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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nice Ice, Chill Winds

Postcards from my muskrat cousins are pouring in.  They are relieved that there is ice this winter under which to hide from hungry eagles and other hawk-eyed birds (such as hawks).  Some muskrats tell me they even pop up onto the surface of the ice at night, through holes the ice fishermen make, and slip-slide around under the light of the moon.  

And I thought river rats had fun.

This River Rat is having no fun anticipating the chill winds blowing down from the state Capitol.  When it comes to conservation, it is nothing but ill chill winds.

The biggest gust of ill wind is mining legislation. (To paraphrase Dylan, we should call these idiot winds.)  Lawmakers, with the governor’s approval, are poised to pass a bill that would rip a hole in northern Wisconsin a quarter mile wide by up to 15 miles long and nearly 2,000 feet deep.  They’re also itching to blow up a “mining moratorium” law, in place since the mid 1990s, that has successfully prevented mining that would cause the dreaded acid mine drainage.

The governor wants an income tax decrease, which he will get.  If you reduce revenue to state coffers, you gotta reduce costs, and that likely means state employees will get whacked.  Legislators’ favorite target to starve is the state’s guardian of natural resources, the DNR.

Frac away
And you know all that valuable frac sand being mined and shipped out of state – an extremely valuable commodity without which the domestic natural gas and oil boom couldn’t be?  It leaves Wisconsin, free of charge, and the local communities that pay the price for the environmental and social disruption, get nothing.  Nor does the state.  Wisconsin is a now a player in the oil industry, but it’s dressed up like a bar-sponsored softball team playing Major League Baseball.

Hostility to conservation is not unique to the Legislature. It starts, and it prospers, at the top, with Governor Walker.  He gives his annual state of the state speech next week.  Here’s an opportunity for the Gov surprise us. Rat offers this simple language to be inserted into the speech.   This is not tree-hugging, blow-up-the-ship-to-save-the-whales rhetoric here; it’s pragmatic and common sense. 
Water cannot be afterthought.  There is no economy, there is no life, without clean and plentiful water. 
Hang around your radio the night of January 15 and see if the Gov works any of Rat’s fine prose into his speech. 

I know what you’re thinking – that’s as likely as muskrats enjoying ice in July. But it's worth a try.
The State of the State’s Waters
Wisconsin is defined by water – our borders, our name, our economy, our identity, are formed and shaped by water.

Water is essential to who we are and what we do – as manufacturers, utilities, farmers and service providers who depend on water to do their business, and as people who have fun in and by the water. 

It is essential that we protect our water – both its quality and its quantity – vigorously, systematically and with the seriousness it deserves.  Our economy, our quality of life, and our future as a state depend on it. 

It will be my (Gov. Scott Walker) administration’s policy to mobilize those state agencies and offices equipped to defend the public trust to protect our water.  

  • ·         We will ensure that drinking water drawn from underground sources will not be depleted. 
  • ·         We will also ensure that that same groundwater – the drinking water for 90% of Wisconsin residents – will be protected from contamination by pesticides, nitrates, bacteria, viruses and other pollutants. 
  •          We will work to reduce to the greatest extent possible the pollution of our surface waters of algae-producing phosphorus and keep the soil that delivers that phosphorus on the land. 
  •   ·         We will strive to limit, even eliminate, exotic plants and animals that wreak havoc on our waters and cause tens of millions of dollars of damage. 
  • ·         We will follow the letter and the spirit of the Great Lakes Compact to protect our Great Lakes.

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