(WAOW) — Twenty one legislators sent a letter to Gov. Tony Evers over action they say is "dangerous to the sportsmen and women of Wisconsin."
They say the Department of Natural Resources instructed snowmobile clubs last week to remove signage for establishments along ATV/UTV and snowmobile routes throughout the state. These signs allegedly have been along the routes for decades and are emblematic of a public-private relationship and the foundation of tourism for the Northwoods.
"The funding for the signs comes from fundraisers they host at the taverns and supper clubs along the routes," the letter reads. "The bars and restaurants have flyers and pamphlets they hand out from the DNR about riding safely. This is a devastating blow to that relationship."
They also say that the signs are a matter of safety — they're used as markers in the case that anyone is separated from a snowmobile party, or in the case of emergency to direct EMT's.
"Secretary Cole explained to us that the Department was simply following the law, as laid out in NR 45.04 (3) (f), written in 1964, which prohibits advertising of businesses on state land," the letter reads. "We find it perplexing that the DNR is choosing now- mid-pandemic, following a shaky summer tourism season, and before an already imperiled winter season, to revise their approach to a 56 year old rule."
The legislators are calling this move an "attack on the Northwoods tourism industry," and say they are reaching out to work on a solution.
The DNR sent News 9 the following statement in an email Wednesday afternoon:
For routes that are on state land, advertising of private businesses is prohibited and has been for more than 50 years. The issue was raised most recently on one segment of one trail. When someone raises a concern like this with a trail manager, the trail manager works with the local entity that maintains that portion of a trail. In this case, this snowmobile club was informed that we would gladly work to correct the issue over time.
Department staff requested that the snowmobile club work to gradually remove prohibited signage from state land and made clear that the removal did not need to occur this season. The Department also offered that the club could work to replace the prohibited signage with approved signage that conforms with the state’s sign standards. The Department is happy to provide information and technical assistance to any other clubs or organizations interested in ensuring compliance with signage rules on DNR-managed lands moving forward.
As previously discussed with Rep. Felzkowski, DNR has already initiated conversations with the Department of Tourism on ways to connect public land users with local businesses across the state. The Department also looks forward to engaging our partners at statewide trail associations like the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs as we continue to identify creative ways to further enhance the economic impact of snowmobiling in Wisconsin.
Read the full letter below.