Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A few words about Walker selling off WI state parks...

PolitiFact dings the Dems for saying Walker's budget would sell off state parks.

PolitiFact is right: the budget does not say that.

But here are some facts not in dispute:

*  Walker has been given unprecedented power by the legislature to sell, with minor controls, any state asset - - from power plants to dorms to office buildings - - without exception.

*  The DNR has been ordered by the legislature, with Walker's approval, to sell 10,000 acres of land.

*  The DNR has under review a plan by the Kohler Co. to construct along the Lake Michigan shoreline in a nature preserve south of Sheboygan another of its high-end golf courses that would include 33 acres of DNR-owned land in the Kohler-Andrae State Park leased to the company for $1 a year, for 99 years.

*  And it looks like a ski valley expansion at Rib Mountain would sacrifice 150 acres of state parkland there.

* Walker's budget cuts funding to the DNR, forcing it to consider selling naming rights to raise money for park functions.

*  His budget also removes legal protections for UWM's Downer Woods without a specific guarantee that the protection will be recreated in a subsequent law or University structure.

* When he was Milwaukee County Executive, Walker unsuccessfully tried to sell 176 Bender Park acres in Oak Creek to a developer, and, while in office, a County audit disclosed the existence of $200 million of deferred parks maintenance. Details, here.

*  Walker is a outspoken proponent of privatization of public resources, and his budget calls for privatization of publicly-managed programs that now provide insurance to municipalities and home-health care for the long-term disabled.

*  And while Walker's people say there is no intention to sell state parks, remember that there was no plan on paper - - up until a few weeks ago - - to introduce and sign 'right-to-work' legislation or the conversion of the entire UW system to an authority-run agency cut by $300 million.

So, no - - Walker's budget does not call for selling state parks.

But since he likes to govern by surprise, let's just say, "stay tuned."


Anonymous said...

So many bad things in the budget they really don't need to make stuff up.

Nathanael said...

Selling state parks -- and nature preserves, too, by the way -- is generally illegal under *federal* law, under a provision known generally as "Section 4(f)" if I remember correctly.

Avoiding the 4(f) restrictions on alienating parkland requires that there be no other practical alternative, and proving this requires satsifying the full NEPA requirements for an environmental impact statement.

The public interest groups should get their lawyers ready to go to federal court. A bunch of these selloffs can be halted.

Jake formerly of the LP said...

The budget doesn't say that, but prior laws sure do, with little to no oversight from the Legislature. Same for UW System assets and buildings.

old baldy said...


4(f) would only come into play if the property had a particular source of federal dollars involved in the acquisition or development of the park. The same would hold true for any park, trail, natural area or wildlife/fishing area with federal dollars. It will be hard to find a state property that would qualify for outright sale, but nothing surpises me any more.