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Oneida County Pelican River Forest committee holds first meeting

Pelican River area in Wisconsin.
Jay Brittain
The Conservation Fund
Pelican River area in Wisconsin.

The committee charged with reviewing and possibly amending the resolution on Oneida County’s stance on the Pelican River Forest project met for the first time Monday.

The conservation project wants to secure easements on 70,000 acres of land in Oneida, Lincoln, and Forest counties to preserve it for forestry management and recreation.

As WXPR previously reported, Supervisor Robert Briggs presented a resolution to the Oneida County Board at its last meeting calling for the county to oppose the easements.

The board decided to create a committee to look into its accuracy of it before voting on it.

Once again, people mostly in support of the Pelican River Forest spoke before Oneida County Board supervisors. This time it was to the committee members charged with reviewing and fact-checking the resolution regarding the conservation project.

Some people who spoke during public comment were happy to have the county create the committee to look more into this issue.

Others wanted the county to hold public hearings on the issue at times when more people could attend and give input.

“More fundamental to all of this is our representative form of government at the county level. As I claim this county is tone-deaf. Here we are today listening to the vast majority of people in support. Therefore I agree with everyone else here: hold a public hearing, that’s all I ask. Listen to everybody and represent your constituents," said Oneida County resident Dan Butkus.

County Board Chair Scott Holewinski who assigned members to the committee spoke during the meeting.

He explained why he chose the members he did and his frustration with the DNR about the lack of information and time local governments had to respond to the easements.

Holewinski also addressed the argument pro-Pelican River Forest people and groups have been making that the land would still be privately owned and therefore still on the tax roll saying that while it’s on the tax roll, it’s taxed significantly less because it’s under MFL and would end up hurting the future potential tax base.

“They’re removing that potential tax base that we need. So you’re going to end up paying higher taxes. Kids won’t be able to buy land in Oneida County. They’ll have to go live by the city, but other people live here. With that, I think the committee is burdened with a lot of information and hopefully, we’ll come up where everybody can agree that the information in the resolution is correct," he said.

Committee Chair Robert Briggs, the Supervisor from Monico that brought the issue to the county board to begin with, split up different lines of the resolution among committee members.

“We have to get some of our information before we can take time discussing it," said Briggs.

The committee members need to come back with the information they’ve gathered on their topics at the next committee meeting in April.

The committee is supposed to come back to the full county board at its May meeting to discuss its recommendation regarding the resolution.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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