The federal agency enabling the transfer of former Badger Army Ammunition Plant lands to the State of Wisconsin has cited dozens of deficiencies in its proposed land use plan. The May 3 letter from the National Park Service has prompted an argumentative reply from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that does not promise the requested amendments, placing pending land transfers in jeopardy.
In order for the State to receive excess federal property, the DNR requires a willing federal sponsor – in this case, the National Park Service (NPS). In late 2015, the DNR submitted its draft Master Plan to NPS and asked for its comments.
“As you know, lands deeded through the Federal Lands to Parks program must be solely for public parks and recreation, and used according to the Program of Utilization (POU) submitted as part of your application,” the NPS wrote to DNR. “In reviewing the proposed master plan, we noted several proposed uses that were not in the original application.”
However, the DNR maintains that controversial land uses – including rocketry and dual-sport motorcycle use – meet the intent of using the Badger property for low impact recreation and therefore meet the intent of the POU. “As such, there is not a need to amend or change the POU,” the DNR’s June 8 letter contends.
The NPS letter stipulates that these changes not only require an amendment to the POU, but that the DNR must also disclose impacts from those uses consistent with federal environmental laws and policies including the National Environmental Policy Act.
“We believe the document does not provide sufficient presentation, analysis and discussion of expected or potential impacts, and we find it difficult to relate the proposed uses in relation to where they are proposed to occur on site relative to what resources are there,” NPS emphasized.
Instead of offering to provide the requested information, the DNR asserts that NPS is “free to conduct additional data gathering and evaluation” of its own.
DNR not only rebuffs NPS concerns about the lack of documentation on a possible gun range, it asserts that NPS should be prepared for this and other future deviations from its current land use plan.
In terms of next steps, DNR told NPS that it expects to finish revising the final draft Master Plan and final environmental impact statement soon and will forward it to the Natural Resources Board for their consideration. “We will send you a copy as well,” DNR quipped.