An Effort to Squash the Pelican River State Forest Project.
Presented by Michael McFadzen
Oneida County Board members and some legislators are working to undermine what could likely be the last best chance to save this important property.
See Silent Sports article here:
Some Oneida County Board members will attempt to pass a resolution that would prohibit using public funds to buy conservation easements at the February 21 meeting.
Please read below project attributes and consider calling your legislator or contacting the Oneida County Board:
Gathering Waters Land Conservation
General project attribute statements:
- We support the use of Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funding for the Pelican River Forest Conservation Easement Project on up to more than 56,000 acres of working forestlands located in Oneida, Forest, and Langlade Counties.
- This is the second phase of a two-phase effort to secure more than 68,000 acres of high-quality northern hardwood forest for public benefit. The first phase permanently conserved more than 12,000 acres.
- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources application to the federal Forest Legacy Program is the #2 ranked Forest Legacy Program in the Country with a commitment of $15M available to support up to 75% of the acquisition cost. The use of federal Forest Legacy program dollars greatly reduces the use of Knowles-Nelson Stewardship funds. In addition, The Conservation Fund helped secure a $600,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through their Acres for America program further reducing the use of Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funds.
- The acquisition will be financed with a combination of funds including a $600,000 gift from The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a federal Forest Legacy Program grant in the amount of $10,884,000 and the remaining $4,028,000 from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.
- This project, along with Phase 1, is the is the largest private forest conservation project in Wisconsin’s history.
- The conservation easement will safeguard the property against the threat of conversion to non-forest uses and ensure sustainable forest management through a conservation easement.
- Due to changing economic conditions over the past few decades, much of Wisconsin’s industrial forestland has been converted to non-forest uses and subdivided for development, specifically for residential and second homes. This conversion ultimately harms the forest’s ecological integrity. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s effort to purchase a conservation easement will ensure these lands remain forested and are sustainably managed as working timberlands.
- Additionally, the conservation easement guarantees public use and access to these forested woodlands. This use is perpetual, includes vehicular access to over 40 miles of maintained interior roads, supported by a perpetual road endowment fund for long-term maintenance. Due to the substantial size of this acquisition, guaranteed access and easier access is critical to ensure the public can more readily enjoy remote recreational locations for a wide variety of nature based outdoor activities, including affording more accessibility for handicap users.
- A $1M Road Maintenance Endowment will be established to help maintain the 40 miles of road. This endowment will be held by a community foundation based in Wausau that already holds funds for Phase 1 which includes 20 miles of open access roads.
- The benefits of conserving these forestlands and keeping their ecosystem intact include:
- clean air and water,
- maintaining key natural habitats for wildlife (including species of concern),
- increase recreational opportunities, including snowmobile, ATV/UTV use on designated trails.
- climate change mitigation, and
- economic benefits including jobs.
- The Project will also create a permanently conserved land bridge between the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and County Forests—connecting over 700,000 acres of protected forestlands.
- The Pelican River Forest is located within the North Central Forest and Northern Highlands bioregions, which are known for iconic species like wolves, black bear, and bald eagles.
- The region hosts a unique assemblage of plants and animals of conservation concern, including the state-threatened spruce grouse that can be found in habitats similar to those found on the Pelican River Forest along with other Species of Special Concern like northern goshawks, black-backed woodpeckers, olive-sided flycatchers, boreal chickadees, Connecticut and Canada warblers, and red crossbills.
- State-endangered American marten were extirpated in Wisconsin in the 1930’s, but the DNR led several reintroduction efforts in the 1970’s up until 2010. One of the reintroduction efforts occurred on the adjacent Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest which resulted in a stable but tenuous population that is suspected to extend into the Pelican River Forest.
- Sixty-eight miles of rivers and streams, 27,000 acres of forested wetlands, and dozens of ponds are scattered throughout the Pelican River Forest. As the WDNR focuses on clean water initiatives, this conservation easement helps protect critical wetlands and waterways within the upper Wisconsin watershed.
- Keeping these forests as intact forests is critical to protecting this habitat as well as maintaining connectivity to other managed and conserved forest lands, including the adjacent Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest to the northeast and the Oneida and Langlade County forests to the southwest.
- Tourism is a driving force for the Oneida County economy, In 2018, tourism in the county supported 2,237 jobs and visitors spent more than $237 million. High quality recreation amenities including access to land, which this project will help support, is critical.
- Well-managed forests, particularly in the upper watersheds, is critical to water quality conservation. Water-based recreation (i.e., boating, angling) are dependent on clean water. Outdoor recreation has a nearly $8 billion annually economic impact throughout Wisconsin and water-based recreation is a significant part of that.
- By maintaining the Pelican River Forest as a working forest, the project is anticipated to sustain approximately 775 jobs in the forest products sector.
- The forest products industry in Wisconsin provides more than 129,000 full and part-time jobs that produce more than $6 billion in wages. Every ten jobs in the forest products industry support an additional fifteen jobs in other sectors in the state. In Oneida County, forest products jobs have annual incomes that are nearly double the county average.