National Park Service Comments on DNR Draft Plan
In a letter dated May 3, 2016, the National Park Service (Park Service) responded to the DNR’s Draft Master Plan (released August 2015) for the 3,500-acre Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, the state-managed portion of the former Badger Plant. The detailed response identified numerous concerns, shortfalls, and procedures needed before the agency will approve the DNR’s Master Plan for the property.
The DNR was able to secure the Badger property years ago through what is called the “Federal Lands to Parks” (FLP) Program under the National Park Service. This program allows for a state agency to request federal land through a formal application process. In its application, the state must identify future uses of the property in what is called a “Program of Utilization” (POU). When DNR applied for the Badger property, it described future uses in its POU as “low impact recreation” and listed examples such as hiking, picnicking and public education. However, in its Draft Master Plan, DNR included recreational activities that would be considered high impact uses, such as motorcycle and snowmobile trails, a rocketry area and a dog training area (that entails the discharge of firearms year-round).
The Park Service acknowledged the considerable amount of public input that was offered on the Draft Master Plan during the publc comment period last summer, especially in opposition to the newly proposed “high impact” recreational activities included in the Draft Master Plan. In its response, the Park Service states, “We believe it is important for DNR to address the public opposition.”
NPS insists that DNR submit an amended Program of Utilization if it is to include the high impact recreation in the final Master Plan. In its rebuttal letter to the Park Service dated June 8th, DNR does not feel it needs to amend its POU, arguing that the agency has the prerogative to plan a property however it feels appropriate.
The Park Service identified a considerable lack of detail included in the draft plan addressing potential (and harmful) impacts of the proposed high impact uses, and requests a more thorough environmental assessment before it proceeds with the final plan. “We believe the document does not provide a sufficient presentation, analysis and discussion of expected or potential impacts,” states the letter. The agency invokes the need for DNR to meet National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) standards in addressing the impacts. DNR rebukes this claim, insisting, “DNR believes that the revised master plan and environmental impact statement will adequately describe the intended management and use of the property and the potential impacts of that use.”
The Alliance supports the concerns and requests of the National Park Service, and we strongly encourage DNR to adhere to the further requirements laid out in the Park Service letter. DNR indicated that it plans to bring its final Master Plan to the Natural Resources Board for approval in a matter of months.
To read the letter from the National Park Service and DNR’s response, go to this link.