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GORC Media Press Release 8/4/98



Posted on behalf of <cray@ncis.net>

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

8/4/98

Local Bank Deal Compromises Whittlesey Creek Refuge

The Green Onion Resource Center exposed a Northern State Bank deal which
would sell a critical piece of property for the Whittlesey Creek
National Wildlife Refuge to one of the Bank's board of directors for
private development.  The deal would sell the "Scottie Club" property
which is the US Fish and Wildlife Service's "number two priority"
property for acquisition as part of the new refuge.

The deal is not finalized yet, so conservationists are encouraging the
Bank to reconsider its decision and sell for conservation rather than
development.  Northern State Bank was well aware of the refuge proposal
when they negotiated the sale.  Several conservationists have offered to
acquire the property on behalf of Fish and Wildlife Service for the same
price as it is being sold.

Citizens are encouraged to contact Northern State Bank at (715)
682-2772.

The story is featured as the lead in the first issue of The Wild Leek, a
newsletter of the Green Onion Resource Center (GORC) exploring issues
concerning the ecology of the Northwoods.  GORC is a non-profit
dedicated to conserving the Northwoods ecosystem and promoting green
values.

For more information, contact Charly Ray at the Green Onion Resource
Center @ (715) 373-0882.

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Excerpted from:

>The Wild Leek
>Internet Edition

A Publication of the Green Onion Resource Center
August 1998/ Vol.1  No.1

>Whittlesey Creek Refuge Sold Down the River?

>Northern State Bank Plans Sale of Foreclosed Property to its 
>Chairman of Board

Conservationists were disappointed to learn that Northern State Bank in
Ashland plans to sell a critical property within the Whittlesey Creek
National Wildlife Refuge for private home development.

While the sale was not final at press time, bank president Gary Ellefson
said last week Northern State Bank will soon close a deal with its
chairman of the board, Frank F. Phillips for $60,000. Phillips said he
didn¹t wish to comment on the sale but did confirm he wishes to build a
home there.
 
The 27-acre parcel, marked only by a dusty road and the Scottie Club
sign, is considered by some one of the most precious pieces of land in
Bayfield County.
 
Located near the junction of Highway 13 and U.S. Highway 2 the property
sits in the center of the recently-approved 540-acre wildlife refuge. 
It is one of the last unprotected coastal wetlands at the head of
Chequamegon Bay and Whittlesey Creek ‹ the heart of the refuge ‹ flows
across the entire property.

Whittlesey Creek provides critical spawning and nursery habitat for
restoring coaster brook trout in Lake Superior.

"In terms of ecological value the Scottie Club piece is at or near the
top of our priority list for purchase," said Tom Busiahn, of the U. S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, in an interview July 28, "for the stream that
flows right through it, its central location within the refuge, ground
water and potential for development."

For a while, USFWS, which is responsible for managing wildlife refuges,
believed it had a good chance at acquiring the parcel. In January,
Northern State Bank, a locally owned, community bank, began foreclosure
proceedings against Ondassogami Development Corporation, which at one
time had hoped to build a golf course on the site. The bank officially
foreclosed April 2.

Refuge project coordinator Maureen Gallagher said in an interview July
20 she had numerous conversations with bank president Ellefson who
indicated that the bank would only sell to the wildlife refuge or its
representatives.

But on April 2 Gallagher called Ellefson and was told a third party had
secured the parcel. Ellefson said he never promised the piece of land to
USFWS and in the end acted in the best interest of the bank. "If Maureen
Gallagher had walked into my office April 2 with a check for $60,000 she
would have the property," he said in a July 20 interview. "I know
[USFWS] doesn't have the money so I'm not going to waste my time on it."

While the refuge did not have purchasing money in hand, officials said
several private citizens indicated they would be willing to purchase the
land for the refuge project, aware that they would likely suffer some
financial loss. 

USFWS is required by law to pay only the appraised fair market value
which tends to be lower than what the free market will bear. 

The House of Representatives have approved $650,000 in the 1999 Interior
Appropriations Bill to fund the refuge project. 

Busiahn also said he was optimistic USFWS may receive some grants this
fall to begin buying land. 

Bud Jordahl, for one, said he with others would acquire the land and
hold it until USFWS could buy it.
 
A professor emeritus with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning
at University of Wisconsin-Madison, he has a long history in the
northern region and most recently he facilitated development of the
Northern Great Lakes Center, which sits near the Scottie Club property. 

³I think the bank should think about the larger community good,² he said
in an interview July 28. "We are sitting on top of something really
exciting there‹ a national wildlife refuge, adjacent to an eight to nine
million dollar (Northern Great Lakes Visitor) center, a coaster brook
trout stream running through it. It could be big for Ashland and
environs ‹ and to have someone build right in the middle is distressing
to me."

One of the biggest concerns for Jordahl and others is that the land is
zoned residential-recreation business meaning it could potentially be
subdivided or developed. 

And while the land is critical to the refuge project "we will only deal
with willing sellers," Busiahn said. "We will not go out and brow beat
anyone." 

They sent surveys to 26 land owners, including Phillips, and seven
responded they would be interested in selling ‹ totaling 242 acres. 

Gallagher said Phillips indicated he would not be interested in selling.
Gallagher and Busiahn are hoping USFWS and Phillips will come to some
agreement concerning conservation easements to protect and restore
habitat along Whittlesey Creek.

³We recognize that it may take decades ‹ and we may not get it all,²
Busiahn said. ³We plan to continue working with land owners knowing it¹s
a long term project.²


*******************

>What the GORC?

The Green Onion Resource Center (GORC) is yet another underfunded,
nonprofit, volunteer and grassroots effort to make the world a better
place. We thought we¹d  start with our own backyard ‹ the greater
Chequamegon Bay Area.
  
GORC will provide a means for networking, exchanging information and
advocating green values. This summer the Green Onion Resource Center is
organizing as a 501c3, developing a board of directors, and beginning
several programs. We are working with the landlord to upgrade our lovely
twice-baked office space at the Old Onion River Tavern.

Our Summer Intern is Jeff Huxmann who founded and coordinates the
Chlorine Free Paper Consortium at Northland College. Jeff has been the
driving force in getting our office up and running.  He¹s also gotten
down and dirty fixing and cleaning the place up. In early August we will
have two more Northland students joining our Northern Forest Watch
program to study the road systems on public lands, identify ghost roads
(not on official inventories), and petition for their closure.

Julie ³Scoop² Buckles,  our  ³Journalism Fellow² wrote the lead story,
is in charge of the layout for The Wild Leek and is organizing our
garage sale for Sat. Aug. 1.

Charly Ray is coordinating organizational development and our program
activities. Our program focus is: 
1) networking people through the Wild Leek,  action alerts, and the
Green Onion Resource Center, 
2) engaging in local and regional forest management through Northern
Forest Watch,
3) development of a regional wildlands conservation project to include
cooperative projects with private and public land owners and a private
land conservancy, and
4) working with other local conservationists and organizations.

*************************

Send meeting notices, action alerts and announcements to:

GORC
Rt. 3 Box 3465
Washburn, WI 54891

Phone: 715-373-0882
Fax: 715-373-0896
cray@ncis.net