Pines Bach attorneys achieved a significant victory this week, when the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reinstated a suit the firm had filed on behalf of Friends of the Black River Forest. The suit challenged a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources decision in 2017 to give land in Kohler-Andrae State Park to a private company, Kohler Co., for construction of a golf course.
The Friends alleged the DNR’s decision violated rules against selling or disposing of state park property. Kohler Co., later joined by then-Attorney General Brad Schimel on behalf of the DNR, moved to dismiss the case. A Sheboygan County circuit court granted the motion based on its finding that the Friends lacked standing, or a sufficient injury, to sue.
The Court of Appeals reversed. It found that the land exchange decision anticipated that Kohler Co. would construct a golf course and noted the impact of the decision on the Friends’ members.
Said the Court: “[I]t is not difficult to imagine that the Friends will no longer be able to use the remaining parkland for recreation without interference from traffic and noise in the area caused by the golf course and its patrons. Similarly, it is easy to imagine that interference to habitats could interfere with the Friends ability to use the remaining parkland for recreational uses such as birding.”
The Court also found that state laws “creat[e] an environmental interest in the protection and regulation of Wisconsin’s state parks, including the Kohler-Andrae State Park at the heart of the dispute here.”
Pines Bach is proud to help ensure public rights, and a public voice, in Wisconsin state parks. The Friends were represented in this case by Pines Bach attorneys Christa Westerberg, Leslie Freehill, and Aaron Dumas.
A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article describing the decision is available here.