Beginning on February 8, 2018, Write On Door County, in collaboration with the Door County Civility Project and the League of Women Voters of Door County, will be presenting a series of sessions designed to give citizens effective strategies to communicate their requests, opinions and concerns to their elected representatives.  This series explains that it is not enough to just voice strong opinions through letters to editors, etc. but rather how you express those opinions can make a huge difference as to whether or not your message is really listened to, read and understood to make the impact you desire.  The skills taught in these sessions will be a valuable asset for all concerned citizens.

One important topic on which to exercise such skills would be opposition to Senate Bill 600 and Assembly Bill 547, two pieces of legislation that are currently being considered by the legislature.  These are two identical bills that exempt all non-federally protected wetlands (also called “isolated” wetlands) from wetland permitting requirements.  In their current form, these bills put more than one million acres (about twenty percent) of Wisconsin’s remaining wetlands at risk of being drained, developed or converted to other uses.

The wetlands hearing on these bills held at the State Capital in December, 2017 was so packed with opponents to the bill that two overflow rooms had to be opened so they had a place to sit and listen.  Due to this overwhelming opposition, the bills are now being re-worked and amended and it is expected that new drafts will come out in mid-January.  Concerned citizens need to communicate with our legislators to make sure any new bills continue to protect those non-federal/isolated wetlands.

As originally proposed, SB 600/AB 547 (a/k/a the “wetlands destruction bill”) would remove protections from all wetlands that are not currently protected by the federal government.  Under that proposal, SB 600/AB 547 developers can fill these wetlands without a permit or any environmental review.  Nonfederal wetlands account for an estimated twenty percent of Wisconsin’s wetlands, or approximately one million acres.  This bill would mean opening up a huge number of wetlands for development without proper oversight.

Nonfederal wetlands are diverse, high quality, and important.  Without these “isolated” wetlands, we will see increased flooding, worse water quality, and fewer habitats for important water fowl, fish and other animals.  SB 600/AB 547 is extremely damaging to the hunting and fishing communities as well as those that will be subject to increased flooding and decreased water quality.  Wetlands in all parts of Wisconsin would be affected by the proposed legislation.  A subject of this magnitude deserves thoughtful input and consideration from all the people that will be affected by it.  Concerned citizens throughout Wisconsin should communicate the importance of this bill to their legislators.  Protecting wetlands protects both the present and future citizens of Wisconsin and the State in which we live.  Effectively communicating this message to our legislators should be the task of all concerned citizens.