Monday, March 19, 2018

Walker's legacy? Ignoring, unwinding predecessors' environmental records

Lake Michigan defines Wisconsin's eastern border, but Gov. Scott Walker is leaving on that lakeshore an environmental legacy of shame.

His calculated, donor-driven degradation of the Wisconsin DNR - - and, mind you this began in his first few days in office with an attack for a donor on a Brown County wetland - - an exceptional disdain for Wisconsin's conservation heritage and for the integrity of the Great Lakes also makes him an outlier compared to his predecessors in both parties who can claim legacy environmental achievements which Walker is undermining and showing no interest in bequeathing anything similar.

Other than telling a seven-year-old that leaving behind a clean campsite is the way to fight climate change. True story, while - - also true - - his DNR scrubbed climate change information from its official website.

Real legacy-building?

Let's look at Wisconsin's more serious leaders, like former Gov. Gaylord Nelson, (D), who gave the world Earth Day and teamed up in 1989 with Warren Knowles, (R), another ex-state chief executive, to create the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund.

That's the state's principal land and water access and preservation program which Walker began attacking as early as 2011 - - and repeatedly to the tune of about a 60% cut overall as part of a larger anti-environmental agenda

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, (D), extended the Knowles-Nelson program for another ten years, oversaw a comprehensive strengthening of phosphorous pollution protections for state waters - - another Doyle initiative Walker has rolled back with the predictable increase in waterway contamination statewide - - and pushed through an eight-state legal Compact in 2008 which limits exports of finite, world-class Great Lakes freshwater resources from Wisconsin and the entire region. 

Even reliably pro-business Tommy Thompson, (R), helped create a nice urban space called Lakeshore State Park off the Summerfest grounds, though his environmental legacy was tainted when he ended the work of a state office staffed by independent state attorneys who had been gone to court for years in the public interest against well-heeled polluters run amok.

[Updated, 3/19/18] So from south to north up the Lake Michigan shoreline, Walker has done little for the people as did previous governors while consistently siding with special interests and polluters, and so often donors are being served.

*  In Kenosha County, Walker wants weakened air pollution rules and manipulated air quality monitoring
Despite evidence that southeast Wisconsin is violating new and tougher emissions standards for smog, state officials are asking the Trump administration to set aside a recent federal finding and conclude the state is complying with the law. 
Falling short of that, the state Department of Natural Resources is recommending federal officials carve out narrow strips of land of a few miles along the Lake Michigan shoreline as violating the new standard for ozone pollution and declare the rest of the state in compliance.
And, hey - - if the air keeps registering too dirty, just move the monitoring device, and presto, stupid science problem solved - - though that air pollution is still going to land in the water, let along your lungs.

*  Which could help allow dirty air emissions by the proposed Foxconn complex on a huge site in Racine County which Walker and the GOP-led legislature have already exempted from routine environmental reviews, state wetland, lake bed and stream altering permit rules.

And where Walker's DNR will no doubt approve a controversial plan to divert Lake Michigan water for Foxconn and to enable the return of properly-treated wastewater to Lake Michigan which Foxconn's industrial-scale production is going to generate.

* In Sheboygan County, three Walker-directed state agencies - - the DNR, its oversight board and the Department of Administration - - have worked to create wetland-filling permissions, project boundaries in a friendly municipality, and a transfer of state parkland so a major Walker donor can bulldoze much of a 247-acre privately-owned nature preserve for a privately-ownedlakefront golf course.

* In Kewaunee County, the DNR continues to allow the expansion of more large dairy cattle feeding operations which lead to known, groundwater and surface pollution.

* And ditto in Door County, above Kewaunee County.

* Not to mention the "dead zone" off Brown County in Lake Michigan:
There are as many cows in Wisconsin’s Brown County as there are people in the city of Green Bay. It’s a fact J. Val Klump, dean of the School of Freshwater Sciences, uses to explain why agricultural runoff is a main cause of dead zones in Lake Michigan’s Green Bay.
And here's the kicker. 

Despite this horrible, cascading record - - a partisan performance likely to spread because Walker and his GOP-led Legislature recently greenlit the filling of another 100,000 acres of wetlands statewide and an approval for potentially-polluting metal mining banned in Wisconsin for the last 20 years - - a summary posting, here - - Walker had actually done something good for Lake Michigan that would have stimulated clean and appealing waters.

He initiated the creation of a mapped, so-called sanctuary zone in Lake Michigan off the shoreline of several lakeshore counties to help explore, preserve and help shipwrecks which are part of the state and Great Lakes history.

All to attract tourist, business and scholarly interest and also to promote clean, productive and appealing waters.

Until he abruptly killed his own idea - - reinforcing his reflexive caving to special interests when the environment and the Great Lakes are in the conversation.

[Updated, 3/19/18 - - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has tracked down the tea party groups and Koch interests organizer who got Walker to deep-=six the initiative.

Up and down his Lake Michigan lakeshore of shame.

Final thought: Walker's debasing of the Great Lakes which help frame the state would have been been a two-for had his plan to demolish the Penokee Hills and fill the Bad River watershed close to Lake Superior with mining fill for 35 years had his donor-driven open-pit iron ore mining scheme been allowed to move forward.

So let's redo that Walker environmental legacy, both compared to what other Governors did and what his tenure has meant for Wisconsin and the region:
It could have been worse

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