WETLAND ACTION ALERT
5/21/02- Wisconsin Wetlands Association
URGENT! NOW is the time to fight the "Ashley
Furniture Wetland Fill" Exemption in State Budget Repair
The legislative budget conference committee is still
locked in a stalemate on details of a final budget "repair"
bill, but we expect some movement soon. Now is the
moment to ask the committee--and the Governor--to REMOVE
AN INAPPROPRIATE NON-BUDGET, PRIVATE POLICY ISSUE from
the budget bill--the exemption from state law for Ashley
Furniture Industries in Trempealeau that would allow them
to fill an important 14-acre floodplain wetland without
a permit from the DNR.
Although a specific bill that would have given
Ashley the exemption it desired was vehemently criticized
and rejected during a public hearing by the Senate
Environment Committee this past winter, back-room politicking revived
the Ashley exemption that was inserted into the Senate's
version of the budget repair bill just moments before
the bill was passed six weeks ago--with no public comment
whatsoever. Now it is up to the Conference Committee
and the Governor to reject this special favor for
a private entity. But it's an uphill road--we need
many people asking for the removal of this exemption!
PLEASE WRITE, CALL OR E-MAIL THE GOVERNOR and the 8
members of the Budget Conference Committee asking them
to remove the "Ashley Exemption" from the Budget Repair
Bill. (More background, below.)
GOVERNOR SCOTT MCCALLUM (608) 266-1212
BUDGET CONFERENCE COMMITTEE MEMBERS:
Sen. Robert Jauch (608) 266-3510
Speaker Scott Jensen (608) 266-3387
Rep. John Gard (608) 266-2343
Sen. Russ Decker (608) 266-2502
Sen. Mary Panzer (608) 266-7513
Rep. Steve Foti (608) 266-2401
Rep. Spencer Black (608) 266-7521
Mail can be sent to:
* Gov. Scott McCallum, P.O. Box 7863, Madison
* any Senator: P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707
* any Representative: P.O. Box 8952, Madison
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND ON ASHLEY'S WETLAND EXEMPTION:
Ashley Furniture Industries has tried for many years
to coax the DNR to give it a special permit to fill a
14-acre floodplain wetland in order for the company to
expand its operations. They want to build a parking
area and warehouse facility next to their existing plant
(claiming it will produce "hundreds" of unsubstantiated
new jobs). The DNR has located alternative building
sites for the expansion, but Ashley has stubbornly
insisted they need to build in the wetland.
In 1997, Ashley deliberately destroyed and burned all
of the wetland vegetation in order to convince key
politicians that the site is, in fact, not a wetland!
We have photos of "before" and "after" that show the level
of destruction. Ashley has NOT been a good steward
of this wetland! Should they be allowed to continue
Were DNR to grant the permit, this would represent
the LARGEST PRIVATE WETLAND FILL granted by the DNR since
1991. (Most fill project are < 0.2 acres.)
Realizing they were getting nowhere with the DNR, Ashley
executives and employees have made many and considerable
campaign contributions to key policy makers, including
then-Governor Tommy Thompson, Senator Rod Moen, Representative
Barb Gronemus (both of whom were authors of special legislation
for Ashley), Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, and many others.
A total of $68,000 in "hard" contributions by Ashley
personnel to politicians over ten years has been documented
by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign; who can say how
many countless thousands in "soft" contributions
have been made that cannot be tracked?
An attempted exemption from state law for
Ashley that was inserted into the 1999 Budget Bill by
then-Governor Tommy Thompson was passed into law, challenged,
and found to be unconstitutional. The lawsuit
took almost two years (and many thousands of private
dollars) to determine that a local and private bill
inserted into the Budget is illegal.
Only one week after the Ashley exemption in the budget
bill was determined to be unconstitutional last August,
Governor McCallum received $10,000 in campaign contributions
from key Ashley executives! Ashley's intention
has clearly been, "Pay to Play" in order to get their
special wetland fill exemption....AND IT'S WORKING!...
unless citizens voice their outrage at this obvious political
power play and corporate influence over policy decisions.
Exactly a year ago, the Governor and the Legislature
UNANIMOUSLY passed a new law that would protect our isolated
wetlands in Wisconsin, and the Governor has been using
this success as part of his campaign to get re-elected.
If the Governor and Legislature allow the Ashley exemption to
be passed into law through the budget bill, we feel
this would be hypocrisy at its finest!
Furthermore, if Ashley can get an exemption from
state law to fill its wetland, what's to stop hundreds
of other corporations that own undevelopable wetlands
from asking for a special exemption, too? It is
blatantly unfair to treat any entity differently than everybody
else. Ashley should be told to file a permit application
with the DNR like every other citizen must do in Wisconsin.
No exceptions from the law!!
Please share your concern with key decision-makers
TODAY, and pass this message on to other citizens who
care about protecting our environment and upholding the
democratic process. Just say "NO!" to corporate
influence of public policy!
Wisconsin Wetlands Association
222 S. Hamilton, Suite #1
Madison, WI 53703
fax (608) 256-4562
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