This, That, and a Few More Things: Conservation Stories

This:  Groundwater Issues and Frac Sand Mining in Wisconsin  The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, fresh from the ups and downs of the fall election season, is sounding feisty. “The environment played its largest role yet in Wisconsin politics,” the WLCV states in its Winter newsletter. No surprise that The Badger and the Whooping Crane believes that’s a good thing for Wisconsin’s natural resources and all its creatures, critters, and living things.

Both the WLCV, and the national LCV it is a part of, targeted our re-elected Governor Scott Walker for the many “conservation fails” they’ve attributed to him. (See here:  The Dirty Truth About Our Clean Jobs,” and “Walker Blew It On Wind” and “Trashing Recycling” and “Mining for Money,” and . . . have a look, there’s more).

Even though that governor is back in the statehouse and an extremely friendly-to-Walker group of new and returning lawmakers will reconvene at the State Capitol early in January, Wisconsin’s own League of Conservation Voters remains undeterred in its non-partisan mission. In the short-term that seems to be taking shape this way: “for a proactive push to safeguard our precious groundwater resources,” and also to prod the state to rigorously monitor the frac sand mining industry (this is from the newsletter).

Ann Sayers, WLCV’s program director, told the Cap Times, in an article published December 8th, that parts of Wisconsin are nearing “a groundwater crisis.” She explained:  to accommodate a host of different users all looking to the same water sources – cranberry growers, farmers, businesses, and municipalities – there must be “protections in place . . . to properly allocate the supply in years to come.”

In last year’s state legislative session WLCV worked hard to bring about the defeat of what they labeled “The Bad Groundwater Bill” which would have curbed the Department of Natural Resources’ authority to regulate high-capacity wells; this would have allowed frac sand mining companies, factory farms, and other large water users to pull from the same water source.

Worth protecting:  Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters says "Public opinion on the environment hasn't changed."

Something to protect: Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters says “Public opinion on the environment hasn’t changed.”

“We don’t really have time for politics where this issue is concerned,” Sayers told the Cap Times. She also said the last legislative session “was probably the most partisan environment,” that she has ever worked in, but expressed optimism for the 2015-16 for “a new spirit of cooperation” among a bi-partisan group of pro-conservation legislators elected to the State Assembly in November.

Because Wisconsinites value the state’s resources so deeply, conservation issues are on the minds of the state’s voters, Sayers affirmed.              [The above information was Updated, December 15, 2014.]

While we hope for “This” to be true, there’s also –

That:  Legislation to Restrict Local Authority Over Sand Mines

No sooner had I begun to write about the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, when a new email from Ann Sayers made noise in my In Box. It was alerting all WLCV members that the new Wisconsin legislature may soon reconsider legislation that would change “local authority over frac sand mines.” Last year the WLCV helped defeat “two bills that would have kneecapped local control and prevented you from having a say over what happened in your own back yard. These bills moved fast,” wrote Ann, “but we moved faster.”

A stockpile of Great Northern Sand arises on a Wisconsin prairie along Highway 53. (Photo courtesy Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters)

A stockpile of Great Northern Sand arises on a Wisconsin prairie along Highway 53. (Photo courtesy Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters)

The WLCV must be getting a little weary, but apparently there will be no rest. If you live in Wisconsin and think bills restricting local control sound like a bad idea you might consider joining WLCV. They are fighters and defenders; more members always mean more strength.

And then there’s . . .

That, Too:  Enviro Groups Sue Wisconsin for Poor Air Quality Standards

The Midwest Environmental Defense Center, Inc., and Clean Wisconsin have joined in a lawsuit accusing the state’s Department of Natural Resources of failing to enact higher air quality standards that should have been in place since 2010. These are standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for sulfur dioxide and smog-forming nitrogen oxide in 2010, and for fine particulate matter in 2012. The law suit was filed this week in Dane County Circuit Court.

So that’s that. But when it comes to the environment and conservation stories, there will always be . . .

A Few More Things To Share

As I write this, it is nearly the eve of the 115th Christmas Bird Count, organized by the National Audubon Society. The new CBC will take place December 14, 2014 through January 5, 2015.

Described so well as “the longest running Citizen Science survey in the world,” the Christmas Bird Count involves “tens of thousands of participants,” and it will provide critical data on bird population trends. The data from over 2,300 “circles” will be entered after the count and will become available to query under the Audubon website’s Data and Research link.

640px-Blue-Winged_Teal

A blue-winged teal (Photo at Wikimedia Commons, by Alan D. Wilson.)

Each count takes place within an established 15 miles in diameter circle, organized by a count compiler. Anyone – beginner to veteran – is welcome to participate, but there is a specific methodology to the CBC and participants must make advance arrangements with the count compiler to join a local circle. (If YOU are interested, this link to Audubon will help you find a local circle.)

If you are a beginning birder, you will be able to join a group with at least one experienced birdwatcher. Want to count from home? If your home is within the boundaries of a circle, you can stay right there and count the birds that come to your own feeder – as long as you’ve made prior arrangements with your circle’s count compiler.

 

This would be the time to mention that a recent contest to name America’s Best Birdwatching Destination has been won by Ohio’s Magee Marsh. Although this is not one of the contending spots that are closest to the hearts of the whooping crane’s many fans, it does represent an important win for wetlands – so on that score alone, Ohio’s win is also one for each and every conservationist. The Toledo Blade’s outdoor writer Tom Henry explains here why wetlands and preservation of the natural Great Lakes shoreline are of such importance to all of us.

Wetlands and Great Lakes shoreline were winners, too.

Wetlands and Great Lakes shoreline were winners, too.

By the way, this contest to name America’s Best Birdwatching Destination was co-sponsored by USA Today and 10Best.com – a travel website. Those sites that ended up in the Ten Best that are closest to the hearts of craniacs everywhere? Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the gulf coast of Texas, and the Platte River Valley in Nebraska.

 

Plastic Bag Bans and restrictions have been spreading across the U.S. by the way of various cities and local government units from Manhattan Beach, CA, to Nantucket Island, MA. But on Sept. 30, 2014, California became the first state to pass a statewide ban on single use plastic bags (although local legislation banning them in Hawaii does add up to a de-facto statewide ban, according to EcoWatch.)

The new California law will take effect in July 2015. Here is a wide-ranging history of the spread plastic bag restrictions from EcoWatch, and it includes an interesting “Short History of the Plastic Bag” in timeline form.

And finally, from The Cornucopia Institute (which promotes economic justice for family scale farming) here is a list of 10 Environmental Non-profit Organizations That Are Changing the World. Is there anyone, anywhere, that doesn’t yearn for ways to change the world? Here are 10 groups to help us all do that!

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2 thoughts on “This, That, and a Few More Things: Conservation Stories

  1. Good to get caught back up with The Badger and the Whooping Crane! I feel your pain and that of other conservation-minded voters across the country after the last election; keeping environmental issues in the foreground is going to be a big challenge moving forward, although I feel that there is a groundswell growing against fracking and other threats.

  2. It sure is going to be tough, isn’t it? But maybe tracking is turning out to be a “blessing in disguise” because it does seem to have people engaged and determined to fight it. Maybe?
    Thanks, Steve, for “catching up” here – much appreciated any time.

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