Sunday, January 31, 2016

WI's eased environmental regulation invites water privatization

[Updated] Defenders of the fast-tracked plan to enable out-of-state private companies to buy or lease publicly-owned water and sewerage systems in Wisconsin are saying that nothing negative would result from such takeovers because state regulatory agencies would continue their environmental, rate-setting and other public-interest missions.

So said the measure's lead Assembly sponsor:

The legislation was introduced at the request of a private water and sewer corporation based in Pennsylvania that may wish to acquire water utilities here, said Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, the proposal’s lead author. 
August said he was surprised by opposition because the state would continue to regulate water quality, sewage discharges and rates paid by customers for private systems just as it does for public ones.
Well - - let's take a look at the current direction and priorities of the state's water and utility regulators  - - the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Public Service Commission - - and see how their historic missions have been intentionally weakened in favor of corporate interests since Scott Walker was elected in 2011, and has governed with a nearly-unbroken string of ideological, pro-business majorities in the Legislature.

* Walker signed a bill in front of cheering realtors that eased wetlands protections, and he's just appointed a realtor and campaign contributor as chairman of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board - - the DNR's oversight, policy-guiding body - - as wetlands' replacement work continues to lag.

The Realtors are also key players at and on behalf of the rightwing State Supreme Court majority.

* In 2011, Walker also immediately installed a harsh DNR critic as agency secretary because she had what he called a "chamber of commerce mentality," then filled out the leadership team with more veterans from major business and trade associations and more recently deeply cut agency scientists from the department budget.

*  Little wonder that Wisconsin polluters have gotten tiny fines and other preferential treatment as DNR inspections and enforcement actions fell, records show. Not to worry, said the agency's senior managers - - it's all a matter of philosophy.

Which has its consequences:

With the help of powerful private sector interests, Walker and the legislature substantially weakened an important waterway protection effort - - the state's algae control and phosphorus pollution prevention program - - which had taken years of collaborative effort to craft and implement.

* The DNR recently refused to implement a judge's order following a lengthy hearing to limit the number of manure-producing cattle at a large dairy cattle operation.

*  Though such so-called CAFOs, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, can pollute nearby wells, and measurable contamination of harmful nitrates is increasing statewide.

* And the bigger picture is no better: the state has 700 impaired waterways by the agency's own count and in 2014 added dozens more to the list; paradoxically, the DNR is currently reviewing whether a major Walker donor can build an 18-hole golf course on 247 acres of forested, wetland-laden land at the edge of Lake Michigan near Sheboygan through which runs The Black River, one of those impaired waterways. 

Opponents of the project's groundwater demands, deforestation, and planned incursion into an adjoining state park recently told the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board - - to which the DNR reports - - that test wells were drilled on the site without permits, among other concerns.

See and hear the opponents' ten-minute presentation beginning at the meeting's 2:21 mark, followed by about five minutes of Q & A.

* Separately, the DNR oversight board has put off a decision on whether to approve a controversial, separate state land sale involving another major Walker donor.

*  The DNR has gotten "a rare rebuke" from the US Environmental Protection Administration over multiple failures to enforce the US Clean Water Act, forcing Wisconsin citizens to petition the US EPA for intervention and relief that is the state's responsibility to guarantee.

And over at the Public Service Commission? Pretty much the same 'philosophy.'

* As he did with the DNR, Walker quickly loaded up the Commission with corporatist allies and private-sector staffers.

That trend has continued; one recent senior PSC staff appointment went to a lobbyist who previously worked for the mining firm which lost a bid to dynamite the Penokee Hills and dig miles of deep open-pit iron mines in the pristine Bad River watershed near Lake Superior in northwest Wisconsin.

* Little wonder that the agency is road-blocking wind and solar innovations in favor of fossil-fuel options and special interests.

* Or that the agency is a key player in the state's litigation against new federal clean air rules even though smokestack pollution fouls the air and the waters below.

Those are our tax dollars being spent on that 'philosophy,' folks.

