Sheboygan resident Jim Buchholz, former superintendent of Kohler-Andrea State Park and a DNR employee for 36 years, said the DNR's approval process in this case was sloppy. "I feel the DNR's preliminary wetland approval for allowing the destruction of rare globally significant wetland area does not follow the agency's own wetland preservation standards," he said. "I also feel the public has not been given adequate information of the significance or scope of wetlands that will be altered or filled by the Kohler development."There are no other (rare ridge and swale wetlands) like it in Sheboygan County or anywhere else in the state."
This summarizes everything you need to know about the wetlands issue, taking of public state park lands, the questionable land swap and more.
FRBF Update, 6/8/18
Donation of land from Kohler article, Dec. 1965
When Walter J. Kohler, former governor of Wisconsin headed the company, their famly had decided to preserve the large forest and dunes area intact for public use. "In fact, he said, the land was acquired for this very purpose--to preserve this very interesting area just as nature left it..."
Opponents, Supporters Spend Hours Debating Kohler Wetlands Permit, WIsconsin Public Radio story, June 8, 2018
Running southward from the mouth of the Black River is an extensive area of virgin timber. Large, stately pines predominate, but there are other trees, shrubs and vegetation in the area, which makes the section one that inspires the nature-lover. Sheboygan Press article, 5/21/18
In February, 2018, Friends of the Black River Forest submitted a Petition for a Contested Case hearing (Petition) to review the decision. On March 19 the DNR granted the request for a hearing and certified the following issues for hearing: 1 . Whether the permit satisfies the standards in Wis. Stat. 281.36; 2. Whether the Department had sufficient information to consider the standards; 3. Whether the public had sufficient information to comment on the standards; 4, Whether the mitigation required under the statute compensates for adverse impacts to wetlands.
Wetland Permit Issued to Kohler from DNR, Jan. 2018
Monsanto displays a claim on its Roundup product label that states that the chemicals in the product “targets an enzyme bound in plants but not in people or pets,” when, in fact, the chemical adversely affects beneficial bacteria essential to the gut biome and normal body functions.
Judge invalidates controversial permit for sand fracking
A state administrative law judge on 5/4 invalidated a permit by the DNR for a controversial sand processing plant in western Wisconsin, saying the agency lacked adequate information when it approved the project.
Radio Interview on WORT: Mary Faydash speaks about the Friends of the Black River Forest's efforts to protect Kohler-Andrae State Park and the group's three legal challenges against the DNR.
Attorney Christa Westerberg, who represents the Friends of the Black River Forest, said the 4.7 acres of wetlands that could be destroyed are important. "They are rare in Wisconsin and in some cases, across the globe, and provide habitat to species that are not very common," Westerberg said, adding the DNR usually doesn't issue a permit for this sort of wetlands project and she's worried about the precedent. 3/22/18
Construction of the proposed Kohler Co. golf course has been put on hold by the Wisconsin DNR until a review of the wetlands permit has been made. 3/20/18
Environmentalists applaud landmark Indiana Supreme Court Decision which ensures better protection of Lake Michigan and critical shoreline habitat. The decision is the most expansive state affirmation of the public trust doctrine along the Great Lakes shoreline, firmly putting the state’s Lake Michigan shore lands into public, not private, ownership.
Among other things, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board - - the DNR's 'oversight' body now dominated by Walker appointees and the 'chamber of commerce mentality' direction he installed atop the DNR from the first day of his administration - - granted a powerful Walker donor (Kohler Co.) the access rights he'd sought to public acreage inside a popular Lake Michigan shoreline state park.
What water, wetland protection is all about, according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1960
"A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist. Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin Supreme Court in its 1960 opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC and buttressing The Public Trust Doctrine, Article IX of the Wisconsin State Constitution.
The DNR staff lied, misled and omitted significant information in its push to give Kohler our important Kohler Andrae State Park land. Here is the link to the hearing. The Land Swap agenda item begins at 45.36
Hoping to overcome opposition to a golf course along Lake Michigan, Kohler Co. and the DNR have struck a tentative deal to trade properties that will give Kohler ownership of a small parcel in Kohler-Andrae State Park next to the planned course. 2/16/18
The land swap will allow the DNR to bypass amending the Kohler Andre State Park master plan and effectively take away the public’s opportunity to comment at a public hearing. By creating a smoke screen to conceal the real issues, the DNR is flaunting the land swap as good deal. This is NOT a good deal for the residents of Wisconsin. The DNR is using their authority to take away YOUR State Park land.
Natural Resources Board Meeting Highlights, Jan 24, 2018
The state DNR board declined to grant the agency blanket approval to change pre-1996 State Park master plans.
