Promoting quiet recreation in Wisconsin.
Opposing the coming attempts to sell off Wisconsin's natural heritage.
Fighting denial about climate change. When are we hitting the streets?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Do we really want to drive anymore?

My wife and I were passed a few weeks ago by an Audi sports car doing at least 80. The driver was reading an article and marking it up with a hilighter. So I ask you: If driving an Audi sports car at 80 miles an hour isn't exciting enough to keep our attention, isn't it time we just stopped driving?

We are probably close to the point where we will have cars that can drive themselves. The cruise control on my cousin's minivan slows down when it approaches another car. The GPS guidance system on my Prius tells me when I have missed a turn ("make a legal U-turn in one mile", it says, without a hint of exasperation). At some point in the near future, cars will do a safer job of driving than we will.

From the human side, think of how much better off we would be if our cars drove themselves. Of course, you are perfectly capable of driving, finding a compact disc, talking to your friend on the phone, and eating a chicken wing when you drive. But what about those other people? Wouldn't you feel safer if their car was computer controlled? And wouldn't it be better if you could watch a video or catch up on a novel while you commuted home?

The main impediment to self-guided cars won't be technological, it will be emotional. Watch any television commercial to see what I mean. Cars are freedom, sex, competition. Of course, all of this is a myth and driving is ordinarily a misery of road construction, poorly timed traffic lights, and idiots in other cars who won't use their turn signals. Not to mention global warming and foreign wars.

Soon we will have to ask: How many lives each year are to be sacrificed for this illusion? Wouldn't it be better to start giving it up?

I think the first well funded lobbying organization to get on board with my driverless cars campaign will be the Wisconsin Tavern League. Think about it-bars have been hit hard by crackdowns on drunk driving. Wouldn't it be great if you could have that second brandy old fashioned with your perch fry-and hell, even another on the way home-and the only danger would be that you would punch in the wrong destination and end up in Waukegan instead of Waupaca?

Here is a less drastic proposal that noone will like, but that would immediately save lives, money, and fossil fuel. Lets install every car with a device that detects the speed limit on any road by remote sensor. If you passed the speed limit given off by a signal placed in the road, the same annoying sound (but louder) would go off that goes off when you don't fasten your seat belt. The benefits would be safer neighborhoods for kids who have to cross streets, lower insurance rates due to decreased accidents, more effective use of police resources (they wouldn't have to spend time waiting to catch speeders), and an overall savings of fuel, "reducing our dependence on foreign oil". Has anyone figured out the number of barrels of oil each day we spend just so that we can break the law?

The cost of making cars "speeding proof" would easily be offset by the gains I describe. I have never read about such a device, but I am sure someone has thought of it. Why don't we have them? Because its hard to give up on an illusion....

The cost of the Seaway.....

A great series of articles on the damage to the Great Lakes from invasive species coming in from ship ballast. I knew it was a problem, but I didn't know how little we actually benefitted from the shipping compared to the price we pay in terms of environmental damage. You may need to register with the J-S, but it is free...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Pat Durkin debunks another deeply held Wisconsin belief

So the DNR wasn't behind the dread Asian beetle invasion!

Shhh: Why Wisconsin Needs a Quiet Zone

Here again is the link for the Eric Ness article I encouraged people to read when I spoke at the Natural Resources Board meeting. It seems to always disappear from my site somehow.

I put a simple "hit counter" in at the bottom of this blog last week. Glad to know some folks are out there! Please feel free to let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


The DNR Board meeting was at Treehaven, near Tomahawk. It is a beautiful place, though I didn't have time to walk the trails. It looks well worth a return visit. I linked to their site, they have a lot of interesting programs.

Don't you enjoy the feeling of being in a wooded place that you have never been before?

It passed!

The new DNR board passed the NHAL Forest Master Plan. Congratulations to Dennis Leith and his staff for the great job they did on the plan!

The ATV loop trail is out, no new trail is in, but there is a committee with an 18 month mandate to investigate a possible trail. Fortunately, some silent sports allies will be on the committee. It was the best we could have expected given the strong-arm from the legislature.

Even more importantly, the committee approved expansion of the forest above highway B to the Ottowa National Forest in Michigan.

