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Oneida County towns take stances on Pelican River Forest Project

The Conservation Fund recently bought 70,000 acres of land in Oneida County and is working to put conservation easements in place.
Jay Brittain
The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund recently bought 70,000 acres of land in Oneida County and is working to put conservation easements in place.

Some towns and counties in the area are voicing their position on the Pelican River Forest Project.

The Pelican River Forest is a 70,000-acre conservation easement project in eastern Oneida County and parts of Forest and Langlade Counties.

The goal of the group that purchased the land is to keep the large tract of land intact and keep it available for outdoor recreation, timber harvesting, and climate resiliency.

Towns in support of the project say it will be good for tourism, forestry, and the environment. Those opposed say it will hurt future development and the county’s tax base.

Funding for the Wisconsin DNR to purchase the easements is currently being held up by the Joint Finance Committee.

Rhinelander City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Pelican River Forest Project Monday night.

“It’s been in forestry forever, it’s best use is forestry. Forest fragmentation that Clint talked about is a real threat to the forest industry in Wisconsin. It’s important that we keep this in one large block and in perpetuity,” said Tom Jerow, one of a few people who spoke in support of the Pelican River Forest during the public comment portion of the City Council’s meeting. No spoke against it.

Rhinelander wanted to show its support for the project before the Oneida County Board votes on its own resolution.

WXPR emailed all 21 city and town clerks in Oneida County Tuesday morning. Eleven responded by 5:00 p.m.

Sugar Camp, Hazelhurst, and Monico have passed resolutions opposing the project.

Schoepke and Pelican passed ones in support of it.

Lake Tomahawk plans to vote on a resolution in support of the Pelican River Forest at its next meeting. Pine Lake also has a resolution regarding the project on its next meeting agenda.

Piehl, Crescent, Enterprise, Woodruff, Woodboro, Three Lakes, and Newbold have not passed any resolution regarding easements. WXPR will update this article as other town clerks respond.

At Oneida County’s Pelican River Forest committee’s last meeting on April 3rd, Supervisor Mike Roach told the committee he believes it doesn’t make sense fiscally to support the project.

“Somethings in life, I wish there was a word for it, I can never find the word for it, they sound really good, and they even look great on paper, but in practicality, they just aren’t,” said Roach.

The committee will meet again on May 1st where members will decide if they want to make changes to a resolution opposed to the Pelican River Forest project.

The resolution will then go to the full county board for a vote on May 16th.

Langlade County’s Forest Committee is being presented with two resolutions at its next meeting, one opposed and one in support of the Pelican River Forest.

If they pass one of those resolutions, it will go to the full county board for a vote.

The Forest County Clerk told WXPR there’s been no resolution through the county board regarding the Pelican River Forest.

As WXPR previously reported, the Sokaogon Chippewa Community Tribal Government has passed a resolution in support of the easement purchases for the Pelican River Forest.

All of these resolutions are advisory only.

Last fall, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved $15.5 million to purchase the easements. Nearly $11 million of that would come from a federal forest legacy grant. $600,000 comes from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The DNR wants to use about $4 million of Knowles-Nelson Funds that’s been earmarked for land conservation.

The final decision on whether the Wisconsin DNR gets Knowles Nelson Stewardship funding comes from the Joint Finance Committee.

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