The waiting game continues for all those concerned for the future of the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant near Baraboo, Wisconsin. The plant closed way back in 1975 and a final Badger Reuse Plan – emphasizing low-impact, nonmotorized recreation – was issued in 2001.
Public concern spiked again recently when, suddenly, a proposed rifle range and an ATV track appeared in one of the alternative plans put forward by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The deadline has since passed for public comment on the alternative plans for the state’s 3,400 acres of the 7,354-acre site just south of Devil’s Lake State Park and between the picturesque Baraboo Hills and the Wisconsin River.
The Badger Oversight Management Commission, in conjunction with the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance, backed the alternative which hews closest to the original reuse plan. Neither the reuse plan nor Alternative 4 set aside space for noisy activities that would conflict with the enjoyment of silent sports in the future Sauk Prairie Recreation Area.
“It’s too late in the game to turn the 2001 final Badger Reuse Plan on its head” and add a rifle range, stated an August 15 staff editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal. “Long-range rifle shooting would disturb visitors, neighbors and wildlife. That includes many people who live in the area who have already had to deal with lots of noise, groundwater contamination and unsightly buildings over decades.”
The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation is against a shooting range and ATVs that would disturb migrating songbirds. And the group Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger are concerned that ATV use could stir up contaminated soil still present on the site, According to Wisconsin Public Radio. Years of painstaking cleanup of spent ammunition and other pollutants continues.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has a 2,000-acre dairy forage research center at the site, opposes a shooting range and ATVs. On August 12, the Town of Sumpter Board also adopted Alternative 4 as its preference, “which is important,” said David Tremble of the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance, “because all of the high-impact uses proposed by the DNR would take place on a part of the property that lies completely within the Town of Sumpter. Local residents were not happy about the prospect of noisy ATVs and high powered rifle shots in their neighborhood.”
The DNR’s website states that “the ecological and recreational groupings (proposed in the alternative plans) are not all or nothing choices and that the comments received will be factored into the next step in the process, writing of a draft master plan.”
Let’s hope the plan doesn’t change course from the quiet and nonmotorized one so many people have envisioned for so long.