Thursday, January 20, 2011

Milwaukee County Grounds habitat protections still an issue?

Supporters of the Monarch Trail and the County Grounds in Wauwatosa know very well the value of the land there as wildlife habitat and urban open space. But if we’ve learned anything in the 12+ years of effort to protect it, we’ve learned we can’t take it for granted.

As most of you know, for various reasons the purchase of 89 acres by the UWM Real Estate Foundation, agreed upon by the County Board in 2009, has been delayed many times. Now, after making a commitment, the foundation is requesting another extension on a payment towards the parcel. While I have questions about that I don’t have any real problem with it.

My concern is for the Habitat Plan that was adopted by the Board and agreed to by the Foundation as a contingent to the sale. At the time of the well-publicized signing, the County Board, the UWM Real Estate Foundation, and environmental groups saw this agreement as a win-win for the protectors of wildlife and the proponents of development. As the realities of proceeding with this development during the current economic climate unfold there is a danger that the original consensus and commitment will be diminished. This shouldn’t happen. Protecting the habitat and preserving the character of the open spaces are still in everyone’s best interest. There should be no transfer of ownership without an understanding that ownership entails stewardship of the habitat as agreed upon.

The Economic Development Committee meets on January 24 to deliberate on the request for an extension of payments. I urge you to contact the members of the committee and express your concern. The message is simple:

All requests should honor the original commitment to preserve, protect, and maintain the designated wildlife habitat areas and the implementation of the Habitat Plan should begin immediately. Delaying payments should not delay the implementation of the Plan.

Guidelines have been adopted. The Foundation has agreed to them. The County Grounds Preservation Coalition is ready to lend its expertise. But it needs to be funded and it needs to begin soon in order to prevent further damage.

Contact info for the Economic Development Committee:

Johnny L. Thomas - 18th District  ▪  (414) 278-4259  ▪
John F. Weishan, Jr. - 16th District  ▪  (414) 278-4255  ▪
Peggy West - 12th District  ▪  (414) 278-4269  ▪
Willie Johnson, Jr. - 13th District  ▪  (414) 278-4233  ▪
Lynne De Bruin - 15th District  ▪  (414) 278-4263  ▪
Theodore Lipscomb - 1st District  ▪  (414) 278-4257  ▪
Nikiya Harris - 2nd District  ▪  (414) 278-4278  ▪

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