Alliance Sues DNR over Master Plan
On Wednesday and Thursday (December 7 & 8), the Alliance filed two lawsuits against the DNR. Due to filing deadlines, it was important for the attorneys for the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance to file the petitions challenging the DNR’s Master Plan for the Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area (SPSRA) prior to the Natural Resources (NR) Board Meeting on Wednesday, December 14th. DNR has submitted the Final Master Plan to the NR Board for its review and approval at that meeting.
For 19 years, the Alliance has been deeply involved in promoting a “green future” for the Badger Lands. For the last four years the Alliance has engaged in the public comment process for the DNR’s portion of the property, along with hundreds of citizens from throughout the region. Many voices have shared their concerns with DNR about the agency’s inclusion of “high impact” recreation activities in their early planning documents, in their Draft Master Plan (August 2015), and now, again, in their Final Master Plan for the property.
We are disappointed that DNR has ignored the several formal agreements that it signed onto, including the Badger Reuse Plan (2001), developed and signed by 21 diverse stakeholders (federal, state, Tribal, regional, local governments, landowners, non-profit groups, etc.). The Badger Reuse Plan established clear guidance for the future uses of the Badger lands, including “compatible low impact recreation.”
Furthermore, in its 2004 application to acquire the land from the National Park Service, DNR indicated that it will support “low impact recreation” (examples: hiking, biking, picnicking) on its land, now comprised of almost 3,400 acres.
We feel deeply betrayed that in 2012 DNR began referencing different forms of “high impact” recreation in its planning documents. Despite significant public outcry at every stage of the planning process over these four years, the agency has boldly carried over high impact recreation in each subsequent plan, including the Final Master Plan they seek approval for next week.
Our organization has focused the lion’s share of its activities on public education about the natural and cultural history of the Sauk Prairie area and we have supported a significant effort to undertake ecological restoration at Badger through our extensive volunteer program. However, having been deeply involved in all aspects of the planning process for the property since 1997, including having representation on the Badger Reuse Committee, the Alliance feels compelled to defend the public’s interest in the property and the public’s voice pertaining to uses of the state-managed property.
The Master Plan is deficient in its obligatory analysis of potential environmental impacts that would result from the high impact activities. This is the basis of our lawsuits.
It is unfortunate that we need to resort to legal action, the first in our 19 years. but we have no choice. We’re not happy about this, but our shared community voice has been repeatedly ignored by DNR, and this action is necessary to uphold the democratic process in which many of us participated for many years, and by which DNR was able to secure the land on behalf of all of us, the state’s citizens.
You may view the actual petitions here:
If anybody wishes to discuss the lawsuit, they may contact our attorney, Brian Potts at Perkins Coie (608-663-7493; firstname.lastname@example.org), or contact Charlie Luthin, Executive Director for the Alliance (email@example.com; 608-358-7120).