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U.S. files lawsuit against Town of Lac du Flambeau over road easement issues

Ross Allen Lake Road is one of the roads with expire rights-of-way agreements.
Beth Tornes
Ross Allen Lake Road is one of the roads with expire rights-of-way agreements.

The United States Government is suing the Town of Lac du Flambeau over road issues with the Lac du Flambeau Tribe.

The lawsuit was filed in the Western Wisconsin District Court this week.

Court documents claim the Town of Lac du Flambeau had gained the Rights of Way for four roads within the Lac du Flambeau Reservation but never applied to renew any of them prior to them expiring.

Those roads provide access to private homes within the reservation.

One of those rights of way expired more than 10 years ago.

The Tribe blocked access to the roads for nearly six weeks earlier this year.

Court documents show the U.S. Government is seeking several things from the Town.

Among them, it wants the court to declare the town’s actions are considered trespassing, award compensation for profits or damages caused by the town, and eject the town from the tribe’s land if the involved groups are unable to reach a resolution.

The Lac du Flambeau Tribe and the Town Board have been in negotiations since March.

That’s when the tribe lifted barricades on the roads listed in the lawsuit.

The agreement then was to keep the roads open for up to 90 days while the groups negotiated.

The Town of Lac du Flambeau was hoping to hold a town hall-style vote to raise the tax levy to pay the Tribe to resolve the issues.

But Lac du Flambeau’s population is too big, and it needs to put the referendum question on a ballot to get approval.

Ahead of the U.S. lawsuit filing, Governor Tony Evers and Senator Tammy Baldwin sent a letter to all parties involved in the negotiations.

"We are extremely disappointed that mediation has yet to occur. This delay harms the people of Wisconsin, whether they are Tribal members, impacted homeowners, or other members of our communities. A lack of action will not help tensions and are a threat to the well-being of the individuals directly involved and the greater community," they said in the letter.

Homeowners affected by the rights-of-way issuesfiled a lawsuit against the Lac du Flambeau Tribe when the barricades were still up.

In April, the U.S. government filed an amicus brief in support of the Tribe in that lawsuit.

WXPR reached out Thursday morning to the Tribe, the Town of Lac du Flambeau, and Sen. Baldwin’s office for comment on the lawsuit against the town.

We’ll update this article with their responses.

Earlier this week, the Town of Lac du Flambeauissued a press release urging people to stop criticizing the Tribe or Tribal members on social media.

It reads in part:

“The posting of disrespectful and/or intolerant messages only inflames emotions during a time when reason, common sense, and mutual respect must prevail, if resolution is to be achieved. The Town Board would appreciate all parties’ cooperation with this request in future communications.”

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