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La Crosse Area Group Reveals New Plan To Protect Region’s Bluffs

Government And Environmental Groups Hope To Unify Area Blufflands

PunkToad (CC-BY)

Government and environmental groups in La Crosse County and Minnesota are working together for the first time to protect and manage the region’s bluffs.

The La Crosse Area Planning Committee, Winona County in Minnesota, the Mississippi Valley Conservancy and other stakeholders revealed a first draft of their Blufflands Plan at a public information meeting in La Crosse on Thursday.

The group hopes to create a new coalition to advise local governments and property owners on how to manage the region’s iconic geological feature.

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MVC’s executive director Carol Abrahamzon said this unified approach to protecting blufflands in both Wisconsin and Minnesota is unique. But she said coordinating between both states makes sense for area residents.

“The folks here in the Wisconsin areas look across, their viewshed is the bluffs across the river and they want to make sure that those bluffs aren’t developed either so that they have a lovely view and vice versa,” Abrahamzon said.

The proposed plan would unite all of the blufflands under one brand with coordinated signs and names. The coalition would help coordinate buying additional blufflands and the creation of a new multi-use trail connecting all of the bluffs in La Crosse county.

One proposal for funding the expansive project is through property taxes, with each member contributing money on a per capita basis.

La Crosse County planner Charlie Handy said that plan won’t be an easy sell.

“A significant number of the population (say) their taxes are too high,” Handy said. “It’s a difficult thing, but the investment that we make here will pay dividends over the years and that’s what we have to prove to our policymakers.”

But there are some members of the public who say they would be in favor of generating money through a property tax.

According to a public survey taken by over 600 area residents last year, over 70 percent of respondents said they would pay additional property taxes to support bluffland protection.

“You can’t buy these amenities and these resources,” said Jed Olson, a La Crosse resident who attended the public information meeting. “People in the area know that they move here or they love living here because of the bluffs.”

The group hopes to finalize the Blufflands Plan in July.