A kayak sits on the bank of the Little Wolf River.

Pelican River Forest controversy draws attention to future of conservation in Wisconsin

The conservation community is concerned for the future of the Pelican River Forest after the Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines to reject a $4 million Knowles Nelson grant.

The controversy surrounding the Pelican River Forest project has conservation groups wondering what the future of conservation will look like in Wisconsin.

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) has rejected using Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funds for the Pelican River Forest, which leaves the future of the forest in limbo. A report from WUWM radio looked at the environmental importance of the forest and the difficulties that land protection projects face with the JFC approval process.

“Since 2014, more than 40 grants have been held up by this JFC review process. Very few of those grants ever receive a public hearing or a vote,” said Charles Carlin, director of strategic initiatives with Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts.

Conservation groups, including Gathering Waters and Wisconsin’s Green Fire, are now calling for a thorough review of the stewardship program.

“We need to make sure anonymous objections become a thing of the past. And that when an objection is raised, there’s a clear timeline for holding public hearings and on holding votes,” Carlin said.

“Regardless of your politics I don’t think there’s anyone that doesn’t have a stake in a resilient climate future and in livable communities. I think everybody has a place in that conversation,” said Fred Clark with Wisconsin’s Green Fire.

Featured image by Joshua Mayer, 2015.

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