In Wisconsin, the hits just keep coming... Hits on teachers and students, hits on public employees and unions, hits on the elderly and the disadvantaged, hits on voters and farmers and local governments and Wisconsin's Native American communities. But Walker and his arrogant allies in the state legislature seem to hold a special hatred for the natural world. One of the very first acts of the regime a year ago was to enact a special exemption for a developer to fill a wetland in Green Bay near Lambeau Field. The head of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is one Cathy Stepp, a former legislator and real estate developer with no professional qualifications in natural resource management. The cabal is currently working to ram through a new mining bill -- written by the mining company -- that will gut regulations, weaken the public review process, and open the way for a huge open pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin's Penokee hills, directly upstream from the Bad River Ojibwe reservation and the clear waters of Lake Superior. They are also trying to cram through bills to allow the hunting of cranes and timber wolves. And then today, this...
Hot off the presses:
Walker, who wouldn't know a cattail from a contrail, or a crane from a crony, did it up in style this afternoon:
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker has signed a divisive bill that would help developers win wetland construction permits. The governor signed the measure at a Wisconsin Realtors Association gathering at a Madison convention center. The measure requires developers to include mitigation plans with permit applications they hand over to the Department of Natural Resources.Can you say mi-ti-ga-tion? Good! Here's what that means: developers get to destroy unique, site-specific, natural wetlands by "mitigating" them, i.e., creating new artificial wetlands elsewhere. Once upon a time this was thought of as a helpful strategy for countering the loss of wetlands. Now conservationists recognize it as a scam, allowing irreplaceable wetland communities to be replaced elsewhere by generic "wetlands" that cannot replicate the pre-existing hydrological processes, ecological functions, and biological diversity of the original site.
Here is what our heroic non-profit group, the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, had to say about today's events:
Wisconsin Wetlands Association Statement on Passage of Wetlands BillWhat wonderful timing, Scott. In Wisconsin, we are now waiting out the tag ends of winter, eager to see our first sandhill cranes and to hear that first high pitch of the spring peepers coming from the newly opened marshes. And, gosh, this coming weekend happens to be Wisconsin's official Aldo Leopold Weekend. I guess that would be the Aldo Leopold who wrote these words:
Today Governor Walker received a standing ovation as he signed the Wetland Development Bill before the Wisconsin Realtor’s Association. The scene was quite different from the enactment of previous wetland laws which passed with representatives from development and conservation organizations standing proudly in support of the bills they worked together to craft.
“This bill passed without the endorsement of a single leader from the wetland professional community or any major statewide sportsmen's or environmental group,” said Executive Director Tracy Hames. “People need jobs, but they need wetlands too,” he added, “that is if they want flood protection, clean water, and more and better ducks.”
Hames also emphasized that Wisconsin citizens could no longer rely on the state to protect the wetlands in their community. “It’s now up to the people of the state to get involved, speak up, and look out for the wetlands where they live.”
Wisconsin Wetlands Association remains available to work with communities across the state to help them better understand, appreciate, and manage their wetland resources.
A sense of time lies thick and heavy on such a place. Yearly since the ice age it has awakened each spring to the clangor of cranes. The peat layers that comprise the bog are laid down in the basin of an ancient lake. The cranes stand, as it were, upon the sudden pages of their own history. These peats are the compressed remains of the mosses that clogged the pools, of the tamaracks that spread over the moss, of the cranes that bugled over the tamaracks since the retreat of the ice sheet. An endless caravan of generations has built of is own bones this bridge into the future, this habitat where the oncoming host again may live and breed and die. To what end? Out on the bog a crane, gulping some luckless frog, springs his ungainly hulk into the air and flails the morning sun with mighty wings. The tamaracks re-echo with his bugled certitude. He seems to know.That's from Leopold's stunning essay "Marshland Elegy" in A Sand County Almanac. Written in the 1930s, when wetlands were disappearing and cranes were nearly extirpated. You'd think any citizen of Wisconsin would be proud of the progress we've made since then, and vigilant to protect it. But no. Watch the Wisconsin Republican politicians come out this weekend and proclaim their conservation credentials -- the ones, anyway, who even know who Leopold was, and who are shameless enough to show their faces. Then watch to see if they can survive their own hypocrisy.
Bring on the recall. Bring on Lori Compas. Bring on the one million who signed on to the recall petitions, and who did so -- whether they knew it or not -- on behalf of the cranes and the sedges and the cattails and the leopard frogs and the sora rails and the muskrats and the marsh hawks....
REC LIST EXTRA: It all ties together. Recently the remarkable Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs up on the Lake Superior Shore on the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation -- the very wetlands that would be affected if the iron mine is allowed to proceed -- were named a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Wetlands Convention:
Wisconsin Wetland Complex Named Global TreasureThe leaders of the Bad River and Red Cliff Ojibwe communities have been eloquent and stalwart in their defense of Wisconsin's lands and waters. They are leading the way to a better tomorrow. And they will be here long after Scott Walker is booted out of office, and out of the state.
The Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs in northern Wisconsin have been named a “Wetland of International Importance” by the Ramsar International Convention on Wetlands. The official designation was made in December, 2011 and formally celebrated at the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin during a special luncheon on February 23.