Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, December 20, 2010

Can They Actually Do That?

If on a barstool or bus seat or deer stand this fall you overheard chatter about what will happen with natural resources policy with the new sheriff and his posse in town, Rat is happy to incendiarily fan any flames that chatter ignited in you with the following speculation, now that we know Wisconsin is finally “open for business:”

Turn on Waukesha’s Lake Michigan Tap! The Wisconsin DNR has done yeoman’s duty (actually, they are following the letter of the Great Lakes Compact) poring over the city of Waukesha’s request to put Lake Michigan water on a 50-mile round trip to the city and back. Rat’s Guess: It seems only a matter of time that the man in the cubicle at DNR asking the right questions will be told to skip the questions and get to the answer: give Waukesha Lake Michigan water and make it snappy.

Turn on the Cow Manure! The dairy industry has wanted fast-track permits for its mega-farms of 1,000 cows and up. (There are several proposals for cow factories of over 5,000 cows in the planning stages.) The DNR had bowed to the industry’s wishes for quicker and easier (so-called general) permits, but with the quid pro quo that those farms would pay higher fees to pay for the sped-up permit processing. Rat’s Pretty Good Guess: They will get their faster permits, but they won’t pay a dime more in fees.

Open Up the Iron Ore Pits! There’s iron in them there rocks of Iron and Ashland counties, in northern Wisconsin. Just days after the elections, plans were made public for open-pit mines in the region. (Discussions about mining had been happening on the down-low for years.) People wonder: can Wisconsin’s superb mining moratorium play defense against this mine, or the possibility of copper and nickel mining along the Menominee River? Rat’s Guess: If the moratorium (requiring a mine operator to show they have shut down a sulfide mine for at least 10 years without environmental damage) appears to obstruct mining in northern Wisconsin, the new gov and legislature will simply (try to) repeal it.

How Do YOU Spell DNR? There was a bumper sticker popular 20 years ago that referred to the DNR (department of natural resources) as “Damn Near Russia.” (That sentiment did not refer to the agency’s proximity to that country.) Next year, DNR could easily spell, “Destroy Now…Really!” A favorite scheme of DNR bashers has been to call for splitting the agency in two – one side would handle huntin’ and fishin,’ the other would deal with the regulatory stuff. Bashers believe (erroneously) that license fees are being taken right out of the hands of hunters and anglers and paying for bureaucrats to make life miserable for a guy who just wants to fill in a little wetland to build his warehouse. Rat’s Guess: This proposal will get real traction in the coming months. To the incredulous who ask, “But how does splitting an agency in two jibe with making state government smaller?” it’s simple: starve the regulatory side of the agency of funding so it can’t do its work.

There Was Once a “Decider.” Now There Will Also Be “Suspenders.” And they are not of the clothing variety. If a legislator doesn’t like an administrative rule because he thinks it burdens a constituent, he can simply get the rule suspended, sending it to regulatory purgatory. (Is that then Purglatory?) Rat’s Guess: the obscure but influential legislative body with a deadly name – the Joint Committee on the Review of Administrative Rules – will be busier in the next two years than the high-speed train station in Madison would have been if it hadn’t been shut down by the gov-elect. Rules to manage how shoreland is developed, rules that protect wetlands, rules that will limit algae-feeding phosphorus – they’re all candidates for Purglatory at the hands of the JCRAR.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A True and Dear River Rat Has Died

Dale Druckrey
The Rat learned today that a true brother in the cause, Dale Druckrey, died in a house fire in the past day.

Dale was a loveable old guy who not only kept incredibly well informed on conservation and environmental issues, he also kept track of what the various conservation and environmental groups were saying and doing on this or that issue.

Though his favorite group was probably Trout Unlimited, Dale was an investor in many local and state environmental and conservation concerns. In fact, it’s not clear anyone but Dale knows the extent of his generosity.

He was a classic bachelor farmer who had a long career in state government, and also worked for the Menominee tribe for many years. You never called Dale to leave a message, because he didn’t have an answering machine. If you wanted to talk to him, you’d better call around noon when he was in the house for lunch.

And forget email and web sites and other trappings of the modern life for Dale. He apparently kept the stuff he’d get from organizations in piles in his house. One time, he called the River Alliance to ask about something we said. He put the phone down to go this “River Alliance materials,” and came back a minute later to call us out (gently) about a position we took.

Knowing Dale Druckrey cared so deeply about the rivers and lakes and lands of Wisconsin, and the groups devoted to their protection, made doing that work so much more rewarding and easier to get up in the morning to do. He watched, he participated, he cared, he donated. From this Rat’s perspective, he was a model conservation citizen.

We should all find a hill or a riverbank or a wetland or a nature center hiking trail today, and go say a hearty “Thanks and fare well!” to Dale Druckrey.

posted by the River Rat