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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday, 7:40 AM.  16 degrees, wind WSW, calm at present.  The sky is partly overcast and a few large snow flakes are drifting lazily down.  The barometer predicts sunny skies.  We drove through a belt of bad weather with slippery roads from south of Stevens Point to Minocqua, and arrived home at 10PM to a driveway completely free of snow, which missed Bayfield entirely.
    The tree trunk pictured is shagbark hickory, Carya ovata, photo taken in Madison. It’s shaggy, exfoliating bark is unmistakable in any season. It is a nut tree of dry hillsides and prairie openings, and is not common north of the mid-central states.  It is a picturesque, long-lived tree.
    The Urban Forestry Council meeting was held in the North Meeting Room of the capitol, a very beautiful room.  There is a lot of legislative activity going on now, and a lot of public hearings so we were fortunate to be able to use the facility.  There are still some protesters in the building but they are rather subdued.  Security is very tight with only two entrances being used, and it is  like getting on at airplane, with metal detectors and pat downs by State Patrol officers.  Well, that’s the society we live in now, I guess.  There was a lot of graffiti on walls and so on that has been scrubbed clean and is no longer evident, but the scrubbed areas now stand out. I did not see a lot of other damage, which has evidently been pretty quickly repaired.
    The DNR Forestry Division budget did not take too big a hit, and top administrators who met with us were pretty positive about it.  This is my analysis of the Forestry budget cuts so far: The $60M operating budget took a $10M hit, but this is pretty well offset by some increases in program money and revenues, and the savings from employee contributions to the cost of their own retirement and health insurance. There evidently will be no drastic program cuts although there will of course be some changes in direction or emphasis. Retirements will be up this budget cycle, with senior positions being replaced with less expensive replacements. Of 470 plus full time employees in the Forestry Division, there are only three position eliminations, and those will be absorbed by attrition. Frankly, if this will be the general effect of the new administration’s budget on the rest of state operating departments and programs, I fail to see what all the fuss has been about.  Except, of course, the continued collection of union dues to pay the protesters and politicians.
    I think we are done with traveling to meetings for a while, and now it's on to the more serious matter of maple sugarin’.

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