Alliant Energy shuts out hunters on 2,900 acres

Correspondent

Portage, Wis. One of Wisconsin’s largest utility companies has
cited workplace violence as justification to close nearly 3,000
acres of land to hunting.

Alliant Energy will enforce a no-hunting policy for its land
around the Columbia Energy Center near the confluence of the
Baraboo River, Duck Creek and the Wisconsin River, just south of
Portage. The corporation has operated the facility and its roughly
2,900 acres since 1975, and has heretofore allowed public hunting
on the property since that time.

While local hunters expressed outrage at the move, Alliant
officials say it’s not about hunting.

“The issue was one of safety and consistency, not an
anti-hunting stance,” said Dan Presser, Alliant Energy spokesman.
“Alliant Energy prohibits the possession of weapons on company
property or in company vehicles.

“Under the guidance of this policy, weapons are considered to be
guns, bows, knives, clubs or other devices capable of propelling a
device that would cause great bodily harm, or any other device that
could be termed an assault weapon.”

The comments angered Columbia County duck, goose and deer
hunters, who have enjoyed the property’s remote bottomlands with
streams and potholes, along with some upland wooded areas. One
local hunter, speaking on the condition of anonymity, describes
hunting on the property.

“I’ve hunted the Columbia power plant land for waterfowl for
over 22 years,” he said. “We have enjoyed hunting potholes and a
stream flowing through the property and have harvested woodies,
mallards, pintail, scaup, ring-necks, widgeon, gadwall, blue- and
green-winged teal, a ruddy, a canvasback, and Canada geese.

“We’ve just begun taking our sons and have appreciated the
non-crowded conditions and regardless of duck numbers have had
great hunting. It’s a rough spot to get to walk in with waders
three-quarters to 11/2 miles carrying decoys, or canoeing. We hunt
more than a mile from any work activities. We’ve never seen anybody
but hunters back there,” he said.

Presser said he understands the hunters’ pain, but doesn’t
foresee any sudden change in the policy.

“This was a very difficult decision for Alliant Energy
management,” he Presser said. “Many of our employees, including
members of our leadership team, are avid hunters. Like other
hunters in the general public, they are disappointed by this loss
of this land for hunting.”

Still, Presser says Alliant didn’t act to frustrate hunters.

“The decision was pro-safety, not anti-hunting,” he said. “If we
don’t act to consistently enforce the policy on all Alliant Energy
property and a tragedy occurs, we are open to criticism, possible
legal action, and most important, the potential loss of life.

“If we do not allow our employees to have weapons on Alliant
Energy property, it is extremely difficult to allow the general
public to have them on our property.”

The Columbia County site may just be the tip of the iceberg,
according to Presser.

“All Alliant Energy property is impacted,” he said.

While he said he didn’t have information on Alliant’s total
acreage in Wisconsin at press time, Presser acknowledged the
company is a major landowner in the state.

“Alliant Energy – WPL has 10 generating stations and 350
substations in the state,” he said.

According to its web site, Alliant Energy Corporation is an
international energy-service provider, but its corporate offices
are in Madison. Alliant has more than 1.2 million customers in
Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The utility’s service area
covers 54,000 square miles in the Midwest and includes 9,700 miles
of electric transmission lines and 8,000 miles of natural gas
pipelines.

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