And why local preservationists, from Sheboygan to Kewaunee near the big CAFO to Bayfield County are taking initiatives which, in another era, would have been the supportive role of the DNR, rather than that of obstructor.

So you're dreaming if you think these agencies' political appointees and managers in the right-wing machine running the state these days will be vigilant defenders of the public interest should out-of-state businesses driven by profit for investors and dividends to shareholders begin buying or leasing Wisconsin water and sewerage utilities.

Corporate win: WI set to sell local public water systems

[Updated 1/28/16, 11:45 a.m., from 1/27/16, 7:17 p.m. Further updated 12:24 a.m. 1/29/16, 1/31/16, 1:06 a.m. and 2/7, 5:55 p.m.]

Bizarre and damning enough that Wisconsin is tolerating well water pollution, but now right-wing ideologues at the State Capitol are about to intentionally commit yet another FUBAR when it comes to undermining drinking water safety: 

The corporate-obeisant GOP-controlled Wisconsin State Senate is poised in committee Thursday to join the Assembly's shameful initiative and enable local governments to sell their water systems to out-of-state, private-sector businesses, proving that Bucky has learned nothing from Flint's water travails, and the consequences of losing control of its drinking water system and supply and flushing it down the drain.

Key language from the bill text:
The bill applies to the proposed sale or lease of a municipal water or sewer utility and does not affect proposals involving other types of utilities. Also, the bill applies only to sales or leases to investor-owned public utilities. Under the bill, a referendum on the proposed sale or lease is not required unless, within 30 days after the municipality adopts the ordinance or resolution required under current law, a petition requesting the referendum is filed with the municipal clerk. The petition must be signed by a number of the municipality's qualified electors that is at least 25 percent of the votes cast in the municipality for governor in the last general election. If a petition is not filed within that deadline, no referendum is required and the municipality must submit the proposal to the PSC. If a referendum is held due to the filing of a petition within the deadline and a majority approves the proposal, the municipality must submit the proposal to the PSC for approval.
And you need a wider lens to see the updated, bigger picture here and then, also, here.

Sunday update - - The Wisconsin League of Conservation voters has weighed in with a strong statement in opposition, as has Clean Wisconsin, and others.

Saturday update - - The bill was written at the request of a Pennsylvania company which already controls 200 systems in eight states, according to the Journal Sentinel.

Friday update - - Note these details in this Wisconsin State Journal report:
The proposal, scheduled for a vote in a state Senate committee Thursday, would make a public referendum on the sale of water and sewage disposal systems optional instead of mandatory as is currently the case.
And if residents gathered enough signatures to force a vote, it would take place before the terms and conditions of a sale are known...
The legislation was introduced at the request of a private water and sewer corporation based in Pennsylvania that may wish to acquire water utilities here, said Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, the proposal’s lead author.
An excellent analysis here, and a big national picture story here, and more from Milwaukee Riverkeeper, here:
Access to critical water services, such as clean drinking water and effective sewer systems, are at risk as private companies vie for control over our public water supplies. AB 554/SB 432 makes it possible for communities to transfer water utility management from the public sector to the private sector, which means out-of-state and potentially multi-national companies will assume control of our public water supplies with less oversight. 
Water privatization most often leads to declining quality of service, higher water rates, less accountability and oversight (private companies do not face elections or have to share information), and a loss of public sector jobs.
Not just across the country, but across the entire globe, water privatization has failed to increase the access to or quality of water supplies for communities time and time again. AB 554/SB 432 is now threatening to do the same in Wisconsin.
For more information on water privatization, check out the website from Food and Water Watch’s Water Privatization: Facts and Figures.
And remember the financial disasters when parking and road tolls were privatized in the midwest by wrong-headed politicians who left taxpayers with even bigger bills. 

Beware the siren song...including the notion that the WI DNR would be a strong monitor, which right now is a joke.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Privatizing WI water utilities ripped in Door County media

One of the most respected environmental voices in NE Wisconsin takes his State Senator (Frank Lasee) to task for the water system privatization measure speeding through the Wisconsin Legislature.
With all the concern over under-funded infrastructure needs and the need for improvement after years of neglect, the public should still maintain control of their own water supplies and bear the costs of needed improvement. There would be no cost saving to pay a non-public entity (corporation) a profit margin to More about the above the cost of public ownership
More about the long-time Door County activist calling out Lasee, here.

