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Democrats slam Walker’s inclusion on Time’s list; New deer management program offers benefits to landowners; More state news briefs

Not everyone was impressed when Gov. Scott Walker made Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Democrats tried making political hay by slamming both the Republican Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who wrote a brief profile for the magazine's listing. Christie wrote about Walker's leadership in passing the Act 10 public union bargaining limits and facing an aftermath which included an effort to recall him.

Walker said he was humbled by making Time's list.

State Democratic Party spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said, "The only person they could get to be an apologist for scandal-plagued Gov. Scott Walker was scandal-plagued Gov. Chris Christie ... I guess it takes one to know one."

Christie denied knowing that his aides had ordered the George Washington Bridge into New York City closed over a purported lack of a reelection endorsement. Walker has been the subject of two John Doe investigations involving the state's recall elections and his former aides when he was the Milwaukee County Executive.



New deer management program offers benefits to landowners

The state Department of Natural Resources will start signing up landowners next week for a new deer management assistance program.

There are three ways that property owners can be involved. They can get free herd management and habitat information plus invitations to related workshops.

Landowners with at least 160 acres can get in-person management advice from DNR staffers, a property management plan and less expensive deer tags for $75.

For $150 landowners can get all of the above plus help with habitat evaluations and monitoring of deer populations.

Property owners can start signing up Tuesday. Those interested in the top-two levels must sign up by May 30.



Wausau Paper has new leadership

Two new leaders have been named to run the Wausau Paper Corporation, which has been under stockholder pressure from a New York hedge fund.

The company said yesterday that Michael Burandt will be the permanent CEO and board chairman, and Matthew Urmanski will be the new president and chief operating officer.

Urmanski has held a number of management posts at Wausau Paper since 2000. Burandt has been the interim CEO since April 2. The Starboard Value hedge fund is Wausau's largest shareholder and was able to get Burandt onto the company's board in 2012.

For the last three years, Starboard has used its minority ownership to criticize Wausau Paper's management plan. During that time, the 115-year-old company has shut down its long-running paper mills in Brokaw and Brainerd, Minn., and it sold paper mills in Rhinelander and Mosinee.

Starboard has been publicly trying to convince Wausau Paper to sell its timberlands in the state and move its only remaining building -- its Mosinee headquarters -- out of Wisconsin.


Beer makers: FDA rules put crimp in sales of left-over grain

The federal Food and Drug Administration says it will change its proposed new livestock feeding rules so beer-makers won't have to worry about higher grain costs.

The FDA is upgrading its food safety laws to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. However, beer companies say the rules could put a crimp into the sales of leftover grain from the brewing process to Wisconsin dairy farmers for livestock feed.

Brewers say they'd have to choose between sending the grain to landfills or paying an average of almost $14 million for new grain testing equipment and audits.

FDA compliance official Dan McChesney said livestock feed is generally safe, and the FDA doesn't know of any problems with the grain from breweries.

In Wisconsin, brewers ranging from Miller-Coors to the New Glarus brewery either donate or sell spent grain to farmers.

John Kappelman of Port Washington said it's a high-quality grain that provides an important source of protein to dairy cows. Kappelman, who owns a feed business, said selling the grain to farmers is a lot more environmentally friendly than throwing it out.

Miller-Coors said it's been selling grain to hundreds of farms since the late 1800's, and the grain goes directly from the brewing kettle to the tanks that ship it to farms.


Late snows mean soggy national park trails

It's too soggy for hikers and campers to enjoy Wisconsin's only national forest.

Officials say ground moisture remains excessive at the Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest in the Northwoods. Trails in the Lakewood-Laona district could open May 15 if things dry up quickly. Otherwise, all trails will stay closed until about May 22.

The Chequamegon-Nicolet covers 1.5 million acres from Bayfield to Oconto counties. The snow has not let up in some of that territory. Washburn in Bayfield County received almost three inches of the white stuff yesterday. Rhinelander broke a 104-year-old snowfall record for April 24 with 1.4 inches by early last evening.

Also, the region is still drying out from last week's storm which dumped around a foot and a half in much of the far north.

Other parts of the state had rain all day yesterday. La Crosse received the most, with 1.5 inches. There's still a chance of rain in the north today, but it will be partly cloudy in most places with highs in the 40's and 50's.  The chance of rain lingers through the weekend with highs of 50 each day.


Airport operations continue through nearby blaze, explosions

Milwaukee fire and police officials are trying to determine what triggered a blaze and a series of explosions at an auto salvage yard near Mitchell Airport.

Firefighters were first told that a gas leak occurred at Roz Auto Salvage about two miles southwest of the state's largest airport.

No one was hurt as workers managed to escape a burning structure where engine motors and transmissions were stored. The building's roof collapsed. Nearby residents were evacuated for three hours.

The airport's operations were not affected. It took almost an hour and a half to get the fire under control.

Milwaukee assistant fire chief Dan Lipski said heat from the fire ignited several cars in the parking lot and caused their tires to explode. The early word was that seven propane tanks outside the building blew up. Lipski said the sounds of the blasts might have been caused by portable propane tanks or vehicle gas tanks and tires.


