Natural Resources Board didn't hear of some town concerns before vote on Pelican River Forest project
Wisconsin’s DNR Secretary says word of some town opposition to the Pelican River Forest conservation easement proposal did not get to the Natural Resources board before they voted on the project last fall.
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.
DNR Secretary Adam Payne told the Natural Resources Board Wednesday it was brought to his attention just last week two town boards took action to oppose the project last October.
“They passed resolutions in opposition. At that time, that information should have been forwarded to the Natural Resources Board. Unfortunately, there was a breakdown in our department communications, and that didn’t happen.” said Payne.
Sugar Camp and Monico had passed those resolutions in opposition.
Payne says overall the proposal has tremendous support across the state and called it a very important initiative. Towns in support of the project say it will be good for tourism, forestry, and the environment.
Still, some towns have questions, and Payne says they need to be respectful of that.
“What is their future economic opportunities if this easement goes into place? How will this impact their tax base? What will this mean for their future? These are good questions that any local unit of government should be asking.” said Payne.
Payne said the Stewardship review process should be examined. One concern he cited was a 30-day window for local governments to comment, which he felt should be longer.
In previous Oneida County Board meetings, the county board chair voice frustrations with the DNR including the short time frame to respond and lack of information about the project from the DNR.
Final approval for the project has been held up in the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.
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.