Cherokee Marsh in the late afternoon as the sun is going down with a view of the boardwalk surrounded by marsh and open water with wispy clouds overhead.

Conservation groups wary of bill to allow sale of Wisconsin public lands

Companion bills sponsored by a pair of northern Wisconsin Republicans would allow conservation lands acquired through state grants to be sold for private use.

Reported by Chris Hubbuch, local environmental groups are concerned about legislation in Wisconsin that would make it easier to put public lands up for sale that were previously purchased with funding granted through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Two companion bills sponsored by northern Wisconsin Republicans have been introduced into the Wisconsin Senate (SB 802) and Assembly (AB 852).

The groups voicing opposition to the bill include Gathering Waters, Clean Wisconsin, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, and the Wisconsin Bike Fed, saying that the legislation would “compromise the stewardship program and the state’s outdoor economy.”

“It’s a pretty significant departure from where the law stands now,” said Charles Carlin, director of strategic initiatives for Gathering Waters. “It undermines this incredibly popular conservation program.”

Currently, the sale of Knowles-Nelson lands is prohibited, unless DNR approval is granted, which is rare. If the bill passes, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimates about 10 properties would be sold off each year.

One of the state representatives who introduced the bill, Senator Mary Felzkowski said her office has “received an influx of calls from people concerned she is gutting the stewardship program.”

Read more in this article published in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Featured image by Katie Wheeler, 2016.

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