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Great Lakes Article:

Statewide conservation agenda
The Dunn County News
Published August 31, 2005

The budget crisis has raised havoc to a host of important programs here in Wisconsin and has threatened numerous important conservation issues. Environmental issues that, when lost, are gone forever. There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel according to Governor Doyle's announcement of statewide conservation agenda, "Conserve Wisconsin," an initiative to protect Wisconsin's environment, and encourage energy conservation and innovation. His Conserve Wisconsin agenda, is a broad package of legislative proposals and executive orders that safe guard Wisconsin's environmental legacy. The initiative will focus on protecting Wisconsin's waters, conserving its lands and ensuring a sustainable energy future.

According to Scott Hassett, DNR Secretary, the governor recognizes how much the people of Wisconsin value a clean, healthy environment, an attractive outdoors, recreational activities and business that depend on these assets. The Conserve Wisconsin package will help Wisconsin invest in its environment and quality of life while continuing to grow our economy. The governor will use executive orders to make immediate progress on the package and work to secure legislation where needed.

"Conserve Wisconsin" highlights

Long overdue legislation to regulate ballast water in ocean-going ships to prevent further introduction of destructive, invasive species to the great lakes, the largest fresh water reservoir in the world. Invasive species which sooner or later make their way into inland rivers and lakes.

Introduction of legislation designating the first rivers to State Wild River protection since 1965. And legislation to stop the spread of invasive species transported from lake to lake.

Development of statewide water conservation strategy. The governor has directed the DNR and Public Service Commission to develop and implement actions to help conserve water, initially in the Great Lakes Basin and ultimately statewide. As chair of the Great Lakes Council, Gov. Doyle will use his office to urge other states and provinces to increase their water conservation efforts as well.

Legislation to make funds available more quickly to prevent polluted run-off. Farmers that have experienced discharges of manure or other polluted run-off are eligible for cost sharing grants to help correct the problem. It can currently take up to 24 months to process the grants to farmers -- all the while the discharges may continue. The Governor's proposed change would allow DNR to provide grants on a continual basis, so that farmers who have experienced a discharge can access the cost-sharing grant and fix the run-off problem faster.

Public intervenor

Restoration of Wisconsin's Public Intervenor is way over due. The Conserve Wisconsin agenda includes introducing legislation to restore Wisconsin's Public Intervenor. Before being eliminated in 1995, for 30 years the Public Intervenor gave ordinary citizens a place to call for technical and legal advice when they faced complicated environmental problems.

Sustainable energy future

Legislation will be introduced to implement the full package of the governor's recommendations on energy and renewables to reduce state dependence on costly imported energy. This includes a requirement that Wisconsin get 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2015. With an electric bill of more than $55 million, state government will lead the way by purchasing 10 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2006 and 20 by 2010.

An executive order will require that new state buildings and where possible, existing state buildings meet "green building" standards. Green buildings use renewable energy sources and recycled materials, as well as have water efficiency measures in place. Following green building standards will cut the cost of operating and maintaining state buildings while conserve energy, water and materials. The state owns 6,300 buildings and total energy costs of $127 million in 2004. Following green building standards could provide an energy cost savings of up to 30 percent.

Protecting our lands

Other "Conserve Wisconsin" agenda items include: A forestry legacy program aimed at protecting large blocks of sustainable managed working forests to safeguard their environmental, economic and recreational values to the state, a grant program to encourage the use of sound forestry practices and open more lands for recreation, and the governor will petition the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that areas in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) remain roadless.

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