Two brief photo meditations, actually. The first is an update on construction progress for the Eschelon Apartments project at Innovation Park. Following that, signs of spring in Wil-O-Way Woods include early wildflowers and a concrete recycling operation on the future site of the Forestry Exploration Center.
Wisconsin has a
Conservation Congress that holds annual public hearings so that the public can
provide input "on how to responsibly manage Wisconsin's natural resources
for present and future generations." That’s the good news, if you
didn’t know about it already. The bad news is that you must attend in person to
provide input. But you can. I have. It’s quite an education. And you get to vote
on a wide variety of issues. This year there are two questions related to the monarch butterfly.
I want to thank the Friends of the Monarch Trail for the following info:
DNR spring wildlife
hearing and annual Conservation Congress county meetings on April 13, 2015 - 7:00 pm
Please go to your county’s
Conservation Congress meeting location and cast your vote to encourage the DNR
to designate and protect the monarch butterfly. (You do not need to vote on all
items on the questionnaire. go to page 47 and vote on items 19, and 20.)
·Milwaukee:Nathan Hale High School,
11601 W Lincoln Avenue, West Allis, WI 5322
Waukesha Co. Tech. College, Richard Anderson Center, 800 Main Street, Pewaukee,
monarch butterfly population is at historic lows. The major reason for the monarch
population reduction is that female monarchs only lay their eggs in/on milkweed
plants and there has been a widespread loss of milkweed plants in Wisconsin
resulting in the migration of fewer monarchs.
you support DNR efforts to institute a public awareness campaign aimed at
restoring more milkweed vegetation in Wisconsin?
Please vote YES!
QUESTION 20. Designation of the monarch
butterfly as Wisconsin’s state butterfly (450114)
other states already have a designated state butterfly. Designating the monarch
butterfly as Wisconsin’s state butterfly could support and enhance efforts to
save the monarch butterfly in Wisconsin.
you support legislation to designate the monarch butterfly as Wisconsin’s state
A look at the present and uncertain
future of the parcel of land between County Grounds Park and We
Energies' soon-to-be sold power plant.
View of woodland, Ronald McDonald House in background
One of the last remaining stands of mature trees, along with
a valuable wetland, may yet be lost on the Milwaukee County Grounds
in Wauwatosa. No, the compromise that established UWM’s Innovation
Park development zone and County Grounds Park did not protect all of the
undeveloped portions of the long-contested county land, as many have assumed.
Two unprotected parcels that are among the loveliest in what officially is
known as the Northeast Quadrant are located immediately north of the We
Energies power plant and Ronald McDonald
House (A and B, respectively, on the aerial view below.)
The following appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on March 12. Thank you to the authors for their recognition of the effort. Vigilance is still required as some of the county supervisors may yet put forward another proposal to sell the park.
"Dedicated Davids won
bad public policy ideas always can be measured by the large number of
lobbyists hired to convince elected officials otherwise. That's what
Milwaukee County Supervisor Gerry Broderick aptly said Dec. 18, shortly
before the County Board rejected the proposed sale of O'Donnell Park to
"Last week, Journal Sentinel reporter Don
Behm revealed that the insurance giant spent $210,000 on five registered
lobbyists hired to pitch the park sale ("Lobby bill for county park hit $210,000," March
6). Those eye-popping figures do not even include other paid
consultants and in-house staff assigned to craft and promote the dubious
"In contrast, a grass-roots network of
alarmed citizens spent less than $1,000 to defeat Milwaukee's mother of
bad ideas. Volunteers, including many newly engaged park defenders,
rallied to protect this prime lakefront park. We mobilized other
citizens, spoke at hearings, called, emailed and met with supervisors.
Our tools were fliers, banners and traditional and online media. We
championed the sacrosanct American principle that public parks are
priceless and not for sale.
"The public had just a few months to stop
an unprecedented park sell-off. Northwestern Mutual and county
officials, however, had prepared since 2011. In July, 2014 they
announced Northwestern Mutual's quietly negotiated offer to purchase the
park — just before Wisconsin's fall election.
Dedicated Davids can prevail over
deep-pocketed Goliaths intent on usurping public assets for corporate
gain. Successfully preserving the common good is reward enough."
Chris Christie, Daniel Folkman and Pat Small Milwaukee
Full disclosure: I am a board member of Preserve Our Parks, which led the effort to save the park.
