Monday, April 15, 2013

In Walker's Wisconsin, Government Adds To Citizens' Burden

As Wisconsin environmental regulation is relaxed for ideological purposes or the convenience of business - - here, or here. for examples - - attention to good policy and best practices in the wolf hunt, frac sand or iron mining, large-scale dairies operations or additional clean water and air quality issues will fall more to concerned citizens.

Of course, it's a good thing in a democratic process that people at the grassroots get involved, bring their passion and help direct oversight in such important matters.

But it's wrong if citizens - - with far fewer resources than either corporate interests or the very government that citizen taxes help finance - - have to fight the government to overcome inertia or disinterest to force authentic regulatory participation, get the playing field less tilted and have public health and resource stewardship put first.

This diminution of public interests as a matter or government policy is where the iron mine regulatory process is headed.

Legislators restricted the permitting process and thus the scientific reviews to a fast-tracked time frame, then purposely repositioned the public hearing from the fact-finding phase to a spot after the DNR would make its thumbs-up-or-down permit decision - -meaning mining opponents, should the DNR approve the permit, would have to fight both the company and try and turn the agency around, too..

Likewise with the wolf hunt. The DNR withheld its wolf expert from hearing testimony as enabling legislation was moving forward, so the hunt was approved  without full consideration of scientific expertise.

Humane society and other advocates continue to make the case - - a case that could have been made by the DNR - - that the hunt gets only more violent if dogs are loosed into confrontations with the larger predators.

The necessity of government as watchdog is spelled out with regard to water - - the most basic resource - - in the Wisconsin Constitution when it assigns to government the role of perpetual water trustee and protector of public rights.

The principle is equally sound for other Wisconsin land, air and wildlife resources as well:

Wisconsin's Waters Belong to Everyone
...the public interest, once primarily interpreted to protect public rights to transportation on navigable waters, has been broadened to include protected public rights to water quality and quantity, recreational activities, and scenic beauty.

All Wisconsin citizens have the right to boat, fish, hunt, ice skate, and swim on navigable waters, as well as enjoy the natural scenic beauty of navigable waters, and enjoy the quality and quantity of water that supports those uses....

The court has ruled that DNR staff, when they review projects that could impact Wisconsin lakes and rivers, must consider the cumulative impacts of individual projects in their decisions.

"A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist. Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC.

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