The current administrative structure of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve (KVR) and Kickapoo Reserve Management Board (KRMB) would remain unchanged under a bipartisan plan supported by state Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) and approved by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) April 22.
On a unanimous 16-0 vote, the JFC rejected Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to shift administrative oversight of the KVR/KRMB to the state Department of Natural Resources.
“The natural beauty and uniqueness of the Reserve is a key asset to the quality of life and economic success of our region,” said Shilling. “I’m glad that we were able to work together and find a solution that maintains the current structure of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve and protects our history of local collaboration.”
The KVR will continue its working relationship with the Department of Tourism.
For the past 18 years, the Reserve has been administratively attached to the Department of Tourism.
“Things are working well with the Reserve being affiliated with Tourism. Plain and simple, folks don’t want it to change to the DNR because of the history of the homes and farms that were taken for the abandoned flood control dam project,” state Rep. Lee Nerison (R-Westby) said in a statement.
The nearly 8,600 acre Reserve will continue to be jointly managed between the State of Wisconsin and the Ho-Chunk Nation. Local residents and members of the Ho-Chunk Nation will continue to serve on the 11-member KRMB.
“I want to thank everyone who kept bringing this issue up to legislators. Working together, we made sure that the Reserve will continue to serve as a natural area to be enjoyed by everyone. It will continue to be a memorial to those who gave up so much for the abandoned Kickapoo River dam project,” Nerison said.
While Shilling welcomed the KVR/KRMB agreement, she expressed concerns over the uncertainty surrounding proposed budget cuts to the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program and the elimination of public funding for state parks.
Locally, the Stewardship program has helped to conserve unique bluffs and wetlands including the recent addition of 144 acres of scenic natural land to the Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area in Crawford County.
“Open access to state land for Wisconsin hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts is important for our state,” added Shilling. “I hope that we can find bipartisan support to reject the Governor’s proposed cuts and protect Wisconsin’s clean land, water and air for our children and future generations to enjoy.”
The Legislature is expected to continue debating Walker’s budget proposal over the coming weeks before approving a final budget in June.