Alliance Lawsuit– What’s Up?
In December 2016, the Natural Resources Board approved the final Master Plan for the Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area proposed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The Master Plan allowed for a variety of “high impact” activities on the newly established state property, including dual-sport (off-road) motorcycles, dog training & trialing and even military helicopter training over and on state property! The Alliance promptly sued DNR for inappropriate and–we feel–illegal inclusions in the Master Plan.
It’s been awhile since we provided an update on our lawsuit against DNR. Why? Because there wasn’t much activity for awhile! Finally we have some news. We didn’t fare well in circuit or federal court (2017-2018), but we were granted a “contested case hearing” in front of an administrative judge. This allowed us opportunity to depose DNR staff to ask important questions about the process, then present our witnesses and arguments in front of the administrative judge. The photo shows the pile of boxes used by our attorneys to house the countless documents used to challenge the DNR.
Over four days in mid-January, our 11 witnesses presented very strong testimonies arguing that the high impact recreation activities proposed by DNR would have detrimental impacts to wildlife and the quality of recreational experiences on the recreation area. Furthermore, it became clear that DNR acted against the will of the Badger Reuse Committee, Badger Oversight and Management Commission (BOMC), the Ho-Chunk Nation, Dairy Forage Research Center and the Nonmotorized Recreation and Transportation Trails Council by including high impact activities in its final plan. The planning process failed to involve these many stakeholders as decisions were made secretly and autocratically by the agency.
The administrative law judge does NOT make a ruling. He will compile and certify all testimony, exhibits, and other documents from the hearing. Our attorneys will prepare a brief to outline our arguments for the Natural Resources Board. DNR will also prepare a recommendation for the Natural Resources Board. This process will take approximately 3 months. The Natural Resources Board will review all these materials and vote on whether to re-approve the Master Plan or recommend changes (probably at a meeting during the summer).
The Natural Resources Board may require modifications of the DNR’s Master Plan for the Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area. If they ignore our case and do not require modifications, we can then appeal through the courts again, this time entering the entire body of materials and our arguments into the record.
Follow the link, below, for a more complete summary of the contested case hearing.