The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

County board throws support behind land easement


May 29, 2019


Hurley — The Iron County Board of Supervisors expressed its support for a proposed easement expanding access for recreation in the county, passing a resolution in support of the easement purchase Tuesday.

The resolution supports the proposed Great Northern Conservation Access Easement agreement between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Keweenaw Land Association, which would involve more than 14,000 acres in the towns of Carey, Knight and Mercer.

The state’s Natural Resources Board approved purchasing the easement earlier this year, but the purchase still needs to be approved by the state’s Joint Finance Committee before going to Gov. Tony Evers.

Keweenaw President and CEO Mark Sherman told the board the approval process has slowed somewhat since the measure got sent to Joint Finance and the hope is the resolution will kickstart its progress.

“There’s not necessarily a lot of opposition, but it’s currently on hold,” Sherman said. “That’s why we’ve come to the Iron County board, asking for your support. So we can take this down to Madison and show we have local support from you folks.”

If approved, the agreement would have the DNR purchase a permanent easement for recreation purposes on 14,352 acres of land in the three Iron County towns for approximately $4.8 million.

The agreement would include 16 miles of roads within the property’s boundaries, as well as money to maintain them.

The purchase would be funded through the state’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund.

“We have monies specifically for the purchase of conservation easements, so this fell right within that statutorial right,” DNR real estate section chief Jim Lemke told the Daily Globe in March.

Although the public would have access to the property for hunting, fishing and other silent sports; Keweenaw would still maintain ownership of the property.

“It remains a working forest and it remains on the tax rolls,” said former Keweenaw CEO Brian Glodowski, who spoke in support of the purchase.

The property is primarily forested woodlands and contains 3.25 miles of classified trout streams, according to Lemke, as well as 13.91 miles of other streams. There are also a number of lakes on the property as well — including Fifteen Lake and Little Moose Lake.

If the easement purchase is approved, Lemke said the property would connect with adjoining public lands. These include the 13,805-acre Twin Lakes forest legacy easement acquired in 2014 to the west and the Moose Lake State Natural Area to the east.

“All together, with these projects being contiguous as they are, there’s 32,000 acres of continuous land that are open to the public through state ownership,” Lemke said.

In other action:

—Department of Human Services Director Cally Kilger explained some of the department’s high service costs that board members have questioned in recent months, including the purchase of a therapy dog. Kilger said the dog was a service dog — rather than an emotional support dog — and the county would reimbursed for the cost through a state program. She also reassured the board that the department had to complete several levels of approval — including a doctor’s authorization — before it could make the purchase to ensure it was truly needed.

—The board retroactively approved several purchases, including: two cars for county employees, a new chiller for the courthouse and the necessary Spillman software upgrade for the sheriff’s department. The purchases had been approved by various committees, but Iron County Clerk Michael Saari said the county’s auditor wanted the full county board to sign off on these types of purchases going forward.


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