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LETTER: Shades of Cedar Gorge: JFC thwarts conservation again

An anonymous legislator, without any public explanation, has blocked the largest land conservation project in state history.

“It’s a tale that’s becoming all too familiar to those of us who love Wisconsin’s outdoors…..An anonymous legislator, without any public explanation, has blocked the Department of Natural Resources from completing the largest land conservation project in state history,” said Tom Stolp, executive director of Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, in a letter to the editor of the Ozaukee Press.

The funding source that is in question is a grant from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Stolp is all too familiar with this scenario after leading Ozaukee Washington Land Trust throughout a similar situation in which the Joint Finance Committee of the Wisconsin Legislature objected to an already approved Knowles-Nelson grant for the Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs in Port Washington.

“When overreaching lawmakers illegitimately blocked our efforts to conserve Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs, people from across Wisconsin and across the country came to our defense; sending over 20,000 messages to lawmakers,” Stolp said. “Thanks to the thousands who took action, we won! Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs is forever conserved.”

The Pelican River Forest would conserve 70,000 acres of forestland and would bring Wisconsin over halfway toward the goal of conserving 125,000 acres of forestland by 2030 established by Governor Evers in Executive Order 112.

In his letter to the editor, Stolp called on the people of Wisconsin to contact their legislators and show their support for the Pelican River Forest.

Citizens are already speaking up. In another letter to the editor of the Ozaukee Press, Margaret Spoerl of Mequon writes, “Our state needs urgent reform to the function of the Joint Finance Committee. Good governance requires transparency, accountability and a clear path for an up or down vote.”

Spoerl pointed out that the Pelican River Forest already has bipartisan approval from the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board. The project would provide recreational opportunities, and is expected to support 775 jobs in the forestry industry. Plus, the land will continue to be privately owned and pay about $73,000 in annual taxes.

“A single anonymous member of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) has chosen to refuse to bring this to a vote. This is not the way good government and honest legislators behave.”

Featured image by Ralph Earlandson, 2021.

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