The conservative revolution in the Wisconsin government has had a lot of casualties - schools, jobs, happiness ---
But perhaps the longest-lasting and least reversible casualties have been the environment and the state's heritage. Two bills that are currently roaring through the legislature are particularly troubling. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, and Richard Gudex, R-Fond du Lac have introduced new legislation on fish farming in Wisconsin. As has been the trend, this is not a bill to ensure that fish farming be regulated to reduce its impact on the environment, but to turn fish farming into a free-for-all that will allow fish aquaculture in public waterways, lower requirements for flow-through on dams involved with aquaculture, and make aquaculture an "agricultural use" on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway - this will allow much-lessened restrictions on fish farming on land adjacent to the Wisconsin. Senate Bill 493 was introduced on Jan. 4 and a hearing was scheduled for it on Jan. 5 - making it nearly impossible for concerned citizens to follow along and get to the hearing. This has become a disturbing pattern. The companion Assembly Bill 640 has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, so perhaps that will be a place where citizens can register their concerns.
Aquaculture is a booming business, and I see no reason why Wisconsin should not be part of the boom. But responsible controls over this business are needed (and are already largely in place) to limit the environmental damage the industry causes. Over and over we see the legislature bowing to businesses in the state at the expense of our environment and our heritage of conservation in the state.
Speaking of our heritage - I am particularly appalled by the current attempt to un-protect Native American effigy mounds. Over the years about 80% of the effigy mounds in the state were destroyed for various forms of development. Most of us had thought that we had learned that lesson, and would knock it off, but our legislature again is going to help one business in the state destroy an effigy mound for mining purposes. The bill is ludicrous, reversing much of the protection of effigy mounds, and allowing their excavation to determine if human remains are in the mounds. If there are no remains, then the mound can be destroyed. The few remaining mounds in the state are important to our state's heritage, are historically marvelous works of art, and are sacred to the Native American people of the state. Yet a desire to tear up a mound near McFarland has prompted this law. Wingra Stone and Redi-mix would like to free up the stone under the site.
Sponsoring legislators Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Rep. Robert Brooks (R-Saukville) have suggested
While (the draft bill) will maintain the (Historical Society) mission to protect human burial sites and preserve history for future generations, it will also make common-sense reforms to current law to help ensure private property is not wrongly placed on the SHS burial site catalog and essentially frozen from use
Freezing from use is in fact what we do with historical artifacts, sacred sites, and places of great historical interest. This has for some time been the Wisconsin way, a desire to preserve the heritage of people in the state. This must include Native Americans as well as everyone else. Kapenga and Brooks need to be reminded that the heart of the term Conservative is to conserve. Clearly the current legislature is not willing to conserve anything if one of their business buddies can make a quick buck. Please contact all of these legislators to remind them that our state has a precious heritage and environment, and we must do all we can to hold on to what is left.