This year the Department of Natural Resources' annual Spring Fish and Wildlife Public Hearing and Wisconsin Conservation Congress annual Spring County Conservation Meeting, which is held yearly in April, contains several questions not related to fish and wildlife, but to environmental issues. These questions are put forth to stakeholders in the state by the environmental committee. In the past two years, a total of three questions have been brought to the spring hearings from this committee, dealing mostly with fish- and wildlife-related issues. This year, however, several other issues are tackled. In 2013, there were no questions from this committee, nor where there any environmental questions in 2011. However, in 2012 and 2010, there were questions from the Air, Waste and Water Study Committee. The environmental questions, and the implications of the decisions to be made in these areas, could affect fish and/or wildlife, but to some, seem much different than the subject of the other questions in the questionnaire. While other spring hearings questions will be the subject of a series of stories in this Outdoors Section of the paper, the difference in subject matter bears breaking these eight questions out.
The environmental committee advisory questions start at number 63.
Question 63 would require legislation in order for the change to take place. It asks about placing a moratorium on new state storm water and air permits for frac sand mining and processing. The backstory states, "Cumulatively, mining and processing operations in the state involve thousands of acres of land and millions of tons of product and waste materials. These operations can have an impact on storm water runoff, ground water recharge and air quality on and directly adjacent to mining and processing sites." The question reads as follows:
Do you support legislation which would impost a moratorium on the issuance of new DNW storm water or air permits related to frac sand mining and processing until implementation of any recommendations developed through the Strategic Analysis of Industrial Sand Mining?
This question looks to help Monarch butterflies by making milkweed more readily available. Monarchs use milkweed in every stage of their life cycle. The U.S. Department of the Interior is considering placing the monarch butterfly on the endangered species list, as populations have declined over 90 percent in the past 20 years. Many municipalities, however, treat milkweed as a noxious weed and take heavy-handed measures to remove it from their communities. The question asks the following:
Do you support having the DNR encourage local governments to remove milkweed from local noxious weed ordinances and encourage the planting and maintenance of quality milkweed plots?
This question deals with lead, and specifically left over lead shot at target ranges. Lead can pose a contamination risk, the questionnaire states, if not properly managed. This question calls for a reduction in those risks through including lead reclamation in an "Environmental Stewardship Plan" for each range. The following is the question directly from the questionnaire:
Should the Conservation Congress work with the DNR to reach out to shooting ranges operating in Wisconsin to provide voluntary training on creating "Environmental Stewardship Plans" for lead reclamation to better manage lead at these facilities?
Questions 66 and 67
These questions have to do with DNR compliance to the Clean Water Act. There are 75 potential issues with Wisconsin's legal authority to administer the Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) Permit Program, the questionnaire states. These issues were found in 2011. However, it goes on to say the DNR has addressed the majority of the issues. There are a few remaining issues which can only be resolves through statutory changes. Here are the two questions from the questionnaire:
Do you support the department's continued efforts to address the 75 issues in the WPDES permit program?
Would you support Conservation Congress efforts to work with the department and the Wisconsin Legislature to take actions needed to address the remaining issues?
In 2013, the questionnaire states, Act 1 "created a new and separate regulatory framework applicable specifically to ferrous (iron) mining activities. The legislature modified the regulatory process applied to other metallic mines, in order to facilitate review of future iron mining projects." The background continues on by speaking to the possibility of large scale iron mining projects affecting thousands of acres of land and the water resources in the project area. The question follows:
Do you support legislation which would repeal Act 1, the iron mining law from 2013?
This question would also require legislation. It is in regards to permitting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFPs). The background states that these operations and other requests may pose risks to the environment and that it takes time to fully research what these effects may be. The DNR, it says, cannot deny a permit if the operation meets all statutory and code requirements. Here is the question:
Do you support the Legislature giving the DNR authority to suspend any application when pollution matters need to be studies by tribes, local governments or other government entities?
These two questions are in regard to high capacity wells. Currently, the questionnaire states, these wells are approved with no notice given to area residents. There is also limited consideration given to the impact on surface waters. This would also require legislation. The following are the two questions regarding this issue, directly from the questionnaire:
Do you support legislation which would require public notice be sent to area residents within a two-mile radius upon application of any high capacity well?
Do you support legislation which would include the authority to suspend a high capacity well approval for a well that has caused impact or impairment to area wells, wetlands or surface waters?
This question is in regard to the Enbridge Pipeline expansion. The background states the Enbridge Energy Corporation "is seeking to expand their current right-of-way for Pipeline 61 from 80 feet to 280 feet. This would run the entire length of the State of Wisconsin ... and would result in tens of thousands of acres of forest and woodlots." The background of this question mentions only possible negative effects and fails to mention any positive reasons for this expansion. Here is the question as it is posed in the questionnaire:
Do you support the Wisconsin Conservation Congress taking an official position to oppose the Enbridge Pipeline expansion?
These are the questions that will be posed to attendees of this year's DNR Spring Hearings from the Environmental Committee. Many other questions, regarding the state's fish and wildlife, are also on the questionnaire. The entire booklet for the Spring Hearings, including how to create a citizen resolution, can be found on the DNR website dnr.wi.gov by entering "spring hearings" in the search box.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at email@example.com.