The first weekend in March has been designated as Aldo Leopold weekend to celebrate one of Wisconsin's most famous and influential native sons. This little shack has become world-renowned because Leopold wrote his classic "A Sand County Almanac" there. Leopold was one of the earliest proponents of the new science of ecology, which taught that all things are interrelated. For the many people who rightly hold Leopold in high esteem as one of a long line of progressive Wisconsin leaders of all political persuasions, this Leopold weekend is a bitter one.
The politics of the current administration have turned our proud history of environmental stewardship on its head. Curt Meine, Leopold's biographer, wrote an op ed in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that explains it better than I can. To read it at JSOnline, click here. (But to see my concluding photo, scroll on down!) Also, there is a public hearing in Milwaukee on Walker's proposed budget this Friday. Please attend and voice your concerns. Details below.
Wisconsin honors Leopold? Not this year.
2004, the first weekend in March in Wisconsin has been celebrated as
Aldo Leopold Weekend. This year, a sober reality darkens the
celebration. Leopold's legacy is under assault on all fronts. Gov. Scott
Walker's proposed state budget undercuts the foundations of
conservation and environmental stewardship that Leopold and so many
others put into place over the last four generations.
"Leopold and his contemporaries worked to
pass the Conservation Act of 1927. The act established what is now the
state Department of Natural Resources and provided for an independent
commission — now the state's Natural Resources Board — to oversee the
department, select its secretary and set policy. The aim was to buffer
decision-makers against the politicization of issues involving our lands
and waters, forests and wildlife. In 1995, Gov. Tommy Thompson
undermined this arrangement, turning the DNR secretary into a
governor-appointed position. In 2010, Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed legislation
that would have restored the independent secretary.
"Walker's budget pulls out the last cornerstone, turning the Natural Resources Board into a merely advisory body.
"Leopold recognized the acquisition of
public lands as a necessary part of a balanced, long-term conservation
strategy. The governor's proposed budget halts until 2028 any further
land acquisitions and easements under the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship
Program — named after former governors Warren Knowles (a Republican) and
Gaylord Nelson (a Democrat), both known for their commitment to
"Walker's budget says: We will no longer make investments in our shared conservation future.
Leopold understood research to be "a
practical and necessary basis for (natural resource) management" and
devoted himself as a professor at the University of Wisconsin to
strengthening the scientific foundations of conservation. Walker's
proposed budget would cut deeply into the DNR's Bureau of Scientific
Services, reducing by 31% the number of research positions.
"As the state's wildlife extension
specialist, Leopold was devoted to sharing his expertise with the
citizens of Wisconsin, exemplifying the Wisconsin Idea's goals of
putting knowledge to work for the public good. He even spoke regularly
on the precursor of Wisconsin's public radio network. The proposed
budget cuts to the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin
Educational Communications Board will significantly impact the
UW-Extension network and public broadcasting.
"As a teacher, Leopold understood that it
all begins with education. In 1935, Wisconsin became the first state in
the nation to require schools to provide instruction in conservation
principles. Teachers around the state turned to Aldo Leopold. Ever since
the state has been recognized as a national leader in the field. Now we
are poised to go backwards. The budget abolishes the Wisconsin Center
for Environmental Education and the Wisconsin Environmental Education
Board (both housed at UW-Stevens Point). The budget also eliminates the
authority and funding of the state Department of Public Instruction's
environmental education consultant.
"At the University of Wisconsin, Leopold
taught farmer's short courses, undergraduate students and some of the
first graduate students in the new field of wildlife ecology and
management. His influence on conservation science continues to ripple
out across the state, the nation and the world. Walker's extraordinary
$300 million cut in funding to the UW System affects every campus and
department and program, and ultimately every citizen, in Wisconsin.
Leopold's words remind us that, in a state where the university is so
close to the core of our identity, such cuts will affect not only our
fellow citizens and future generations, but also our "soils, waters,
plants and animals, or collectively: the land."
"Beyond these particular effects, Walker's
proposed budget reflects a deeper, more profound failure to appreciate
just how interwoven our economy and our land are and always will be. A
healthy economy depends on healthy lands, waters and ecosystems, and on
individuals, businesses and institutions that see, understand and honor
these connections. Leopold had a visionary grasp of this basic fact. "We
fancy that industry supports us," he once wrote, "forgetting what
In too many ways, Walker's proposed
budget is economically and ethically irresponsible. Generations of
Wisconsin citizen-conservationists have protected, restored and
sustained the foundations of our state's economy, communities and
landscapes. In honoring Leopold, we honor all those who came before us
in this never-ending work. In undermining their legacy, we earn the
reproach of those who will come after us.
Curt Meine is author of the biography "Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work." He lives and works in Sauk County."
