Wednesday, September 12, 2007

After Kedzie, Look Forward On Great Lakes Water Policy To Gaylord Nelson

The demise of the state legislative study council committee that could not agree on a bill to effectively implement the Great Lakes Compact in Wisconsin is not the end of the world.

Its difficulties were embedded in its membership selection a year ago.

That's when narrow-minded Waukesha County political and business interests were given nearly 50% of the committee's seats - - with the Waukesha imbalance being cited as central to the committee's lost year of work, according to State Sen. Rob Cowles, (R-Allouez), a GOP colleague of the chairman, State Sen. Neal Kedzie, (R-Elkhorn).

What is needed now as the guide - - the underlying principle, the inspiration - - to making real progress at the State Capitol on this crucial piece of conservation legislation was best summed up by former Governor and US Senator Gaylord Nelson in his now-legendary 2000 Earth Day remarks.

The address was quoted by Bill Christofferson in his must-read Nelson biography The Man From Clear Lake: Earth Day Founder Senator Gaylord Nelson:

"We have finally come to understand that the real wealth of a nation is its air, water, soil, forests, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats and biodiversity. Take this resource away, and all that is left is a wasteland. That's the whole economy. That is where all the economic activity and all the jobs come from..."

Nelson, who had been instrumental in adopting the Clean Water Act, and other Great Lakes protections, went on to warn that we were consuming these biological systems, that we were "consuming our capital."

"We are veering down a dangerous path," said the Father of Earth Day, and Wisconsin's direct political link to the legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold.

"We are not just toying with nature; we are compromising the capacity of natural systems to do what they need to do to preserve a livable world."

The Great Lakes Compact is designed to sustain this largest supply of fresh surface water on the planet, and the key to Wisconsin and the other Great Lakes states' quality of life.

That is what should write the Compact legislation for Wisconsin - - this broad, public agenda, and not the narrow interests of the Kings and Queens of Sprawlville.


xoff said...

Nelson was also fond of reminding people that, "The economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment -- not the other way around."

Anonymous said...

Jim, how does the state implement the compact at this point? What happens next?

James Rowen said...

To anon: Draft bills are likely to emerge towards the end of the year, probably after the budget is resolved. Senate versions may come first, either directly from the Gov.'s working group, or in alliance with it, or separately.