The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology is publicly opposing a proprosal by the Kohler Co, to develop an ecologically valuable 247-acre parcel of dune forest bordering Lake Michigan just north of Kohler-Andrae State Park into a high-end golf course.
WSO representatives testified initially at a July 16, 2014 hearing before the Town of Wilson Plan Commission and emphasized:
1) The role of the existing forest as migrant stopover habitat
2) The significance of migratory stopover habitat
3) The historic great loss of this type of habitat along the Lake Michigan shoreline
The commission decided to defer action on Kohler's request for the conditional use permit that would be required to override the town's 20-year Comprehensive Plan.
A year later; on July 14, 2015, two WSO representatives testified publicly on the Environmental Impact Report submitted by Kohler at a two-hour public scoping meeting held by the Department of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan.
Speaking for three minutes each were WSO Vice President Michael John Jaeger and Dianne Packett, a member of WSO's Conservation Committee.
Subsequently, WSO filed formal written comments with the DNR, encompassing their public testimony and offering supportive evidence. These comments are available here: http://wsobirds.org/images/pdfs/WSOKohlerCommentsFinal.pdf
Opponents of the proposed golf course were out in force at the meeting, outnumbering proponents about 6-to-1, raising concerns about pesticides, bird populations, and the course's impact on nearby residents. The plan would require an easement to use a small part of the state park, while the rest would be built on private land owned by the company.
Kohler's Environmental Impact Report said that the course would be a "minimalist" design that would leave some existing forest in place, eliminate invasive species the company has allowed to exist, and ensure water quality and access for those neighbors drawing on well water.
Only a handful of people spoke in favor of the Kohler project, including a representative from Kohler and Dane Checolinski, director of the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp., who said: " With 23,000 visitors, or roughly 5% of the number of visitors to Kohler-Andrae State Park, this project will pump about $20 million into our local economy."
Mary Faydash, co-founder of Friends of the Black River Forest and an opponent of the proposal, said that each one of the "benefits" Kohler has listed in its publicity for the project was false and that the project would benefit from environmental destruction.
Christa Westerberg, a Madison-based environmental attorney representing some of the residents, said: "There's a reason, I think, that the site hasn't been developed yet, and one is that it does have these features that do present challenges for development. The EIR, as written, does not fully explore or acknowledge some of these environmental impacts."
No deadline has been set for the DNR to finish its environmental impact statement, although the Sheboygan Press reported that town officials are operating under the assumption the plan could still come to them sometime this year for local approvals.