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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Blue Mound Friends Fight Back Against Plan To Create Snowmobile Trail Within Wisconsin State Park

Blue Mound State Park
Wisconsin DNR
Blue Mound State Park

Countless Wisconsin residents love the outdoors, including the popular state parks, but sometimes people disagree over how those lands should be used.

A group is suing the state Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Board over a recent decision to create a snowmobile trail in Blue Mound State Park, 30 miles west of Madison.

The trail, folded into an updated master plan, only would be a mile long. It would link existing trails outside the park. But critics say it would threaten wildlife and their habitat.

Blue Mound State Park covers more than 1,100 acres, spreading across the highest point in southern Wisconsin. It features a habitat-rich forest that supports a number of rare plants, birds and the Blanchard’s cricket frog. And, Blue Mound is considered “a high potential zone” for the federally endangered rusty patched bumble bee.

READ Photographer's Quest To Save A Bumble Bee Leads Him To Wisconsin

TheFriends of Blue Mound State Park said the sensitive ecological area would be threatened by a mile-long snowmobile trail.

Willi Van Haren, president of the friends group, argued against the snowmobile trail at the Natural Resources Board meeting in May. “We agree with the master plan except for the snowmobile plan. If this trail is put through there, [it] will compromise one of its most special areas to essential provide a shortcut,” he said.

Van Haren and others described the decision by the board and the DNR to OK the trail as “short-sighted and unjustified.”

They said the plan runs counter to the DNR and Natural Resources Board’s “own admission that snowmobile use is declining in the region.”

Retired Blue Mound Superintendent Karl Heil urged the board to preserve the ecological area for the good of all. “The park newspaper notes that since 1877, the mound continues to retain peace and solitude, concluding with ‘persons desiring absolute quiet, pure air and water cannot find a more suitable spot.' Let your legacy as NRB be the continued protection of Blue Mound’s quiet and clean air," he said.

On June 25 in a last-ditch attempt to fight the trail, the group filed a lawsuit against both the Natural Resources Board and the Department of Natural Resources.

WUWM reached out for comment from the DNR, but did not get a response by this story’s deadline.

Cross-country skiing in Blue Mound State Park.
Wisconsin DNR
Cross-country skiing in Blue Mound State Park.

Meanwhile, area snowmobilers are delighted with the plan for the short trail. It will connect existing trails adjacent to the park.

“DNR planners and staff got it right with the Blue Mound State Park master plan, including the listed snowmobile trail route," Sam Landis, president of the Dane County chapter of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs, said.

“We also feel the plan accurately states that the location will have minimal effects in regards to sound, vegetation and wildlife in the area,” Landis added.

The Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs’ President Dave Newman also said the DNR met all of the requirements of the law “when developing the Blue Mound State Park master plan” and that the Natural Resources Board “was correct when they unanimously approved the plan.”

The Friends of Blue Mound State Park aren’t giving up without a fight. In addition to filing the lawsuit, the group is requesting a contested case hearing with the DNR.

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Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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