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Jim Tait Real Estate

home : opinions : opinions June 25, 2016

9/14/2012 5:24:00 AM
Our View: Protecting things over people

One of the most outrageous and yet fundamental facts about the ideological bosses who control most state bureaucracies is that they do not care about people, nor do they care about the rights of people.

What they care about are things. The character of the bureaucratic age manifests itself through powerful state agencies who oversee not people but things (natural resources, highways) and their confederated special interests, who believe in protecting things, not people, a fusion of forces forming the two most powerful branches of the state’s real government.

Once again, as we report in today’s edition, this is happening again. Wisconsin’s two most powerful branches of government – the bureaucratic branch and the environmental movement – are teaming up around Lake Koshkonong to protect things (private nonnavigable wetlands) over people, the property owners who own them and area business owners.

The Koshkonong lake district wants to raise water levels because low levels are lowering property values and hurting business income. The DNR turned them down – ­a key reason was to protect adjacent private wetlands – and the case is now in the state Supreme Court.

There any number of points to be made about the DNR’s position. The first is that wetland science is not the issue here. Even if it were, the DNR has a stable of faux scientists they always trot out to puff up imaginary scientific evidence to support this or that regulation.

Rather, the question is jurisdiction, and clearly the intent is to extend the agency’s (and thus the environmental movement’s) authority to regulate private property beyond the ordinary high water mark. What’s equally clear is that under the Public Trust Doctrine and under state law, the DNR has no such jurisdiction.

Protection of those wetlands is the responsibility of the property owners.

But what’s most interesting about the case is that attitude toward people and things. In court, the state argued that, even if low waters levels hurt property and businesses, the agency had no obligation to help them or even to consider thier plight when making water level decisions. 

The appeals court agreed, even though the statutes clearly give the DNR the right to take people’s property rights into consideration when making water level decisions. 

Astonishingly, the agency then argued it did have the obligation to protect those wetlands – not as private property but as a public resource necessary for good water quality. So the state thinks protecting wetlands is more important than protecting the people who own them.

We share the public’s desire to protect valuable wetlands and water resources. But when state agencies do not even feel the need to consider the plights and rights of people when making such decisions – do not feel the need to balance the health of people against that of wetlands – matters have gone seriously awry, and exposes the anti-people agenda of ideological bossism.

When the wetlands in question are private and nonnavigable, that is even doubly so.

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