Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Stewardship Fund, In Perspective

No one will cheer louder than I over the expansion of Stewardship Fund spending in Wisconsin.

It ensures that wild rivers and pristine woodlands stay in the public domain, preserving a sense of state's history, too.

But we need to put this in perspective, because one program - - begun with the support of former Governors Warren Knowles and Gaylord Nelson - - does not an environmental agenda make.

In the last few years, Wisconsin has regressed with respect to the environment.

* No real progress on transit, but billions spent on road-building.

*Weakened land use controls through the cleverly-and-cynically-named Jobs Creation Acts.

*Alternative energy stalled with the blocking of a jobs and conservation bill in the legislature.

* Gov. Doyle's veto of a popular bill to restore the appointment of the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources to the DNR board.

* Continuing air pollution in the lakefront counties.

Some good things happened, but, as they say, it was like pulling teeth. UW-Madison agreed to convert its openly-polluting Charter St. power plant away from coal, but it took a lawsuit by environmental groups to make it happen.

And without active civic and environmental organizations raising hell, UW-Milwaukee would have dropped the headquarters for the new School of Freshwater Science on an unworkable and inappropriate Lake Michigan shoreline site site next to the Milwaukee Art Museum's Calatrava Addition, and built n engineering and innovation center on County Grounds lands with complete disregard for open space and wildlife.

Environmentalism has precedent in Wisconsin to the early conservationists like John Muir and Aldo Leopold, across the generations to Earth Day founder Nelson.

What we have needed, and didn't get from either the legislature of the governor, was a coherent agenda that built on the state's legacy and connected water, energy, transit, air quality and wise land development for the 21st century.

The Stewardship Fund has been a great program, but it was used to cover too many political bases.

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