Manoomin outlook discouraging
By Lisa David, GLIFWC Wildlife Biologist
Odanah, Wis.—As the annual cycle continues, as we watch the summer weeks march by, it can only mean that the manoomin season is fast approaching. How this year's ricing season will ultimately play out on the landscape is already being revealed.
At the time of this printing, GLIFWC has completed half of its pre-season rice flights over the ceded territories of northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. During these flights, photos are taken of lake and river wild rice beds to make assessments of the year's rice abundance. This aerial information is then compared and added to the field observations from our wild rice intern crews who are busy evaluating rice stands at our long-term study lakes and other waters with possible suitable manoomin habitat.
Consequently, pre-season observations are still considered preliminary and subject to refinement as we gather more ground and aerial observation data. But to date, season projections appear well below average in most areas of Wisconsin's ceded territory.
According to GLIFWC Biologist Peter David, "on reservation and off, on large waters and small, rivers and lakes, from Fond du Lac to Mole Lake, poor stands are the recurring theme of the year."
As in most rice years exceptions do exist, with an area in northeast Wisconsin showing the highest concentration of decent waters. But even here stand failures are not uncommon.
It is hard to pinpoint the precise factors leading to this year's poor crop—since rice abundance tends to be influenced by a variety of local and regional factors. Certainly localized high rain events took a toll on some waters, and at least one bed appeared to be lost to stem rot, a phenomenon not previously observed in our surveys. The very mild winter may have also caused some seeds to remain dormant, delaying germination for a future year.
One site of encouragement is Clam Lake in Burnett County. Rice beds here have been decimated in recent years, apparently the result of high carp populations. While most of the lake still shows little to no recovery, appreciable beds were observed in the one bay where carp had been excluded by fencing.
All this makes one wonder if a season like 2009 will ever be repeated—with its highest recorded harvest in the past two decades of gathering harvest data. This was followed by the bust 2010 season—a near failure that sent pickers digging deep into their manoomin stores to stretch supplies out another year. Last year was considered a partial rebound in rice abundance—where increased scouting efforts proved profitable for some pickers. Now in 2012, the warm and early spring had the potential to put us on track for an early harvest season; however, general indications are not encouraging.
In addition to the fieldwork, we've also been keeping busy with the continued writing of the first Joint State-Tribal Wild Rice Management Plan. After going through in-house review, the plan is presently in the hands of TraditionalEcological Knowledge experts and other natural resource agency specialists for their comments and input. If all stays on schedule, we will have another draft version completed later this fall.
And finally, new this ricing season is a brochure called "Harvesting Wild Rice in a Good Way," aimed as an introductory guide for novice ricers. Laid out in a series of questions and answers about the ricing season and the technique involved in harvesting, the brochure will hopefully create a deeper appreciation of the ricing culture and help ensure that proper and respectful care is exercised during harvesting. Addressing basic rice harvesting questions, as well as showing traditional finishing techniques, this brochure will act as a complement to the wealth of other educational materials made available through GLIFWC. Brochures and other publications are available online at www.glifwc.org click "Educational Materials."
So, just as we patiently anticipated the first sign of the floating leaf stage in the spring, we will have to patiently wait with push poles at the ready to realize what our 2012 ricing opportunities will be. In the meantime, you are encouraged to get out, scout, and enjoy your traditional rice bed or maybe find a new one. Be sure to visit our website for more information and updates as the season gets closer. See sidebar for help in accessing the manoomin website.
Go to www.glifwc.org
Find up-todate info on manoomin beds
Wondering about the status of rice on your nearby, date-regulated wild rice lake? Wish you had some insight into the potential ricing conditions? This information is just a few clicks away.
Go to GLIFWC's website at www.glifwc.org for information on rice waterbodies. Toward the bottom of the homepage (under GLIFWC's Focus Areas section), click on "Wild rice (manoomin)." Once on the new manoomin webpage, click "Manoomin Regulations" (on the left side). From here you will find a summary of off-reservation manoomin harvest regulations specific for each state revealed individually in drop-down text for Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. Included you will find regulation information on ricing permits, ricing sticks, boats, ricing hours, and general season openings.
Additional information on Wisconsin manoomin waters is displayed in maps that you can zoom in on using the scale bar on the left side of the image. Date-regulated lakes are represented with orange balloons that, when clicked on, will tell you the lake name and whether rice chiefs have determined an opening date.
This opening date information is also displayed in a table below the interactive map. You can scroll through the list of date-regulated waterbodies for lake opening information. Remember, rice waters not listed may be harvested whenever the rice is ripe.
It is important to remember that the "survey results" listed in the table are subjective observations regarding wild rice abundance. Sites are rated on a rough scale ranging from "poor to fair, average, good, and very good," which is in comparison to other recent years for that site. Understand that a "poor" year at a large site may support more rice than a "good" year at a smaller site.
Please use this information as an initial guide. You are encouraged to make your own visits to the sites you are most interested. Remember that an abundance of plants does not necessarily mean an abundance of seed produced, since weather, disease, pollination, and other factors can greatly influence seed production and harvest levels. HAPPY RICING!!!