Editorial: When the future is now
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The first step in any successful operation is good planning.
Two recent announcements in that regard bode well for
the future of Wisconsin's environment and for smart and
The first was made by the state Department of Natural
Resources, which released a report listing 228 places
across Wisconsin that should be preserved for future generations.
The list includes such treasures as the Milwaukee River,
the Bong grassland in Racine County, the Blue Hills in
Rusk County and the upper Chippewa River.
The idea was to identify those areas most important for
meeting Wisconsin's conservation and recreational needs
over the next 50 years. The "green print," as one DNR
official called it, does not say the parcels are necessarily
off-limits to development but simply that these are the
places the state should try to protect.
That's a point developers can appreciate as much as environmentalists
(not that the two are mutually exclusive). "If the environment
goes down the tube, so does real estate," said Tom Larson,
director of land use and environmental affairs for the
Wisconsin Realtors Association. Of course he's right.
And that is especially true in a state with Wisconsin's
rich environmental heritage.
For their part, environmentalists appreciate the sheer
size of the task at hand. "We can't put the whole burden
on the DNR," said Derek Johnson, director of habitat protection
for the Wisconsin chapter of the Nature Conservancy. "It
will take an incredibly diverse melting pot of strategies."
As well as an equally diverse melting pot of developers,
environmentalists, local and state officials and ordinary
citizens working together to get the job done.
But the DNR has taken the first important step by creating
a solid list with which all those groups can work.
The other good first step has been suggested by the Southeastern
Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, which wants to
study water needs in the southeastern portion of the state.
Studying those needs is critical. As development continues
to put pressure on water supplies, there is a danger of
seriously weakening area aquifers and other sources. Matching
potential developments with adequate sources of water
is important lest the sewer wars of the past become the
water wars of the future.
There are some things that should be off-limits. Lake
Michigan water, for example, should not be diverted over
the subcontinental divide that runs through Waukesha County.
As required by international treaty, the waters of the
Great Lakes should remain in the lakes' geological basin.
SEWRPC has not suggested such a diversion, but it did
call for an analysis of the laws governing diversion.
We're not sure why that would be necessary. We also wonder,
with all due respect to SEWRPC, whether it is the right
agency to conduct such a study and whether participating
counties will be willing - especially in these tight times
- to put up their portion of the $1 million cost of the
Still, water issues are only going to become more contentious
and more critical to development in the near future. It's
important that a coherent, regional approach be created
to deal with them. And the good people at SEWRPC are to
be commended for suggesting the first step in developing