The Sokaogon Chippewa Community just passed a resolution in favor of the Pelican River Forest, which covers 70,000 acres in Oneida, Forest, and Langlade counties. The project is awaiting approval for funding through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program to purchase easements that would allow for public recreation, sustainable timber harvesting, and the protection of natural resources.
“We always forget about the things out in the natural resources that can’t talk for themselves like the trees and the turtles and the animals right down to the little critters. We think our life is more important than theirs. For us, this is just an opportunity to support something to benefit all of the living beings,” said Sokaogon Chippewa Community Environmental Director Tina Van Zile.
WXPR reports that, of importance to the tribe is that the project “would protect natural resources the Sokaogon Chippewa Community and other Ojibwe Tribes have relied on like wild rice, medicinal plants, and subsistence hunting.”
The resolution covers other benefits, like how protecting the forest will combat climate change and support the forest products industry, and drive tourism in the area.
“One way we survive up here is through tourism many of the businesses that whether it be small mom and pop locations to a bigger restaurant, grocery store, or even our casino. We all in this area survive financially on tourism and this area is a big attraction to hikers and people doing trails, snowmobiles, ATV/UTV,” said Van Zile.
The Sokaogon Chippewa Community is calling on the legislature and the governor to “fully support and accept all forms of funding to establish the Pelican River Forest, including funding from the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Fund.”
Funding is currently in limbo after a lawmaker on the Joint Finance Committee objected to the use of Knowles-Nelson funds for the project. The committee has failed to hold a hearing on the project, which they are legally required to schedule. The Natural Resources Board already approved the use of Knowles-Nelson dollars to buy the easements.
Several local governments in northern Wisconsin are reviewing and discussing resolutions either in support or opposition.
Featured image by Eli Sagor, 2007.