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Editorial: DNR wise to take proactive approach to saving species

6:58 PM, Mar. 11, 2013  |  Comments
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If any of us were to take a pop quiz on some of the lesser-known species that call Wisconsin home, we would probably fail miserably. For example, if you don't know a fawnsfoot from a planthopper, or an upland sandpiper from an Ottoe skipper, you are not alone. Without a quick Google search, we would be clueless about the wide variety of things that live unremarkable lives in the woods and waters of Wisconsin.

That is one of the big reasons we are happy the state Department of Natural Resources is taking a proactive approach to ensuring the flightless planthopper, not to be confused with the prairie leafhopper, and other sometimes obscure species are around for generations to come. This week in Madison, DNR officials and members of the public got together to talk about formal additions and subtractions to Wisconsin's Endangered/Threatened Species List. Several public meetings that were scheduled around the state last week, including one in Green Bay, had to be canceled due to weather. But even Mother Nature cannot keep smart folks from protecting, well, Mother Nature.

Too often the little insects, birds, reptiles and animals that keep a low profile are thrust into the spotlight when they are on the brink of extinction, or in the way of a major highway or development project. On the other end of the food chain, the long debated delisting of the timber wolf became a high-profile war of words in this state and several others. Though many think a hunting season on wolves is a travesty, it is actually a triumph. The state's wolf population was once so small it was hard to measure. The wolf found its way on to endangered species lists at the state and federal levels, which allowed the animal the chance to rebound and surpass the population goals put in place by the DNR.

While the black tern, a small bird with pointed wings and a long, sharp bill, has had a rather quiet career here in Wisconsin, we don't want to see it disappear from our wetlands. Experts believe there may be fewer than 3,000 black terns in Wisconsin, and due to the loss of habitat, that population is at risk. The black tern is one of three birds the DNR is hoping to add to the endangered/threatened list, along with the Kirtland's warbler and the upland sandpiper. For birders, these creatures are treasures to be saved and enjoyed.

And while some of the flora and fauna the DNR plans to add to the list are not household names, they are part of the unique ecosystem that is Wisconsin. We applaud the DNR's dynamic approach to saving species, whether they are big, small, controversial or uncontested. The wolf is not the only animal to come off the state's endangered list in recent years. The DNR is seeking to remove 16 species from the list this year, from Blanding's turtle to bog bluegrass. While these species will not make headlines, we should endeavor to support and save the precious natural resources that make the Badger State special.

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