Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Wisconsin citizens show up in force at hearings on legislature’s wetland bills

George Meyer suggested a compromise that legislators let the DNR use its Brownfields Study Group Model to iron out problems with wetland regulations. (Photo by Tim Eisele)

The Grinch tried to steal the holiday season from Wisconsinites who care about natural resources.

First it was revealed that Cathy Stepp, previous secretary of the DNR, is returning to the Midwest Region to head the EPA.

During her tenure at the DNR, either Stepp or Gov. Scott Walker insisted DNR employees no longer offer opinions for citizens on proposed legislation, DNR enforcement of pollution cases dwindled, and access to DNR and employees was restricted.

Can we now expect the same at the EPA?

Then, state legislators tried to rush through two bills (AB 547 and SB 600) that profess to cure problems for developers with wetland issues. The proposed bills exempt non-federal and artificial wetlands from DNR wetland-permitting requirements.

A public hearing Dec. 21 at the State Capitol brought out a standing-room-only crowd, with a good number of towns and developers identifying legitimate concerns over wetland rules that hamper business.

As the devil is in the details, many citizens such as Al Shook, of the Waukesha County Conservation Alliance, spoke wisely: “We are not opposed to fixing this problem but we don’t want all the protections taken away – wetlands are very important.”

Shook said the proposed bill is like taking an elephant gun to kill an ant.

Similarly, George Meyer, of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, spoke eloquently that though there was universal opposition to the bills by the sporting public, there is a willingness to solve wetland regulatory issues.

Meyer identified steps that could be taken to address wetland regulatory bottlenecks. He suggested using the Brownfield Study Group Model to work on solutions agreeable to development interests and conservationists.

Let’s hope that legislators take their time, reconsider and collaborate on real solutions that fit Wisconsin’s environmental legacy.

Wisconsin’s natural resources have no use for Mr. Grinch.

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