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Master Plan for Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area Approved

The Master Plan for the Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area (SPSRA) at the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant has been approved, and we are not pleased with the outcome.  Public sentiment against high impact recreation like dual-sport (off-road) motorcycles was completely ignored.

On December 14th, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, the supposedly “independent” (but Governor-appointed) oversight board to the DNR, listened to more than two hours of public comments about the DNR’s proposed Master Plan for the Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area.  The lion’s share of those individuals argued passionately for the Board to honor historic agreements signed by DNR including the original Badger Reuse Plan (2001), and urged the Board to reject the Master Plan that contains a number of high-impact recreation activities.  Only “compatible, low impact” uses were identified for the entire Badger property in the Reuse Plan. Nonetheless, DNR has defiantly included high impact activities since 2012 in all of its planning documents, including the Final Master Plan just approved.

When the DNR attorney Quinn Williams dismissed the Badger Reuse Plan, developed and signed by 21 stakeholders representing federal, state, Tribal, county, regional and municipal governments, landowners and non-profit organizations over a 9-month long period (2000-2001), as “non-binding and advisory,” he failed to acknowledge the value and importance of that fully participatory process and compromise document.  Furthermore, he argued that DNR has sole discretion over
what goes into a master plan.

Of a total of 258 written comments received by the Natural Resources Board prior to the meeting, 193 (75%) supported ecological restoration and only low impact recreation on the property.  In
contrast, 23 people supported dual-sport (off-road) motorcycle use. Nonetheless, the NR Board refused to discuss the controversial inclusion of off-road motorcycle usage in the Plan, saying, “this is a large property and should be available for everybody’s use.”  By doing so, the Board completely ignored the vast majority of public comments, including from the Ho-Chunk Nation that submitted a letter asking DNR to remove off-road motorcycles from the Plan. By supporting high impact recreation, the Board also ignored the 19 year history of inclusive, community-supported discussions and decisions that went into the planning for the decommissioned Badger Army Ammunition Plant.

Furthermore, DNR staff provided deceptive and untruthful information to the NR Board, perhaps swaying their decision in support of the Plan. When asked whether the neighboring landowners were comporting to the Badger Reuse Plan, Diane Brusoe, DNR’s Property Planning Section Chief,  simply said, “I don’t know.”  However, anybody who has been following what the Ho-Chunk Nation and USDA Dairy Forage Research Center have been doing with their land would well know that
both landowners are in compliance with the Badger Reuse Plan, almost to the letter. Only DNR is singularly rejecting the Reuse Plan in favor of supporting high impact, “johnny come lately” special
interests at Badger.

We’re disappointed–but not at all surprised–by the decision of the Natural Resources Board.  After all, this Board has proven to be a “rubber stamp” board that supports virtually everything emanating from Governor Walker’s DNR.  A similar decision by the Board to include snowmobiles in a trail at Blue Mounds State Park, despite massive public outcry against that use, has landed DNR in a citizen lawsuit.

The Alliance has filed a lawsuit against DNR and its Master Plan for the SPSRA based on the agency’s breach of earlier agreements and its woefully inadequate Environmental Impact Statement.  We had hoped that respect for the community-based process and common sense
would prevail during this planning process, but that has not been the case.  Whereas DNR should have been an ally in developing a good plan for a shared property, they have let us down. This is a last resort. We’ll keep you fully informed as this legal challenge progresses.

We welcome any contributions to help us win our lawsuit against DNR and its Master Plan!  You can donate here.   Thank you!

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