Stewardship and County Conservationist Face Budget Cuts
Cuts to County Conservationists and the Stewardship Fund being debated by Legislators
By Mike Engleson, Communications Director
The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee is in the process of voting on the state budget. The 16 Republicans and Democrats on the committee take the Governor's budget proposal, amend it as they see fit, and then pass their version on to the full legislature.
Two issues of major importance to lakes are in play and deserve your attention. As currently written, the budget cuts $1.3 million for County Conservationists, and also features cuts to Stewardship Fund land purchases.
Wisconsin Lakes encourages you to contact your legislator and tell them to restore $1.3 million of funding to county conservationists, and to maintain the current funding levels for the Stewardship Fund as well.
Read on for more info about both issues.
Asian Carp Summit Shows a Gap in Conversation
By Communications Director Michael Engleson
Several things became clear to me after attending the Wisconsin Asian Carp Summit on March 15 in La Crosse.
- The threat of Asian Carp to Wisconsin's waters is real.
- A lot of work is being done by a lot of different people and agencies around the problem,
- Not much communication or coordination seems to occur between those efforts,
- No one is really sure whether any of it will work.
The forum, hosted by the River Alliance of Wisconsin, brought together presenters from federal and state natural resource agencies, as well as representatives from the aquaculture industry and citizen stakeholder groups like Wisconsin Lakes. We learned that while most of the media attention has focused on the threat of carp reaching Lake Michigan through the Illinois canal system and the efforts to prevent that from happening, Wisconsin's waters are threatened by fish swimming up the Mississippi, St. Croix, and lower Wisconsin Rivers, as well as from fishermen using bait containing young carp or the release of live fish bought at fish markets.
Agency representatives discussed the many different things being done or considered to stop the fish's advancement. Solutions presented ranged from better regulation of fish being transported from farms or wild harvests to market, to improving the overall health of the entire Mississippi watershed so it can fend of the invaders naturally (yes, that is a WIDE open range). We also learned about the technological and scientific advances being leveraged to detect and manage the extent of the invasion. The River Alliance set up a handy webpage with links to most of the presenters' materials and a press release that nicely sums up the day.
One purpose for the Summit was to identify gaps in our collective efforts to stop the incursion of carp into Wisconsin. To me the most apparent gap was the need for a whole lot more of what we had just done - talking to each other. We need agencies from all levels of government talking more to each other to better coordinate and understand each other's efforts. We need to fill the huge gap of almost no public discussion of the problem, other than relating to the Great Lakes, by directing messages to fishermen about the bait issue, to the aquaculture and fish market industries about the dangers (and illegality) of selling live fish, and most importantly to those who live, play, and deeply care about the health of our inland waters about the threat those waters face.
Laura McFarland, Invasive Species Project Director for the River Alliance, summed it all up nicely: "Our eyes have been on the Chicago Area in anticipation and fear of the carp making their way into the Great Lakes, but meanwhile what is to become of the Lower Wisconsin River, the St. Croix River, the Black River, the Chippewa River, and the Platte River if Asian carp become ubiquitous? These rivers are valuable commodities to the people of Wisconsin. They are recreational destinations for the populace of Chicago, Minneapolis, Madison, and Milwaukee supporting sport fisheries and paddling industries and related tourism economies."
As are our lakes and flowages, which could be easily overrun by an inadvertent introduction.
But fundamentally, it's very hard to solve a problem if people aren't talking to each other. That's true regardless of the issue - phosphorus runoff causing algae blooms, destructive shoreland development, or controlling aquatic invasives of any sort.
So, Wisconsin Lakes is joining in with groups like the River Alliance to begin talking about what it is that can be done. We'll keep participating in collaborations like this, keep providing you with information about the issue, and keep advocating for strong programs to control all aquatic invasive species through initiatives like our AIS State Budget proposal. Our hope, is that you all will participate in the conversation.
"Wisconsin," admonishes McFarland, "there is still a lot we can do." She's right. So let's keep talking.
