The mission of Polk County Forestry is to provide, protect, and manage forest resources for the environmental and social benefits they provide present and future citizens of Polk County.
Managing for environmental needs includes protecting and restoring watersheds, native communities, and biological diversity; plus, providing protection from wildfire, insects, diseases, and human degradation. Managing for social needs includes providing recreational opportunities, economic returns, and raw material for wood using industries.
Management must balance local needs with broader concerns through integration of forestry, wildlife, fisheries, endangered resources, water quality, soil and recreational recommendations and practices. Management will provide this variety of products and amenities for the future using sustainable forest management practices.


County Managed Forest Location Maps

Work Plans

Annual Report

Forest Description
The 17,182 acres of County Forest has two distinct areas. Two thirds of the County Forest is in the northwest of the county in the Town of Sterling. This area has sandy soils derived from glacial outwash. The most common trees are aspen, jack pine, red pine, and scrub oak. The remainder of the Forest is primarily in the northeast Towns of Lorain and McKinley. This area is dominated by aspen, northern hardwood, and red oak.

The Polk County Forest came into existence in 1935 when the County Board made a resolution to enter non-revenue (tax delinquent) lands under the Forest Crop program. The majority of this land was cutover and or burned over forestland.
Forest Uses
The County Forest is enjoyed by thousands of individuals for various pursuits, such as: ATV riding (on designated trails only), berry picking, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, snowmobiling, and firewood gathering (permits for cutting personal use firewood are available for $8 per standard cord).  Firewood Permit

County Forest Regulations

Polk County Code of Ordinances
Ch. 26Art. II. - County Forests

County Forest Definition
"County Forest" means all lands owned or leased by the county that are managed under Ch. 28, Wis. Stats.

Sec. 26-27(d). Vehicle use. The following restrictions shall apply to the extent indicated at all times:
(1) No activity by motorcycles is allowed on county forest land.

All-terrain vehicles and Utility task vehicles (ATVs/UTVs) may be operated in county forest land on tote roads, logging trails, fire lanes and designated ATV/UTV trails only unless otherwise gated, signed or bermed as closed to motorized vehicles.

Licensed 4-WHEEL VEHICLES SUCH AS: trucks and automobiles (SEE CH 340: NOT TO INCLUDE ATV/UTV’s, electric vehicles, and snowmobiles, ETC.) may be operated in County Forest Lands on tote roads, logging trails and fire lanes unless otherwise gated, signed or bermed as closed to motorized vehicles.
(4) All ATV’s and UTV’s must be registered or licensed to ride on Polk County Forest Lands.

From December 1 through March 31, you may ride your ATV/UTV on DESIGNATED winter use ATV/UTV trails when there is a 4” of groomed snow.

County staff will manage, inspect, and monitor trails.  Trails may be closed at any time for maintenance, logging activities, or to stop or prevent environmental or property damage.
(7) The speed limit on all designated county forest roads and trails is 25-MPH.
(8) Your ATV/UTV must be equipped with a U.S. Forest Service tested, and approved spark arrestor that is in working order.

You may NOT operate your ATV/UTV in a reckless manner, without regard to other persons or their property, and such that injury and property damage is likely to occur.  You may NOT pursue any wild or domestic animal or livestock with the intent of harassing the animal.

You may NOT operate your ATV/UTV in any wetlands or within 50-feet of the ordinary high-water mark or any surface water, unless on a designated trail.

You may NOT operate your ATV/UTV when County or State emergency fire regulations are in effect, or when WDNR wildfire danger is posted at RED FLAG ALERT.
(12) No off-trail riding is allowed.

Tree Stand and Ground Blind

Sec. 26-27. - Forest recreational use restrictions

Designated ATV Trail - Map
The Sterling/Jack Pine Loop ATV Trail is the only designated ATV trail, in Polk County Forest lands, located in the Town of Sterling.

Interactive Map Application
LogoRecreationViewer   Where Discovery Awaits!
This Polk County interactive map application allows users to discover where public and private recreational amenities are located along with associated information, maps, and aerial images.

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