Is this the what the future holds for Wisconsin's natural environment?
What can you do?
A number of provisions in Walker's current budget proposal have nothing to do with the state budget and everything to do with gutting environmental policies and regulations. Attend the public hearing for the legislature's Joint Finance Committee: Friday, March 20th 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Alverno College Pitman Theatre 3400 South 43rd Street Milwaukee, WI 53234
It was a gloomy morning. Although it began with a light
snowfall that might have been lovely, by the time I reached Downer Woods the
snow had turned to drizzle and the overcast sky dimmed. Despite the undeniably
dreary day, however, the gloom I felt had more to do with the news than the
Since I live clear across town in Wauwatosa I don’t go to
Downer Woods often. But when I heard the news I was impelled to do the things
that come naturally to me: to walk in the woods and make photographs. The news?
Governor Walker’s latest budget proposal includes a provision to remove
protection of the “the sole remaining natural area on the
campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee”—in the words of the very
Wisconsin Code that established that protection.
As I walked beneath the leafless trees
I wondered whether Scott Walker had ever been to Downer Woods.
The code goes on to say this of the
woods: “…Its preservation and enhancement is consistent with the university's
recognition of its need to protect and enhance its own physical environment,
and to serve the pressing human need of its faculty, students and staff, as
well as the greater Milwaukee community, to live and work in an urban
environment which respects those portions of unspoiled nature which yet exist.
The woods is a unique asset; it provides visual relief to the concentrated
building pattern surrounding it, complements the urban landscape and affords
aesthetically and psychologically attractive places for people to congregate and
relax. In addition, the woods serves as a refuge for wildlife and vegetation,
and is, therefore, an important educational, scientific and ecological resource
to the university and the community.”
The provision concludes: “Its presence
imparts priceless recreational and aesthetic values.”
No matter how many times I read that
paragraph, I can’t for the life of me fathom what part of it could be
objectionable. In fact, bureaucratese rarely articulates the value of urban natural
areas as clearly as this. Who wouldn’t want to protect and enhance their own
physical environment? Well, I guess we know the answer.
Furthermore, this proposal comes from a
governor who, far from walking in any Wisconsin woods, has been spending more
time outside the state lately for his unannounced campaign. Imagine natural
areas all over the country that might be sacrificed if his relentless drive
towards higher office were achieved.
I’ve objected to many of the governor’s
choices relating to the environment, from his selection of the DNR director to relaxation
of regulations to benefit mining companies. But if I do the mental gymnastics
required to see those policies from the dark side of the looking glass there is
at least some recognizable logic. Where is the logic in singling out an 11-acre
oasis on a university campus? It would seem petty if it weren’t so patently
I can imagine only two motives: someone
influential will benefit economically from the development of the land or the
governor considers this a twisted kind of retribution for political opposition.
But I readily concede that the governor’s motive may exceed my powers of
It doesn’t take long to walk from one
corner of the woods to the other. Footprints in the new fallen snow indicate
that even on gloomy days the opportunity to enjoy nature is appreciated by the
community of students and neighbors. I shoot a number of photographs.
Inevitably, they reflect the somber mood of the day.
I imagine this scenery in spring. And hope generations of
students who live in the tall dormitory towers next to Downer Woods will be
able to appreciate its priceless recreational and aesthetic values.
If you’ve driven along Swan Boulevard through the County
Grounds lately you will have noticed, perhaps with some shock, the broad
section of woodland that has been mowed down. Located directly across from the
Discovery Parkway entrance to Innovation Park, this eventually will become the
access road for the Forestry Exploration Center, which is planned to be built
next to the DNR’s Wil-O-Way Woods. I was first alerted to this development by
someone who noted the irony of beginning the Forestry Exploration Center
project by clear-cutting the forest. (Although, to be "fair and balanced," while it is disturbing and I wonder why such a wide swath was considered necessary, a substantial percentage of those trees were invasive species.)
Future site of the Forestry Exploration Center - -
On the hilltop nearby, where Innovation Park is located, the Echelon Apartment complex is
beginning to rise around the historic Eschweiler buildings, the fate of which
(the last I heard) is still hanging in the balance.
At the other end of the Innovation Park campus new power
lines are connected to the substation that has been added to the County Grounds
Meanwhile the hotel that was planned for the vacant lot
overlooking that plant has been delayed indefinitely. According to a story in Wauwatosa NOW, the developer requested funding from the city because the fill
that had been placed on the site has settled and needs to be stabilized. That
request was denied by the common council.