New bill aims to loosen restrictions on developing Wisconsin-managed wetlands

Wetlands and wild lands are jewels that provide humans with a quality lifetime. (Photo by Tim Eisele)

Two proposed wetland bills introduced into the Legislature in late 2017 highlight the inherent “problems” faced by land developers, and all citizens.

Development, as in concrete roads, tall buildings and acres of houses, is often considered to be progress. But often overlooked are the costs of natural resources.

Developers and real estate promoters told their wetland stories, at December public hearings, of how they can’t build where wetlands exist.  They then move down the block and build in cornfields and oak woodlands.

People who speak for natural resources (since smallmouth bass, frogs, great blue herons and ducklings can’t talk) emphasize that wetlands are valuable for clean water, preventing floods, and providing homes to numerous wild species.

There also is a quality-of-life benefit in having open natural areas, and agricultural fields without buildings.

Conservation is supposed to involve the wise use of natural resources, and Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic espoused that we are all part of the natural system. Throwing out one small integral part could put the entire “environmental machine” in jeopardy.

Conflicting sentiment about land use is not new. William Burke, in his book The Upper Mississippi Valley, nails it:  “Euro Americans saw nature and anything associated with it … as being in the way of business, settlement and progress.”

At what point is enough development, enough?

Can humans really exist without wetlands, open fields, and wooded lands?

Is our only “happiness” measured in dollars and cents?

At some point we have to take a stand and realize that human populations need natural and undeveloped lands for a quality existence.

The famous editorial cartoonist, Jay “Ding” Darling, said it best:  “As land goes, so goes man.”

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