Lasee, a leading legislative opponent of wind power, has also supported drilling for oil and gas beneath Lake Michigan, is sponsoring a bill to ease restrictions against nuclear power plant construction in Wisconsin and backs legislation to broadly roll back environmental protection statewide.

Also find more details about the water systems' sales in an item leading this blog since Thursday, here:
Bizarre and damning enough that Wisconsin is tolerating well water pollution, but now right-wing ideologues at the State Capitol are about to intentionally commit yet another FUBAR when it comes to undermining drinking water safety:  
The corporate-obeisant GOP-controlled Wisconsin State Senate is poised in committee Thursday to join the Assembly's shameful initiative and enable local governments to sell their water systems to out-of-state, private-sector businesses, proving that Bucky has learned nothing from Flint's water travails, and the consequences of losing control of its drinking water system and supply and flushing it down the drain.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Walker's DNR failing to complete 2011 clean water directives

You may remember that the US EPA told the Walker administration almost five years ago that there were scores of clean water compliance failings in Wisconsin, but officials in our regulation-averse/corporation servicing state say they still need another year-and-a-half to finish fixing what's broken.

Which is why Wisconsin citizens are filing formal petitions over these issues with the EPA - and taking strong local stands against state inaction - - and why continuing and politically-inspired disregard for clean water in Wisconsin regardless of the federal intervention is becoming the norm here.

Here's what some of this looks like:
    Phosphorus pollution leads to waterway choking algae

Big win validates UW-Madison's science focus

The UW-Madison celebrating an evolutionary biologist's award is a good time to remember that the sitting GOP Assembly speaker had this to say not too long ago as the administration moved towards a $250 million cut that 'savages' the UW system and additionally degraded science in Department of Natural Resources staffing and programming: 
“Of course I want research, but I want to have research done in a way that focuses on growing our economy, not on ancient mating habits of whatever,” said [Robin] Vos. “So we want to try to have priorities that are focused on growing our economy.”
More, here.

And these UW-Madison successes are piling up:

Breakthrough UW-Madison science advances our understanding of a changing climate and its implications, as reported by the College of Letters and Science:
“Over the next of 80 years, we could be dealing with another foot of sea level rise around the world,” says Tristan L’Ecuyer, professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-author of the study. “Parts of Miami and New York City are less than two feet above sea level; another foot of sea level rise and suddenly you have water in the city.” 
The study, published today in Nature Communications and led by the University of Leuven in Belgium, shows that clouds are raising the temperature of the Greenland Ice Sheet by 2 to 3 degrees compared to cloudless skies and accounting for as much 30 percent of the ice sheet melt.

Bayfield County toughens stand against massive pig farm plan

Props to Bayfield County, WI, for asserting local control over its environment and further protecting the Lake Superior watershed from the stench of a proposed Iowa-based 26,000-pig farm and the special interest, Madison-based big government politicos pushing the smell to the north.

Though the WI DNR has tipped its legal and regulatory hand when green-lighting a big cattle feeding capacity expansion with manure and water pollution issues.

More here and here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

2007 task force offered blueprint, science for WI groundwater safety

There has been a spate of concern and reporting of late about groundwater contamination in Wisconsin as awareness of polluted runoff near livestock and farming operations seeps into the public's consciousness.

Even Walker says that the state is working on a science-based approach to known groundwater pollution in Kewaunee County where many large dairy farms are operating.

You wonder why things take so long?  For example, read this 2007 report from a state/university/private-sector and multi-county task force - - including Kewaunee County - - about the confronting known groundwater threats.
Let's dust off that 2007 report, eh, though Walker's DNR is sending an opposite signal.

