DNR board approves land swap with Walker donor

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s board on Aug. 3 approved a land swap with one of Gov. Scott Walker’s key donors.

The DNR proposes giving Elizabeth Uihlein 1.75 acres along Rest Lake in Manitowish Waters in exchange for 42.7 acres Uihlein and her husband bought within the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest.

Uihlein wants the Rest Lake frontage so a condominium complex she owns will have lake access.

DNR officials came up with the swap approach after drawing criticism for a proposal to sell the parcel to her for about $110,000 less than what one appraiser valued the land.

Uihlein and her husband donated nearly $3 million to Walker’s presidential super PAC and a nonprofit group that helped promote his presidential bid.

The board — a seven-member panel appointed by the governor — made the decision during a meeting in Ashland.

Property purchase

The DNR board during the meeting also approved buying nearly 1,000 acres along the Chippewa River for $2 million.

The property is located just northeast of Durand in Dunn County in the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area. It includes 18,000 feet of shoreline on the river’s south bank. Northern States Power Company, now known as Xcel Energy, has owned the land since the early 1970s.

The sale is still subject to approval from the Legislature’s finance committee and the governor.