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Natural Resources Board approves keeping Chimney Rock

By LeAnn R. Ralph

BOYCEVILLE —  The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board has approved retaining the Chimney Rock State Wetlands Area north of Boyceville.

A new state law requiring the Natural Resources Board to make 10,000 acres of public land available for sale by June 30, 2017, had targeted the Chimney Rock State Wetlands Area to be one of the properties considered for sale.

According to the listing of property for sale on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website, the NRB has approved retaining the nearly 22 acres of the Chimney Rock site. The property is accessible from state Highway 79.

The DNR recommended retaining the parcel because “sale of this property will potentially create a gap in the county (snowmobile) trail system. In addition, public use of the county owned parcel to the north will be cut off.”

The property has 1,650 feet of two-bank frontage on the South Fork of the Hay River, which is listed as a Class 2 trout stream.

In addition to being used for hunting and fishing, approximately 1/10th of a mile of county snowmobile trail passes through the property between the river and Highway 79.

According to the DNR’s recommendation, “there is an annual land use permit issued to the Dunn County Snowmobile Association for the existing snowmobile trail. Maintenance for the property is minimal, including property boundary signage and mowing of the parking area.”

The DNR’s recommendation also focused on water quality and trout habitat.

“In the past, Dunn County has partnered with the (DNR), acquiring lands along the Hay River to protect the water quality of the river and to protect trout habitat and provide public access. One such county owned property lies immediately north of this tract, with public access to the county lands being through the state property. Selling this state land would eliminate public access to the county land,” the recommendation states.

“Under the Streambank Protection Roadmap, the headwaters (Class 1) of the South Fork was selected as a target area for streambank easement acquisition. In addition the entire South Fork was identified as a potential brook trout reserve. The Department recommends retaining this parcel,” the recommendation concludes.

Members of the Northwest Rod and Gun Club sent a letter dated January 18 to the state Department of Natural Resources in strong opposition to the proposed sale of the Chimney Rock State Wetlands Area north of Boyceville just west of state Highway 79.

According to the letter, which was signed by Joe Adams (president), Tom Maes (vice-president) and Stephen Bauder (secretary), the Chimney Rock State Wetlands Area was donated by the Northwest Rod and Gun Club to the DNR in March of 1960.

Located along the Hay River, “the land was purchased through donations made by past members of NWRGC. Purchasing and donating this property was one of the major successes of our organization in the late 1950s. Many of the members who worked on acquiring this property are now hunting in heaven, making this property a living legacy to the families of the deceased club members,” the letter stated.

The Natural Resources Board has approved the sale of other properties in Dunn County that are considered land-locked, including 9.3 acres along Muddy Creek.

According to the DNR’s recommendation, “because the property lacks road access, use is limited to those that have private adjoining land and the public is restricted to legal access through the creek. The Department has not invested in infrastructure of habitat improvements to this property as it is land locked.”

A second 9.3 acre parcel on Muddy Creek also is offered for sale.

“There is an oxbow in the southwest corner of the parcel from Muddy Creek that occasionally fills up during high water conditions but the creek itself no longer flows through the parcel. The Department has accepted two donations nearby that promote a patchwork of habitat in the Muddy Creek area and has done wildlife habitat work on those two parcels. This parcel is good quality wildlife habitat. Because the property lacks road access, use is limited to those that have private adjoining land, and the public is restricted to legal access through the creek on the Department parcel to the south,” according to the DNR website.

For a third site in Dunn County offered for sale that involves 27 acres along Elk Creek, the NRB has approved a requirement that at the time of sale, the buyer conveys a streambank easement to the DNR.

“Since the creek flowing through this parcel is high quality, (a) Class 1 trout stream that contains healthy populations of brook and brown trout, a streambank easement is recommended for this property to maintain the quality of the fishery and provide the public access to the stream for fishing,” according to the DNR’s website.

The properties offered for sale by the DNR are either offered for sale to the public, to another government entity or to an adjoining landowner when the parcel is land locked.

Phase 2 of the land sale, which includes Chimney Rock and the other parcels in Dunn County, offers approximately 7,200 acres of land for sale in nearly 40 Wisconsin counties.

Some of the properties that are offered for sale were purchased with federal funds and are currently under federal review.

Additional properties in Dunn County are currently under review for possible sale by the DNR.

To see the properties offered for sale or that are currently under field review, visit www.dnr.wi.gov/topic/lands/RealEstate/landsearch.asp. Click on the PDF to see a map of the property.