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Pelican River Forest protected, some changes made after local government raised concerns

Katie Thoresen

Nearly 70,000 acres in Oneida, Forest, and Langlade counties will forever be protected as the Pelican River Forest.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced during his State of the State that funding had been secured for the conservation easements for the Pelican River Forest and would be approved by the DNR this week.

The move went around the Republican-controlled finance committee that had blocked money for easements last year.

The Conservation Fund bought the 70,000 acres of land with the goal of protecting it for future generations.

The property, formerly owned by a forestry company, had been on the group’s radar for years as a way to protect a gap of protected forest land between Oneida County forest and the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest.

It will still be used for logging, offer more recreation opportunities, and help with carbon offsets in the fight against climate change.

“I'm absolutely thrilled. We've worked for a long time, not just the Conservation Fund, but all the groups involved, the DNR and the foresters in that region. This particular tract of land has long been a conservation priority,” said Clint Miller, the Conservation Fund Regional Director.

The Pelican River Forest takes up a large portion of land in some towns like Monico in Oneida County.

The Monico Town Chair among others voiced concerns that the easements would prevent any future development and hurt the town economically. Sen. Mary Felzkowski cited this as one of the reasons she was opposed to the project.

Miller told WXPR the DNR took those concerns and they cut areas along the highway corridors out of the easement. You can view the updated map here.

Miller says he’s thankful for the local support for the project.

While some local towns and county governments passed resolutions opposing the conservation easements, other local towns and Tribal governments passed ones in support.

There was also a lot of public comment during meetings in support of the project.

“This is really for them. This is an opportunity for the people the state of Wisconsin to celebrate an epic conservation project, for recreation, for forestry, for climate, for wildlife, for Biological Diversity, and water quality, all of those things are an opportunity to celebrate,” said Miller.

Once the easements are in place, Miller says work will be done to make the Pelican River Forest more accessible.

“We will be opening a whole slew of roads this coming summer. We are still working with the ATV/UTV clubs to create a network of trails through the property that we hope to have opened this summer. There’s a lot of work to be done on some of those forest roads,” said Miller.

WXPR emailed and left a voicemail for the Monico Town Chair requesting an interview.

We did not get a response before this story aired.

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