DNR holds open houses for Sugar River Planning Group

The public will have an opportunity to contribute ideas and discuss the recreation and habitat management of a group of state fish, wildlife and natural area properties in south central Dane, eastern Green and western Rock counties.

The Department of Natural Resources is developing a master plan for these properties called the Sugar River Planning Group. Collectively, they contain 12,222 acres of fee title and easement lands with 10,579 acres in wildlife areas, 860 acres in fishery areas, 256 acres in Ice Age Trail lands and 527 acres in natural areas. In addition, there are 14 smaller Extensive Wildlife Habitat and Scattered Wildlife Land parcels (1,285 acres) included in this planning effort.

The properties include:
  • Albany Wildlife Area
  • Avon Bottoms Wildlife Area
  • Badfish Creek Wildlife Area
  • Brooklyn Wildlife Area
  • Evansville Wildlife Area
  • Grass Lake Wildlife Area
  • Liberty Creek Wildlife Area
  • Anthony Branch Fishery Area
  • Allen Creek Fishery Area
  • Hook Lake Bog State Natural Area
  • Montrose State Ice Age Trail Area
The master planning is also considering about 8,800 acres of leased lands in the Footville Public Hunting Grounds located in western Rock County.  These lands are leased through the Voluntary Public Access program and they represent about 40 percent of the acreage available for public hunting in this planning group.  These leases will expire between 2015-2017.

“These properties provide important recreational and ecological benefits to the region,” said Ed Jepsen, DNR property planner overseeing the master planning effort. “They provide convenient, high quality opportunities for a wide variety of outdoor recreation pursuits, especially for hunting and fishing and nature enjoyment, throughout the year.  These properties add to the quality of life of residents and contribute to our regional tourism industry.”

The open houses will be held:
  • Monday, June 30, Town of Dunn: 5 to 7 p.m. at the Town Hall, located at 4156 County Road B (parking is off Keenan Road).  This meeting will cover all the properties in the planning group, but will focus on the northern set of properties found in Dane County.
  • Tuesday, July 1, Brodhead: 5 to 7 p.m. at the Brodhead Memorial Public Library, located at 1207 25th St.  This meeting will cover all the properties also, but an emphasis will be placed on the properties in Green and Rock counties, especially Avon Bottoms Wildlife Area and the Footville Public Hunting Grounds.
The Sugar River planning group properties contain a trio of exceptional characteristics. The properties have ecologically diverse wetland and riparian corridors that provide vital habitat for game species as well as bats, herptiles, aquatic invertebrates and fish. The group also contains wet mesic prairie (Swenson Wet Prairie State Natural Area) and oak savanna (Avon Bottoms State Natural Area and other sites), all of which are globally rare communities. Lastly, this group of properties provides opportunities for conservation of grassland and forest birds that have been in steep decline in the Midwest.

Information about the properties, maps, and a preliminary vision and goals document are available by searching the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keywords “property master planning,” and clicking on the link for “Sugar River Planning Group” under master plans in progress.  These materials will be available at DNR’s central and regional offices and will be provided to the public libraries in Evansville, New Glarus, Monroe, Monticello, Albertson (Albany), Edgerton, Stoughton, Madison, Beloit, Oregon, Hedberg (Janesville) and Verona during the week of June 16.

Public input is welcomed throughout the master planning process.  Two formal comment periods are provided – one following the open house meetings on June 30 and July 1 and a second following the release of the draft master plan sometime during the coming winter.

The formal public comment period for the first phase of the planning period will close on Monday, July 14. 
Comments may be provided at the June 30 and July 1 open houses or submitted by mail or email to:  Ed Jepsen LF/6, Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, Box 7921 - Madison WI 53707 or edward.jepsen@wisconsin.gov