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DNR Hunting Land for Sale

| Hunting | March 12, 2014


Wisconsin DNR to put up hunting land for sale.

Madison — Get ready to see “For Sale” signs appear on up to 10,000 acres of state lands.

As of last week, the Wisconsin DNR had developed a list of 33 parcels of land totaling about 2,552 acres that are now under review for possible sale. This is in response to a new state law that requires the Natural Resources Board (NRB) to make 10,000 acres of state land available for sale by June 2017. The 33 parcels identified so far are located in 23 counties.

The 2013-15 state budget contained this provision to sell up to 10,000 acres that sit outside of DNR project boundaries.

When the state buys land, it establishes a boundary around the perimeter of the project (such as a state park or wildlife area) and when land comes available within the boundary the DNR tries to buy the land. The funds come from the Knowles/Nelson Stewardship Program that provides public access for outdoor recreation.

Sometimes the parcels include land outside of the boundary or sometimes citizens donate land to the DNR that may not be within a project boundary.

To meet the legislative land sale mandate, the NRB established criteria the DNR is using in evaluating land. This includes:
• Land with difficult or no access;
• Land with limited or no public access;
• Land with limited public recreation potential or natural resources value;
• Land that the board has identified as potential for sale;
• Land identified for sale in a property master plan.

Doug Haag, DNR deputy real estate director, confirms that the field staff is now inspecting those 33 parcels to determine whether they should be put up for sale.

“We want to understand what our field staff think is most important about this first round of properties, and then we’ll put together a package for the (NRB) in May,” Haag said.

The DNR program manager who has management control over each property is responsible for the field review, along with real estate staff in each region.

They will look at investment in infrastructure (buildings, trailheads, parking lots, etc.) or natural resource additions (tree plantings and habitat improvement) on the property.

They will review whether grants were used to buy the land, whether there were stipulations, or whether there is archeological or historical significance.

Public recreation patterns (such as snowmobile or hiking trails), timber management, and time and cost to manage the property are all part of the review process.

“We’re taking a really honest look at these parcels – whether we really do need them or whether we don’t need them,” Haag said. “We are trying to be as responsible as we can and take everyone’s concerns into consideration and make the process transparent.”

If the land was given to the DNR, the “gifter” may have said the land could never be sold. Even sellers sometimes place restrictions on future sales. That will also be part of the review.

Once the DNR recommends specific parcels for sale and gets NRB approval, land could go on the market in June using the following process:

• The DNR will contact local governments and tribes to determine if they want to buy the parcel (three of the 33 parcels have drawn interest from local government).
• Contacting adjacent landowners when there is no legal access or for boundary settlement (the DNR sends adjoining landowners a notice that the land is for sale, with a minimum price – the highest bidder will get the property).
• Where there is legal road access, the property may be marketed to any individual. The DNR plans to put “For Sale” signs on the property, put a notice in newspapers, and mail notices to adjoining owners.

“The idea is to make it as comprehensive and open to everybody and run bidding cycles for about 90 days. The highest bidder can purchase the property,” Haag said.

The DNR also has the option to use auctioneers to conduct an online and onsite auction if that might help the state.

If the land does not sell under these alternatives, the DNR can then reduce the price.

Since these lands are public and do not have an assessed value, the DNR will set a price using market information from appraisers. This puts the state in the position of having a minimum price; bids can go up from there to set the value.

Local DNR land agents will be a contact for the public. Since it is public land, prospective buyers can get a map and walk the land.

Once the DNR sells the land, the money received must be used to repay any public debt used to buy or improve the property or pay any requirement if it was received by gift or with federal assistance.

Afterward, any money remaining must be used to pay off the principal on the debt of the Stewardship Program, which sells bonds to buy land and then later repays the principal and interest.

The original legislative intent would have required the DNR to sell 250 acres of agricultural land annually through 2020, but Gov. Scott Walker vetoed that portion, saying that any productive ag lands outside project boundaries could still be included in the sale of the required 10,000 acres.

Haag said the DNR can meet the requirements of the law with land that is outside of project boundaries.

The DNR owns 1.5 million acres. The first parcel was bought in 1876. The sale of 10,000 acres will account for less than 1 percent of all DNR lands.

“We have not put any land on the list that was a gift from another conservation group,” Haag said.

Once the statuses of these 33 properties are resolved and approval received from the NRB, the DNR will continue inspecting more parcels this fall and winter.

Sportsmen interested in buying land must realize that this is a relatively small amount of land compared to other land on the private market. But people interested in buying land will want to keep an eye on the DNR website and news media for listings.

People may also sign up on a link on the DNR website to be notified when land comes up for sale. Go to the DNR website  and then search for land sales.


Stephen Willett, of Phillips, served on the NRB from 1991 to 2007, and back then chaired the land and business committee. He took pride in land the state bought for public recreation.

Willett believes that the DNR should never sell any land to improve its budget. However, when he was on the board he wanted the DNR to review its land holdings – if some lands were not being managed, then why not?

If these properties that were not managed did not have a unique or conservation need, then Willett asked the DNR to consider selling these properties or exchanging them for land within project boundaries.

Attempts to reach Rep. Daniel LeMahieu (R-Cascade) and Rep. Joe Liebham (R-Sheboygan) for comment were not successful. LeMahieu and Liebham drafted the land sale language that went the budget.

Original Article Credit:

Outdoor News; Tim Eisele




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