I had been calling Scott Walker's radical environmental approach the Cut It, Gut It, Pave it, Fill It plan. [Update: Walker has signed a special wetland-filling bill for one of his donors after he'd already suspended the DNR's permit review which had held up the development.] Take a look at Item #6 of Walker's Special Session directive to the Legislature in Executive Order #1, as it will impact 1.6 million acres protected of non-federal wetlands, or 30% of the wetlands in Wisconsin:
"Relating to a Special Session of the Legislature
WHEREAS, the State of Wisconsin is in an economic emergency caused by years of mismanagement;
WHEREAS, the business climate in Wisconsin has for too long been stifled by burdensome regulation, taxes, and costly litigation; and
WHEREAS, the people of Wisconsin elected me Governor to help create a new, healthy, and vibrant climate for private sector job creation;
NOW THEREFORE, I, Scott Walker, Governor of the State of Wisconsin, pursuant to Article IV, Section 11, and Article V, Section 4 of the Wisconsin Constitution, do hereby require the convening of a special session of the Legislature at the Capitol in Madison beginning at 10:00 a.m. on January 4, 2011, solely to consider and act upon legislation relating to the following:
"÷6. The authority of a state agency to promulgate rules interpreting the provisions of a statute enforced or administered by the agency and to implement or enforce any standard, requirement, or threshold as a term or condition of a license issued by the state agency; gubernatorial approval of proposed administrative rules; economic impact analyses of proposed rules and emergency rules; and venue in a declaratory judgment action seeking judicial review of the validity of an administrative rule and in an action in which the sole defendant is the state; exemptions from water quality certification and wetland mitigation requirements for certain nonfederal wetlands that are less than two acres in size; requirements for wind energy systems, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, and granting rule-making authority; "
As the Wisconsin Wetlands Association sees it:
Urgent: Wisconsin's isolated wetlands threatened
Walker Administration proposes rollback in protection as part of special session
January 4, 2011
Dear Wetland Advocate,
On Day 1 of his administration, Governor Walker released an Executive Order that calls for "exemptions from water quality certification and wetland mitigation requirements for certain non-federal wetlands that are less than two acres in size" (see item 6 in the Executive Order). In other words, Governor Walker wants to make it easier for developers and industry to destroy isolated wetlands in hopes of creating jobs.
We do not know the extent of what's proposed because the administration has not yet released the language, but the intent is clearly to remove protections for at least some, maybe all, isolated wetlands.
This news is disheartening and alarming. In 2001Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to enact state protections for isolated wetlands (2001 WI Act 6) afterfederal protections were unexpectedly removed following a Supreme Court decision (SWANCC). The public strongly supported isolated wetland protections, and the bill passed both houses of the legislature with unanimous support.
We will share the proposed wetland protection rollback language as soon as it is available; however, we expect the bill to move quickly upon introduction so it is critical that we mobilize now.
The only way to slow this down is to make it clear that an overwhelming majority of Wisconsin citizens oppose wetland destruction under most circumstances.
We won't know for sure how many wetlands are in jeopardy until we see the bill. What we do know from an analysis done by the Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) in 2001 is that an estimated 30% of all wetlands in the state are considered non-federal or "isolated wetlands." Of even greater concern is that the distribution of isolated wetlands is uneven across the state. So, for example, the estimated percentage of isolated wetlands exceeds 30% of all wetlands in at least 26 counties and exceeds 50% in Ashland, Dane, Forest, Green, Iron, and Rock counties.
1. Call and write Governor Walker and your representatives in the state senate and state assembly today to tell them you oppose removal of protections for isolated wetlands and expect them to solicit public input before passing any legislation that weakens wetland protection. (See below for contact info and additional talking points.)
2. Forward this alert (and the more detailed one to follow) to as many individuals and organizations as you can and urge them to do the same.
3. Consider making a special contribution to the Wisconsin Wetlands Association or other conservation organizations that are involved in efforts to protect Wisconsin's wetland heritage. Other wetland-focused organizations that helped enact our current wetland protection laws include: Ducks Unlimited,Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, and the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association. A list of other state and local organizations that have or may stand up for wetland protections can be found on the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters' website here.
Who to contact
Click here to find contact information for your State Senator and State Representative.
Click here to find contact information for Governor Walker*
Submit "citizen suggestions" on how wetland protection and economic development can coexist to Governor Walker's office using this response form.
* Note - as of this morning (1/4) the contact information posted is still for the Walker transition team and transition office.
What to say
Dear Governor Walker and Senator/Representative X:
I use (e.g., hunt, fish, paddle, birdwatch), enjoy and value Wisconsin's wetlands and want to see them protected.
I supported passage of state legislation to protect isolated wetlands in 2001 and still support that law today.
The isolated wetlands law (2001 WI Act 6) passed both houses unanimously in a Republican controlled legislature and was signed by a Republican Governor. Overturning those protections today is akin to breaking a promise with the public.
Because of the controversial nature of this proposal, it should not be pushed through without public input.At a minimum, legislative hearings should be held.
It would be irresponsible of this administration and legislature to weaken state wetland protection laws without a full understanding of how many wetlands, of what type, and where, are likely to be destroyed. Time should also be allowed for an analysis of the potential environmental effects of the proposal. Your decision(s) should be based on the results of that analysis.
Economic development and wetland protection can co-exist. Though some wetland loss is to be expected, in the vast majority of cases it is not necessary to destroy wetlands to create jobs.
Who should care about destruction of isolated wetlands?
Upland game hunters (75% of all wildlife species in the state depend on wetlands for some portion of their lifecycle)
Anglers, paddlers, bird watchers, photographers
Citizens living in flood-prone communities
Families who care about clean water
Farmers and others concerned about changing land use
Amphibian lovers (frogs and salamanders depend upon isolated, fish-free wetlands for breeding)
People who care about the fate of threatened and endangered plants and animals (33% of all threatened and endangered species in Wisconsin rely on wetlands)
In short, all the citizens of Wisconsin should care about isolated wetlands, because no matter who you are or where you live, wetlands benefit your life.
Waukesha County, Republican pols tried and failed to kill it.
The Calatrava Addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum
Sunset on the lakefront, summer 2018
Milwaukee River empties into Lake Michigan
On the Downtown Riverwalk, looking to the Hoan Bridge
Wisconsin wind farm, east of Waupun
86 turbines overcame Walker's blockade
Skylight illumination in Milwaukee City Hall
The historic 19th-century building has stone floors, copper decoration, and iron work by the famous artisan Cyril Kolnic. Stop in and walk around.
What water, wetland protection is all about
"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 Supreme Court in its 1960 opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC and buttressing The Public Trust Doctrine, Article IX of the Wisconsin State Constitution.
Lake Michigan in winter
James Rowen's Bio
James Rowen is an independent writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He worked as the senior Mayoral staffer in Madison and Milwaukee and for newspapers in both cities. This blog began on 2/2/ 2007.