Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Walker's Foxconn giveaway bill extends his war on wetlands

Special-interest and donor-obeisant bellhop Scott Walker has a long record of seeing a wetland
a wetland in May
and imagining just where to stage the bulldozers and cement trucks.

It's a defective mentality destructively at odds with legacy-preserving visionaries like Gaylord Nelson, Aldo Leopold and John Muir who treated the land as the people's birthright.

And regrettably, Walker's proven conservation hostility is again on full display through the bill he crafted secretly to exempt the Foxconn development from what should be a routine Environmental Impact Statement review in the public interest, thus eliminating in advance the best method to catalogue and protect wetlands and connected resources the project would harm.

And the bill's requirement to boost slightly the amount of acreage elsewhere which the company would have to clean or repair as compensation for the losses is a sham sop to conservation because there is a shortage of such eligible, compensatory land available for such mitigation.

Also like the bill's sham reliance on federal standards and law for environmental protections, because Trump is already rolling back those standards with the broad public support of both Walker and our corporately-managed Attorney General, Brad Schimel.

Bottom line: an original wetland works better than a restored or artificial one, so don't get too excited when you hear that the feds will look after us, and that Walker is going the extra environmental mile - - wink, wink - - by requiring Foxconn to add even more mitigated acreage somewhere as called for by current state law covering project plans the damage of wipe out wetlands.

Important points I wished I'd seen hammered home in the Journal Sentinel's editorial call for environmental protection in whatever the Legislature approves.

I noted in 2015 some of the problems with wetland mitigation in Wisconsin and let me offer your two solid published explanations  - - here and here - - about the kind of program shortcomings which Walker would have you believe he's addressing.

You have to understand that Walker has long been an enemy of wetlands in Wisconsin - - despite their crucial role in minimizing flood damage - - a growing problem in Wisconsin - - and keeping connected waters clean for anglers and boaters and swimmers - - since his first days in the Governor's office.

One of his earliest acts was suspending an ongoing appeal of a wetland filling permit application near Lambeau field so a developer and Walker campaign donor could put up a building on a 12-acre wetland for an outdoors' recreational retailer.

Walker later signed a much broader bill easing development protections for wetlands statewide that got him a standing ovation at a meeting of another of his leading backers, the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

A second group of insiders crowed about its role in getting the bill crafted.

And the special iron mining bill Walker rammed through the Legislature on behalf of a mining firm which was later revealed to have been a secret Walker campaign supporter to the tune of $700,000 would have cost the Bad River watershed pristine timber, wetlands and trout stream resources.

Little wonder that the Wisconsin DNR he has remade with what he said was "a chamber of commerce mentality' and which has been intentionally stripped of the science staff needed to review big projects in the public interest has just approved the largest single wetlands loss in years - - for yet another frac sand mine.

And, yes, commitments on paper to mitigation are required in the Foxconn bill as written, and will happen if the right kind of land somewhere in Wisconsin can be found for compliance if the entire plan is accepted by the Legislature - - just as project proponents say they will provide for wetlands lost if the controversial Kohler golf course headed for a quickie annexation to Sheboygan is approved on a wetland/timber/rare dune nature preserve adjacent to and even encroaching on part of Kohler Andrae State Park - - but the experts and surely the good people living nearby these disappearing treasures will tell you - - wetlands are best left alone to do their work as they have done without 'help, and for the next generations.

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