In 'historical change,' nine top DNR forestry staff members now work in Rhinelander; more on the waySubmitted: 07/05/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

In 'historical change,' nine top DNR forestry staff members now work in Rhinelander; more on the way
RHINELANDER - More than 40 communities in northern Wisconsin competed for a state government prize last year.

Each wanted to be the new home of the DNR's forestry headquarters, which was considering relocation from Madison. Last fall, Gov. Walker announced Rhinelander had won that prize and staff would begin moving to the city.

Chief State Forester Fred Souba was among the first to make the move.

"Obviously, this is a historical change, to move a division outside of Madison," Souba said Thursday.

Nine DNR forestry staff members have moved from Madison to Rhinelander. By next February, the number of new forestry workers in Rhinelander should be 18, according to Souba.

Forestry is the only DNR division based outside of the capital. The change draws the division closer to the bulk of the forests and timber producers in the state.

"Being here in a northern location, in Rhinelander, which is ideal with the majority of the northern forests around this location, it's been great for us to be closer to those customers," Souba said. "The fact that we're in the community, the fact that we're here, helps a lot in our understanding and building those relationships versus the phone call."

Phone calls are now rarer between DNR administrators and groups like the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association (GLTPA).

The GLTPA is based in Rhinelander, just a few minutes' drive from the DNR headquarters, making in-person meetings easy.

"What I'm seeing now is I'm seeing issues get resolved a lot quicker. We have much better access to the decision-makers, basically," said Henry Schienebeck, the executive director of GLTPA. "We can Skype, we can get on the phone, but face-to-face meetings are usually still the best, at least in my opinion."

Those top administrators have been working from Rhinelander for months. By early next year, Souba expects the number of forestry staff based in Rhinelander will reach 23, including existing staff.

Right now, more than 50 forestry staff members work at the former headquarters, GEF 2 in Madison.

"When we're all said and done, we'll probably cut that number in half, close to half, in GEF 2, as we look at opportunities to bring people north that would be better fitted to be in the forestry headquarters," Souba said.

Former Rhinelander Mayor Dick Johns, who helped bring the headquarters to the city, said the number of employees moving here is smaller than he expected.

But local lawmakers Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) said they weren't surprised by the progress so far.

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"I was surprised," said Jodie Stamper. 

Montgomery and Stamper have been a part of Forest County Ties that Bind Us from the beginning. 

"I never thought that it would get this big when we first started it," said Montgomery. "I thought it would be a little organization but little Crandon and Forest County really took off with the whole thing." 

Now, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health named Ties that Bind Us a Community Star of 2018. The award honors people or organizations that are dedicated to rural health. 

"I think this is our goal that we've been looking for is just to say we are a rural community, we do help one another… it's an amazing feeling to be able to say 'Yeah, we're doing that,'" said Montgomery. 

Through community support with events like the annual Colors of Cancer Run, the Forest County group purchased two robots to allow kids in cancer treatment to still attend school, continually hosts cancer prevention events, and provides food and gas gift cards to cancer patients.

"[Forest County is] more than 30 minutes away from a hospital so for patients who have cancer who have to travel to medical appointments frequently, they have radiation, they have chemo, things like that," said Stamper. "It becomes a struggle for patients." 

"Being a rural community, we're excluded from a lot of other non-profit organizations and funding," said Montgomery. "So we really needed to create something that worked for our community and our county."
But neither Montgomery or Stamper ever imagined that Ties that Bind Us would work so well. 

"We just thought if we could make a difference in a few people's lives it'd be awesome but to be recognized at this level is just really rewarding," said Stamper. 

The award was officially announced Thursday, which was also National Rural Health Day. 

Both Montgomery and Stamper credit community support for the group's success. If someone is interested in donating or volunteering for the group, visit their Facebook page.

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The agency is looking to take action against e-cigarettes. It's looking to keep them away from kids by banning the sale of sweet and fruit-flavored e-cigarettes in places accessible to kids. If it's successful, they'll no longer be available at convenience stores and online.

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Local and state investigators processed the area. 

No criminal activity is suspected in Mr. Sheeran's death.

No other information is being released at this time.

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Not much grows in the greenhouse after August, but with the right equipment they could do more.

"Watering system and electric ventilating system [would allow] the greenhouse to extend the [growing] season into the fall months," said Wiernasz.

Garden curator Tom Jerow agrees.

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He said the DNR deer needs some extra help this gun deer season.

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That deer was shot in northeast Lincoln County near Camp 10 Ski Hill.

Another deer with CWD was found less than two miles away in Oneida County during a special hunt in March. And one was found Thursday in Portage County.

Chronic Wasting disease or CWD is a deadly disease in the deer population.

"The DNR[ wants to start] working [with hunters] to see what this disease is all about in the Northwoods," said Rollman.

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Pertile's talented team tested bulbs and planted a train set in front of the balsam Christmas tree in Veterans Park.  It was some of the final work to do before the "Island City" hits the holidays.

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Around 12:40 p.m. Thursday, Marshfield Police rushed to 1907 S Vine Avenue after an intoxicated man called claiming his gun had been stolen.

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