WI DNR takes 'sue us' to murkier new depth

Some years ago I was at a meeting with several environmental organizations' leaders who recounted the resistance to routine pollution enforcement at Scott Walker's "chamber of commerce mentality" Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

One person at the meeting brought up an enforcement request of the agency which its staffers had instantly and peremptorily turned aside with the DNR's reflexive "go-ahead-and-sue-us" stance - - an anecdote echoed in this 2014 blog posting:

Since the DNR let human waste spreading violations go with simple slaps on the wrist, is there any real surprise that the agency tolerates widespread - - no pun intended - - aerial manure spreading at big farming operations? 
Bigger and bigger dairy operations mean a lot more of that unhealthy stuff is in the air, downwind, in your lungs, and working its way into the ground and surface waters which you drink, cook with, swim in and fish. 
And basically, the DNR tells neighbors who complain, 'go ahead and sue us,' as if everyone had deep pockets with which to do the agency's work. 
Where is the agency's concern as the state's natural resources regulator for the public interest, health and safety?
Now the DNR has figured out a new way to evade its public health and safety responsibilities...
...shamefully forcing citizens to spend their own money unnecessarily litigating the DNR's game-playing over the release of public records:
Public interest firm sues DNR over delays on records requests

Eyeing a theater, Bucks' owner overlooked our demolition style

A Milwaukee Bucks executive wants to get rid of the Milwaukee Theater downtown.

Yes, it's a beautiful facility with $26 million in construction debt to be paid, but cut these NBA team owners some slack. 

They're new in town and don't know that tearing down homes and businesses around here is the job of the 'freeway builders' at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation: 
The '60s were the high-water mark for freeway construction in Milwaukee, with roughly 10 miles of new freeway were completed every year. But those miles were coming at a significant cost -- not just to taxpayers. More than 6,000 homes were demolished, forcing 20,000 people to relocate in order to make way for freeways – many of which were never built.
More history: when WisDOT got ready to rebuild and expand one of those 'freeway' segments - - the Marquette Interchange - - Aldrich Chemical, a long-time downtown manufacturing business "had to go" in exchange for millions of dollars in public money.

Not to mention a variety of residential and commercial structures which were in the way of the 'improved' Zoo Interchange west of Milwaukee:

The new plan would take out an eight-unit apartment building, three businesses - a Super 8 Motel and a Starbucks Coffee shop along Highway 100 near I-94 and an oil-change service. The county greenhouse and a county highway salt dome also would be demolished to make way for the road.
Likes others south of Milwaukee to the Illinois border:
...some businesses located along the I-94 corridor, including the iconic Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha County, are being forced to re-locate to make way for the newer and wider freeway. The DOT is acquiring 700 properties, some on a temporary basis, along the I-94 corridor for the project. About 10 businesses along the freeway are being relocated including Mars Cheese Castle and several gas stations. Mario Ventura Jr., the owner of the Mars Cheese Castle, plans to build a new building for the store near the existing building. Some homes will also be removed by the DOT, which pays fair market value for the properties and provides relocation services for commercial and residential property owners.
Not to mention wetlands, existing interchanges and other in-place assets that have to go to lay down lanes and exits. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Road to Sprawlville slows in snow

There was criticism and some snickering on social media last week when the Washington, DC area slowed to a rush-hour crawl in a light snow before the blizzard hit.

Folks here in Wisconsin do have more experience with snow days, but, in fairness, don't face the massive commuting snarl that extends for hours and miles in most major American metro areas.

In this the 64th installment of an occasional series - - The Road to Sprawlville - - let's note that government-and-developer-induced sprawl has pushed the commute in the DC area far into Maryland and Virginia, and beyond rational urbanity and planning sanity.

I knew a woman who commuted daily to her job in Northwest DC from Delaware; another man I knew who lived an hour away in Maryland on a good day was in a car pool to downtown DC that picked up a guy in Harpers Ferry, W. VA.

And years ago I met a man in Santa Fe, NM who'd moved to that small city from Southern California because he'd grown tired of a morning commute he had to begin at 2 a.m. in Orange County to get to work on time reliably.

