The Proposed Master Plan for Rib Mountain State Park Open Letter
The Proposed Master Plan for Rib Mountain State Park which was submitted to the NRB on Dec 14th, 2022 had gone through an extensive public comment process as required by Wisconsin law. However, at the NRB meeting, the plan was significantly amended on the motion of a now former board member changing the plan by adding approximately 28 acres to the parcel to be leased by Granite Peak Ski Corporation.
The amendment designated this added land for construction of three new downhill ski runs and a new ski lift. The new runs and lift will wipe out several existing and heavily utilized hiking trails, including historically significant CCC trails, unique wildlife, bird, and wildflower habitat, a small mountain stream, and a spring-fed “seep” area. Perhaps most importantly they will impinge on a unique DNR-designated Rib Mountain Talus Forest State Natural Area (https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Lands/naturalareas/index.asp?SNA=532 which contains rare bedrock glades, felsenmeers, talus forest, and the only undisturbed north-facing talus slope in the park. Additionally, a lift tower at the top will obstruct the view from the park observation tower and the ridgetop day use area.
In the published Proposed Master Plan, p. 97, the DNR rejected possible ski runs in the area of the amendment’s 28 acres, stating “The department dismissed the expansions to the downhill ski area … west of the existing lease area …(because) the ecological value of these natural communities are worthy of being included in the State Natural Area program and should not be converted to a ski operation.” However, the ski operation expansion described in the amendment was not part of any environmental analysis. (Before amendment, the Plan included 35 acres of ski run expansion north, downslope, from the amendment’s 28 acres.) Despite hopeful language in the amendment saying the lease should require “minimal impacts,” and lift cables should run over the top of the State Natural Area, the project will permanently destroy many acres of unique forest habitat. It simply cannot be built with “minimal impacts” to this sensitive environment. The full extent of the impacts cannot be known without an environmental analysis of exactly where and how the amendment will be implemented.
Although the Administrative Code recognizes NRB discretion to modify some DNR proposals, it limits the exercise of that discretion to circumstances where modification is “appropriate and reasonable.” NR 44.04 (3). This amendment was neither appropriate nor reasonable. The possibility that a new proposal for ski hill expansion would be considered by the NRB was not disclosed to the public before the day of the NRB vote. NRB vote on the new proposal that day violated the Wisconsin Administrative Code, Sec. NR 44.04(7)(a), requirement that, “The public shall be provided opportunities to participate throughout the planning process for a property.” NR 150.04(2)(g) requires an environmental analysis and consideration of public comment for such a significant change in the plan.
The DNR received over 6,000 responses during the two-year preparation of the plan before the amendment changed it. Because the amendment was not publicly disclosed until just before it was voted on, there could be no public response to it. The public had no possible opportunity to see an environmental analysis and participate in this critical part of the planning process. This amendment violated Administrative Code procedure, and it should be reversed.
Based on the above, The Friends of Rib Mountain State Park respectfully request that the NRB reconsider the amendment and allow time for an adequate environmental analysis and appropriate public comment. Additionally, we would like to invite any NRB member(s), DNR Secretary Payne, and Governor Evers to visit Rib Mountain State Park and see, first hand, the unique natural area that will be adversely affected by the amendment. I would be happy to coordinate a visit with the Rib Mountain State Park Manager and representatives of the Friends of Rib Mountain State Park.
Reprinted with permission.