Most of the public comment was opposed to the idea of an ATV trail.

I learned quite a bit from listening to the pro-ATV speakers. First of all, nearly all of them talked about wanting a "trail system". They did not support the loop trail. It was interesting that one of the speakers dismissed the Vilas County referendum, saying people were "confused" by wording that led them to believe there would be trails all over the county. On the other hand, at another point he said pretty clearly that he wanted a trail system.

But here is an interesting point he made-he said his side was ready to compromise, but our side wasn't. A fair point, perhaps. So, I am asking myself, under what circumstances WOULD I accept an ATV trail in the NHAL forest? What do you think? I will post some ideas in the next few days.

Time for a Pic...

Me and my canoe at the start of the Manitowish River above High Lake, very early in the summer. Note the poor paddling technique. I am feeling a little wistful at the moment-another summer gone!

Monday, October 24, 2005

quiet as a resource...

I am preparing what to say when I speak at the Natural Resources Board Meeting on Wednesday. Like the villain in a bad horror movie, the ATV trail proposal seems very hard to kill. Here are some of my random thoughts:

I think the "loop trail" idea was-and still is- the "Harriet Miers" of trail proposals, unwanted by friend and foe of ATV's alike. ATV people want a connecting trail-(I am still trying to figure out where it is.)-and are hoping to make a last minute home run swing here.

I suspect other speakers will focus on trail and environmental damage, so I am just going to focus on the issue of quiet.

FOr a moment, lets pretend that ATV groups are correct-that there is incredible need and pressure for more trails based on increased numbers, and a connecting trail or a loop trail is needed to take up that pressure. (I don't believe it, by the way) If that were true, we could say for certain that an ATV trail would significantly diminish recreation for a large swath of the forest.

Without significant public support and input, no new recreation should displace or significantly disrupt existing recreational activities. What evidence do we have for what the public thinks? We have one referendum in Presque Isle, One in Vilas County, and a huge public response to the ATV issue in the Master Plan. It is clear the public doesn't want ATV's in the NHAL forest.

The reason for this is clear, but we have never looked at it straight on: Quiet is not an ancillary, secondary benefit of the Northwoods. It is, for many people, the main resource.

Most of us want, and need, that window of quiet to pass by, when we stop in our tracks, stop thinking so much about problems, and just listen to the wind, listen to the wood thrush give a holy depth to the forest, listen to the fire hiss and crack. We need a place to be outside of a world of machinery. We want to feel that magical feeling that occurs when we go to bed with the windows open, and hear the forest creeping. We want to hear the monkey like calls of woodpeckers and the sounds of waves lapping on a boat, We want to shush each other as we shushing each try to figure out what those strange whistles are down by the river, (they are otters, by the way)

Sound is not just an ancillary tangiential benefit. It is part of the main reason people come.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Dennis McCann in the Journal-Sentinel-Score one for crickets and frogs

I missed this September 27th column, but its a good one. In it, Dennis celebrates the decision to remove the loop trail from the Master Plan. Salient facts I hadn't known: 70 percent of the feedback on the Master plan was on the ATV trail, and that 2/3rds of that feedback opposed the trail. Kudos again to NHAL Superintendent Dennis Leith for his openness.

Unfortunately, ATV groups may want to take one more swing at the DNR board to short circuit the long, open process of evaluating a possible trail.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wildlife report

Late fall in Northern Wisconsin-

We saw three fishers (we think that is what they were) across the lake, moving down to the water. They were "gyring and gimboling" down to the wabe, I mean, water. Of course, no camera or binoculars. They moved quickly. could they have been something else? We saw them across the lake. They were jet black, too dark to be otters.

The single loon is still hanging out on the lake.

