MADISON, Wisc. – Conservation groups are sounding an alarm that a land swap between the state and a private company along Lake Michigan’s shores could set a harmful precedent for state parks and conserved lands, and are asking Gov. Tony Evers for help.
Members of the Friends of the Black River Forest and the Sierra Club gathered at the state Capitol Thursday afternoon, asking Evers to block a land swap that would transfer five acres of Kohler-Andrae State Park to Kohler Co. as a part of their plans to build a private luxury golf course.
The groups say the land swap could damage sensitive conserved lands that feature natural dunes, wetlands and sensitive species along Lake Michigan’s shores — a type of area that is now rare due to centuries of development.
Kohler Co., known for its high-end plumbing fixtures, wants to build another championship-level golf course on 247 acres along Lake Michigan, just south of Sheboygan and north of Kohler-Andrae State Park. It already owns Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits, which have hosted major events like the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup. The courses have made the area a tourism destination for golf enthusiasts.
The land swap is the latest point of contention between the private company and conservation groups, who worry that the golf course will damage ecosystems along Lake Michigan’s shoreline and take away from park visitors’ experiences.
Mary Faydash, president of a local nonprofit Friends of the Black River Forest, said the groups are asking Evers to put a stop to the land swap and consider the importance of conserving such important land along the Great Lakes.
“We’re not expecting him to be a scientist, or an attorney or even a conservationist. We’re expecting him to listen to what is now up to over 30,000 people who are saying, please end this land exchange agreement, which was based on illegal and wrong DNR procedures,” Faydash said.
Here’s what to know about the land swap:
Kohler-Andrae State Park, one of last natural areas along Lake Michigan
Kohler-Andrae State Park is actually two state parks — Terry Andrae State Park and John Michael Kohler State Park — that are managed together as one. Kohler Co. donated the land for John Michael Kohler State Park to honor the company’s founder.
Kohler-Andrae State Park is located in the Town of Wilson a few miles south of the city of Sheboygan in between the Black River and Lake Michigan. It’s one of the last remaining natural areas…