Doyle completes land purchase in Northland

Madison Forested land that could have become developed as real
estate instead became part of a state forest and state park on
Wednesday, Jan. 19 when Gov. Jim Doyle approved spending $4.4
million on 2,821 acres in four northern counties.

Of the purchase total, the state will receive $905,000 in
federal funds from the North American Wetland Conservation Act.
Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund provided $3,520,500 in
funding and helped leverage the federal money.

A total of 1,187 acres from this purchase helps “block in” state
ownership within the Northern Highland-American Legion (NH-AL)
State Forest, according to Dick Steffes, a DNR real estate official
in Madison. The four parcels that make up the NH-AL’s 1,187 acres
include a 750-acre parcel in the town of Winchester in Vilas County
that has 12,900 feet of the Turtle River running through it. Three
more parcels were purchased in Oneida County, for the American
Legion portion of the NH-AL.

The land purchase in Ashland County includes 626 acres on the
north side of Copper Falls State Park near Mellen. That acreage
includes 6,000 feet of the Bad River. Steffes said the North
Country Trail will be routed through that parcel.

The rest of the land lies within Bayfield County, in various
parcels, including 454 acres that “blocks in” the Bibon Swamp
Natural Area, and includes White River frontage.

Other scattered parcels are along trout streams that flow into
Lake Superior, including Fish Creek, Cranberry River, Flag River,
Sioux River, and Pike’s Creek.

“All of these lands are open for public hunting, fishing, and
trapping and will be managed for forestry purposes, most likely big
trees,” Steffes said.

Steffes said the 626 acres added to Copper Falls State Park
would not immediately be open to hunting, fishing, and trapping,
unless Copper Falls already has a special season established.

“We can’t hunt in state parks without special regulations that
create special seasons for a particular park,” he said.

The Natural Resources Board gave its approval for the DNR to
pursue the purchase during its December meeting. The DNR was
negotiating with Plum Creek Timber Company, a private land holding
company. Plum Creek had a goal of closing the deal by Jan. 19.

“We did that,” Steffes said.

“I’m pleased we were able to partner with the Plum Creek Timber
Company to make this important purchase,” Doyle said. “From the
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, to the Bibon Swamp
Natural Area, to the South Shore Lake Superior Fisheries Area, the
land we’re purchasing with funding from the Knowles-Nelson
Stewardship Fund will protect four natural areas across our state
for generations to come.”

“Plum Creek was pleased to work with the state of Wisconsin in
the sale of this important land to accommodate public interest in
conservation and recreation,” said Rick Holley, president and chief
executive officer of Plum Creek Timber Company.

Plum Creek still owns about 500,000 acres in the state, much of
which the company bought from paper companies like Packaging
Corporation or Stora Enso. Plum Creek is one of the largest private
landowners in the nation, with about 8 million acres in
timber-producing regions of the U.S. The company also owns 10 wood
products manufacturing facilities in the Northwest.

“We picked out parcels that would block in well with existing
state projects,” Steffes said.

The purchase:

Includes 2,821 mostly forested acres (parcels in various
locations) in Vilas, Oneida, Ashland, and Bayfield counties;

Adds 1,187 acres to the Northern Highland-American Legion State
Forest, blocking in current holdings and assuring a contiguous
forest for long-term forest health;

Adds 626 acres to Copper Falls State Park;

Also blocks in and adds key parcels at the South Shore Lake
Superior Fisheries Area and Bibon Swamp Natural Area;

Includes more than 30,000 feet of river frontage on the Turtle
River (in the NH-AL), White River in Bayfield County, Bad River in
Ashland County, and a variety of other streams like Fish Creek and
Cranberry River, which have salmon and trout spawning runs from
Lake Superior;

Aligns with the national North Country Trail that passes through
the Copper Falls area.

“Through the stewardship program, we are able to preserve our
precious rivers, lakes, forests, and lands for future generations
to enjoy,” Doyle said. “This bipartisan program has been a
long-standing commitment to protect some of Wisconsin’s best
remaining natural and recreational lands for our children and
grandchildren. I am committed to protecting stewardship so we can
continue to preserve sensitive lands like the Copper Falls State
Park throughout the state.”

Since taking office, Doyle has used $70.4 million of the
Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund and associated match money to buy
and protect more than 45,000 acres of land for forests, parks,
wildlife, and natural areas, in 155 projects across 66
counties.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund program began on July 1,
1990, and in its more than 14 years, the DNR has used the fund to
buy about 280,000 acres.

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