Natalie Jablonski

News and Features Contributor
Joe Ross

Many Northwoods communities are reporting an uptick in visitors this winter. 

Boulder Junction room tax receipts were up eight percent for last year’s fourth quarter, which ended in December.  Rhinelander room tax receipts were up four percent over that time, and Minocqua's went up two percent.  

Rhinelander Chamber Director Dana DeMet says more people seemed to be traveling to the Northwoods this year for the snow quality. 

A Rhinelander art gallery is hanging a new show focusing on rural art educators in Wisconsin. 

The images in ArtStart’s spring show, Rural Roots: Art Pioneers in Wisconsin, show pastoral scenes and natural landscapes. 

As Programming Director Laura Ehmann describes, featured artist Ruth Stolle was a beloved teacher who left her mark on students in the area.

Northern home sales shot up in February, compared to that month last year, by almost 17 percent. 

That’s better than the statewide average, which showed a less than two percent rise…according to numbers from the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

Economist Dave Clark says a milder winter may have helped the market.  

“We’re really comparing to a February last year that was pretty weak.  We had that long cold winter, and you know spring came a lot later than it typically does.”

Rhinelander is gearing up for home improvement season with the Hodag Home show this weekend.

Rhinelander Chamber Director Dana DeMet says it’s a chance to consult with experts and see a variety of product options. 

“Anybody who owns a home here in the Northwoods knows that there’s a very short season in which we can get a lot of our projects done.  So we like to schedule this near the end of the winter season, so that people can get on their calendar for a lot of these projects that are coming up.”

Buck Vaughn / The Conservation Fund

A majority of Wisconsin voters support the Knowles Nelson Stewardship fund. That’s according to a new poll from the Nature Conservancy. 

Governor Scott Walker’s budget plan calls for freezing land acquisitions funded by the stewardship program until 2028. 

Democratic lawmakers are coming to Rhinelander this weekend to hear what people in northern Wisconsin think about the governor’s proposed budget.

State Senator John Erpenbach of Middleton sits on the Joint Finance Committee.  He says Saturday’s listening session is an opportunity to hear from citizens of both parties.                 

“So there’s all sorts of aspects to the budget that affect everybody in the state from one aspect or another.  So we’re real curious to hear what people have to say about it, and any ideas that people have.”

Frank Kovac

Northern lights displays wowed people across Wisconsin and other northern states last night.

Planetarium owner Frank Kovak in Monico says they were the best he’s seen in almost 15 years. 

“It was actually to the point where they were really dancing in the sky – greenish, and then a little bit of red.  Real beautiful.” 

Kovac says solar storms like the one that caused last night’s show usually linger for a few days, but clouds are forecast tonight.

Still he’s hopeful for a break in the cloud cover. 

Wisconsin Public Service crews have begun to extend a natural gas pipeline from Crandon to the Forest County Potawatomi Community. 

WPS Spokesperson Leah Van Zile says the project involves about five miles of both new construction and upgrades to existing infrastructure. 

“If we’re looking for any additional expansion beyond the Forest County Potawatomi governmental buildings there, we do need to make sure that our system has enough pressure and is built to the specifications necessary to do any expansions.” 

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

A new cooperative effort to fund more management on the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest is bearing fruit.

Harvest has begun on a timber sale in Forest County as part of a stewardship agreement.  That means money earned from the sale will go towards conservation and management on the forest, instead of to the general budget. 

As Director of the nonprofit Sustainable Resources Initiative Don Peterson explains, it’s thanks to the efforts of a group called the Stewardship Steering Committee.

Many Northwoods property owners know the importance of getting their land surveyed. 

As President of the Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors Jeff DeMuth describes, surveying can become especially prominent in determining boundaries of shore land properties, which are often limited in space.

County deer advisory councils will be meeting again this month to help determine antlerless deer quotas. 

DNR wildlife biologist Melinda Nelson says each council will recommend a specific number anterless tags.

“Looking at a variety of metrics including winter severity, 2014 deer harvest numbers and taking public input, and deciding how many antlerless tags they want out on the landscape.”

Nelson says the local management units will make initial recommendations, and then take feedback from the public. 

Wildfire season is getting an early start in Wisconsin, thanks to the recent snow melt.

DNR Forester Ranger John Gillen in Rhinelander says April and May are typically the most active months for forest fires in Wisconsin. 

“This year seems to be coming a little bit before that time, in March.  And certainly my counterparts in the southern part of the state are already active in suppressing forest fires.”

Gillen says fire season in northern Wisconsin shouldn’t be far behind, if the warm weather continues. 

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

A domestic violence victim support agency is holding a candlelight vigil in Rhinelander Thursday night for the three children who survived the apparent homicide of Thomas and Jennifer Ayers.

Law enforcement believes the three young girls were locked in a room while Jennifer Ayers’ 17-year-old daughter Ashlee Martinson killed her mother and step-father.  The couple was found dead Sunday. 

Shellie Holmes, Director of Tri County Council on Domestic Violence, says the agency is holding a vigil and collecting donations for the children.

"Snowmobiling at Haliburton Forest". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia -

Snowmobile trails in Oneida and Vilas counties are closed as of Thursday afternoon.

John Bilogan, Director of the Oneida County Forestry Department says warm weather has melted most of the snow. 

"If you get into the woods, the trails probably would still be ridable.  But it gets to the point where intersections and areas that are exposed to direct sunlight, a lot of them are bare."

Bilogan says riding on bare ground can cause safety issues or damage to trails.

Iron County’s unemployment rate went up by more than a percentage point in January, giving it one of the highest jobless rates in the state at 10.8 percent. 

Menominee, Door and Bayfield Counties did the worst, tied with unemployment rates of 11 percent…according to the preliminary unadjusted figures from the state’s workforce development agency. 

Vilas County’s unemployment rate was 9.7 percent, with Forest County coming in a 9.1.