free Rare Plant/ Animal Property Reviews
For the City-Times
A lottery is now underway to give 100 Wisconsin landowners a free review to determine if their property is home to any of the state’s rarest plants and animals.
Normally, such an endangered resources review runs about $150, but the state’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program wants to encourage landowners to find out what’s on their property and, if there are rare plants and animals, provide landowners with recommendations on how to protect and enhance habitat for those species, says Erin Crain, who leads the program, formerly called the Endangered Resources program, for the Department of Natural Resources.
“Our goal is to give landowners information so they are aware of what they have so they can manage for it,” says Crain. “Even if they are not interested in taking conservation actions, the review can help them avoid impacts to rare species for specific projects and can be used for permits in the coming year.
Wisconsin property owners can enter the lottery for the free endangered resources review by clicking on http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/ERReview/documents/Lottery.pdf. Another way to navigate is to go to DNR’s home page, dnr.wi.gov, and search for “ER review” and click on the lottery link underneath the “News” heading. The lottery is open to Wisconsin landowners through March 10.
Under state endangered species law, any projects pursued by public and private landowners that disturb land or water bodies are recommended to undergo an endangered species review and are required for all DNR permits, plans (e.g., Managed Forest Law) and grants. DNR staff review records in a database known as the Natural Heritage Inventory to learn if there is documentation of any rare species on that property or within the vicinity of the property.
State law further requires that landowners be charged $75 per hour for the review, and a typical review takes about two hours. About 1,000 of these reviews are done by Natural Heritage Conservation staff every year; DNR staff in other programs also conduct endangered resources reviews for projects, and a certified group of consultants write reviews as well that are then approved by the ER Review Program.
Crain believes that the required review charge discourages landowners from coming to DNR to proactively learn what rare species are on their property and how they might maintain and expand habitat for those plants and animals.
“Right now, the only time the landowners learn about a rare species is when they’re seeking a permit. We want to change that dynamic and reach out to landowners when they are in the planning stages of a project and to landowners who simply want to manage their property for conservation”
Crain says the free endangered resources reviews will be paid for from donations to the program’s education and outreach account.
Property owners whose desire is to find out what species are on their land and how to help manage their populations will receive a “conservation planning assessment” that provides them with an informational letter about any rare plants and animals they have on their land and provide recommendations on how to maintain and increase habitat for such rare species.
“We know there are many landowners who would be happy to support rare species on their properties if we could just get them the information they need,” says Rori Paloski, a conservation biologist with the program.