Preserve Our Land, Air and Water
FRIENDS OF THE BLACK RIVER FOREST
FBRF's battle began with a small group of common people who believed that our bodies of government would protect our way of life and the land, air and water we need to live. We discovered that our land, air and water needed protection from state agencies and landowners who refused to follow the rule of law.
Over five years ago, a small group of people sat around a dining room table speaking of their concerns about a proposed Kohler Company championship golf course planned on the shores of Lake Michigan adjacent to Kohler Andrae Park within the Town of Wilson. Descriptions of teeming wildlife, rolling dunes, wetlands overflowing with aquatic life, the migratory flyover route, the site of prehistoric peoples and thousands of artifacts and burial mounds, were just a few concerns. Kohler intended to clear cut 160 of their 247 acres of forest and needed acreage from Kohler Andrae State Park to complete the course.
If approved, pesticides would leach into our groundwater and Lake Michigan, globally significant dunes and wetlands would be razed and filled, environmental corridors would be destroyed, the topography of the area would be changed forever, currently polluted air would spike from tournament traffic, and state land not needed by Kohler would be given to the company for the company's profit. In other words, this rare ecosystem would be stripped of all its defining characteristics.
Our goal became the preservation of our rare Lake Michigan coastal ecosystem and the Kohler State Park land that belongs to all of us.
We decided to make sure the processes leading up to permitting were carried out scientifically devoid of environmental passes being given to a developer. We believed the Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Board would not approve such devastation to this coastal ecosystem.
This is what we have learned:
We learned the DNR worked for 5 years trying to justify the destruction Kohler asked for, and when the agency couldn't, it circumvented the law and approved a wetland fill permit anyway as well as giving away our important state park land.
Our quiet, rural town was physically divided by a secret, hostile annexation by Kohler to move their land to the City of Sheboygan to avoid an independent environmental impact study required by our Town of Wilson.
We learned the DNR wrote incomplete, misleading, unscientific environmental statements based on Kohler-provided information
We learned that the voices of hundreds of people and petitions from 22,000 people had no import with the DNR or the Natural Resources Board.
NOW WE SAY "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
FRIENDS OF THE BLACK RIVER FOREST RECEIVED A $50,0000 GRANT FROM THE BRICO FUND TO LAUNCH OUR FIRST LEGAL CHALLENGE AGAINST THE ISSUANCE OF A WETLAND FILL PERMIT TO THE KOHLER COMPANY BY THE DNR. WE HAVE TWO MORE ROUNDS TO GO, CHALLENGING THE DNR AND ITS ILLEGAL SWAP OF OUR PRIME STATE PARK LAND FOR INSIGNIFICANT KOHLER COMPANY LAND.
WILL YOU JOIN THIS GRASSROOTS EFFORT TO HOLD THE DNR TO WISCONSIN LAW?
WILL YOU HELP FBRF RAISE THE FUNDS TO SEE THIS BATTLE THROUGH TO VICTORY?
What is more important than protecting our fundamental rights to breathe clean air, drink clean water and protect our homes and community? Help us take a stand. We currently have 3 lawsuits pending against the Wetland Flll Permit and Stormwater Permit issued by the DNR to the Kohler Company. We are also challenging the DNR and Natural Resources Board for an illegal giveaway of our state park land to a developer.
More at www.friendsblackriverforest.org
OZAUKEE PRESS EDITORIAL: Nature wins a round of golf
March 27, 2019
The land is just a few miles north of Ozaukee County along a pristine stretch of the Lake Michigan shore.
It is home to a system of wetlands and sand dunes that is so rare it is said there are few places like it in the world.
The habitat it creates is so valuable to endangered animal and plant species that it is protected by state and federal law.
Even so, destroying the wetlands, grading the dunes, reconfiguring the landscape with imported dirt and planting and chemically fertilizing exotic grasses to create a luxury golf course is perfectly acceptable.
Incredibly, that is what the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said in granting a permit in January 2018 to allow development of the 247-acre golf course planned by the Kohler Co. to proceed.
That bizarre decision may forever remain an embarrassing footnote on the record of the agency that is charged with protecting Wisconsin’s natural resources, but at least, if a judge’s ruling issued March 15 is upheld, it will not enable a precious piece of nature to be sacrificed for human profit and pride.