Atlanta has had its issues, too, but, in reality, snow and ice at rush hour would make life miserable for long-distance commuters in most metro areas if one truck jackknifes and chain-reaction collisions multiply.

Throw in the tyranny of the nterstate-highway exit model - - no escape for the hemmed-in but for every two-to-five miles or so - - and an inconvenient snowfall is going to keep people stranded even in Wisconsin, the record shows - - without plowing relief.

Final wintry thought: how many of us have in our vehicles snacks, water, blankets and a full tank of gas, just in case weather and the 'planners' attack together?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

MAL Contends blog links Flint, WI drinking water contamination

Hat tip for the perseverance  - - and for the more than 20 links to articles and reports - - in a new posting on the MAL Contends blog about the drinking water contamination in Flint, MI and polluted, abused water supplies in Wisconsin.
We are in crisis mode in Wisconsin and Michigan as the level of health and environmental toxins vectored into Wisconsin's waters often exceeds safe levels, yet Scott Walker moves boldly for less protection against the polluters, and the abandonment of our state Constitution's Public Trust Doctrine.
I'd noted the connection in a far-less detailed item and elsewhere, and MAL Contends has a great track record on these matters.

And, yes, "crisis mode" is the right phrase and frame for what is being injected from industrial-scale dairy farms into Wisconsin politics and household piping by ideologically-driven policies.

Added to the mix: a mega-pig farm on tap in NW Wisconsin within sniffing distance of Lake Superior.

Side note - - Rachel Maddow is bringing her MSNBC show to a town hall setting in Flint next Wednesday; wouldn't it be great if she had time to visit to one of the groundwater-tainted counties... 

...which the MAL Contends blog cites:
Republican Gov. Scott Walker has ignored (indeed caused) the water problem in KewauneeJuneauAdamsWood counties, inflicting the same polluter-friendly, anti-family health agenda he has pursued since he was elected.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Wisconsin's natural disaster planning questioned

The Natural Resources Defense Council sent out this email notice today about states' emergency preparedness, the relationship of such plans to climate change, and federal financing.

Wisconsin - - and note also from the NRDC the rather gloomy prediction of a strong state plan emerging from the Walker administration - - is specifically referenced:

Governments of three states – Maryland, Wisconsin, and Wyoming – and one territory – Puerto Rico – are currently drafting plans to help keep citizens, property and infrastructure as safe as possible the next time a natural disaster (blizzard, anyone?) strikes. These plans are important.
They help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) identify how to best allocate millions of dollars in pre-disaster mitigation funding. And for the first time ever, the four plans scheduled to be submitted to FEMA in 2016 must include expected impacts from climate change.
As plans are being drafted, we encourage you to check in on their progress. What will Maryland say about blizzards? How will flooding affect Wisconsin? Is Wyoming properly accounting for climate change? What about sea-level rise Puerto Rico?
I've noted several times on this blog that Wisconsin these days shows little official interest in climate change. Here is one recent summary posting:
Gov. Walker's corporate-friendly Department of Natural Resources has scrubbed virtually every link and word about climate change from what had been a very useful and comprehensive web page - - noted often on this blog back to 2012 - - and the agency is poised to undergo another round of budget and personnel cuts aimed by Walker at scientific research, policy-making and field work. 
Wisconsin's forests and the wetlands and waters they protect are vulnerable to a changing climate's drought, rising temperatures and disruptive, heavier rain events: the state's agricultural and tourism sectors can prosper only with the best science available - - regrettably not a current administration priority. 
Walker's DNR is giving but a cursory official look at a cross-state tar sand oil pipeline from the Canadian north that will enable the shipment of far more tar sand oil daily than is envisioned for the higher-profile Keystone XL - - a look being managed without a comprehensive environmental review of the route
Walker is also coordinating opposition by his Public Service Commission and the Attorney General to new clean air greenhouse emission rules proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and Walker signed a public pledge sought by the Koch brothers opposing governmental actions against climate change.

Congress evades inconvenience of imaginary climate change

Members of Congress run by the majority party which denies that global warming is triggering extreme weather events and heavier storms bolted from Washington, DC ahead of the historic blizzard now arriving as predicted by the pointy-heads at NOAA and NASA whom conservatives enjoy denigrating.