Events this week highlight runoff and the threat of asian carp in inland waters of Wisconsin
By Communications Director Mike Engleson
How to deal with runoff-induced blue-green algae blooms and the threat of invading Asian Carp are big problems facing Wisconsin's waters and their stewards, and are the subject of separate events this week.
Red Cedar Watershed Conference
On Thursday, folks from up and down the Red Cedar River Basin will gather at UW-Stout in Menomonie for the second Red Cedar Watershed Conference. The Red Cedar river system suffers from massive blue-green algae blooms each summer, turning the water into a pea-green paint. Concerned citizens from across the watershed got together with the intent of finding a solution, and Thursday's Conference is a crucial part of the effort. It aims to bring together waterfront property owners, farmers, governmental officials, environmentalists, and interested citizens to discuss the community wide effort necessary to control the runoff that is feeding these blooms. This is just the sort of watershed/regional effort, one that recognizes the interconnectedness of rivers, lakes, wetlands, and the land itself, that Wisconsin Lakes is promoting all across the state. In addition to a day full of good science and compelling stories, the Red Cedar Conference will be an excellent opportunity to see the fruits of a strong regional collaboration. We applaud the folks of the Red Cedar for their efforts, and are proud to be a part of this conference. If you go, stop by the Wisconsin Lakes booth and say hi!
Wisconsin Asian Carp Summit
Meanwhile, on Friday, representatives from federal and state agencies, research institutions, and conservation organizations will join together in La Crosse to discuss Wisconsin's preparedness for the arrival of Asian Carp. While much attention has been given to the Chicago canal system and the Great Lakes, carp are arriving through the backdoor via the Mississippi River and, potentially, over our highways. Participants will join in a discussion to ensure that we all are doing our part to prevent, control, and mitigate carp's arrival here in Wisconsin.
Both of these events should provide wide-ranging and informative discussion on two important issues for Wisconsin in 2013. Watch Wisconsin Lakes' Facebook and Twitter feeds for full coverage of both events!
First of two posts on proposed bills that would negatively impact to shoreland protection in Wisconsin.
By Mike Engleson, Communications Director and Susan Tesarik, Education Director
As first reported in last week's eLake Letter, two bills have been proposed that would erode shoreland protections for Wisconsin's waters. One bill cedes to individual counties the state's constitutional duty to set the "ordinary high water mark", while the other could result in unincorporated shoreland areas losing all development protection if they are annexed by or incorporated into a city or village. As of this writing the bills were circulating in the legislature for co-sponsorship, but had not been formally introduced. Today, we'll take a look at the Ordinary High Water Mark bill, and tomorrow provide commentary on the shoreland zoning exemption bill.
Let your legislator know you support the Wisconsin Lakes AIS Control Initiative
By John Keckhaver, Policy Consultant and Mike Engleson, Communications Director
You probably already know that our lakes, rivers, and wetlands are gravely challenged by aquatic invasive species (and other things, but that's for other posts): animals or plants not naturally found in our state that can often overwhelm and crowd out native species.
Despite years of ongoing efforts from many people, we simply are not staying ahead of these threats. The time has come to prioritize the aquatic invasive challenge and potential solutions in our discussions of natural resources issues.
We at Wisconsin Lakes put together a proposal to do just that. By focusing on a number of key and interdependent elements, such as rapid response protocols, boat decontamination at "super-spreader" waterbodies, and enforcement of existing laws, we could take huge strides toward preventing and controlling aquatic invasive species throughout the state.
Wisconsin Invasive Species Council Asks for Comments on Draft Strategic Plan
By Mike Engleson, Communications Director
If you follow Wisconsin Lakes at all, you already know that we've announced a comprehensive proposal to control aquatic invasive species in our inland waters. Our proposal features six elements to enhance or add to current efforts to combat AIS in the state, and we hope to see these elements, and adequate funding for all AIS efforts, written into the Wisconsin state budget. Governor Walker will be releasing his budget in late January or early February.
