Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials are going through a second round of reviews to find state property that can be sold off and moved back to local ownership.
The sales are required under a provision in the 2013 state budget. DNR Deputy Director of Facilities and Lands Doug Haag says the department is looking for 10,000 total acres of land that they’re not using to sell off to fulfill that statute. “We have to make some decisions about which parcels we’ll sell and which parcels we’ll keep. And we’re confident our field staff will make really sound recommendations back to the department.”
Officials released a list of 118 land parcels that they’re looking at, which total around 8,288 acres. Haag says that while that sounds like a lot, it really isn’t in comparison with how much property the state actually owns. “Keeping in mind we own about 1.5 million acres of land, this really is kind of like cleaning out your garage for a sale.”
About 5,385 acres could be sold to the general public, 2,575 acres are being earmarked for becoming part of county forests, and another 325 acres may be going to tribal leadership. The properties being considered are those that are not connected to any other major state projects like the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest or the places where people come to use campsite facilities, so people don’t need to worry about losing use of recreation facilities.
Haag says part of that review process ensures that the land doesn’t have other uses at this point. “We do check in with county governments about snowmobile trail connectors and ATV trail connectors and things like that. So we’re very cautious about not selling something that plays a role in the recreation and natural resource interests of the public.”
Local municipalities, counties and tribal authorities will have the first pick of properties once they go on sale.
Funding from the sales will go to offset the debts in the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program which offers grants to purchase property for conservation purposes. State officials will be turning their findings over the Natural Resources board once they’re completed for public audit and review.
All of the sales need to be completed by June 30, 2017.
Raymond Neupert, WSAU