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Firth Lake (copy)

Art Lieb of Cornell took this 2014 photo from the Ice Age Trail in northern Chippewa County, looking out across Firth Lake and the Chippewa County Forest.

ART LIEB, Contributed photo

With a nearly unanimous vote Tuesday evening, the Chippewa County board approved the 2018 work plan for the Forest and Trails Division of the county’s Department of Land Conservation and Forest Management.

County Forest Administrator Mike Dahlby said the approval allows the department to move forward in applying for a $46,000-plus grant from the Wisconsin DNR. Half of the funding from the “routine grant,” as Dahlby described it, goes toward the pay of the assistant county forest administrator while the other half goes toward the cost being in the Wisconsin County Forests Association.

The county would not receive the grant without work plan approval from the county and the DNR, Dahlby said.

County board member Glen Sikorski was the only vote against the plan. Sikorski is the vice chair of the on the Land Conservation and Forest Management Committee, which worked and helped create the plan.

Calling his vote against the plan “more of a symbolic gesture,” on Thursday, Sikorski said he voted against the plan because he takes issue with the county continually receiving grant money from an organization with its own funding problems.

Sikorski also said the county should be taking a closer look at the land it sells and the land it chooses to purchase.

“We are struggling in Chippewa County to maintain what we have, and I don’t think we are wise to be buying more property… We’re selling low and buying high; that’s not good negotiating,” Sikorski said.

As for the plan itself, Sikorski was in favor of the plan and said the committee worked hard to produce the best plan possible.

The plan outlines the goals and projects the department is planning to accomplish in 2018, such as timber sale acquisitions, trail maintenance and invasive species elimination.

Approximately 700 acres will be used for timber sale in county forests, Dahlby said, with half up for sale in open bidding this spring and again this fall.

Harvested timber is typically grown from natural regeneration, Dahlby added. Planting and management of regeneration is only done in cases of misuse or depletion.

Through the Forest Stewardship Council, the county works within national standards to achieve sustainable forestry certification. This means the products harvested from timber sales with that certification won’t deplete the environment’s resources, Dahlby said.

“Sustainable forestry certification is like the organic stamp of forestry,” Dahlby said.

In other timber-related maintenance, Dahlby said the county is working to keep its promise to ski, equine and mountain bike trail users, conducting two years’ worth of “active timber management” along the trails.

Contractors’ obligations to the trails following timber work are only to essentially make it flat again, Dahlby said. The county will be working to groom the trails using different techniques, like removing large rocks or fixing mangled grass.

Work on county trails was also included in the 2018 work plan. Specifically, Dahlby noted, work and continuation of the Old Abe Trail project as a key concern for the department.

The county is looking to gain additional funding to create a new trailhead facility near trails around Lake Wissota. The facility will include places for picnic and breaks, Dahlby said.

Motivation to complete and fund this trailhead facility comes from the addition of blacktop to the Chippewa Valley Trail, of which Old Abe Trail is part of, Dahlby said.

“We’re just trying to match the aesthetic of other amenities along the Chippewa Valley Trail,” Dahlby said.

While the majority of trails in the county are maintained by user groups that sponsor the trails, Dahlby said the county is responsible for day-to-day maintenance on the trails.

Other plan details:

  • Invasive species: The plan outlines the county’s work in eradicating invasive species from the area, in particular, Dahlby said, garlic mustard. The invasive plant has particularly sprung up along Ice Age Trail and adjacent timber stand, Dalhby said. In an effort to get tougher on the spacies, last year the county worked with 4 Control out of Menomonie to help with the eradication. Dalhby said the county will be taking open bids on the open market to help once again with the species elimination.
  • Unpaved boat landings: Avid anglers and water enthusiasts can expect gravel landings at Knickerbocker Lake, Town Line Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Bass Lake and Hay Meadow Flowage 1 to be updated in 2018. Dalhby said this will include reshaping the parking lots and ramp sizes to minimize erosion into the lakes.
  • ATV Trail: Anticipate the opening of a 12-mile expansion to the Chippewa County Forest ATV trail. Working with Chippewa Valley ATV since 2012, the county is hopeful for a May 2018 opening date, Dahlby said.

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