Shilling, Rail Commissioner to hold listening sessions Thursday

Meetings focused on issue of crossing tracks to fish on river

State Senator Jennifer Shilling is looking to hear from residents when it comes to the issue of crossing railroad tracks to get to popular fishing spots.

Shilling and state Rail Commissioner Yash Wadhwa will be in De Soto and Stoddard for a pair of listening sessions Thursday.

BNSF recently started enforcing a law saying residents couldn’t walk across their tracks in order to hunt or fish on public land. Residents previously had that right, before a law enacted in 2005 reversed the practice. Now, it is only legal to cross railroad tracks at designated railroad crossings.

“While it’s certainly an issue of safety as far as the railroad is concerned, it also is one of access, and I’ve heard from hundreds of constituents in Western Wisconsin who really value and feel strongly about that continued access to their favorite fishing holes,” said Sen. Shilling.

A bill to make crossing railroad tracks to get to public land legal passed the state Assembly, but failed in the Senate last month. Shilling says she hopes to work with the rail company to find areas where legal railroad crossings could be added, but wants to know where popular crossing points are.

“I’m looking for hopefully a positive conclusion before the next ice fishing season, before the next time hunters and anglers will be out there,” said Shilling. “Finding that common ground, finding those solutions in a way that we can partner with and have some shared responsibility with the railroad company.”

The first listening session will be held at the De Soto Community Center on Highway 35, from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. on Thursday. The second session will be at the Stoddard American Legion, from 1 until 2 in the afternoon.