Monday, October 17, 2005

From Brook Waalen

TO: MN-WI ATV Summit Attendees
FROM: Brook Waalen
RE: Wisconsin Coalition
DATE: October 14, 2005
The October meeting is postponed – too many conflicts with schedules. In the
meantime please consider the following proposal. (Please “reply to all” when providing
1) WHAT: Comprehensively challenge irresponsible ATV legislation and plans for
increased access for ATVs on public land and trails.
2) WHY: Widespread damage/vandalism by ATVs on public land and trails.
3) HOW: Organize a coalition of recreational clubs (such as running clubs and ski
clubs), environmental organizations, grassroots organizations, governments
(such as the NPS and LGUs), and applicable professional organizations under
one umbrella named the “Wisconsin Public Land & Trails Council.”
a. In broad terms the umbrella organization would speak on behalf of the
member-organizations regarding the use of public lands and trails and
other specific issues.
b. The umbrella organization would be organized as a 501(c)(3) in order to
fundraise (or work in conjunction with an established organization).
c. The umbrella organization would influence, communicate, organize,
network, beg for funds, educate, and litigate.
d. Member-organizations would sign onto the umbrella organization’s guiding
principles which would focus on protecting natural resources and
promoting truly sustainable trail systems (to be defined) and recreational
e. Member-organizations would have to prove their commitment to the
guiding principles or be denied membership.
4) WHO: A core group would have to donate some time and expertise to begin.
5) WHEN: The sooner the better.
6) WHERE: Eventually housing this umbrella organization near Madison makes the
most sense.

Pat Durkin article link: Face it: Trespassing Disputes Inevitable

Here is a link to the article I mentioned last week. I enjoy reading Pat Durkin's thoughtful columns on hunting issues. He frequently writes about dilemmas that occur when different "user groups" collide in forest land. This article in particular expresses feelings that a silent sports enthusiast will relate to.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Date for Wisconsin Summit Meeting....

Still not sure we have a date for the Wisconsin meeting proposed by Brook Waalen (see October 6th post). Any suggestions?

Primary thought I had while running the Chicago Marathon- "Never...again... never...again...never...again... " Primary thought after finishing the marathon "How can I run the next one faster?"

I read a meloncholy article by Patrick Durkin in today's Green Bay Press-Gazette on the issue of trespassing for hunters. I will link to it when I see it online. Durkin reflects that new land uses (farmers selling land, private development, closed hunting areas, etc.)are cutting off access for hunting, and taking away some of the land (and sense of freedom) that hunters had. His main point is that everyone needs to keep a cool head, but one doesn't need to be a hunter to identify with his feeling of loss.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What we can learn from The Outdoor Life Network

Last night I was on the treadmill keeping ready for the Chicago Marathon-I am in the "gasping and wheezing duffers" category. While channel surfing, I came across the outdoor life network, and it was showing a Hockey game. I am not an expert, but do they play professional hockey outdoors? Is there not enough content out there about the outdoors to put on the network? Or is none of it more interesting than watching...professional hockey? Then it occured to me-are silent sports boring? I don't mean boring to do (although the relationship between boredom and silent sports is certainly interesting) but boring to watch? And is this a marketing challenge for us as we try to gain a constituency for our sports?

Meeting Summary-ATV summit

Quietnorth Note: I am going to try to figure out a way in the next week or so to make a link and an archive to longer documents-until then I think it is important that this information get out.

Minnesota-Wisconsin ATV Summit - Meeting summary

September 22, 2005

10:00am – 2:00pm

Tower Ridge Cabin, Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Minnesota Contact: Matthew Norton, MN Center for Environmental Advocacy, 651-223-5969

Wisconsin Contact: Brook Waalen, Friends of the L-O-G Greenway, 715-472-2922


(in random order)

Ron Bergin, Wisconsin Nordic Network and other silent sport organizations
Alan Drum, Northwoods Citizens for Responsible Stewardship (WI)
Sue Drum, Northwoods Citizens for Responsible Stewardship (WI)
Matthew Norton, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Sean Wherley, Friends of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Dennis Deery, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters
Edward Moersfelder, Friends of the LOG Greenway (WI)
Glenn Stoddard, Attorney at Law in private pracitce (WI)
John Staszcuk, Wisconsin County Forest Association
Kevin Proescholdt, Izaak Walton League of America
Brook Waalen, Friends of the LOG Greenway (WI)
Marjorie Ward, Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin
Richard Smith, Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation
Don Erickson, Ice Age Park & Trial Foundation
Gwen Myers, League of Women Voters (MN)
Dale Crisler, Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation
John McKenna, Pineland Community (WI)
Joel Patenaude, Silent Sports Magazine
Bill Mertens, Pineland Community (WI)
Jerry Greenberg, Wilderness Society
Jane Tapper, Wisconsin Walks
Don Smith, Sierra Club
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Introduction and Background

