You may own hundreds of acres of forest in Lincoln County. Or maybe a parcel or two. Perhaps you live in a downtown apartment. Despite the property you own or rent, each of you have something in common when it comes to forest use: everyone in the county has rights to the more than 100,000 acres of county forestlands.
For more than a year, a group of hikers, mountain bikers, loggers, fishermen, hunters, ATVers, skiers, snowmobilers, horseback riders and those with environmental concerns have been hashing over a forest recreation plan. In other words, what you can and cannot do in the county forestlands you pay taxes on.
The county forests' future vitality may very well be hanging in the balance, and there are questions here that apply to everyone. Take your concerns to the Forest Access Plan public hearing at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) in the Merrill High School auditorium. Whether you comment or listen, the county forests need your support.
The ecosystems, wildlife and waterbodies. The primary threat to plants and animals is loss of habitat. Do you know how this forest plan affects the natural resources that inspire you to make a home here? What birds, animals and natural features do you enjoy?
The past decade has experienced a large increase in ATVers and snowmobilers. There are miles of such trails in the forest. Do you know where you can ride your ATV or snowmobile? Does it cause damage? Will there be more trails?
Non-motorized users also have increased considerably. Visitors range from cross-country skiers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and hikers. When you're traversing through county property on horse or foot, will you encounter a motorized vehicle? Do you want to?
A lot of people in Lincoln County are attracted to the fishing and boating aspects. Where can your family go? Will there be a boat landing? Is there access for your vehicle? What kind of environmental impacts do installing such amenities have on shorelands?
Hunters of deer, ruffed grouse and turkey enjoy use of county lands for recreation. Conflicts have arisen between the motorized and non-motorized hunters. Which are you? Where can you hunt, when and how?
The Northwoods is home to many loggers, who support their families and themselves through their profession, often through jobs in county forests. Will you, your friends or relatives still be able to continue to bid on such jobs? What if logging practices change?
All these noted recreations, and others, are legitimate uses of public land, the plan notes. The mission of the document is to give direction to present and future forestry committees and resource managers with balanced access to a wide variety of groups while protecting the resource.
The responsibility to protect those natural resources is a shared duty between Lincoln County and the public who use this forest.