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Madison Journal: DNR Riverway land sale opposed
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The Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway has many questions about the proposed sale of state land including two parcels within the protected Lower Wisconsin Riverway.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proposing the sale of 33 land parcels, including two 10-acre parcels within the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, as part of an effort to pay down debts within the Knowles–Nelson Stewardship Program. These sales will be the first of four phases of public land sales in the next four years to meet the state’s goal of selling 10,000 acres of land.

]Frankly, with all the serious questions that remain unanswered, there is just no way we can support such a sell-off of critical protected land. This decision seems to fly in the face of decades of public commitment to protecting the Lower Wisconsin River, one of our state’s most valuable natural resources.

In 1989 under Gov. Tommy Thompson the budget for Stewardship land purchases and easements in the Lower Wisconsin Riverway was increased to $2.4 million per year.

Not only would the sale undo decades of work to protect the Lower Wisconsin River on behalf of the people of Wisconsin, we are not even convinced that it makes sense financially.

Recent studies show that the Lower Wisconsin River is vulnerable to pollution and indicate the need for additional “buffer” zone land acquisition rather than selling off existing public land holdings. The sale of properties along the Riverway sets a terrible precedent and would erode efforts to protect this environmentally sensitive resource. At least one of the parcels proposed for sale in the LWSR provides a buffer between developed lands and a backwater lake or slough with rare and endangered species, including the state endangered starhead topminnow. A second parcel includes mapped wetlands that may be converted to agriculture if the parcel is sold.

Serious questions remain unanswered regarding the proposed sale, including: Which criterion is the WDNR using to propose these two parcels for sale? Were Wisconsin Environmental Protection Act procedures taken in account, and if so, was an environmental assessment of these unique and environmentally sensitive lands conducted?

FLOW is also concerned that the sale of public lands by a state agency will discourage individuals who are willing to donate land and/or funds to purchase public lands for recreation and environmental protection, such as Paul Brandt.

Brandt donated $600,000 to the Lower Wisconsin Riverway endowment fund to support wildlife habitat restoration within the Riverway. What sense does it make for Wisconsin citizens to contribute to protecting our environmental heritage when the politicians can come in later and sell-off those lands to the highest bidder?

We’re not even convinced this would even result in any net revenue for the state. The two parcels the government has targeted for sale are both less than 11 acres – will all the work it will take the state to sell the property, we wonder if they would even make a profit.

The State of Wisconsin has always been a leader in identifying and protecting our most cherished natural areas for all to enjoy. Is our legacy of stewardship being honored with these proposed sales?