A pile of neatly stacked logs covered in autumn leaves.

Republicans block Knowles-Nelson funds for Pelican River Forest preserve

Conservation groups hope to keep the project alive and are searching for new avenues after legislators on the state's powerful finance committee blocked a key funding request.

After a disappointing, but not unexpected decision by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) blocking Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funds, supporters of the Pelican River Forest are looking for other ways to fund the project, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The vote occurred on party lines with all Republicans voting to reject $4 million that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requested to fund conservation easements on nearly 60,000 acres in northern Wisconsin.

The organization that owns the land, The Conservation Fund, planned to sell conservation easements to the state and blocks of land to other buyers who agree to maintain public access for hiking, hunting, ATV use, and snowmobiling. This approach keeps the land on the tax rolls, while ensuring permanent protection.

Clint Miller with the Conservation Fund said “We’re trying to move forward with the DNR right now, trying to figure out what are our options, and we’re still committed to getting that permanent conservation done.”

One option might be receiving alternate funding from the state for the project. If alternate sources of funding cannot be found, The Conservation Fund will be forced to abandon the project.

“If we can’t complete the permanent conservation on this, the project falls apart and is sold into many, many lots,” Miller said.

The Pelican River Forest is the largest remaining block of unprotected, privately owned forest in Wisconsin. In addition to public recreation, the forest supports the lumber and paper industries, as well as wildlife habitat and water quality.

Featured image by Ken Mattison, 2015.

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