This Summit was conceived and organized jointly by Matthew Norton of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and Brook Waalen of the Friends of the LOG Greenway primarily in response to the widespread environmental damage caused by ATVs in Minnesota and Wisconsin but also in response to Minnesota’s 2005 legislative outcome that opened 74% of Minnesota State Forest Land to ATVs.

ATV-caused damage and vandalism is evident not only on designated trail surfaces but also on adjacent trail corridors; in environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands; on private property and other posted lands; and in road right-of-ways. Both the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MnDNR) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WiDNR) are responsible for developing ATV trails as well as enforcing ATV laws, however, both departments allow the damage and vandalism to accumulate faster than any repair. The threat to habitat, water quality, and rare and endangered species is widespread and obvious.

The ATV lobby continues to maintain that the root cause of this damage and vandalism is the lack of opportunities to ride legally despite the fact that ATVs have access to 11,000 miles of trails in Minnesota1 and 5,555 miles of state-funded trails in Wisconsin2. Nevertheless, the ATV lobby continues to press both States’ Legislatures for more trails and expanded access to public land. This strategy is economically beneficial to the ATV industry because this way the public funds the ATV trail infrastructure either by ceding lands to these vehicles or by suffering damage to public property, which is in effect a subsidy. Two other notable claims by the ATV lobby are as follows:

Claim 1: Only a tiny fraction of ATVers cause damage or break the law.

Counterclaim 1a: It doesn’t matter how many rouge ATVers are causing the damage, the damage is still occurring – primarily on public land.

Counterclaim 1b: If only a tiny fraction of ATVers are the problem then strict penalties (jail, fines, confiscation, etc.) should be embraced by the ATV lobby instead of rejected as an overreaction.

Counterclaim 1c: If this is the case a small number ATVers is causing unprecedented damage to public land.

Counterclaim 1d: The percentage of “renegade” ATVers has been estimated at 3-10 percent3.

Claim 2: This is just like the snowmobile issue in the 1970’s when snowmobilers didn’t have enough trails.

Counterclaim 2a: Snowmobilers built a trail infrastructure primarily on private property. It should be noted that almost all private property owners who allow snowmobile trails on their land will permit an ATV trail on their land. Furthermore, snowmobile clubs do not allow ATVs on their trail systems in either the summer or the winter.

Counterclaim 2b: During the winter people have their windows closed and spend more time inside. ATVers want summer trails more so than winter trails and it’s the summertime when windows are open and the public is subject to dust, noise, danger and other disturbances.

Counterclaim 3b: The rural residential population in Minnesota and Wisconsin has exploded since the 1970’s resulting in more opportunities for conflicts between ATVs and residents.

Counterclaim 4b: During the winter the ground is typically frozen and covered with snow thereby protecting soil, water resources, and wildlife habitat from erosion and disturbance.

Other issues like the lack of enforcement; damage to non-motorized trails; the safety of other trail users; the actual number of ATVs used on recreation trails; and the attitude of the MnDNR and WiDNR that flagrant damage to natural resources is acceptable if inflicted by an ATV are other issues that need to be addressed. Those that gathered for this Summit understand that the ATV lobby has based their agenda on illogical claims and a certain degree of deceit which must be balanced in public forums; in the media; at local government; at the Legislature; and in the courts. To that end the Summit participants agreed that a formal coalition made up of a variety of organizations is necessary to balance the rhetoric coming from the ATV lobby in order to protect natural resources and certain quality of life issues.

Meeting Notes

During Minnesota’s 2004 legislative session ATVers gained almost unlimited access to 74 percent of the Minnesota’s forest land. All State forests north of Highway 2 were open to ATVs. All trails not posted closed were considered open. The Legislature was sufficiently vague in their actions that it is possible for all new, unapproved and undesignated trails to eventually become legal trails because -- due to resource constraints -- the MnDNR is unable to identify and post these as closed. Furthermore, signage tends to disappear in the forest.

