The conservation news – the conservation history, really – that was made in Wisconsin during 2015, was most definitely a “different” story – as in, it was a completely different kind of story than the one we’ve long been known for here in the Badger State. In brief, it’s the news of the state’s marked shift away from supporting things related to conservation.
It’s a big story – there were many, many items in the state budget, proposed by the Governor, that directly affect the state’s natural resources. And it’s a sad story for many, and certainly for everyone who works in, or contributes in other ways, to the many things related to natural resources within the state.
And, of course it’s a political story. All of that – big, sad, and political – put it beyond the scope of this blog. Not that only “happy” stories are told here at The Badger & the Whooping Crane; but whooping cranes exist here in Wisconsin – and thus, this blog exists – because of the excellence of the state’s natural resources; not because they’re in sad shape, or threatened with such.
There are other blogs and sources for the politics of the situation. (The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters is a good source for info on all legislation that affects natural resources. Another, the Wisconsin Budget Project is a good source for most aspects of the budget in general.)
But it does seem not-quite-right for a blog that concerns itself with the state’s natural resources, to never mention the biggest, baddest conservation story of 2015. So, how to talk about it? I’ve been mulling this over for months, and now, in the new year, I think I’ve found a way to tell a small – and hopefully illustrative – part of this story.
For quite a few years now there have been something called capacity grants that involve contracts between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to various conservation non-profit groups that work on such things as the Ice Age Trail, and shoreline issues, land conservation, etc. All those grants – and with them, the partnership agreements between the DNR and citizen-led nonprofits – have now been eliminated.
Although that is but a small part of the state budget, it’s one that affects just the kinds of groups that are often talked about here at The Badger and the Whooping Crane; the very groups that play an important part in keeping up the excellence of the state’s natural resources. These are groups like the Ice Age Trail Alliance (which I wrote about earlier this week, and will again soon) and the Gathering Waters Conservancy, a Wisconsin Lakes association, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and another 8 or 9 more.
I don’t know much about the others yet, but I’m looking forward to learning about them. Who they are, what is their purpose, what are their programs? I want to learn and share something about the history of each one, and what they mean to other Wisconsinites.
What are we losing by denying the state funding, that these groups had come to depend on? I don’t know that I’ll really learn the answer to that, but I am looking forward to just knowing more about each group. I hope you’ll read and learn along with me.