DNR seeks input for management of public lands

Posted December 8, 2022

The state Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comments up until Dec. 23 for its master plan in the Western Coulees and Ridges region of Wisconsin.

“The public involvement piece is very important,” said Yoyi Steele, a property planner for the Wisconsin DNR. “These are public lands, and they belong to everybody. It is very appropriate to ask the public how they think of the properties and what they would like to see.”

Steele is one of the head planners for the region. The Western Coulees and Ridges region encompasses 167,000 acres and 22 separate counties, including Pierce and St. Croix counties, according to the DNR.

Among the properties are places like the Bay City Mine State Natural Area and the Plum Creek Woods State Natural Area, both in Pierce County.

“Some of them (properties in the Western Coulees and Ridges region) have these rare and significant resources in places you don’t find in the rest of the state, sometimes in the rest of the world,” Steele said.

The master plan “lays out how a group of properties are managed, developed, and used,” Steele said.

Each master plan the DNR undergoes is meant to last 10-15 years, according to Steele. The master plan will be broken up into three phases.

“We are just at the beginning,” Steele said, “This is our first formal public involvement opportunity.”

In the first phase of planning, the DNR will take public opinion on the properties within the region. Two public presentations on the master plan, posted on the Wisconsin DNR website, took place Nov. 16 at UW-Eau Claire and Nov. 17 at UW-Platteville. Public opinion can also be sent online or mailed, or individuals can contact Steele directly at the number provided on the department’s website, she stated.

The second phase of planning is the draft phase, according to Steele.

“That is where the comments will be considered… and we consider that input when we prepare that draft plan,” she said. Steel noted that the draft phase would likely last throughout 2023.

The third and final phase would be the finalization and implementation of the draft onto the properties, according to Steele.

In every phase the DNR will post the draft and ask for public input, Steele noted.

“We try to engage the public in a robust and meaningful way as we put these plans together,” she said.