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Feasibility studies

The Department of Natural Resources periodically proposes to establish new properties (e.g., State Park, Wildlife Area, Forest or Natural Area) to meet growing conservation and recreation needs. Before the department can establish a new property or significantly expand an existing one, it must prepare a study on the area's characteristics and features to determine if the intended conservation and recreation goals can be met. Also integral to the study is an assessment of public support. This "feasibility study" must be approved by the Natural Resources Board (NRB) and the governor before the DNR can offer to purchase land within a proposed property. The following are answers to frequently asked questions about feasibility studies.

What is a feasibility study?

A feasibility study is used to determine whether it is practicable for the department to establish, acquire, develop and manage a new property such as a State Park, Wildlife Area, Forest or Natural Area. The feasibility study not only takes into account the area's physical and biological environment and its capabilities, but also the views of the public and landowners, and the availability of funding and staffing to successfully accomplish the project's purpose. Furthermore, a feasibility study presents a proposed boundary, general land management strategies and alternatives.

The feasibility study also must meet the requirements of the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (WEPA) and its implementing codes. Certain DNR actions require an Environmental Analysis or a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Before the department can implement the proposed project, it is also required to complete an Environmental Analysis or Environmental Impact Statement under NR 150, Wis. Admin. Code.

How is a feasibility study initiated?

Most proposed projects are discussed and shaped informally for years before a formal feasibility study is started. Often department staff, officials from local units of government, members of nonprofit conservation and recreation groups or other citizens will evaluate a variety of land protection options based on local conservation and recreation demands and opportunities. Before the department can initiate formal work on a feasibility study, it must gain approval from the NRB.

How is the public involved?

Public input in the feasibility study process is integral to a successful proposal. The amount and nature of public involvement varies based on the complexity, size and type of project that is proposed. A formal hearing is held to gather input on a proposed land protection project; however, in most instances an informal "open house" meeting is organized to allow the public the opportunity to better understand a proposed project and provide their perspectives and input. Without local public support for a potential State Park, Forest, or Wildlife, Fishery or Natural Area, there is little chance that the project will succeed.

How are feasibility studies approved?

When the feasibility study is completed it is presented to the NRB for consideration at one of its monthly meetings. The public is invited to attend these meetings and can provide perspective on whether or not the board should approve the proposed project. If approved by the NRB, it is forwarded to the governor's office for approval. Only after the NRB and the governor have approved the feasibility study can the department begin offering to purchase lands within the boundary.

Where have feasibility studies been completed?

Feasibility studies have been completed for the following properties: