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Great Lakes Article:

Alternative plans presented on Apostle Island Wilderness study
Steve Tomasko
The Ashland Daily Press
06/29/2002

The National Park Service has released five alternative plans for how much of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore should be declared wilderness.

The alternatives recommend wilderness designation ranging from zero to more than 90 percent of the park's land base. That represents from zero to 39,500 of the park's 42,160-acre holding.

The NPS started the wilderness study process a year ago with a public comment period on the general question of designating none, some or all of the park as wilderness.

Nearly 5,000 public comments were gathered during the first phase of the study completed last year. Those comments were used by the National Park Service to draft five potential alternatives. More than 80 percent of the comments received favored designating at least some of the park as official wilderness.

"The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a place that is special to many different kinds of people," said park superintendent Bob Krumenaker. "The wilderness study process we are involved in is a wonderful opportunity for the people who love this park to help determine the future of the islands."

Now the service wants public input again on those alternatives and will hold a series of open house events. People can also get more information and comment through the national lakeshore's website.

NPS officials have said that a wilderness designation will not significantly change the way the park is managed.

That's because for the past 12 years, most of the park -- 97 percent -- has been managed as if it already was designated wilderness, under the guidelines of a 1989 General Management Plan.

If the park is already managed for wilderness, why go through the process of studying its suitability?

Federal law and NPS policy requires the park be evaluated for possible inclusion in the national wilderness preservation system.

This would have been done long ago for the lakeshore but wasn't, primarily because funds were not available for the study.

In the earlier comment period, most people that did not favor wilderness designation had concerns that access to the islands would be restricted and/or boating would be more restricted if the park is designated as wilderness.

The access concerns may stem from a controversial park plan for Isle Royale National Park, which pitted boaters against those preferring quiet zones around the park.

That issue probably won't pertain to AINL because jurisdiction between the two parks differ.

The NPS owns the water for one-half mile out from Isle Royale, so it could set policies relating to boaters near the island.

However, the State of Wisconsin owns the lake bottom around the Apostles, and the NPS, while having jurisdiction over the water one-quarter mile around each island, doesn't own it.

In all of the proposed alternatives, including the one with the most land designated for wilderness, certain areas are excluded from wilderness designation, including:

* current docks, or areas near the docks

* cultural and historic sites including lighthouses and adjacent land

* waters and submerged lands of Lake Superior

* mainland unit of the park

* Manitou Island Fish Camp

* southeast tip of Sand Island

* West Bay Club on Sand Island

The service will take comments on the alternatives through August 1 and choose one later this year. A final decision isn't expected until 2004.

In the end, Congress has the final say on whether any of the park gets designated as wilderness.

Public Meetings

Public meetings on the proposed wilderness options for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore will be held on:

* July 5 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Presque Isle Visitor Center on Stockton Island, in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

* July 8 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Conference Room C of the Tribal Administrative Building for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Odanah

* July 9 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Bayfield Pavilion adjacent to the City Dock in Bayfield

* July 10 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Red Cliff Bingo Hall adjacent to the Isle Vista Casino in Red Cliff

* July 11 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Four Points Sheraton/Capitol Hotel at 400 North Hamline Avenue in St Paul, Minnesota

For those unable to attend the meetings, information on the park's Wilderness Study and copies of the alternatives workbook can be obtained at the National Park Service web site at www.nps.gov/apis/wstudy.htm or by calling the park at 715-779-3397.

Questions or comments can also be e-mailed to: apis_comments@nps.gov.

Comments will be accepted through August 1. After considering the comments, the park will have a draft recommendation regarding wilderness available for public review by summer 2003.

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