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LCO Tribe Releases Statement on Opposition to Draft ATV Ordinance and Reservation Road Closures

The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Government would like to provide the Sawyer County community with information that outlines the Tribes current opposition to the draft ATV Ordinance and temporary closure of reservation roads for ATV/UTV use.


Over the last fifteen years, the LCO Tribe has encountered numerous road related issues with Local Townships including assertions of civil jurisdiction, road ownership and right of ways within the exterior boundaries of the reservation. In many instances, Local Town Board and County officials have disregarded or flouted Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Tribal Sovereignty and Federal law by asserting their perceived civil jurisdiction on roads listed within their respective road inventories. One of the problems with the town assertions aside from superseding the Tribe’s jurisdiction is actual ownership. It is unknown how many roads within the reservation have a valid Federal granted right of way or how perceived road ownership was assumed by townships or county. It’s probable that towns assumed they had ownership because of the gerrymandering of the reservation into six townships in the early 1900’s.


Like other counties throughout the State of Wisconsin, Sawyer County and Local Townships started opening road routes for recreational use under Wisconsin State Statute (many on the reservation) without seeking Tribal Governing Board (TGB) consultation or input. In some cases, the Town Boards and County opened road routes going through exclusively owned Tribal communities which led to high volumes of tribal member complaints of noise and trespassing. As a result of Townships and County actions, the Tribe has determined it is in the best interest of the LCO membership to conduct an in-depth analysis on some complex legal issues involving actual road ownership, land patents and right-of-way uses. Bear in mind, many State Civil statutes are not applicable on Federal reservation lands.


The Tribal Governing Board understands the economic benefits to the Tribe and County and wishes success for everyone. We are blessed with area attributes that attracted local residents, magnetize tourism and enticed the ancestors of the Lac Courte Oreilles people to select this area when forced to assimilate to reservation life by Treaty in 1854.


As the stewards of lands within the exterior boundaries, the Tribal Governing Board is committed to ensuring LCO member residents have their rights of privacy, quiet enjoyment and safety respected, in addition to their cultural and natural resources preserved and protected. Unfortunately, past incidents with reckless ATV/ UTV users have threatened the above mentioned.


Over the last few months, the Tribe, County, Townships and ATV Alliance Representatives have had dialogue on ATV/UTV Ordinances to discuss amenable amendments, proposed future road routes and jurisdiction. The LCO Tribal Council is committed to maintaining an open line of communication with the various governmental bodies and proceed with identifying possible road routes in a manner that ensures health and safety is afforded the LCO community and visitors alike.


In closing, the LCO public ATV/Snowmobile trail system from the casino to the Tuscobia trail is not affected by this temporary closure. Plans for repairing and restoring the trail are scheduled for this spring as we are aware some segments of the trail are treacherous.

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