BY MIKE MCFADZEN
DNR plans to add ATVs to Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Area raises objections
Members of the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage and Trude Lakes Property Owners Association are raising objections about a proposed ATV trail claiming it violates the DNR’s own rules. The DNR announced in June 2018, that they would file an amendment to the Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area Master Plan to add the ATV trail. According to the rules that govern state land management, the association asserts the DNR should have to complete a master plan revision, which is a more substantial process to add ATVs to the property.
State land management – Wisconsin Admin Code 44
Code 44 dictates that a master plan revision is required when there is a change in goals or objectives for the property, such as adding ATVs. A master-plan amendment is a change in management classification without a change in the goals and objectives. The current master plan doesn’t allow ATV use on the property. The DNR appears to be short-cutting its own process, according to Tom Mowbray, the Association’s Treasurer.
“If this attempt is successful, it will set a very bad precedent for other state land plans,” Mobray told Silent Sports. “There are valid reasons the process and rules of NR44 were written. The DNR is attempting to re-write state land plans without public comment.”
The current master plan doesn’t allow ATVs in the Scenic Waters Area, but they are allowed on nearby public roads.
The association cites various data that additional ATV trails are not in the public’s interest, including the 2016-2020 Iron County Outdoor Recreation Plan which shows only 21 percent of 500 respondents felt additional ATV trails were needed.
The proposed route would be sited on 30 acres traversing private lands, Iron County Forest and a small portion of the Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Area. The route would be 4 to 5 miles long with cost estimates over $100,000. Public comment on the proposed ATV trail ended July 10.
According to Mowbray, one of the initial goals of NR 44 was to have a process that enables users to recreate in a compatible manner.
“Many people built homes and moved to the Turtle Flambeau area to connect with nature, not expecting to have ATV trails right here,” said Mowbray.
Mowbray noted that on a recent summer weekend, ATV noise caused Loons to give distress calls.
“Over 50 percent of association members own ATVs and the general membership is still opposed to the trail,” he added. “From what I can see, the state is looking for a way around the NR44 rules, similar to what happened at Blue Mound.”
In 2017, the DNR attempted to site a snowmobile through Blue Mound State Park which was ultimately denied by court action.
DNR Parks and Recreation Director Ben Bergy disagrees with the association’s assessment.
“The proposed trail takes ATV traffic away from homes and the flowage quicker,” said Bergy. “It will be better for the people who live in that area. We (DNR) are not changing the goals and objectives of the master plan by adding a small trail connector. There is no significant change in how the property is being managed.”
Bergy feels it would be an improvement. DNR Parks Planner John Pohlman, doesn’t think the trail will have a significant impact.
“The trail is about a half mile on the Turtle Flambeau Scenic Area property – other options were more intrusive,” Pohlman noted. “This is something Iron County requested from the DNR.”
DNR master planning
The DNR is entering a new phase in master-plan development. The Recreational Opportunity Assessment (ROA) paved the way to perform state-land planning in an accelerated manner. Many park users support the change due to the backlog of 180 state property master plans. In the past, master plans were done collaboratively with volunteer citizen committees comprised of user groups assisting in the process. I co-chaired the Kettle Moraine Master Plan which took two years to complete, finally being approved in 1991. I’m dating myself here; one of the most controversial components of the Kettle Moraine plan was allowing mountain bikes in state forests. The new planning process is more internal – employing professional planners, as compared to bringing in user groups and public comment sessions to vet options. Public hearings and DNR board approvals are still necessary.
The Natural Resources Board will be reviewing the Turtle Flambeau issue at its September 2018 meeting. Aside from the legal wrangling, some question whether this trail opens the door to more motorized use on this pristine property. There are currently hundreds of miles of ATV trails and routes nearby.
The Turtle Flambeau Scenic Area is located in Iron County in far, north central Wisconsin. It encompasses 35,500 acres of public land with nearly 19,000 acres of water, containing 195 islands and 300 miles of shoreline. For more information on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage and Trude Lake Property Owners Association, visit tfftl.org.