Wisconsin judges assess the challenge of swapping a park

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – A conservation group on Friday asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court for leave to challenge the state’s decision to transfer state park lands to a company planning to build a golf.

Friends of the Black River Forest argue that the decision by the Department of Natural Resources board of directors to give Kohler Company a 5-acre parcel and nearly 2-acre easement in Kohler-Andrae State Park prevent the public from enjoying this land and harm wildlife. habitat.

Kohler and the DNR want the Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the conservation group does not have standing to sue because construction of the course has not started and until it does, no one does. ‘suffered harm.

Group lawyer Christa Westerberg admitted in oral argument on Friday morning that the company had not closed the packages to the public, but said the exchange set the stage for future damage, which should enough to keep the trial alive.

Kohler-Andrae State Park spans approximately 990 acres along the shores of Lake Michigan, just south of Sheboygan. The DNR board, which was then under the control of then-Republican governor Scott Walker, agreed to transfer the plot and easement to Kohler so that the company could build a parking lot, a parking facility. maintenance and a road to the golf course. The company gave MNR about 10 acres it owned west of the park in exchange.

Friends of the Black River Forest challenged the land swap in court in 2018, alleging it would deprive group members and the public of public park land use, reduce habitat for a range of animals and plants and would result in increased noise and traffic. around the park.

Sheboygan and Dane County judges dismissed the lawsuit, saying the group did not have standing to sue because the exchange itself had caused no harm. An appeals court overturned those rulings last year, ruling that the swap had triggered a sequence of events that could lead to damage. The DNR and Kohler have asked the Supreme Court to overturn this appeal decision.

Conservative court judges appeared to side with Shumskey. Judge Rebecca Bradley said Westerberg had to show the trade directly caused an injury to prove his quality.

“There’s a break in the connection your customers are trying to make between the trade-in decision and the injuries they might suffer in the future,” Bradley said. “The exchange didn’t hurt your customers.”

Judge Brian Hagedorn said that under Westerberg’s standing theory, anyone concerned about the future impacts of an agency decision could sue that agency.

“It’s almost unlimited,” he said.

It is not known when the court could rule.

Friends of the Black River Forest won a court order in a separate lawsuit in June blocking Kohler’s permit that would allow the company to fill wetlands during construction of the course, mostly on a property Kohler already has.


Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter: https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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