The state Natural Resources Board has signed-off on a controversial land swap agreement with a major donor to Governor Scott Walker.
The deal gives Elizabeth Uihlein about 1.75 acres of lakefront property in Manitowish Waters, in exchange for over 42.7 acres of lake-access property in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. The state had originally proposed to sell the land to Uihlein last fall, which is adjacent to an 11-unit condo development she owns that currently lacks lake access. However, the sale was dropped amid criticism that it was being sold without bids for less than its appraised value.
Uihlein and her husband have donated millions to Republican candidates, including donations directed at Walker’s presidential bid.
During a meeting in Ashland Wednesday, board member Dr. Fred Prehn called the exchange a good deal for the state. “This 42 acres, I walked it…it’s not junk land. So…in this particular case, the state is much better than when they asked us to sell it for cash last year.”
The board unanimously approved the deal Wednesday, despite concerns raised by tribal officials and several thousand people who signed a petition. Critics say the deal could limit public access to Rest Lake and goes against state land stewardship policies.