Congress is also adjusting its schedules for next week to escape as much of the storm's unpleasantness as possible.

Looks like the climate change deniers will miss some teachable moments and valuable hands-on-the-snow-shovel quality time, though there will be more opportunities to come.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In damaged Flint, MI, connecting some dots

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says he will fix Flint's toxic drinking water supply after the damage was brought about by his arrogance and disregard for thousands of poor and minority Michiganders. 

The ideological seeds of the crisis were sown years ago, and was no accident.

From the Google about and from Snyder himself:

* The Ann Arbor News, Aug. 3, 2010: 
"We need to reform our regulatory environment and realize that the comeback of Michigan is going to be Michiganders creating and growing small businesses," he said...And it's time for bureaucracy to go away."
Grist, Sep't. 8, 2010: 

SnyderSnyder’s TV ads comparing him to other successful “nerds” like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are odd but shrewd. They allow him to run as an outsider (one who’s done well in business) with more to offer than anger at Democrats. “We need to reinvent Michigan,” he says in one of the ads...
Creating clean-energy jobs and protecting natural resources figure prominently in Snyder’s economic-recovery pitch. So does revitalizing urban places — sorely needed in the home state of Detroit and Flint.
* Crain's Detroit, Nov. 2, 2010:
At the Democratic election party at the MGM Grand in Detroit, Democratic candidate for attorney general David Leyton said he would have no problem working with a Republican governor. 
But he was quick to add that just because Snyder has a business background doesn't mean he knows how to run a state government. 
"Government is not a business," he said, adding that a governor does not have the luxury of being able to dictate directions to a loyal board.
Aug. 2, 2012, Gov. Rick Snyder - - 

Why Michigan Needs Its Emergency Manager Law. 
"Across the country, cities and school districts are facing financial crises that are bringing them to their knees. Michigan is no exception, but there's one thing that makes us different - instead of waiting until our local governments are past the point of no return, we have adopted a law that allows us to take early action to prevent total fiscal meltdowns. This tool is known as the emergency manager law, and it creates an early-warning system that alerts us to potential fiscal problems in cities, villages and school districts. In a worst-case scenario, the law empowers the governor to appoint a manager to take actions to help get that local government get back on its feet."
USA Today, Jan. 20, 2016: How Flint, Mich. water crisis became federal state of emergency:
1. When did the water become contaminated?  
Flint's drinking water became contaminated with lead in April 2014 while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

More months, years of I-94 congestion arriving in light-rail-free zone

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has posted a fresh set of maps, timelines and other material documenting the transportation chaos and congestion known as The Zoo Interchange Project.

For the record, let's note that we are entering the 10th year after which a starter light rail system could have served the area, and elsewhere, but was killed for ideological, anti-urban politics:
Had plans unfolded on schedule, the starter light rail, with an estimated 21,000 riders on weekdays, would have opened in 2006 and run about 10 miles from the Third Ward to Summerfest, downtown, Miller Park, the Milwaukee County Zoo and the County Grounds... 
Extensions to Milwaukee's north side and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee would have generated support, and light rail could have assisted Waukesha County commuters because years of Zoo Interchange and I-94 reconstruction are planned west of Milwaukee.

WI DNR recommends more bear hunting licenses

Call it another win for the state's influential Wisconsin bear-hunting lobby and its hound-driven 'harvesting.'
black bear cub in tree
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board will take up a DNR recommendation at its January 29th meeting to increase by 830 the number of bear killing licenses the department can issue to more than 11,500.

A DNR-designated hunting zone covering roughly the southern two-thirds of the state would get most of the added permits.

The 'harvest' quota statewide of 4,750 would remain the same under the recommendation; Wisconsin leads the nation in bear kills (4,198 in 2015), though the quota of 4,750 was not met in 2015, the department says.

