by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director
October 18, 2017
A coalition of hunting, trapping, and wildlife groups has come together to oppose a bill that would strip the DNR of authority to regulate a million acres of wetlands in Wisconsin.
The bill, pushed by the GOP leadership in the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate, would let land owners and developers fill in non-federally protected wetlands—which means wetlands that are not connected to rivers and lakes in Wisconsin.
“The proposed bill is extremely damaging to the hunting, fishing, and trapping community,” reads a joint statement from Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the Wisconsin Trappers Association, the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.
The statement noted that “in 2001, the Wisconsin legislature, with overwhelming support from sportsmen and women and other Wisconsin citizens, unanimously enacted legislation requiring DNR review and permitting before non-federally protect wetlands could be filled.”
But times have changed, and the Republican leadership is trying to use the environmental exemptions granted to Foxconn as precedent.
“When you had legislators and other members of the public coming out saying they’d prefer we do these exemptions for everybody, not just one business, it was encouraging,” Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, one of the co-authors of the bill, told Todd Richmond of the Associated Press.
So Foxconn may turn out to be the camel’s nose under the tent.
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state largest business lobby, endorses the bill, noting that it would require property owners to create 1.2 acres of wetlands for every acre filled. But traditional wetlands, in their natural ecosystem, are much more beneficial to wildlife than man-made ones.
“This legislation strikes an important balance that will enhance economic development in our state while also protecting and enhancing high quality wetlands," said WMC Director of Environmental and Energy Policy Lucas Vebber. "This is a true win-win for all Wisconsinites."
WMC secretly raised and spent an estimated $18.6 million since January 2010 on outside electioneering activities to support Republican and conservative legislative and statewide candidates.