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A young buck just starting to grow antlers peeks out from a lush green forest in Pelican River

Pelican river Forest: Conserved Forever

Thanks to a heroic effort by volunteers across Northern Wisconsin, the Conservation Fund, the DNR, and the Governor’s team, nearly 70,000 acres of forests and wetlands will remain wild.

Thank Governor Evers

On January 23rd, 2024 the Governor announced in his State of the State address that Wisconsin would protect nearly 70,000 acres of forestland. In the Governor’s words, “This is a big deal, folks.”
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cost per acre to WI to conserve the rest of Pelican River Forest
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Letters submitted to the Governor and Legislators in support of Pelican River Forest

What is the Pelican River Forest Project?

The Pelican River Forest is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect nearly 70,000 acres of working forestland in Oneida, Forest, and Langlade Counties. Have a look at the detailed maps below to see exactly where the land is and details on the roads and trails that will be open as a result of conserving the Pelican River Forest.

The Pelican River Forest straddles the mid-continental divide between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds. It contains 68 miles of streams and is located in the headwaters of the Wolf and Wisconsin rivers. Conserving the forest protects the water quality of these rivers, safeguarding drinking water for over 40,000 people downstream. 

The Pelican River Forest also permanently secures public access to more than 70 miles of recreational roads, whose maintenance will be funded by a private endowment. The roads, which have been closed in recent years, provide access throughout the forest for hunting, fishing, trapping, sightseeing, and more.

Calm dark blue water stretches through a grassy mark with forest on the horizon with a bright blue sky

Many people know the Pelican River Forest as the former Consolidated Paper lands and have fond memories of hunting the property and driving the Tour Road. Centered in the Town of Monico, this has been a productive forest for many decades. Since Consolidated Paper sold the land it has been owned by a series of investment companies. Those owners did not make it a priority to facilitate public access and have left most of the roads inaccessible, closed with locked gates.

The Pelican River Forest connects the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest with Oneida and then Langlade County Forests. Keeping the forest intact makes logging more economical and efficient. Intact forests protect the wildlife that makes our forests special and supports the game species we hunt.

Without permanent protection, the forest could become increasingly fragmented, making it harder to manage for forestry, which supports Wisconsin's $38 billion forest products industry.

The roads may never be reliably open again. It will be more difficult to ensure access for ATV / UTV and snowmobile trails. And it will be less able to support Wisconsin’s water and wildlife.

Pelican River Forest is protected with what is called a working forest conservation easement. An easement adds rules to a property deed, which specify what can and can not be done on a property. 

In this case, the easement says that the current and future landowners can NOT: divide the land up into small parcels; clear the forest to make way for buildings; or close the land to the public.

The easement also says that the current and future landowners MUST: keep the land open to the public; maintain more than 70 miles of interior recreational roads so they are passable by a two-wheel drive pickup truck; keep the roads open from June to December; and manage the property for sustainable forestry.

Working forest conservation easements come at a cost because they lower the overall value of the property. Fortunately, there are public programs that support the conservation of private forestlands. In this case, the funding comes from three sources:

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation made a $600,000 philanthropic gift.

The Federal Forest Legacy Program awarded a grant of $11 million dollars. The money comes from federal offshore drilling fees, not taxes or debt.

Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program will provide the remaining 25% of the funding, $4 million dollars. The Knowles-Nelson Funds come from revenues that the state of Wisconsin has already raised and that the legislature has earmarked for land conservation. The state will not incur any debt as a result of supporting the Pelican River Forest.

No. The land stays in private hands and will continue to be taxed as private land. The project keeps the land on the tax rolls. By supporting outdoor recreation and forestry, the Pelican River Forest supports two of the largest sectors of the Northwoods economy: The $38-billion forest products industry and the $9-billion outdoor recreation industry.

Plus, when we protect nature, nature works for us. Wisconsin's conserved lands provide us more than $2 billion in natural services every year.

See the resources section below for detailed information on land conservation and local government finances.

Map & Fact Sheet

Make your voice heard!

Sign the petition now to show your support for the Pelican River Forest.

Join the
Sign on Letter

Add your organization or business’ name to the sign on letter calling on local and state leaders to complete the Pelican River Forest. Contact us to add your organization to the letter.

A Second step That Will Make a Big Difference

Contact Your Legislators

After you sign the petition, send a letter letting the Governor and your legislators know you support Pelican River Forest. Follow the link below to contact your representatives.

If you are part of an organization that would like to lend its support to the project, click here to contact us to add your organization’s name to a public letter in support of the project.
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Read More about the Project

A drone image captures an aerial view of the lush green Pelican River area
A blonde woman in an orange shirt and accompanied by a large black dog looks up with a pair of binoculars in the lush Pelican River forest

Don’t Look Away!
Learn More and show your support

View our resource library for more information on this project, including fact sheets, resolutions, and economic analysis.