A person walking in a snowy forest with tall trees.

Pelican River Forest Plan Deserves a Public Resolution

Patrick Durkins, outdoor columnist, shows support for the Pelican River Forest after a representative on the state legislature blocked the largest conservation deal in Wisconsin’s history.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) submitted a funding request in November to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) to use Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funds for the Pelican River Forest project. The funds would be used to permanently protect the Pelican River Forest with the conservation easements.

An anonymous objection stalled the Pelican River Forest project. In January, Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk) revealed herself as the legislator who raised the objection.

Felzkowski believes the Pelican River Forest project has the potential to financially hurt the small communities around the area despite the fact that the land would stay on the state tax roll and would be open to the public for recreational activities.

Patrick Durkins, an outdoor columnist, wonders how it is possible in a functioning democracy for a single legislator to anonymously object to a project.

He writes, “…we elect lawmakers to represent our interests, and they’re supposed to operate openly so we can monitor them. By holding them accountable, we separate eagles from weasels.”

It seems the easiest path forward for this project will have to involve a lot of collaboration with the JFC.

“Now let’s hope Felzkowski helps salvage the plan soon so the public can continue to benefit from the jobs, recreation, and natural resources the Pelican River Forest has long provided,” writes Durkins.

In the past, Governor Evers has been able to work around the rulings of the JFC by allocating funds from different programs and transferring them to various conservation projects. Will this happen with the Pelican River Forest, or can our elected officials work together to make the largest conservation project in state history a reality?

Featured image by Hannes Flo, 2015.

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