Letter to Kohler Co. from DNR, from March 2013
No more traffic through state park! "The Department's apprehension to any proposed relocation of your northerly guest entrance stems from serious concerns we have about traffic backups that may occur for both our state park guests, as well as your clientele. Park traffic can be very heavy at times...."
Documents posted Jan., 2018
DNR Watch Summary of Whistling Straits violations
"The average citizen could go to jail for these infractions or at least be required to come into compliance by undoing an illegal construction."
Letter to NRB Chairman - Don't take State Parks for private developers
Documents released Wednesday by the state DNR show wetlands losses, expected surges in congestion for a nearby state park and potential harm to water resources, including Lake Michigan.
The bill was prompted by another piece of legislation two years ago that would have made it easier for landowners to excavate and potentially develop Indian mounds. The original bill made tribal leaders realize that many lawmakers didn't know how sacred the mounds are.
The Natural Resources Board published the agenda for its Jan. 24 meeting and added a DNR request signed Jan. 8, 2018 which proposes ignoring the rules regarding State Parks Master Plans written before 1996. It would have been illegal to amend the park master plan since the ordinance has the force of law (which FBRF pointed out in a letter to the Board from our attorney). We thought the Governor's, the City of Sheboygan's, local politicians' and Kohler's deviousness and collusion couldn't get worse. It has. Now, an agency asks to change the rules to accommodate giveaways of our land to well-connected businesses, Wisconsin residents’ land, air and water are under assault and we have to fight back. Read more and get names of people to contact here.
Kohler golf course could set precedent making any state park fair game If the state approves using state park lands for a privately owned development, we are likely crossing a line in which there is no turning back. Almost any state park, forest, wildlife refuge will be fair game for future development. ~Michael McFadzen, Policy Chairperson for Friends of Wisconsin State Parks (FWSP). There are over 80 Friends groups.
Proposed golf development contradicts Kohler-Andrae State Park’s purpose . According to PEOPLE, published by Kohler Organization, Dec. 30, 1965: “In fact,” Kohler said, “the land was originally acquired by the company for this very purpose, to preserve this very interesting area just as nature left it and to place it at the disposal of the public as a recreational center that can be utilized by all for generations to come.”
DNR Reports “Common Themes,” No Build Alternative is only option While the DNR did not feel they had to report a list of common concerns regarding Kohler’s proposed golf course to Friends of the Black River Forest, they did report them to Kohler. In an email from the DNR to Kohler Company, the DNR reported the common themes they received from the Public at the Public Meeting in Sheboygan in August. The opposition to the Golf Course is overwhelming. See more.
DNR expert slams GOP bill he says would roll back hazardous air regulations This is a must read article about a current DNR expert who is speaking out about the health impacts from the removal of monitors. Jeff Myers, who has worked at the agency for 28 years and is an expert in air pollution toxicology, told the Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations in Madison on Nov. 21 that he was speaking as a private citizen. “If this bill is passed, emissions of hazardous air pollutants will go up,” Myers said. “If emissions go up, exposure will increase and therefore, Wisconsin residents will be at greater risk of adverse health effects.”
Annotated Draft EIS
In an amazingly Kohler-centered Updated Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the DNR has shown it expects to approve a wetland permit application for the proposed Kohler golf course because it has been told to. There is no other explanation for the lack of scientific data. FBRF has annotated the DEIS which you can access at this link.
Interview on Lake Effect on WUWM radio:
"It's pretty clear that there's a disconnect between the reality of what's going on and what's being revealed in the Impact Analysis Statement," Dr. Quentin Carpenter. (The segment starts at 17:00.) 11/30/17
No public hearing needed for permit to discharge dredged material or fill in wetlands. 10/3/17
FRBF Letter to Army Corps of Engineers, May, 2017
DNR Board asked to STOP the proposed changes to our state park master plan. The plan cannot be amended for Kohler’s objectives as a matter of law. FBRF has also asked for an audit of state employee's hours on this private project. And the DNR has misrepresented the impacts of the Kohler easement requests. 9/27/17
Has Herbert V. Kohler, Jr. Gone too Far? thoughts from FBRF
Kohler provides missing information to DNR for Wetland Permit Application - prepared by Stantec Consulting Services Inc., Aug. 2017.
Commentary on Stantec response to DNR's Request for missing info: If Kohler wishes to build another 'world class golf course' I am sure that they could find an already-disturbed farm of 200+ acres in Sheboygan or southern Manitowoc Counties. Although not pristine, this area still has great conservation and natural area value, recognized decades ago by all including the Kohler family. Another world-class golf course is feasible to create in many settings but creating a replacement for the features in this natural area is impossible. This cannot be a “win-win” situation as stated early in the review process; if Kohler wins, the natural area loses. ~ Dr. Quentin Carpenter, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, UW-Madison
JOHN MICHAEL KOHLER'S HEALING FOREST? - An Alternative Sustainable Vision Board - It could enrich the Kohler family name, the state park, and would be beneficial to the community for future generations. To help them achieve their own vision to be 100% sustainable, to solve world wide water problems and to be a steward of the environment.