This blow came two years after the MnDNR surveyed all State forests in an effort to identify lands that would be appropriate for ATVs as well as those that would require protection from these machines. Despite this effort the Legislature made their decision based on pressure from the ATV lobby thereby ignoring science, public sentiment, and the painfully obvious. Reportedly 70-80 percent of Minnesotan are opposed to uncontrolled ATV use on trails; nevertheless, and for some unknown reason the concerns of the greater population do not have as much traction at the Capital as those of the ATV lobby.

Conversely, in Wisconsin a grassroots organization, Northwoods Citizens for Responsible Stewardship (NCRS), has led two successful campaigns against expanded ATV trail opportunities in Vilas County. Most recently NCRS removed a provision for an experimental ATV loop from the Northern Highland – American Legion State Forest (NH-AL State Forest). Much of their success is attributed to a strong grassroots campaign that kept the issue alive in local newspapers and pubic meeting filled to capacity.

Also in Wisconsin another grassroots organization, Friends of the Lincoln-Osceola-Garfield Greenway (LOG), sued the WiDNR in an effort to keep ATVs off of an abandoned railroad corridor that is slated for a public trail. The legal petition basically forced the State to recognize that it must conduct an environmental review on any State Property that is undergoing a planning process. LOG is hopeful that the resulting environmental review will show definitively that ATVs are environmentally and economically unsustainable on this 15-mile trail.

Conclusions and Strategies

Minnesota has an active coalition of nonprofit organizations and grassroots organizations that have pooled resources in order to challenge irresponsible ATV legislation. Despite this coordinated effort the ATV lobby made considerable strides in that state in 2004. Wisconsin has no such coalition but the ATV lobby in that state has not pushed quite as hard in Madison for sweeping legislation…yet. Wisconsin is ill-prepared to respond to a well financed thrust by the ATV lobby to influence their State lawmakers and should work to replicate the Minnesota model despite their recent spanking.

The Wisconsin case studies offered above and other examples from both states indicate that a dedicated group of individuals armed with the necessary resources can thwart the expansion of ATV trails on public lands. However, this approach is resource intensive and isolated groups don’t typically have the experience to challenge the ATV lobby. Banking on grassroots efforts to pop up wherever ATVers are looking to ride on public lands is shaky at best and will prove immaterial if State laws mandate expansion of the ATV trail infrastructure.

The only way to beat the ATV lobby and protect public land from the ravages of ATVs (and other off-highway vehicles) is to cultivate a comprehensive approach to the issue:

Organize and support local grassroots efforts where ATV trails are proposed.
Challenge DNR staff and administrators to prove they have the legal/statutory authority to develop any and all ATV trails.
Document ATV damage and vandalism with photographs, by marking locations on maps, and by notifying local authorities.
Talk to local and State elected officials and staff about this issue in a comprehensive manner.
Organize sympathetic individuals and groups to write op-eds and letters-to-the-editor in order to keep the public thinking about this issue.
Cultivate a relationship with local papers and let them know about ATV damage/vandalism. Also let them know when more responsible recreation activities (such as a bird hike) are taking place.
Litigate when appropriate and necessary.
Stay connected with other organizations and individuals. Let people all over the state know what you are doing and when you need help.
Enlist the help of retired DNR staffers, legislators, and others with connections and power to help us protect natural resources.
Keep your network broad and you will be surprised who your allies are – most people do not like what they see when it comes to ATVs on public land.
Do your homework. Read reports and plans thoroughly. Ask questions of ATV representatives, decision-makers, and agency staff.
Our values are those embraced by almost everyone so don’t be afraid to let people know what matters to you: preservation wild areas; protection of natural resources; sustainability; quality of life; etc.
The goal is not to eliminate ATVs from the landscape. They are powerful and useful machines that may even be a legitimate form of recreation on public lands if facilities are properly sighted, designed, and constructed. It is clear that these machines and the people who ride them have caused outrageous damage to public resources all in the name of selfish fun and immediate gratification. This is no way to treat our neighbors, our natural resources, or future generations.