More information from department communications, here: 
The complete January board agenda is available by searching the DNR website,, for keyword "NRB" and clicking on the button for "view agendas." 
The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27, in Room G09, State Natural Resources Building (GEF 2), 101 South Webster St., Madison.
Bear photo from a DNR webpage for kids, in part:
Bears have been an important part of history in Wisconsin. The Native Americans honored the bear as a supernatural being and treated the bear hunt with great ceremony and respect. They prized bear skins for robes and the meat and oil for cooking, fuel and medicines. The settlers also placed great value on bear meat and especially sought the bearskins with which they made clothing and bedding. As more settlers moved into Wisconsin, however, there was conflict between people and bears. Bounty systems were set up to encourage killing of the "noxious pests" and fur traders paid high prices for bearskins. This large-scale killing caused the numbers of bears to decrease. Logging and settlement also reduced the bear's habitat and numbers. In 1930, people began to protect the bear and limit hunting. Today, wildlife biologists study bear populations and their habitat. Management plans are developed to ensure that nuisance bears are relocated and that population levels remain healthy.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Michigan's crime against humanity

Updated 11:30 a.m. 1/19/16: Now comes just the beginning of civil litigation after Michigan public officials attacked the city of Flint.

To allegedly save a few bucks, and guided by punitive, racist, power-playing ideology, the state of Michigan will end up paying untold billions of dollars to manage the long-term health needs of thousands of citizens it poisoned. 

And more to fix the infrastructure so the people of Flint may, in the year 2016, in the United States of America, have safe and healthy water to drink.

Update - - Data shows that exposures to lead can depress IQ multi-generationally.

A shameful crime against humanity.

Will Wisconsin learn anything from the horror across the lake?

And will the Canadians?

...consider that Canadian officials were OK with the construction of an underground nuclear waste storage facility close to Lake Huron - - one of the five, interconnected Great Lakes providing drinking water and economic livelihoods to tens of millions of people in the US and Canada.  
And here is an update to the troubling Lake Huron situation.

Lake Huron radioactive waste dump site still on the table

This blog noted the other day that the Wisconsin Assembly's sudden embrace of nuclear power generation could put the Badger state on top of a list of possible radioactive nuclear waste dump sites.

And before you say, 'who would use the Great Lakes region for such a crazy notion,' consider that Canadian officials were OK with the construction of an underground nuclear waste storage facility close to Lake Huron - - one of the five, interconnected Great Lakes providing drinking water and economic livelihoods to tens of millions of people in the US and Canada. 

And here is an update to the troubling Lake Huron situation:
Opposition to the proposed nuclear waste facility by Lake Huron continues to grow. By the end of 2015, at least 182 communities (representing more than 22 million people) on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border have adopted resolutions opposing the plan by Ontario Power Generation to build a deep geological repository (DGR) for storage of low- and intermediate-level radioactive nuclear waste.
A Canadian federal panel approved the nuclear waste dump in May 2015, accepting testimony that Lake Huron would be large enough to dilute any radioactive pollution that might leak from the DGR.
The immediate outcry on both sides of the border prompted the Conservative government of Stephen Harper to postpone any decision until Dec. 1, 2015... The new government of Liberal Justin Trudeau then pushed that decision to March 1, 2016, after a dozen members of Michigan’s congressional delegation urged the new prime minister to deny the construction permits necessary for the storage facility to be built....
...a final decision on the DGR may reside with a small First Nations community.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

WI needs authentic conservatives at the State Capitol

The Wisconsin State Capitol needs genuine conservatives who respect the root of the word "conservative" (as has been said before, Bucky), when applied to the land and water the state still concedes it holds for all of us in trust - - "Wisconsin's Waters Belong To Everyone" - -
instead of shallow cartoon characters and their enablers who, in the name of 'conservative' ideology, special interests and favoritism, would:

*  deliberately refuse to follow and implement clean water law.

*  intentionally undermine Wisconsin forestry, recreation, and tourism;

*  sell 10,000 acres of public land because they like the round number.

*  fill wetlands.

*  load hazardous sand dust into the air.

*  expand groundwater pollution.

*  cut down forests.

*  dig and trample native burial grounds.

