Managing the cost of beauty

Boulder Junction's Facebook page celebrates being the Musky Capital of the World


As the spring thaw continues its leisurely pace, it’s a great time of year to start planning warmer weather activities found all over the Northwoods.

The Vilas County Public Land Guide website has published a comprehensive list of dozens of adventures found in the Vilas County Forests, The Northern Highlands/American Legion State Forest and the Chequamegon/Nicolet National Forest.

The enormity of the available sites to explore nature in the Northwoods is unequaled anywhere else in the country. According to the Land O’Lakes 2010 Land Use Report, Iron, Vilas and Oneida Counties have the largest concentration of freshwater lakes than anywhere in the world.

The Chain of Lakes from Eagle River to Three lakes is the longest chain of freshwater lakes in the world. In Vilas County, there are 240,000 acres of public land available for camping, hiking, biking, snowmobiling and so much more. Did we mention fishing?

This area of land represents 43% of all the land in Vilas County providing for the wide diversity in nature activities. For those who manage the local and county governments, such a large percentage of non-revenue producing land presents quite a financial challenge.

Some of the towns have large tracts of land within the forest borders, and towns, such as Boulder Junction and Manitowish Waters and Presque Isle, have less than 20% of their land base that is responsible for the tax burden.

These towns and all the Vilas County towns manage the tourism trade that comes to their area and this includes public services such fire protection, traffic control, sanitation and other services that increase with the onset of the tourism seasons.

Most of the towns use the Sheriff’s Department for local law enforcement as well as other county services.

For comparison’s sake, according to the 2016 Adams County Farmland Preservation Plan, Adams County has roughly the same population (about 3,000 people less) as Vilas county and about half the land area. Though the areas have different characteristics making an exact comparison unfeasible, only 3.7% of the land in Adams County is exempt from the tax base.

In their 2016 Annual Budget, Adams County had a total revenue of over $50,000,000 while the Vilas budget revenue for the same year was only $32,000,000.

Even though the numbers point out there is a burden to the local governing bodies, the abundant waterways, forests teeming with vast varieties of wildlife and endless breath-taking natural vistas, the Northwoods is one of life’s greatest gifts.

To learn more about the opportunities waiting to be explored in Vilas County, visit their website, or call any of the Chambers of Commerce.
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