12.05.14

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Gets the Job Done on Transfer of Badger Army Ammunition Plant Land

Agreement Reached After More Than a Decade of Advocacy

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin announced today that an effort she has championed in Congress will finally be resolved with a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Senator Baldwin’s provision in the NDAA, a major step forward for the project started in 1997, will transfer Badger Army Ammunition Plant land and allow it to be put to its agreed upon reuse.

“I have been working on this since I first entered Congress, so I take great pride in bringing people together, giving the community a voice, and getting the job done,” said Senator Baldwin. “I am pleased that hard work and persistence has paid off with this agreement. This helps solve a long standing problem and is a big win for the community.”

“This land transfer has been held up in bureaucratic proceedings for far too long. Senator Baldwin’s legislative provision will finally allow the land to be transferred and for our People to preserve and protect this special place,” said Ho-Chunk Nation President Jon Greendeer. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Senator Baldwin and her office for her unrelenting determination to see this transfer take place. “

“It is not often that Native nations have their ancestral lands returned. This land transfer demonstrates the power of collaboration between tribal nations and the federal government,” said Representative Susan Waukon, Ho-Chunk Nation – District 1. “We are truly humbled and cannot express our gratitude enough for Senator Baldwin’s commitment and hard work over the years.”

Background

The Badger Army Ammunition Plant, located just south of the Baraboo Hills in Sauk County, was once the largest ammunition plant in the world.  In 1997, the U.S. Army decided it would no longer use the facility. Substantial disagreements occurred in the community after a proposal to have the property sold for commercial use. 

In 1998, following her election to Congress, then-Representative Baldwin pledged to establish a process that ensured community voices were heard and would define the future of the site. Baldwin secured a federal grant to establish a community consensus process to recommend a reuse plan. In 2001, after nearly two years of hard work, the Badger Reuse Committee issued a report outlining an agreement on future uses.

Senator Baldwin has worked to ensure that the vision of the reuse committee is realized.  The Badger Army Ammunition Plant site has been cleaned up and parcels have been transferred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. However, the transfer of the parcel secured for the Ho-Chunk Nation stalled in a disagreement between two federal agencies, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of the Interior – Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

In the face of this inaction from the Department of the Interior, Senator Baldwin prevented the presidential nomination of Michael Connor for Deputy Secretary of the Interior from moving forward in the Senate. Senator Baldwin lifted her objection after she received a commitment from the nominee to work with the Department of Defense to seek agreement on a transfer. The two federal agencies completed that work in the summer of 2014 and Baldwin persuaded Senate leadership to include the provision in the defense bill to ensure it would be passed without further delay.  This transfer provision will allow the land to be put to its designated reuse: prairie restoration and bison grazing.

Over the past 16 years, Baldwin and her staff have actively participated in each step of the process to ensure the vision of the Badger Reuse Committee is fulfilled. Baldwin has worked with federal agencies, local community groups and the Ho-Chunk Nation. Baldwin has also worked to ensure that public concerns about contamination and demolition at the site were addressed by the U.S Army in a transparent and public manner. In her ongoing efforts to ensure that the vision of the Badger Reuse Committee is realized, Baldwin has also urged Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp to ensure that the DNR parcels are utilized for light recreation and habitat restoration as envisioned by the Badger Reuse Committee. The Wisconsin DNR has not finalized its management plan yet.