Administrative Law Judge Mark F. Kaiser chastised the DNR for accepting Kohler’s assurances that it would come up with a plan that would protect the land, water, wildlife and plants from the golf course’s impact, determined that the development threatened significant environmental damage and declared the permit invalid.
The DNR’s granting of the permit was so contrary to scientific evaluation of the threat to the environment of an extremely sensitive area of ridge and swale wetlands that it fed accusations that the decision was politically motivated.
Critics noted Herbert V. Kohler Jr., chairman of the Kohler Co., and other company executives were large donors to the campaigns of Gov. Scott Walker, who had authority over the DNR when the decision was made.
In any case, testimony in the exhaustive five-day hearing held by Judge Kaiser added powerfully to the impression that granting the permit was at minimum badly out of sync with science.
Pat Trochlell, a wetlands expert recently retired from the DNR, testified that the Kohler golf course was the most environmentally harmful of any project she reviewed in her 37-year career at the state agency.
The DNR’s own environmental impact statement was damning as well, using such terms as “very rare” and “imperiled” and concluding that the wetlands nurture “threatened and endangered species habitat.”
In his ruling, the judge noted that besides damaging the fragile complex of shoreline dunes and wetlands, the golf course plan calls for cutting down as much as 120 acres of forest that hasn’t been logged for a century and a half.
The judge’s decision was based on science, which was entirely proper. But another standard could be applied to the golf course issue by answering this question: How does it benefit society to exchange precious elements of untouched nature for a vanity project justified more by the fame and bragging rights that would come with it than by need?
A golf aficionado with a billionaire’s deep pockets, Herbert Kohler can already claim credit for the development of two nationally recognized golf courses in Sheboygan County, Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits. The latter has hosted three PGA championships and will be the site of the 2020 Ryder Cup.
What is to be gained from having a third exclusive course? A consultant hired by Kohler claims the new course would generate more than $20 million a year in economic activity.
This state and the continent around it are replete with natural areas beautiful enough to generate vast sums of money as recreational venues, but they are off limits because their environmental assets are priceless and irreplaceable. And so should the proposed site for the third Kohler golf course.
Until the March 15 ruling, the foes of the project, chiefly a grass-roots organization called Friends of the Black River Forest, had been fighting a losing battle. It’s far from over—Kohler’s push has been relentless.
But dare we hope that, with a new secretary appointed by a new governor, the Department of Natural Resources will become an ally in the defense of the precious natural resources along the Sheboygan County shore that cannot coexist with a golf course?
Contact Christa Westerberg, 608/251-0101
JUDGE REVERSES KOHLER WETLAND PERMIT
An administrative law judge on Friday reversed a permit granted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to Kohler Co. last year. The permit would have allowed the company to fill nearly four acres of high-quality wetland for a new golf course complex in Sheboygan County, on land north of and within Kohler-Andrae State Park.
In reversing the permit, the judge found the standards for issuing the permit had not been met and that DNR lacked sufficient information to grant the permit.
“We are grateful for this decision, which thoroughly addressed each adverse, irreversible impact of the proposed golf course,” said Mary Faydash, President of Friends of the Black River Forest, Inc. The group filed the petition challenging the permit, which was heard during a five-day evidentiary hearing last year.
“We are definitely delighted,” added Friends member and co-petitioner Claudia Bricks.
In the decision, the judge found that the project will require deforesting over half the site and significant regrading, resulting in changes to wetland and site hydrology. He concluded, “the Department’s determination that these adverse impacts will be significant mandate that the permit application must be denied.”
The judge also found that the DNR lacked sufficient information to conclude that the project would not harm water quality associated with chemical and fertilizer applications, and that some of Kohler’s submitted information was erroneous or incomplete.
Said the judge, “[t]he Department should be making its determinations based on completed plans, not trusting that management plans that will be prepared will adequately protect the groundwater and wetlands. Once the golf course is constructed the adverse impacts will be permanent and irreversible.”
“This decision shows that the DNR must base its decisions on evidence it has in-hand,” said Friends attorney Christa Westerberg. “In this case, the DNR should have denied the permit based on that evidence.”
