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Wisconsin Outdoorsman: Climate Change Affecting Recreation

Warmer Wisconsin summers are bringing more blue-green algae blooms, and shorter winters are affecting fish populations in Northern Wisconsin. (Clean Wisconsin)
Warmer Wisconsin summers are bringing more blue-green algae blooms, and shorter winters are affecting fish populations in Northern Wisconsin. (Clean Wisconsin)
October 30, 2017

MADISON, Wis. – Experts on climate, wildlife habitat, winter sports and other outdoor activities will participate this week in a panel discussion at the Wisconsin Science Fest.

Pat Durkin, a veteran outdoorsman and president of the state Outdoor Writers Association, will moderate a panel of scientists and specialists, which will discuss the impact of climate change on outdoor recreation in Wisconsin.

Durkin says he's seen first hand what's happening.

"More and more you're seeing people getting concerned about the fact that in Northern Wisconsin, the largemouth bass populations keep growing, expanding, and the walleye populations apparently are dwindling,” he points out. “They start looking at the stuff in it ends up being probably somehow tied to the fact that the climate has changed and warmed up."

The title of the panel discussion, which will be held Thursday, is "Not Like It Used to Be."

The Wisconsin Science Fest, which is held at the Discovery building on the UW-Madison campus, starts Thursday and runs through the weekend.

One stark example of the warmer climate in Wisconsin is the cancellation of the Birkebeiner, the largest cross country ski race in the nation, which is held annually in Hayward. The event had to be cancelled last year because of warm weather and lack of snow.

Durkin says the experts on the panel will analyze this and other observable effects of changing climate.

"I never, though, expected something like climate change, something that was, I think, pretty self-evident, to be a political argument,” he states. “When it started becoming a political argument I realized I was really missing something here. How did this become a political argument? That baffled me."

Summers are bringing more blue-green algae blooms and more mosquito-borne diseases in Wisconsin. Durkin also points to the laying off of hundreds of Wisconsin DNR scientists as part of the politicizing of climate change.

"We can argue about the exact cause,” he states. “But I think it's happening, and I don't know how you can possibly deny that when you look at things, even from a first-hand non-scientific – you know – looking back and looking at your own life, and making those kind of comparisons."

Durkin says that's one of the reasons the session is titled Not Like It Used to Be, because of the changes that he says are clearly taking place.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI