Sloey, William
ATV Stakeholders Group Took a Wrong Turn
Vilas County News-Review On-Line Letters to the Editor, May 1, 2007
Vilas County News-Review
Eagle River
Original Date

Dr. William E. Sloey is Emeritus professor of biology at UW-Oshkosh and principal author of the E.M. Griffith Forest Restoration and Recreation Area Proposal. He is a property owner and seasonal resident of Star Lake, Wisconsin. This document is part of "Selected Documents Reflecting Opposition to Proposed ATV Trails in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest," 2007, collected and distributed electronically by Northwoods Citizens for Responsible Stewardship.

  • Bookwood Historical Collection, Star Lake

ATV Stakeholders Group Took a Wrong Turn

By Bill Sloey, Posted May 1, 2007

The ATV Trail Stakeholders Committee was charged with proposing all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trail(s) through the Northern Highland-American Legion (NHAL) State Forest that would be physically sustainable, would have a minimal impact on other users and would avoid the most ecologically sensitive portions of the forest. They could not have done a better job of doing exactly the opposite!

The proposed trails go directly through the heart of the three most important ecological regions in the NHAL. Tens of thousands of dollars spent on the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Biotic Inventory Study of the NHAL and on the Community Restoration and Old Growth Study done by Dr. Mladenoff of the University of Wisconsin have clearly been ignored.

The Iron County trail would start on the edge of the Manitowish River Wilderness Area, run through unstable peatlands and between designated “wild” and “wilderness” lakes. It would skirt the North Bass Lake hemlocks and the DuPage Lake and Pines (a proposed new State Natural Area).

The Oneida/Vilas trail would go directly through the Central Highlands Macrosite. It would pass between the Bittersweet Lake Complex State Natural Area (a no-motor, remote recreation site, which harbors the oldest hemlocks) and the Dry Lake and Pines (the oldest red/white pine stand in the forest). The noisy activity will certainly disturb the folks trying to enjoy the no-motor, quiet area.

The trail is then proposed to go northeast of Sayner through the center of the Star Lake Crescent Macrosite and into the proposed Lake Laura Hardwoods State Natural Area just north of Highway K.

This crescent of mature/old-growth hemlock hardwoods stretches from the Plum Lake State Natural Area across Highway N, past Salsich Lake (a wild lake), between Irving and Laura lakes and up to Partridge and Alva (a wilderness lake) lakes.

This extensive stand is by far the greatest mature/old-growth stand of hemlocks/hardwood forest in the North Woods of Wisconsin. It takes 500 to 1,000 years for nature to generate such stands. They deserve the best stewardship we can give.

The disruption of three natural areas is especially disturbing. Construction of a hard-surfaced roadway (fully developed trail complete with grading, drainage and gravel/aggregate surface) and summer vehicle activity with excessive motor noise will greatly disturb and disrupt the nesting and brood-rearing activities of the sensitive interior forest birds, small mammals and other disturbance-intolerant species.

Add the rogue drivers who will want to romp through the open understory of the old growth and we have a disaster!

If these trails are built, designation or continued inclusion of any of these areas in the State Natural Area program is certain to be denied or rescinded. These natural areas are the most precious gems of natural Wisconsin.

The DNR has been assigned the sacred stewardship responsibility for them. Let’s help them keep that promise. These two trails simply must not be constructed as proposed! There are plenty of places in the production forest center of the NHAL, where socially and ecologically sensitive areas are not present.

Tell the committee to get back on the right track.