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WDNR: Ensure a Conservation Future for the Sauk Prairie on the former Badger Lands

This petition had 1,339 supporters

The Badger Army Ammunition Plant, built in 1942, occupied over 7,300 acres of the historic Sauk Prairie, once some of the finest tall-grass prairie/oak savanna and agricultural land in the State of Wisconsin. Today, Badger’s 1,400 buildings and other structures have nearly all been removed, and the great former prairie lies vast and silent again at the base of the ancient Baraboo Hills, below Devil’s Lake State Park, along the protected scenic valley of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. This remarkable landscape has become an important home to declining grassland birds and to a host of recovering species of native plants and animals.

In 2001, following years of contentious debate and a fully public and inclusive collaborative process, a consensus finally emerged on how the unique and irreplaceable natural and cultural values of this place could best be protected and enhanced. That consensus is recorded as the Final Report of the Badger Reuse Committee (the Badger Reuse Plan), signed by representatives of local, state, federal and tribal governments, area business interests, farmers, landowners and conservation organizations. The Badger Reuse Plan was approved overwhelmingly by the Sauk County Board of Supervisors in April 2001.

Most of the Badger property will be owned in perpetuity by the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, and possibly the Ho-Chunk Nation, all of whom signed the Badger Reuse Plan. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is currently developing a Master Plan, as required by law, to provide specific guidance over the future uses and management of its portion of the Badger property, the proposed Sauk Prairie Recreation Area (SPRA). The Badger Reuse Plan calls for the land to be used for a mix of education and research, restoration, agriculture and low-impact recreational activities. Key management goals identified by the WDNR in its planning efforts include:

·         maximize the potential for grassland and oak savanna restoration;

·         preserve and enhance the transition zone between the Baraboo Hills and the Badger prairie lands;

·         preserve and enhance the ecological corridor from the Baraboo Hills to the Wisconsin River.

Laudable and appropriate as these objectives are, recent public statements by WDNR representatives indicate a shift away from the core values and recommendations of the Badger Reuse Plan, and raise the possibility that Badger could become the location for such high-impact, “non-traditional” activities as all-terrain motorized vehicle trails, high-powered rifle ranges, and model rocketry. It remains a mystery where the push for these activities has come from. These late-arriving and unwelcome suggestions are contrary to the long-standing support by WDNR leaders for the consensus values expressed in the Badger Reuse Plan. They also ignore nearly fifteen years of open, collaborative community action in support of a conservation-oriented future for Badger. It was this collaboration that brought the Badger Reuse Plan into being, and that ultimately enabled the state of Wisconsin to acquire 3,800 acres of the Badger property from the federal government at no cost to the taxpayers.

In response, We, the undersigned, fully support the consensus vision for the Badger property as expressed in the Badger Reuse Plan. This vision is clearly reiterated in the land transfer agreement between the U.S. National Park Service and the WDNR, and explicitly limits future uses and management of the Badger property for conservation, restoration, ecological research, education, sustainable agriculture and low-impact recreation.

We demand that the Wisconsin DNR and the Natural Resources Board faithfully adhere to the values and recommendations of the Badger Reuse Plan and to the terms of its 2005 agreement with the National Park Service, ensuring a conservation future for the Sauk Prairie on the Badger lands.

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