DNR to Kohler Co. - Wetland application is incomplete, from April 2017
Wisconsin’s public trust doctrine is part of the state constitution and it declares all navigable waters in the state open to the public, no matter what kind of private property surrounds them.
"State Park Giveaway?", James Bucholz, former Kohler-Andrae State Park Superintendent for 27 years. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/9
Kohler Goes to Governor's Office to Influence City of Sheboygan’s Proposed Annexation of Town of Wilson - Records obtained indicate that Kohler attorneys contacted the Governor’s office. 7/7/17
City's long-term plan has been to annex Wilson - The City is planning to extend water to the area, create a new business park and grab any new subdivisions. "The City of Sheboygan’s Comprehensive Plan calls for absorbing approximately 6,000 acres of Town of Wilson," Town newsletter, Spring 2016.
Letter to Natural Resources Board from the DNR's Cathy Stepp: Recommends that a master plan amendment process be initiated. 6-24-17
In regards to Kohler "no runoff into Lake Michigan" claim: "The consultants are continually trying to "have their cake and eat it too;" and they are continually forgetting the law of conservation of mass." Dr. Quentin Carpenter, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Wisconsin Wetlands Association: "While it is rare for us to weigh in on project-specific proposals, we do so in cases where the proposed project poses a threat to rare or exceptionally high quality wetland resources or when the decision will establish a precedent for how regulatory agencies implement existing wetland protection laws. We chose to respond to this project because it has the potential to do both."
Why No Wetland Permit Should be Granted, PhD Student Forest Science
Wisconsin Wetlands Association: "While it is rare for us to weigh in on project-specific proposals, we do so in cases where the proposed project poses a threat to rare or exceptionally high quality wetland resources or when the decision will establish a precedent for how the state implements existing wetland protection laws."
Kohler Co. goes around Town of Wilson to get its way... is asking the City of Sheboygan to annex the proposed course, including part of the Kohler-Andrae state park to avoid all accountability to the township and its 20 Year Comprehensive Plan.
Wisconsin Annexation Methods - Annexation is the process that transfers unincorporated territory from towns to incorporated cities and villages.
Public Hearing Request letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from Friends of the Black River Forest re: Kohler Wetland Permit Application
Application for permit from Kohler Co. to Army Corps of Engineers to discharge dredged and fill material into 3.69 acres of wetlands adjacent to the Black River and Lake Michigan for the purpose of constructing an 18-hole golf course and facilities in the Town of Wilson. Apr. 2017
DNR draft EIS comments:
"...the DNR will have allowed Kohler to complete a significant regulatory hurdle, in a premature fashion that is virtually without precedent, in a way that defies the purpose and requirements of the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act." 8/24/16
Former superintendent of Kohler-Andrae state park Jim Buchholz:
"The DNR has no right and nor any responsibility to “give away” 4-plus acres of publicly-owned state park land to anyone, especially to a “for-profit” business..." "The DNR’s own Bureau of Endangered Species has termed these rare wetlands (Interdunal wetlands) as the rarest, most irreplaceable habitat/ecosystems in the state of Wisconsin."
Vicki Hubert Menuge, Adjunct Prof, Dept. of Natural Sciences at Concordia U and former Naturalist at Kohler-Andrae state park
Federally listed threatened Pitcher's Thistle, Marlin Bowles of Morton Arboretum and Timothy Bell, botany prof Chicago State U
Save Our State Park - See images of the land deemed "no longer necessary for conservation"
A letter to the Gov. in 2014 from Kohler asks for:
1. Give Kohler Co. an access and utility easement from S. 12th Street/Cty Rd V due east to the Black River which would allow the Company to build a road and bridge to its maintenance facility and clubhouse.
2. Actively process environmental permitting.
3. Allow Kohler Co. to lease over 99 years for $1/year the 32.5 acres of State land located due south to the land Kohler Co. owns today. This piece of land is relatively innocuous and near land given to the State by Kohler Co. in 1965. It contains a maintenance building and a house for the park ranger which Kohler would replace in locations designated by the State.
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The threat to pristine land next to and inside a popular state park on the Lake Michigan shoreline is getting more serious. The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board agreed to allow the DNR to begin amending the master plan which manages land use in and access to the popular, publicly-owned Kohler-Andrae State Park.
Proposed Buildings on state park land.
Proposed Roundabout inside the entrance.
The proposed amended plan would allow the Kohler Company to directly impact 20+ acres of our state park land for its private profit. The DNR states that one use of the land will be for a maintenance building. It is in fact THREE buildings totaling almost 24,000 sq. feet along with an asphalt parking lot just north of the park entry.
