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“No longer just a local issue” Lac du Flambeau Town to seek assistance from state and federal representatives for road easement resolution

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 Town of Lac du Flambeau will be calling on state and federal representatives to help with road easement issues.

For almost a year now, the town has been trying to come to a resolution with the Lac du Flambeau Tribe.

After 10 years of unpaid easements, the Tribe barricaded four roads for several weeks starting in January. It blocked access to private homes of non-tribal members.

Throughout the year, there’s been lawsuits and negotiations.

The latest offer from the Tribe came December 1.

Tribal President John Johnson Sr. said the tribe is demanding nearly $10 million to resolve past trespass damage.

Here is the breakdown he stated in the letter:

- $2,885,370 for the 10-year Settlement for Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane, and Elsie Lake Lane.

- $3, 448,843 for the Big Thunder Settlement for East Ross for 31 years

- $140,000 for legal fees related to negotiations

- $183,507 for Pollard v. Johnson Legal fees

- $3,000,000 in Tribal Administration Fees

The letteralso stated the tribe won’t issue road permits under its new ordinance until it receives the money.

The Lac du Flambeau town board met in closed session for more than two hours Wednesday to discuss the letter.

When they returned to open session, town chairman Matt Gaulke said there was no formal action to be taken.

“But we do want to let people know that the board feels that this is no longer just a local issue. The town will be contacting its state and federal representatives and urge them to get involved to seek a resolution,” said Gaulke.

State and federal representatives have commented and tried to get involved in the past year without much success.

In February, while the barricades were still up, Governor Evers met with the Tribal president. He called the meeting productive, though no resolution came from it.

In May, Evers and Senator Tammy Baldwin issued a letter expressing their disappointment that the town and Tribe had yet to come to a resolution and urged them to use a mediator.

Less than a month later, Senator Ron Johnson and Congressman Tom Tiffany expressed similar frustrations with the lack of resolutions.

More recently, State Senator Mary Felzkowski sent a letter to the Tribal president requesting communication with him on the issue.

It was after the Joint Finance Committee withheld one million dollars in Tribal gaming funds from the Lac du Flambeau Tribe.

President Johnson responded to her letter calling the JFC’s actions discriminatory and saying, in part, “We are going to work to right the wrongs of the past and will no longer tolerate abuse of our people or our land.”

The town of Lac du Flambeau has been paying the tribe on a monthly basis for road permits on four roads. Most recently, the town was issued a permit on December 8th at the cost of $34,000. It will keep the roads open until January 12.

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