The proposed golf course is located on forested property between the Black River and Lake Michigan. It hosts rare ridge and swale and interdunal wetlands, is an important stopover site for migratory birds, is home to rare plant and animal communities. The property is highly susceptible to groundwater contamination due to sand soils and a high groundwater table.
Kohler’s proposal also called for using land in Kohler-Andrae State Park for a golf course entrance road and large maintenance building. That land is characterized by dunes, wetlands, and forest, and is used by park visitors for hiking and wildlife observation, among other activities.
Said Ms. Faydash, “
“this decision is a victory for all of Wisconsin, particularly the grassroots groups who have worked tirelessly to hold the DNR and developers to Wisconsin conservation law.
IT'S OUR 5 YEAR ANNIVERSARY!
WE'RE STILL HERE AND THE GOLF COURSE ISN'T!
KOHLER ANDRAE STATE PARK IS INTACT.
A RARE LAKE MICHIGAN COASTAL ECOSYSTEM IS THRIVING.
There is no way we can say "Thank you" enough. Without your unselfish and generous acts of support and financial assistance, we would not be where we are.
FBRF is the only nonprofit group attempting to preserve this rare Lake Michigan coastal ecosystem in danger of being stripped of all its defining characteristics, as well as fighting an unprecedented giveaway of our state park land for corporate use.
FBRF's mission is to promote the preservation of the Black River, its wetlands, the forest, and the adjoining Lake Michigan shore, including Kohler-Andrae State Park, as an ecological whole.
We had no idea 5 years ago that our efforts would lead to three lengthy and costly legal challenges to the DNR and Natural Resource Board for actions that threaten the rule of conservation law in Wisconsin. We have three lawsuits pending to overturn an illegal DNR Wetland Fill Permit, a Stormwater Permit, and a suit challenging the validity and legality of giving Kohler Andrae State Park land to a developer.
WHAT'S AT STAKE?
-Wisconsin residents' rights to preserve their land, air and water, holding all landowners and state agencies to the rule of law.
-the loss of Wisconsin resident-owned Kohler Andrae State Park land
-the loss of KASP habitat and wildlife from the razing of park land for a golf course road,
-a new park rotary entrance and a 22,500 sq. ft. maintenance building for storing golf course diesel fuel, pesticides and diesel equipment
-the loss of rare KASP wetlands and dunes
-loss of recreational and educational experiences for park visitors and campers from loss of land, noise and air pollution from hundreds of diesel golf course maintenance machines.
-Restrictions on park use from golf tournaments
-increased respiratory health risks from diesel-produced ozone being added to an area with already high levels of ozone pollution
-loss of habitat and wildlife from Kohler's 160+ acre deforestation of its land adjacent to and part of the the park's ecosystem
-loss of major migratory bird stopover area from deforestation
-loss off 11 endangered and threatened species by incidental take permits, (permit to destroy them), destruction of habitat and die off
-an area designated by the Wisconsin Wetlands Association as a Wetland Gem decimated from the majority of its wetlands filled in by the proposed course.
-contamination of water sources resulting from the loss of wetlands and forests that provide natural filters for agricultural and pesticide runoff
-a shift in the shoreline of KASP caused by Kohler's armoring of its course's holes to prevent them from being underwater
-flood risks from a complete reconstruction of 247 acres of topography which will dramatically impact the hydrology of the area
-the health of nearby residents and park visitors from the spraying of glyphosate (a known carcinogen) to kill vegetation
As Wisconsin residents and stakeholders in our beloved parks and natural resources, our rights have been seriously circumvented. You can help insure their preservation for all of Wisconsin.
OUR 3 LAWSUITS ARE IN COURT. YOU CAN HELP US BRING THEM TO COMPLETION WITH A VICTORY FOR THE PEOPLE.
Read it here http://bit.ly/2qF7Suz
We are thrilled that the WCIJ investigated what FBRF have been fighting for 5 years. Your donations have enabled us to create solid cases against the DNR's poor permitting of the Kohler Company's proposed golf course. We need funds to carry on through our litigation. If you can share this we would greatly appreciate it.