Madison man charged with 40 counts after three-county spree

A Madison man who faces over 40 criminal charges in a three-county crime spree has pleaded not guilty to three of those counts.

James Kruger, 36, entered his pleas in Dane County Circuit Court yesterday to reckless endangerment, illegal gun possession as a convicted felon and bail jumping.

Authorities said two of the charges resulted from a stabbing incident that started last year's crime spree in which a man was wounded. Investigators said Kruger beat up his uncle in Grant County and stole money from his safe to pay off a debt.

Kruger also allegedly took a farmer hostage and let him go unharmed in neighboring Iowa County. Officers said they arrested Kruger after a high-speed chase in which he was driving a stolen car.

He's scheduled to return to Grant County court May 5 to review the status of 16 charges there. A similar status hearing is set for May 6 on 22 charges in Iowa County. Kruger's charges include taking hostages, false imprisonment, strangulation and suffocation and robbery.

His parents have told reporters that Kruger has bipolar disorder and was not given his medications in jail when he was arrested in Dane County last August for eluding an officer. He was freed on a signature bond soon after that arrest.


Six students ticketed for Nerf gun game

Wausau Police are defending their decision to cite a half dozen high school students who were playing a game with Nerf guns that a witness mistook as a gunfight.

Chief Jeff Hardel said yesterday that the six Wausau West students were given $240 disorderly conduct citations because of the neighborhood disruption they caused -- not because of the Nerf guns they displayed.

Hardel said the students' Senior Shootout game on Tuesday night caused enough of a disruption to attract a neighbor's attention. He cautioned students to be aware of negative consequences from what they do -- in this case, scaring at least one neighbor who saw somebody moving around with a gun.

Meanwhile, WSAU Radio in Wausau says some of the students have been suspended from sports activities for violating the schools' athletic code, and the district's athletic board may discuss the matter next week. Even if the students get their citations dropped in municipal court, they could still miss baseball, track and golf contests because of the policy.

--Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau


State’s export market booming

Wisconsin plant products continue to be exported at a record pace thanks to a booming market in Asia.

State officials said they issued 60% more export certificates from January through March than a year ago and 11% more than the previous record from 2010. It was the fourth quarter in a row that record exports were reported.

The certificates are required for shipping nursery plants, seeds and grain, lumber and decorating materials.

Last year, almost $870 million in plant products were sold to other countries from Wisconsin. Wood, corn and soybean products make up 98% of the certified shipments. Southeast Asia, China, and Taiwan are the largest export markets.


DNR secretary says plan to protect bats could hurt timber industry

Wisconsin's DNR secretary says the state's forest industry could be hurt by a federal plan to protect a bat species that's dying off from white nose syndrome.

Cathy Stepp and natural resource officials in Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana have asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delay putting the northern long-eared bat on the federal endangered species list.

As part of its protection plan, the wildlife agency created voluntary guidelines that discourage cutting large areas of timber from April to September. That's because the bats might be living near loose bark and tree cavities.

Stepp and the other DNR officials fear that the timber rules would become mandatory. They said it would affect hundreds of thousands of landowners who manage forests, and it would have a "crippling effect" on the states' forest product industries.

Federal rules require the Fish and Wildlife Service to make a decision by Oct. 2 on making the northern bat endangered. Stepp and the other state natural resource chiefs say they should have a right to give input, and they'll need extra time for it. White nose syndrome has killed almost six million bats in the U.S. The disease was confirmed in Wisconsin for the first time earlier this month.


Teen’s tossed cigarette causes $5 million in damage to high school

Police said smoking in the boys' room is what caused last week's fire at Oconto High School that caused $5 million in damage.

A 16-year-old boy has been referred to juvenile authorities as a person of interest in the April 16 blaze.

Police Chief Dan Ault said it appeared to be an accident. He said the boy admitted soon after the fire that he only wanted to smoke, and the chief believes there was no other intent.

The boy told officers he left a class early, went to a restroom and smoked a home-rolled cigarette in a stall. Oconto Fire Chief Jack Mlnarik said an ember from the cigarette was tossed into a toilet paper dispenser where it smoldered and then caught fire 10-15 minutes later.

Surveillance video did not show the entrance to the bathroom at the time so Ault said investigators relied on interviews of numerous students and teachers to narrow the list of possible suspects. The chief said it was fairly certain that nobody went into the stall after the smoker did.

Oconto High School classes resumed last Monday at the middle school building. That's expected to continue for at least two more weeks.


Two Madison women bilked by Craigslist buyers

Madison police are urging people who sell items on Craigslist to meet their customers in safe areas in daylight hours.

That's after two sellers were victimized the past two weeks when they received counterfeit bills from their buyers.

Madison police said a 19-year-old woman met a man who offered on Craigslist to buy her laptop computer for $700. They made the transaction late Tuesday night in a grocery store's parking lot. She said the man paid her with $20. When she got home, she noticed they had crooked print and smeared ink.

Last week, a 33-year-old woman was victimized in a similar fashion after she met a man in the parking lot of a hamburger restaurant to sell her camera for $360. Police said the woman discovered the bills were fake when she tried depositing them into a credit union account.

Authorities say Craigslist buyers and sellers should meet at daylight in busy areas like malls or police station lobbies.