As we advocate for the AIS budget proposal, it's good for everyone to keep in mind that invasive species come in both aquatic and terrestrial guises, and that many, many folks across Wisconsin are working hard on this problem.
One great example of this is the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council, who just recently put out a call for public comment on its draft strategic plan.
Stay Informed with Wisconsin Lakes!
By Mike Engleson, Communications Director
The Wisconsin Legislature started its 101st session on Monday, January 7, 2013. All eyes of the state are looking to see if this session will be a repeat of the rancorous, divisive debates of two years ago, though the word coming out of the Capitol is that everyone will strive to keep things civil this time around.
In anticipation of the first gavel drop of 2013, Wisconsin Lakes released its Public Policy Agenda for the session - a comprehensive document that lays out our position on a variety of policy issues that impact the health and quality of our lakes, and enumerates several things we hope to accomplish in the coming term.
Wisconsin Lakes bids adieu to Policy Director Toni Herkert
By Communications Director Michael Engleson
One thing is certain in the world of non-profits, and that is change. The truth of that nugget is apparent today, as Wisconsin Lakes announces the departure from the organization of Toni Herkert.
"Over the last couple of years, Toni played an integral role in the launch of Wisconsin Lakes' new policy team, working with Communications Director Mike Engleson and lobbyist John Keckhaver to build an effective and responsive effort in a tumultuous political climate," said Executive Director Karen von Huene. "We are sad to see her go, but thank her for all her efforts and wish her the best."
Clean Boats Clean Waters Clean Grants (CBCWCG): One of Wisconsin's First Lean Government Projects Helps Local Communities Help Lakes
Wisconsin Lakes continues its efforts to push for a better, more efficient, more fully funded statewide program to control aquatic invasive species (AIS) with our state budget proposal. But efforts are already well underway to improve how Wisconsin funds existing programs, and here's one we wanted to highlight. Using Gov. Walker's initiative to make state government more responsive to its citizens (i.e. better customer service), the Department of Natural Resources recently streamlined one of its grant programs for AIS, making it simpler and quicker to receive funding for local Clean Boats, Clean Waters programs. We asked Pamela Toshner, DNR Regional Lake/AIS Coordinator in Spooner, and Jane Malischke, DNR Environmental Grant Specialist, to gives us the low down on this lean initiative:
Lake Leaders Institute graduates its ninth class
- Mike Engleson, Communications Director
Last Friday, thirty Wisconsinites became the most recent crew to graduate from the Wisconsin Lake Leaders Institute. Crew IX received their diplomas on Oct 19 standing in front of Aldo Leopold's shack, on the banks of the Wisconsin River in Central Wisconsin.
Every other year for the past eighteen years, the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership has put together a new class of dedicated lake stewards who attend three multi-day sessions to hone their scientific, organizational, and advocacy skills to better protect and promote the lakes of Wisconsin. Comprised of private citizens, lake related professionals, and public servants, each Lake Leader Crew becomes a close network of support and camaraderie.
Introducing our initiative for more action - and more funding - to control aquatic invasive species
Wisconsinites already do a lot to fight aquatic invasive species, from local lake citizens working on the water, right on up to the highest levels of DNR and state government. Pretty much everybody gets that these unwanted invaders cost us dearly - in water quality, in impact to native species, in dollars through lost recreational and tourism business, and in lost pride in our damaged water resources. And we've come a long way towards the goals of control, prevention, and reduction of AIS in our waters, and we should keep up that progress.
Still, for anyone that's been doing that work, it's painfully obvious that more needs to be done, and that more funding is necessary to get there. So Wisconsin Lakes decided to take a fresh look at the problem. Working with DNR, county groups, and lake organizations around the state, we looked for gaps and inefficiencies in the current work on AIS, developed some additional strategies to add to the fight, and came up with some ideas of how to pay for them. The result? Wisconsin Lakes' 2013-15 Wisconsin State Budget Proposal for the Control of Aquatic Invasive Species in Inland Waters (hey, it's a big idea, it deserves a big name).