February 15, 2024

* Please note that information following SB999/AB1093 will be posted under News, Government Affairs going forward.

President Don Hoffman is holding WWOA’s testimony and executive director, Nancy Bozek, is holding the letters of more than 50 members that were sent to their legislators, the bill’s authors, and/or Senate Committee members. WWOA’s testimony and a copy of your letters were presented to the Senate Committee members.

President, Don Hoffman, provided WWOA’s testimony at the Public Hearing on February 14, 2024, for Senate Bill 999 – the bill that proposes requiring Managed Forest Law (MFL) land designated as Open to be open to a new recreational activity, motorized vehicles. While this was the public hearing’s 2nd to last agenda item, the hearing room was filled with about 40 people.

WisconsinEye (a non-profit, private public affairs cable network delivers nonpartisan, unedited, state government news) was at the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Sporting Heritage Public Hearing. By creating a free account with WisconsinEye, and using the link above, you will be able to view the Public Hearing.  The SB 999 testimony starts at 2 hours and 38 minutes with the bill’s author, Senator Felzkowski of Tomahawk.

The Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau states: This bill provides that the owner of open managed forest land (MFL) with roads or trails that are maintained for vehicular travel must permit public access to the roads and trails for the operation of certain vehicles. The bill also requires the Department of Transportation to administer an MFL road repair program, under which DOT awards grants to individual owners of MFL where roads or trails have been damaged by vehicles.

Under the current Managed Forest Law program, owners with land designated as Open under the MFL program must open the MFL land to the public for hunting, fishing, hiking, sight-seeing, and cross-country skiing.

This proposed bill is a significant change and taking of private property for other uses not currently in the law or MFL contracts. Under the proposed bill, the owner of open MFL with roads or trails that are maintained for vehicular travel at a width of at least nine feet must permit public access to the roads and trails for the operation of any noncommercial motor vehicle with a gross weight of 8,000 pounds or less (including off road motorcycles),and any all-terrain vehicle, utility terrain vehicle, or snowmobile registered for public use or operated by a nonresident as authorized by a trail pass or trail use sticker.

WWOA encourages members to continue to contact the Committee members and your legislators with your thoughts on SB 999.  You are also encouraged to have people who use your MFL land that is designated as Open to the public for the 5 current recreational uses – hunting, fishing, hiking, sight-seeing, and cross-country skiing – to also contact legislators.  “Silent sports” are being ignored in favor of adding motorized recreation on these lands.

Members are encouraged to read SB999 and send their comments to their Wisconsin legislators (find your legislator), sponsors of this bill Senators FELZKOWSKI of Tomahawk, QUINN of Cameron and STAFSHOLT of New Richmond, cosponsored by Representatives GREEN of Grand View and SCHMIDT of Bonduel. Please share a copy of your comments with WWOA.