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TGB Opposes Townships Opening Roads to ATV/UTV Use Without Consultation

LCO Tribal Government

Press Release

The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board (TGB) is seeking input from the Tribal Membership regarding ATV/UTV use on reservation land, tribal trust land. The Sawyer County Board of Supervisors along with the various townships have received proposals requesting that all public roads in Sawyer County be designated for ATV/UTV use. The TGB has registered its opposition at the local township and County board meetings, citing a lack of consultation, concerns over public safety and damage to tribal property. The townships and County board have postponed taking action until meeting with the Tribe.

The Tribe’s Executive Director for Land Management, Brian Bisonette, along with Attorney General James Schlender, met with the respective townships and the County Board last week to register the Tribe’s opposition to the proposed changes and to express the concerns of the tribe regarding the proposed ATV/UTV amendments. Namely the lack of tribal consultation, the volume of ATV/UTV use, the damage to tribal property, and the lack of protection for sacred sites on reservation. Bissonette and Schlender reminded the local governments of the tribe’s jurisdiction over tribal lands and its own lawful capacity to regulate ATV/ITV use.

The TGB has heard from a number of concerned tribal members regarding the proposed ATV/UTV changes. The TGB decided to form a committee of tribal community members to study ATV/UTV issue and provide a report with recommendations to TGB. The TGB is planning to meet with the townships and County Board during the second week of August to further discuss the ATV/UTV issue.

Bisonette expressed concern with the legitimacy of the designated ATV/UTV routes within the Reservation boundaries. The Tribe has an ATV/UTV use ordinance but expressed concerns about enforcement with additional routes being processed. Schlender informed the TGB that a forfeiture and possible confiscation of the vehicles for trespass on tribal land may be needed to ensure adherence to marked trails under the tribe’s code of law. Currently logging roads and other trails are seeing increased ATV/UTV usage leading to concerns for sacred sites and overall wear and tear common with ATV usage.

Bisonette said ATV users are not required to be insured and expressed concern for public safety with increased usage in communities. Schlender reminded TGB that tribal and federal laws apply for trespass and prosecution, and that any citation issued would be heard in tribal court. Under Wisconsin law, the Department of Natural Resources regulated the licensure and registration of ATV/UTVs in Wisconsin, the fees collected are intended for trail maintenance and other needs for Wisconsin communities, the Tribe would need to be included in the fee collection if the usage is approved in reservation.

TGB is reserving judgement on the proposed ATV/UTV roads opening on reservation until they have sufficient information from the tribal membership. The TGB is strongly encouraging tribal members to serve on the ATV/UTV committee. Tribal members wishing to participate in the ATV/UTV Committee should contact Terri Miller at the tribal office by the end of day on July 22, 2022. The TGB hopes to finalize the committee early next week.

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