Sunday, August 25, 2013

Keep Checking Key WI Gov't. Webpages For Spin, Alterations

Public policy advocates in Wisconsin, where Gov. Walker has given special interests greater control over state resources and policy-making, need to carefully monitor state webpages for alterations. noted Walker's "stealth strategy" for 2016 - - but information-scrubbing has already taken place on official state web pages.

The blog MAL Contends...has discovered one such politicized editing:

The Wisconsin Legislature's webpage on Suffrage, voting, has been changed while under GOP control since 2011.
I've documented also that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources removed information and links (click through and note the dead links once on the page, here) from its climate change web page following Walker's election.

I monitor another key DNR webpage copied out below.

You'll know your right as defined in the Wisconsin Constitution to water access and the state's obligation to defend it (Article IX, The Public Trust Doctrine) has taken a serious hit if the page is skewed or deleted - - just as important environmental science, enforcement, management and conservation job responsibilities are being amended at the DNR to better serve special interests.

The DNR's Public Trust Doctrine webpage content, for the record"

Waterway and wetland permits: the public trust doctrine

Wisconsin's Waters Belong to Everyone

Wisconsin lakes and rivers are public resources, owned in common by all Wisconsin citizens under the state's Public Trust Doctrine. Based on the state constitution, this doctrine has been further defined by case law and statute. It declares that all navigable waters are "common highways and forever free", and held in trust by the Department of Natural Resources.

Assures Public Rights in Waters

Wisconsin citizens have pursued legal and legislative action to clarify or change how this body of law is interpreted and implemented.

Watch how their efforts have benefitted all Wisconsinites in this series of videos:
As a result, 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.(1)

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.(2)

Wisconsin law recognizes that owners of lands bordering lakes and rivers - "riparian" owners - hold rights in the water next to their property. These riparian rights include the use of the shoreline, reasonable use of the water, and a right to access the water. However, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court has ruled that when conflicts occur between the rights of riparian owners and public rights, the public's rights are primary and the riparian owner's secondary.(1)

What are Wisconsin's stream and lake access laws?

Wisconsin's Public Trust Doctrine requires the state to intervene to protect public rights in the commercial or recreational use of navigable waters. The DNR, as the state agent charged with this responsibility, can do so through permitting requirements for water projects, through court action to stop nuisances in navigable waters, and through statutes authorizing local zoning ordinances that limit development along navigable waterways.

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.(2)

Sources: (1) Quick, John. 1994. The Public Trust Doctrine in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1. 

(2) "Champions of the Public Trust, A History of Water Use in Wisconsin" study guide. 1995. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Water Regulation and Zoning. Champions of the Public Trust [PDF].

Last revised: Friday October 26 2012

Also: This sidebar on the page right-hand margin:

Find out
how Wisconsin protects waterways by holding them in trust for everyone to enjoy.
The permit process
that helps preserve waterways for now and future generations.
which waterway activity permit applications you need for your project in our Activity Index.

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