La Crosse FWCO - Wow…They do a LOT of Stuff!
BY MARK STEINGREABER, LACROSSE FWCO
biologists in preparing a lake sturgeon for release into reservation waters
of the Wolf River. Credit: T. Skelding
The La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) was established in 1981 and is one of sixty-five FWCO field offices across the country managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Originally located in Winona, Minnesota, this office moved to Onalaska, Wisconsin in 1995, and has since experienced considerable growth in its programs, staff, facilities, and funding.
The La Crosse FWCO helps fulfill the Service’s national mission by working with partners throughout the Upper Mississippi River Basin (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri) to safeguard populations of native aquatic species and their habitats. This is accomplished by a staff of ten permanent and three term employees who work as a team to: restore native, inter-jurisdictional fishes and their aquatic habitats; survey national wildlife refuges to provide management options; fulfill federal trust responsibilities to Native American Tribes; attain fish passage on rivers and streams to restore historic fish migrations; prevent extinction of federally endangered fish and mussels; coordinate the Drift less Area and Upper Mississippi River Basin regional partnerships of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan; impede the spread of nonindigenous aquatic nuisance species; prevent the introduction of unwanted medications and aquatic pets into surface waters; coordinate the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee; provide environmental education; work with Friends of the Upper Mississippi Fishery Services and volunteers; support the Regional Dive Team with two SCUBA-certified divers including the Regional Dive Safety Officer; and lead Motorboat Operator Certification courses for the Service’s eight-state Midwest Region. The FWCO staff consists of a project leader (currently vacant), an assistant project leader, two administrative specialists, four fishery biologists, two biological science technicians, a biological technician, a logistics management specialist, and a Pathways Student Intern.
Some of the more notable accomplishments of the La Crosse FWCO team and its partners in 2012 include: collecting and processing of more than 11,000 fish and 345 water samples during surveillance efforts to detect Asian carps, round goby, and other invasive species of fish in the Chicago Area Waterway System; transferring 100 adult lake sturgeon beyond migration barriers along the Wolf River that allowed this species to reproduce at historic spawning sites on the Menominee Indian Reservation for the first time in more than a century; providing training opportunities to certify hundreds of Department of the Interior employees as boat operators; coordinating the permitted shipment of 95,000 fertilized lake sturgeon eggs across international (Canadian-U.S.) borders in efforts to help restore this species to tribal waters in the Red River of the North drainage basin; participating in the U.S. delegation at the Great Rivers International Scientific and Industrial Forum in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia; leveraging $650,000 in support of six projects that enhanced seven miles of stream habitat, restored 13 upland acres, and removed two fish barriers in the Drift less Area; acquiring $4.9-million for four fish passage projects that removed five barriers and reconnected 69 miles of stream habitat in the Midwest region; and hosting a record setting crowd of 2,500 participants at the annual Youth Outdoor Fest in La Crosse.