Wis. legislature votes down funding for large easement

The Joint Finance Committee, responsible for reviewing all state appropriations and revenues, says "no" to Pelican River easement.

Photo by Jay Brittain

The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted down $4 million of funding to assist the state’s purchase of a Forest Legacy program conservation easement on the 56,259 acre Pelican River Forest in Northern Wisconsin.

The land, which is largely in Oneida County, was purchased by The Conservation Fund in October, 2021 from The Forestland Group, a private forest investment company. The Conservation Fund’s plan was to sell the land after placing an easement on it that would allow sustainable forestry practices and public recreation.

The land contains 27,000 acres of wetlands and 68 miles of streams, according to The Conservation Fund.

Senator Mary Felzkowski, a Republican, said removing the large parcel from being open to development would harm the economic development of Northern Wisconsin, citing the need for economic viability.

Much of the funding for the easement would come from the US Forest Service to encourage the retention of forest land for the forest products industry, which is a major factor in Northern Wisconsin.

Representative Evan Goyke of Milwaukee told the Joint Finance Committee that he would support “some modifications” to the Pelican River plan and encouraged Republicans on the committee to offer a “Proposal 2” or “Proposal B”.

The US Forest Service said: “The purpose of the Forest Legacy Program is to identify and conserve environmentally important forest areas that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. Providing economic incentives to landowners to keep their forest as forests encourages sustainable forest management and supports strong markets for forest products.”

Clint Miller of the Conservation Fund pledged to continue working with the state to complete the easement funding.

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