*  trophy-hunt wildlife, and

*  degrade, sell or wall off access to the public's streams, rivers and lakes:

"Selling prime shoreland on a northern Wisconsin lake is a terrible precedent," said former Natural Resources Secretary George Meyer, now executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.
*  Or, if you're not convinced:
The state Department of Natural Resources has identified more than 1,000 acres of state-owned land in Langlade County that could go on the auction block — a move that has angered trout anglers because the properties contain a cache of ecologically significant spring ponds with native brook trout populations. 
The ponds, gouged by glaciers thousands of years ago, are fed by rich sources of groundwater that sustain the fish and neighboring streams, rivers and lakes. 
The DNR recently posted 13 properties in Langlade County on its website that contain the small ponds. They are among 118 parcels, covering approximately 8,300 acres, the DNR could sell to private parties or other units of government.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Another day, another Joel Kleefisch legislative misfire

He wants to end the state's minimum hunting age restriction.

The GOP assemblyman from Oconomowoc has had some wacky hunting ideas before - - like the sandhill crane 'ribeye-in-the-sky' hunt he really, really wanted - - but hey, combine the kindergarteners' hunting permission with fellow Waukesha County GOP legislator Mary Lazich's Take Your Gun To School Senate bill and the transformation of open-carry-concealed-carry-stand your-ground Wisconsin into an NRA colony is complete.

Except for maybe universal, mandatory carry?

Learn about bad water in Flint, MI - - and in WI

National attention and law enforcement are now focused on the poisoned drinking inflicted by local and state officials on Flint, Michigan, population 99,000.

And without minimizing that outrage, it's important to understand that drinking water in Wisconsin which contains harmful nitrate contamination is routinely permitted for about the same number of state residents in rural areas through lax, inefficient and thoughtless state action.

Kevin Masarik, a Wisconsin groundwater expert, puts the number of rural wells providing nitrate-contaminated water at one in 10. He is speaking Monday evening in Madison about these issues:

“Nitrates in Wisconsin’s Groundwater: What, Why, and Where?”
January 20 - 7:00PM - 8:15PM  
UW Biotechnology Center, 425 Henry Mall, Room 1111,  Madison, WI 53706 
Some more data and information:

*  A recent, comprehensive report put the number of Wisconsin people exposed to unsafe levels of nitrates in their drinking water at 94,000, with trends going in the wrong direction:

According to state estimates, nitrate is at unsafe levels in an estimated 94,000 Wisconsin households. One in five wells in heavily agricultural areas is now too polluted with nitrate for safe drinking, according to data from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection...
“Nitrate that approaches and exceeds unsafe levels in drinking water is one of the top drinking water contaminants in Wisconsin, posing an acute risk to infants and women who are pregnant, a possible risk to the developing fetus during very early stages of pregnancy, and a chronic risk of serious disease in adults,” according to the 2015 Wisconsin Groundwater Coordinating Council report to the Legislature. 
The multi-agency council also reported that nitrate — one of the most pervasive groundwater contaminants in Wisconsin — is “increasing in extent and severity.”
*  Adding to the problem: lax regulatory efforts and dairy state loopholes: 
Despite these dangers, the law carves out a regulatory loophole so that private well owners with nitrate levels that could kill infants cannot qualify for financial assistance to get their wells replaced — unless the wells are used to water livestock.
DATCP photo
*  Water contamination in Wisconsin is state-enabled, as this October news story explained: 
An 87-page petition filed Tuesday by Madison-based Midwest Environmental Advocates asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take action four years after the EPA put the state on notice that it needed to make immediate changes...
One of the petitioners, small farm operator Lynn Utesch, said 30 percent of private wells tested in Kewaunee County are tainted by E. coli, nitrates and other pollutants...
“The DNR has known about our problems for years, but they choose not to budget anything to actually look at our current situation here,” Utesch said. “They say they care about us, but they haven’t put one penny toward our drinking water...”
*  The Walker administration and its legislative allies have systematically cut back DNR staff, science, environmental inspections and enforcement.