overlooked in providing environmental protection
By Jim Rowen
The Capital Times
Wisconsin's city dwellers are back from summer vacations
in northern Wisconsin. The restorative solitude provided
under the pines has been there for generations, and with
the right kind of protection it should be available for
Gov. Jim Doyle wisely kept faith with the state's history
and saved the Wisconsin Stewardship Fund in his budget.
He implemented new land purchases and blocked a Republican
plan that would have forced the Department of Natural
Resources to sell conservation acreage. This is the state
of John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson. Environmentalism
here is mainstream and needs to be bipartisan. Doyle did
the right thing.
But we need to remember that the environment is not just
"up north." Our everyday, familiar landscape
needs conserving and nurturing, too, and it is disappointing
and destructive that policy-makers can't widen their perspective.
In heavily urbanized southeastern Wisconsin, where more
than one-third of the state's population lives, a plan
to build 127 new miles of freeway lanes has been approved
by an un-elected regional planning commission. That road
construction will take 664 acres, including some wetlands.
Two hundred families will lose their homes because a lot
of that land is in densely populated Milwaukee County.
More acreage, most of it farm and woodlands, will be
taken for large-lot subdivisions as these expanded freeways
sprawl throughout Washington, Racine, Kenosha, Ozaukee,
Walworth and Waukesha counties. Not surprisingly, many
communities in Waukesha County are facing water shortages
because aquifers are being drained and some ground water
is contaminated with naturally occurring radium.
This is not a sustainable model, but it is moving full-speed-ahead
with the blessing of regional planners, politicians, developers
and road builders. Waukesha is even seeking permission
to divert 14 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan
even though a treaty prohibits such diversions, lest more
diversions are made all the way to the West Coast.
This level of distorted development would be fought in
northern Wisconsin. The public and its leaders wouldn't
permit the paving of the North Woods because people want
it protected and nurtured.
The double standard is that many policy-makers continue
to think that environmental protection is for the narrow
country lanes, remote streams and leafy trails, and fail
to recognize that other environments need protection,
The more we ignore the environment near the cities, the
more a growing population statewide will look farther
from home for peace and quiet. They'll fight it out for
position on those widened highways to get out of town
- to the "protected" environment up north.