NEWS#1 DNR Fisheries Bureau Director Ron Bruch retires; will continue on key projects
MADISON. From managing the successful Lake Winnebago sturgeon fishery to overseeing implementation of the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative, Ron Bruch's work with the Department of Natural Resources has created numerous benefits for anglers while improving fish and wildlife habitat throughout the state. A 38-year veteran of DNR who started with the department as a creel census clerk, Bruch served as a consistent advocate for citizen involvement in management of Wisconsin's natural resources. His retirement, due to health reasons, follows a career notable for its success in finding common ground among recreational, commercial and tribal interests. Both in his official capacity at DNR and through his personal leadership in founding the North American Sturgeon and Paddlefish Society, Bruch has established partnerships and programs that will sustain the state's world-class fishing opportunities for years to come. "We are extremely grateful for all Ron Bruch has done to strengthen the department's relationships with citizens and stakeholders," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "He has a unique ability to bring together passionate people for the betterment of everyone. Ron's deep knowledge of our treasured fisheries and appreciation for the connection between the environment and economy have served our state well." Bruch, 61, was named fisheries bureau director in May 2014 and had anticipated working for several more years to advance the fishery program's recently updated strategic plan. He now intends to volunteer his time on a number of key projects under a reduced schedule. "I couldn't have asked for a more rewarding career and I've been especially glad to work under the Stepp administration," Bruch said. "It will be a pleasure to continue contributing to a few projects including wrapping up new statewide fish passage policies and procedures and completing the Lake Michigan Integrated Fisheries Management Plan. These projects and numerous others we have been working on offer significant economic and social benefits while conserving and improving our fisheries and aquatic resources." Bruch leaves the department during a time of continued success, as Wisconsin's fisheries management program and state fishing traditions remain strong. The state ranks third nationally as a destination for anglers and sport fishing generates $2.3 billion in economic benefits every year while supporting 22,000 jobs and contributing $148.7 million in state and local tax revenues, according to the American Sportfishing Association. Through the years, Bruch's career covered work as a habitat technician, fisheries biologist, supervisor and fisheries bureau section chief. Prior to his appointment as bureau director, he served as statewide planning coordinator for the fisheries team, working on projects including the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative plan to boost walleye populations statewide. Although his assignments included oversight of the Great Lakes as well as the state's inland waters, Bruch remains best known for his work with sturgeon starting in 1986 as a senior fisheries biologist on the Winnebago system. In that role, he led assessment and public engagement efforts that helped establish the lake sturgeon population as one of the largest in the world and capable of supporting a unique winter spearing season. Much as he looked after the long-lived sturgeon, Bruch also took care to develop the capacity of the bureau's 226 staff members, whose responsibilities range from fish propagation at the state's hatcheries, rearing stations and spawning facilities to habitat improvements and fisheries research. Bruch's academic background includes research on sturgeon and deep water sculpin; he holds doctorate and master's degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a bachelor's degree from UW-Stevens Point. He has authored or co-authored numerous papers for peer-reviewed scientific publications as well as the 11-time national award winning book "People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish" (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2009). In addition to serving as co-founder and president of the North American Sturgeon and Paddlefish Society, he is co-founder and treasurer/secretary of the World Sturgeon Conservation Society and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Applied Ichthyology. Bruch's family has roots in the Milwaukee area where his father operated a construction business and in Butternut in Ashland County where a cabin and forest lands will now occupy more of his attention. He and his wife Kathy reside in the Oshkosh area and have two married children and four grandsons. A transitional leadership plan for DNR's Bureau of Fisheries Management will be followed by a national search for Bruch's successor.
DNR research team receives national 2014 Sport Fish Restoration outstanding research project award
MADISON -- A team of state fisheries researchers has received the 2014 Sport Fish Restoration outstanding research project award presented by the American Fisheries Society for their work to locate key areas of waterways where habitat restoration effort will be most effective. PHOTO: From left, Natural Resources Board chair Preston Cole, Ken Kurzawski, president-elect of the Fisheries Administration Section of the AFS, and DNR fisheries scientists Matthew Diebel, John Lyons and Matthew Mitro. Ken Kurzawski, president-elect of the Fisheries Administration Section of the AFS presented the award at the January Natural Resources Board meeting in Madison. The team -- led by John Lyons, Department of Natural Resources fisheries scientist, and including research scientists Matthew Mitro and Matthew Diebel -- developed the project over the past six years using statistical analyses of data relating to waterways. The project, titled "Development and Evaluation of Watershed Models for Predicting Stream Fishery Potential," produced a framework that can be used by fisheries managers to locate areas in different bodies of water around the state where particular species are most likely to be and where certain types of fisheries and habitat management efforts are potentially most effective. The framework is built upon a system of predictive models that locate areas that are best suited for particular sport fish species such as trout, bass, walleye, northern pike and yellow perch. Lyons commented on the project as being a good example of where knowledge gained in the field can be applied for more effective management practices. "The annual Sport Fish Restoration outstanding project award is intended to both highlight the importance and effectiveness of the Sport Fish Restoration program and recognize excellence in fisheries management, research and education," said Kurzawski. "This annual award program helps identify and showcase outstanding fisheries projects from across the country." "We congratulate the team on their hard work and for the recognition they gained from this national organization," said Secretary Cathy Stepp. "This work emphasizes the importance and value of making management decisions informed by good science." One spin-off of the six-year project was the creation of a public online tool known as Fish Mapper, (exit DNR) which was developed in partnership between DNR and U.S. Geological Survey. The Fish Mapper tool allows anyone to see what kinds of fish species are located on every water way in the state. The site summarizes the results of fish surveys from around the state dating back more than one hundred years.