Wisconsin forest conservation, DNR's $15M plan blocked

Members of the Wisconsin Legislature's finance committee have blocked a state Department of Natural Resources plan to spend $15.5 million on a conservation easement to preserve 56,000 acres of northern Wisconsin forest.

The purchase would have been the largest land conservation effort in state history, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

The DNR's policy board signed off on the deal in October, agreeing to spend about $10.8 million in federal forest legacy dollars on the project with about $4 million coming from the state's stewardship fund.

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But state Sen. Mary Felzkowski, an Irma Republican who sits on the finance committee, said Thursday that she and other committee members whom she declined to name have objected to using state money for the project.

She told Wisconsin Public Radio that the easement would mean the 56,000 acres could never be developed. She added that public land is already abundant in northern Wisconsin and local governments have concerns about lack of housing and land availability.

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""You cannot continuously take property up north and take it off the tax rolls, take it away from the private (sector), and take it away from individuals," she said. "We cannot afford to keep services up north."

Republican legislators generally oppose taking blocks of private land off the tax rolls.