Impacts of frac sand mining and CWD in Wisconsin and Minnesota reviewed in two documentaries
Disagreements over natural resource issues is not new to Wisconsin. At the same time, residents of this state have always been leaders in conservation.
Wisconsin is the place where the first soil conservation practices were developed thanks to Hugh Hammond Bennett, where the modern science of wildlife management was developed by Aldo Leopold, and where John Muir developed his philosophies of wilderness and natural landscapes.
Wisconsin was the first state to ban the use of DDT, thanks to research and crusading of Prof. Joe Hickey at UW-Madison, and a leader in returning to native landscapes thanks to Lorrie Otto and The Wild Ones.
Today the state faces new challenges, and two videos highlight the controversies and the need for citizens to step forward.
"The Price of Sand" is a documentary produced by Jim Tittle, of St. Paul, about the frac sand mining boom in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
He explains that he produced the documentary after an oil company bought land near his mother’s house and the possibility of an open pit mine brought many questions. The sand, or silica, is quickly becoming a valuable product used in fracturing (or fracking) rock in other states to extract oil and gas.
The entire process is of concern to landowners, as silica may be a health hazard, the mines remove hillsides land forms, and destroy natural resources in their path. Fracking brings heavy truck traffic and rail traffice to rural areas, and the silica is used in other states that may pollute groundwater and trigger on earthquakes in those locations.
On the flip side, landowners who are willing to selling their land do so at higher than market values, the sand mines bring in new jobs, and the silica helps reduce reliance on foreign oil.
What was eye-opening to me in this documentary was the chasm this brings within communities. People are on one side or the other, and often no longer talk to their neighbors on the other side.
The documentary is worth seeing and is now in many libraries.
The Crawford Stewardship Project provided copies to 33 libraries, such as those in Richland Center, Gays Mills, Prairie du Chien, Dodgeville, and Platteville, to encourage education and informed debate.
Perhaps causing a similar divide between citizens is chronic wasting disease (CWD), now found in Wisconsin wild deer in 18 counties. The prevalence has been increasing and the DNR estimates it is in about 25 percent of adult male deer within some CWD zones.
CWD has also been found on 15 captive white-tailed deer farms and 1 captive elk farm in the state.
The World Health Organization urges people not to eat meat from CWD-positive deer, although there has been no evidence of disease transmission to people who have eaten CWD-positive venison.
Many people feel that deer populations should be reduced until something is found to offset the disease, while others resist regulations believing nothing can be done to control or manage CWD.
A documentary in the making, "No Accident," calls CWD the "conservation fight of our lives." It talks about growing concern over CWD and keeping deer in “farms” behind fences.
To see a preview of the documentary and help it get produced go to: http://noaccidentfilm.com/
Wisconsin citizens need to become more concerned with both problems and step up on behalf of the natural resources.