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Published: Monday, 7/14/2003

Wisconsin isle, shore await U.S. protection


STOCKTON ISLAND, Wis. - Residents of the Great Lakes region might be surprised to learn there is an island off the northern Wisconsin shoreline that has one of the world's largest concentrations of black bear.

Stockton Island has 20 to 40 bear on 10,054 acres. That might seem like a fair amount of room for the animals to spread out, but to the bear it is as crowded as New York City.

The island, known for its old growth forests and wide sandy beaches, is one of the features of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore - a collection of 21 Lake Superior islands that President Bush might ask Congress to designate federally protected wilderness this fall.

The National Park Service recently completed a suitability study calling for at least 80 percent of the lakeshore to receive the designation to forbid development in restricted areas.

The lakeshore, which includes a 12-mile strip of mainland shoreline, encompasses 69,372 acres. The lakeshore was established by Congress on Sept. 26, 1970, five months after America celebrated its first Earth Day. Both took place at the urging of former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D., Wis.).

“America's special affection for wilderness is tied to its love of the frontier,” said William Cronon, a University of Wisconsin professor. “I don't think there's much doubt these islands are a wilderness.”

Wilderness-designated areas also require a lighter use of the land, including a ban on motorized vehicles and chain saws. The designation would not be used as justification to remove boat docks and existing public access, said Bob Krumenaker, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore superintendent.

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