Monday, February 22, 2016

Some wins in environmentally-beleagured Wisconsin

Don't get me wrong: public water rights and land ownership, development planning, local citizen control and clean air are being obstructed or given away repeatedly by a corporately-controlled Governor and Legislature embedded through gerrymandering, but a couple of good things have happened lately that suggest the powers that be are not immune to grassroots and media pressure.

Maybe, just maybe, Wisconsin traditionalists - - anglers, hikers, small-town board members - - can be heard by policy-makers over trade association lobbyists and insider-donors.
* For now, it appears that a DNR plan to sell some public land along important waterways has had politically-charged elements removed, according to Journal Sentinel reporter Lee Bergquist. Let's hope this turn of events is something that can be built upon, particularly where groundwater is known to be contaminated near rapidly-expanding industrial-scale animal feeding operations under the nose of an intentionally-passive DNR.

*  A fast-tracked measure passed by the Assembly that would have allowed out-of-state businesses to buy municipal water and sewer systems was derailed in the Senate after statewide uproar.

Crucial to the bill's demise was opposition by local governments which have seen a steady erosion across-the-board of their roles by the top-down authoritarians running state government since 2011.

Mind you - - I have this in perspective.

Damage has been done.

Programs to reduce phosphorous contamination in waterways - - from state rivers to a Lake Michigan run-off dead zone - -  along with wetland and shoreline protections have been ignored or rolled back.

As has science staffing and employee/or citizen respect at the DNR, along with assertive pollution enforcement - - even when we're talking about, oh, say, a million gallons of manure. Or more.

Wind, renewable and solar programs and projects have been blocked or hamstrung; federal clean air rules are being fought by the administration in court and federal clean water obligations have gone systematically unmet for five years.

The DNR waived through a doubling of Superior-to-Delavan tar sand oil piping, and is considering a 26,000 hog farm within smelling distance of Lake Superior in Northwest Wisconsin as well as a high-end golf course that would be built on a wetland-and-forest-rich nature preserve overlooking Lake Michigan adjacent to and intruding within Kohler-Andrae State Park south of Sheboygan.

But take some inspiration, and find some useful lessons and allies in a couple of recent wins.

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