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Natural Resources Board adopts Master Plan for Columbia County state owned lands

News Release Published: December 12, 2012 by the South Central Region

Contact(s): Bob Manwell (608) 275-3317

FITCHBURG ,WI. - The Natural Resources Board today approved a group master plan proposed by the Department of Natural Resources for 19 wildlife, fishery and natural areas lying mostly within Columbia County. The plan directs management and development activities on a total of 24,107 acres for the next 15 years.

"These are public lands and public involvement is key in crafting master plans," said Eric Lobner, DNR southern district wildlife supervisor and one of the plan's drafters.

"Nearly 100 people participated in two open house meetings and over 110 comments on a wide variety of habitat and recreation issues were received from landowners, sporting groups, local officials and other agency staff.

"Throughout the planning process, there was significant interest and involvement in the plan with the vast majority of the comments very positive on the future direction of the properties. The majority of state-owned lands covered in this master plan are wildlife areas."

The lands are popular destinations for hunters and anglers.

"Hunters from 60 Wisconsin counties harvested deer in Columbia County in 2010 and 2011," said Lobner in addressing the board, "and of the 8 trout streams in Columbia County portions of 7 run through these properties."

Both brook and brown trout are found in the streams which include 4 miles of high quality Class I waters capable of sustaining naturally reproducing trout populations and require no stocking to maintain the fishery. Several areas also support warm water sport fishing opportunities for northern pike, walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass and panfish.

Snowmobiling, birding, wildlife watching, canoeing, hiking and dog walking are also possible with several properties designated as Important Bird Areas.

"Master plans address much more than just habitat," according to Lobner, "the plan adopted today calls for infrastructure improvements in the form of additional parking lots and access points and informational signage at popular jumping off points." Acreage plans

Included in the plan are 19 proposed project boundary extensions to the wildlife, fishery and natural areas and authority to purchase up to 2,910 acres for the extended areas should lands become available from willing sellers. The additional acres would improve public access by bringing project boundaries out to roads, connect isolated parcels and minimize non-compatible development on property boundaries. In addition, the added acreage will provide additional grassland acreage adjacent to the existing wetlands on the property which has the potential to increase waterfowl and grassland nesting bird production while expanding hunting opportunities, specifically pheasants.

"The lands also provide critical habitat for 24 state endangered or threatened plant and animal species and for numerous special concern species. Protecting habitat for special concern species is key to keeping them off endangered and threatened lists and the regulatory concerns that come with being listed," said Lobner.

In a first step toward acquiring the additional acreage the board in a separate action approved purchase of 62 acres from Paul and Marilyn Thompson for $228,000 for addition to the French Creek Wildlife Area. The purchase proposal now goes to the legislature for oversight and approval before the deal is final.

Maps, air photos, activity listings and other public lands information are available on the DNR website dnr.wi.us using the search words, "Explore Outdoors" and select Columbia County from the dropdown list of counties.

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Last Revised: Wednesday, December 12, 2012