A brown hiking path surrounding by trees and lush green foliage,

Pelican River Forest easement threatened with funding hold

Funding for the project was approved unanimously by the DNR's Natural Resources Board, but is now on "hold" after an anonymous objection by a member of the Joint Finance Committee.

The Pelican River Forest includes 70,000 acres of land in Oneida County. The forest includes more than just trees. It also has a “huge presence of lakes, rivers, and streams, including the headwaters region of the Wolf River system,” according to the Forest Data Network.

The Conservation Fund acquired the property last year and plans to sell easements to forever protect the land. Easements would guarantee sustainable forest management for the forest products industry and public access to the land, including 50 miles of roads that would become available and maintained for public use.

This project was ranked second nationally in the Forest Legacy competition.

Jim Lemke, Real Estate Section Chief for the Department of Natural Resources, said that “real estate taxes on the property will not change based on the easement purchases, with the new landowner(s) being required to pay taxes.”

The project was unanimously approved by the Natural Resources Board, but state funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund is now on hold after an anonymous member of the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has objected to the project.

So what happens next? The member of the Joint Finance Committee that objected to the project can lift his/her objection, or the committee can vote on the project after holding a hearing, according to Wisconsin officials.

Gathering Waters: Wisconsin Alliance for Land Trusts said the anonymity of the Joint Finance Committee process lacks the “most basic elements of good governance” — there is “no transparency” and “no accountability.”

Featured image by James Jordan, 2018.

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