If the master plan for the park is to be updated, FRBF believes it must be done in a manner consistent with the public interests and the mission of our state parks, not specifically tailored to an individual private corporation interest. We cannot allow the Governor and the DNR to establish this precedent.
Kohler is proposing to construct a new roadway with a roundabout that would provide access to the park and golf course. They also want to construct a new maintenance facility near the northern park boundary that contains an existing park building, and it is seeking utility access for electricity, sewer and water.
Kohler has also submitted applications for wetland and waterway permits from the department, but those permits will be evaluated separately from the master plan amendment process. DNR Master Plan Amendment Process
Quentin Carpenter, Ph.D. in Land Resources. "Another danger that I see here that if a golf course is allowed this close to the lake, very quickly the DNR will receive a request to armor the lakeside to protect it. The detrimental effects of armoring on adjacent shorelines are well-documented (more erosion). The neighbors of this shoreline are the residents to the north and the State Park to the south."
"What 'Steward of the Environment' cuts down a forest for a golf course?
What 'Steward of the Environment' eliminates animal habitat shared with a State Park? Who installs 5 high capacity wells in a Town entirely dependent on wells, bringing its golf course water consumption to over 250 million gallons a year--IN THE MIDDLE OF A STATE GROUNDWATER CRISIS?"
Watch video or read the Read transcript
Native American Archaeological Reports:
Thousands of Indian artifacts on proposed Kohler golf course, qualifies for National Register of Historic Places, Journal Sentinel
Archaeological Investigation Report prepared for Kohler Co.; including Army Core of Engineers and Wisc. Historical Society letters
2010-2012 Archaeological Report by Tetra Tech
Wisc. Tribal Repatriations Meeting, FBRF letter
Kohler donations to Gov. Walker & GOP: Most of the contributions – $46,000 – were made by company Chairman Herbert V. Kohler Jr. himself. $40,000 to Walker, the rest to Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Senate Maj. Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and former Sen. Joe Leibham, of Sheboygan. Aug. 2016
1965 Kohler Newspaper announcing gift of land along Lake Michigan. Gov. Knowles said "Although the state will continue to seek recreational lands in the southeast, it cannot hope to match the quality of the Kohler tract, which we will henceforth cherished as a proud and honored memorial." See article.
Kohler permits for joint state/federal applications, Mar. 2017
Permit Files: Wetland mitigation, bridges, easements, economic impact, irrigation ponds, meetings, plans, maps, storm water, traffic impact, floodplains, utilities, tree clearing and more.
Wetland pre-application letter from DNR to Kohler, meeting, Feb.2017
Kohler's website update: Proposed Golf Course – Environmental Impact
Initial Review of the April 2015 EIR for Proposed Golf Course, from Stantec Consulting Services to DNR, July 2016
Kohler Co. has presented the DNR with an updated site plan that further protects the natural environs, respects threatened and endangered species, removes invasive species and opens private land to public use. Mar. 2017
Kohler Summary of permits needed, from DNR, Aug. 2014
Kohler's land use agreement with DNR at state park
Kohler has listed these areas as benefits to the Town of Wilson. We disagree!
Premiere golf recreational venue
This is not a benefit to the Town of Wilson, for the many reasons stated on this website, but chiefly it is against the Town's 20 Year Comprehensive Plan to preserve our natural areas and calls for REFORESTATION not deforestation. A premiere golf venue is a benefit for Kohler Hospitality. Most Town of Wilson residents cannot pay $400 for a round of golf.
Obviously they never looked at the survey of residents contained in the 20 Year Comprehensive Plan. There is no one who expressed a desire for additional tourists in the Town of Wilson. We chose to live here because of the area's natural beauty, peace and quiet and its hundred-plus year dedication to preserving the woods. Black River is a residential area.
Creation of additional jobs for the community
Why should the Town of Wilson pay such a high price for a few additional seasonal, low-paying jobs? Professional caddies will come from down south, because they work there in the winter and travel to northern golf courses in the summer. 400 golf pros have recently been let go from a major sporting goods chain, so they will be looking for jobs. Maybe the well drillers will make more money when our wells have to be dug deeper. The road builders will benefit when Kohler demands access for their tournaments.
Addition economic stimulus through construction and trade
The destruction of the forest and construction of new buildings is a one-time event. How many town residents or businesses will benefit from this project?
Marketing to attract visitors to the southern gateway of Sheboygan County including the State Park, Sanderling Nature Center, etc.
Again, residents are not living here to draw tourism to the area, exactly the opposite. Kohler-Andrae State Park is already one of the most highly used parks in the state. This point just simply makes us feel like they think we are stupid. The few gas stations and restaurants may get more business. How does this benefit the Town of Wilson? What will they take next... in order to build hotels, subdivisions and retail???
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