I've been following since 2014 the David vs. Goliath grassroots battle to preserve unique acreage along Lake Michigan in Sheboygan County
and keep the adjoining Kohler Andrae State Park intact.
The Sierra Club had recently joined the battle.
And I'd put up this post which excerpted the DNR's environmental review which catalogued the project's on-site and extensive damage to the tree canopy, and other harm to wetlands, dunes, bird habitat and other inter-connected resources.
So note and celebrate this good news:
Friends of the Black River Forest, Inc.
P.O. Box 804
Sheboygan, Wisconsin 53082-0804
The Friends of the Black River Forest has received a grant from Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company recognized internationally for its authentic commitment to quality, corporate responsibility, and environmental activism.
The Patagonia grant supports a suite of legal actions
to ensure that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources applies Wisconsin conservation
law fairly and consistently.
The Friends is a grassroots nonprofit organization created in 2013 after billionaire Herbert Kohler
Jr. announced plans to construct a luxury golf course on 247 acres of Lake Michigan shoreline
north of Kohler-Andrea State Park, one of Wisconsin's most popular state parks.
The site is characterized by rare intact shoreland forest, threatened and endangered species, and rare
interdunal and ridge and swale wetlands. The development would also eliminate what the Audubon
Society has designated a Tier 4 Important Bird Area and migratory route.
The Kohler Company plans to appropriate an additional 4.7 acres of adjacent state park land for
golf course parking, equipment maintenance sheds, and to store pesticides, herbicides, and fuel.
Along with a separate road easement, 6.47 acres of valuable state park land would be removed
from conservation and recreational use for the public in order to build a private, luxury golf course.
The Friends was founded by Mary Faydash, a retired counselor, and Claudia Bricks, a retired special education teacher.
"Patagonia's support is multiplied because they are bringing our cause to the attention of a
national audience of environmental activists and allies," said Faydash. "At the same time, we're
humbled by the tremendous amount of financial and other support we continue to receive from
our neighbors right here in Wisconsin and particularly in Sheboygan County. Wisconsin residents
are avid outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists, and their support for this cause and for our state
park is stronger than ever."
"To have a company like Patagonia take our side is so affirming," said Bricks. "Our legal challenge to the golf course is exactly the sort of grassroots activism that Patagoniachampions around the world."
The Friends are represented by Christa Westerberg, a partner with Pines Bach LLP in Madison.
Westerberg concentrates her practice on environmental and land use law and open governmental
The main legal cases are as follows:
FBRF January 28, 2020:
1. The Friends have been able to overturn an improperly issued wetland permit. The Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resources had granted a wetland permit to Kohler to fill and cause
other disturbances to wetlands on both Kohler and state park property on January 17, 2018.
The DNR acknowledged the wetlands are globally rare, are of exceptional quality, and host
rare plants and plant communities. It also acknowledged that the loss of these wetlands would
be irreversible and have high significance, as would other impacts like loss of migratory bird
habitat due to partial deforestation of the site.
Contrary to state law and, seemingly, DNRs
own findings, the permit was granted. In a first, the DNR said it would accept a $200,000
donation to a wetland program as a condition of the permit. In March 2019, an
Administrative Law Judge agreed with FBRF and reversed the DNR's permit (Case number
DNR 18-0002). Kohler has since challenged that decision in court.
2. The Friends are challenging the transfer and privatization of 6.7 acres of state park land from
DNR to Kohler. Historically, much of the land at issue was appropriated for conservation
purposes by the state under Eminent Domain in the 1960s from the Smyth family. That case
is currently before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
3. A number of other legal challenges are keyed to the protection of the groundwater, the
wetlands, and the shores of Lake Michigan as well as the biodiversity of these ecosystems. In
particular, the Friends are challenging the golf course project's incomplete Environmental
Impact Statement and the project's poorly conceived Stormwater Management Plan.
The "Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order" for Wisconsin Case Number
DNR-18-0002 is available online at
Additional background may be found at http://friendsblackriverforest.org/documents.html
The Friends of the Black River Forest welcomes questions from the media.
Mary Faydash may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, 708-567-8419.
Claudia Bricks may be contacted at email@example.com, 920-457-0525