This Meeting Summary is respectfully submitted by Brook Waalen on October 4, 2005. Brook would like to thank everyone who participated in the Summit whether they were able to attend or not. The Summit has resulted in better communication between many individuals and organizations who are concerned about this topic…

…but there is much work yet to be done.

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1 Author unknown. Pioneer Press (newspaper). Article unknown but appeared on front page. August 25, 2005. Saint Paul, Minnesota.

2 Wisconsin Department of Tourism (in conjunction with the Wisconsin ATV Association). March 2004. Economic & Demographic Profile of Wisconsin;s ATV Users: Results of an economic survey conducted between June and October 2003. Madison, Wisconsin.

3 Miller, Timothy. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. September 17, 2005. Wausau, WI.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

From Brook Waalen

MN-WI ATV Summit Attendees:

It’s time to set a date, time, and place for the Wisconsin contingent to organize a coalition much like what exists in Minnesota. Allow me to SUGGEST the following:

Place: Wausau

Date: Pick a day between October 22 and October 30 – weekend or weekday.

Time: I’d like to hear your suggestions.

Duration: 4-8 hours

Place: Someplace free.

The theme of the day will be “Organize.” Agenda items may include - but are not limited to - the following:

Identify all potential member-participants.

Develop a contact list and method(s) of communication.

Develop guiding principles or a mission statement or other such foundation.

Identify and adopt one or more key strategies (such as: support grassroots efforts; public education; influence the legislature; promote effective legislation; litigation; etc…).

Assign individuals or working groups to each key strategy that the group adopts.

Identify available resources.

Identify other needed resources and potential sources.

Come up with a name for this coalition.

It would be nice to leave this meeting with a clear sense of what we are capable of doing and how we’re going to do it. Feel free to reply with any concerns or suggestions.

Brook Waalen


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Natural Resources Board Meeting October 26th:From Sue Drum

Hi Everyone,

I talked to Amy Lemberger, Executive Assistant for the Natural Resources Board, and she said the board will meet Wednesday, October 26th in Tomahawk at Treehaven. This is the meeting where the final master plan for the NH-AL State Forest is on the agenda.
There will be no public forum Oct. 25th. Instead please send written comments to Amy Lemberger using her e-mail address: She will take written comments upto Oct. 21st and give them to the board.
Next week, about Oct. 12th, the agenda (with times) will be posted on the N.R. Board website:
Click on agenda.
The final master plan and environmental impact statement are available on the DNR website:
As you know, since Wisconsin State Statues still mandate that the DNR encourage and support an ATV trail system, the NH-AL planners are obligated to continue to look for suitable sites for ATV trails. Our protests have bought time. Now, where-ever the issue is discussed, those who fought the ATV trail must appear alongside ATV advocates to remind everyone that the NH-AL is too rare and priceless a resource to allow any unsustainable use.
Please take time to write, and encourage friends to write, the Natural Resource Board before Oct. 21st. Please be lavish in your praise for Dennis Leith and the DNR planning committee who listened to you plea and removed the ATV loop trail.
The final Master Plan for the NH-AL State Forest, offers 12 sustainable proposals that support forestry jobs and products for many generations, provide habitat critical to the survival of northwoods plants and animals, increase camping and wilderness experiences for those who value the peace and beauty of the forest, and creates more trails for silent sports enthusiasts.

Environmental activists tell me you don't get far being strident and totally against ATVs. So Northwoods Citizens For Responsible Stewardship (NCRS) is not against ATV recreation. There is a place for ATVs but not in our state forests and parks.
NCRS is for the environment. For sustaining habitats necessary for healthy ecosystems that give us clean air, clean water and a rare quality of life for residents and tourists. We are for using public lands as a wall against over-development. We prize the northwoods as the northwoods - a place where people can de-stress in peace and solitude and our children can experience the wonders of nature.

It is always good to close with a quote from John Bates. "Use of public lands must be restricted to those who have demonstrated stewardship over time, something the ATV community has, without hyperbole, utterly failed to do. There's no constitutional right to utilize public lands when the user will clearly have a significant negative impact."

Please, once again, write a letter! The ATV advocates will.

Sue Drum