By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Conservationists are suing the state Department of Natural Resources over plans to allow rockets, motorcycles and hunting dog training at a southern Wisconsin recreation area.
The DNR’s master plan for the 3,000-acre Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area includes a blend of uses, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, snow-shoeing, hunting and bird watching. The plan also calls for creating a 2-acre site for model rocket clubs, motorcycle use on some trails and a 72-acre hunting dog training area. The DNR’s board is set to vote on the plan Wednesday.
The Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance wants to restore the area to native prairie and allow only quiet recreational activities. The group posted a news release on its website saying members feel betrayed by the master plan. The group filed a lawsuit Thursday in Sauk County challenging the plan, alleging the DNR lacks the authority to allow high-impact uses such as rockets, motorcycles and hunting dog training.
“These high-impact uses will harm important native plant and animal species, create a nuisance to neighbors, detrimentally impact other owners of the … property and property owners near the Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area, and create conflicts for users of the Area,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit contends the National Park Service granted the DNR the property subject to the DNR’s own preliminary plans to allow only low-impact activities in the area. The filing also alleges the DNR abused its discretion when it classified the property as a recreation area rather than a habitat management area and failed to report the environmental effects of high-impact uses such as air pollution, fire and noise.
The lawsuit demands a judge declare both the master plan and the area’s environmental impact statement unlawful and order the DNR to amend the plan to prohibit high-impact uses. No activity has been scheduled in the case according to online court records.
DNR spokesman Jim Dick said the agency typically doesn’t comment on pending or ongoing litigation.
The Sauk Prairie Recreation Area lies just south of Devil’s Lake State Park between Sauk City and Baraboo. The property is part of land that was once the Badger Army Ammunition Plant, a massive munitions factory. The plan was decommissioned in 1997 after producing smokeless gunpowder and rocket propellant during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
The National Park Service granted about 3,900 acres of the property to the DNR. The Ho-Chunk Nation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dairy Forage Research Center own the rest of the land.