August 20, 2014

Wisconsin ACT scores and participation increase

Wisconsin continues to have the nation’s second-best scores on the ACT college entrance exam.

Figures released by the state Department of Public Instruction on Wednesday show an average composite score of 22.2 for Wisconsin high school seniors, out of a possible 36. That is up from a composite score of 22.1 last year, but still behind top-spot Minnesota’s composite of 22.9.

The ACT is the predominant college entrance exam used in the Midwest, while schools on the east and west coasts mainly use the SAT test.

The ACT also released benchmark scores that would give students a 75 percent chance of getting a “C” or better in college courses, and a 50 percent chance for a “B.” One of every five Wisconsin high school grads in May failed to reach any of the benchmarks on the exam. While 75 percent met or surpassed benchmarks in English — only around half did the same in reading, math, and science. However, at least ten-percent of the students were just a point or two short in reading and science.

The number of Wisconsin students taking the ACT has grown immensely, with 73 percent of the Class-of-2014 taking the test. The state is requiring it for all public high school students starting next year.

Senators look at forestry issues in northern Wisconsin

(Photo: Travel Wisconsin)

(Photo: Travel Wisconsin)

Wisconsin’s two U.S. senators are taking a closer look at issues facing the forestry and timber industries in northern Wisconsin.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Tuesday toured Forest County and National forest land with representatives from the Great lakes Timber Professionals, while U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) toured the Nicolet Hardwoods sawmill in Laona on Monday.

Johnson says opportunities for harvesting timber in the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest are being wasted. He says he plans to put together numbers estimating what kind of revenue that forest could generate, and says changes should be made in the way national forest management is funded. “Having the federal government in their national forest use the same model that counties use to manage their forests, which is really open up that forest to bidding, manage them properly, and use that revenue for the actual management of the forest – it should self-finance.”

A 10-year forest plan put Chequamegon Nicolet harvest goals at 131 million board feet per year, but only about half that amount is actually being cut. Sawmills and wood products manufacturers say there isn’t enough wood to meet the demand.

Baldwin says she wants the forest to meet its harvest goals. “When I hear that a well-vetted plan about how the forests in this area…would be managed over the years, when I see that they haven’t even gotten close to achieving those goals…that were put together with a lot of stakeholder involvement, that’s disappointing and I want to know why.”

Calls to increase timber harvests are raising some concerns. Karl Welch, Timber Program Manager for the Chequamegon Nicolet says there are not enough resources available to allow the forest service to meet those forest plan goals. “There’s factors associated with that, and some of those factors include our environmental analysis costs have increased over time, and they’re taking a bigger portion of our budget, in order to meet the rigors of the laws.”

Welch says harvest goals for each annual budget appropriation are being met. He also notes that the Chequamegon Nicolet is in the top five national forests in terms of total timber volume output.


Kind and Kurtz on ISIS crisis

kurtz (1)


Candidates for Congress in western Wisconsin are weighing in, on the Iraq situation. Third District congressman Ron Kind said Tuesday that the U.S. has limited options to deal with the ISIS insurgency.

“I don’t expect, nor would I support the president introducing any military ground troops in order to deal with ISIS,” Kind told WAYY. “This is the classic Sunni-Shia split that’s been in existence for the millennium, and only the people in Iraq are going to be able to decide this for themselves. Kind said ISIS is Sunni-based and will “run into a wall of Shia resistance” as it approaches Bagdhad.

Kind’s Republican opponent is Tony Kurtz, an Iraq War veteran. “I like the air strikes. I think we actually should do more of those,” Kurtz said. “And I’m not going to rule out boots on the ground. We need to have a conversation about instead of automatically ruling it out.”

Kurtz said the crisis is the result of a lack of U.S. foreign policy and a perception that President Barack Obama is viewed as weak.

UWSP set to go tobacco-free

No Tobacco SignThe UW Stevens Point campus goes tobacco-free beginning next week. The Stevens Point campus joins some 700 colleges and universities with tobacco bans, and is the first UW System campus to implement the policy.

Director of University Student Health Services, Jen Sorenson, said the decision was made after considering the views of students, faculty, staff. She said the effort will be primarily one of educating people about the new policy. “If someone is found using tobacco products on campus, we have even provided scripts to those individuals that encounter them, helping them say ‘please don’t use tobacco on campus.’”

No tobacco use will be permitted the Stevens Point campus, although a designated smoking area will remain in place at the university’s Treehaven facility in Tomahawk until fall 2015. The ban applies to all students, faculty and staff, and any visitors to campus, 24 hours a day.

There will be help for people to quit. “We even can supply through our pharmacy at student health services options for tobacco-free or herbal snuff,” Sorenson. “And we’re planning to offer group support as well as individual counseling for smokers or chewers.”

The ban will also include e-cigarettes. Sorenson said those “nicotine delivery systems” haven’t yet been determined to be safe by the FDA.

Group providing care for rescued osprey chick

An adult osprey dives. (Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service)

An adult osprey dives. (Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service)

The lone surviving member of an osprey family in Bayfield County could be placed back in a nest in the wild.

Marge Gibson of the Raptor Education Group says the chick has been in their care since earlier this month. It was found after an adult male osprey was brought in with a gunshot wound in the wing. The mother was found a short distance from the nest, along with a chick that had been hit by a car after leaving the next in search of food. The chick currently being kept in rehab managed to land in the grass and was safely recovered.

The adult male osprey eventually had to be euthanized because of its injuries, but was reunited briefly with its chick before that happened.

As authorities continued their investigation, they found a barred owl that had also been shot. The adult female osprey was too badly decomposed to determine how it died.

Osprey are a federally protected species in Wisconsin and investigators with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are looking for those responsible for shooting the birds.