I started this blog in 2017, initially to write about the impact of national political divisions on my home state of Wisconsin — divisions that have certainly not lessened in the interim. I had already become aware of the influence of ALEC, the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council, on the state legislature, where boiler-plate, business friendly bills were being passed with little input either from the legislators who sponsored them or the local communities they impacted. Local newspapers were shuttering while national politics and crime statistics dominated the news. And in the meantime, things were happening that could unite people around their own self-interest as taxpayers, property owners, and park users, if they could see through the scrum of political noise to what’s going on in their own backyards.
Today, Wiscoland proudly embraces the accusation of NIMBYism. Your own backyard is the perfect place to start addressing problems, especially when it’s your own local government that is causing them. When I recall what happened to farms and homes in Mount Pleasant because state and local government rushed to embrace for a mythical company named Foxconn that made promises it probably never intended to keep, I know we have problems in this state with municipal and state government actors who don’t protect the interests of their constituents.
The image featured with this post is of a tribal forest in Wisconsin, one of the forests found on the Menominee, Bad River, Lac du Flambeau and Lac Courte Oreilles reservations, that are better managed, more diverse, and healthier than nearby state and local forests.
Environmental issues are central to the concerns of this blog. In Wisconsin, our natural resources are too often managed with an eye to the designs of large businesses. As Wisconsin activist Al Gedicks says, the current system is one of “corporate domination of regulatory and permitting agencies.” Nature and people come second. That’s why the preservation of Kohler-Andrae Lakeshore is one of the issues I’ve written most about.
The scale and style of the destruction that has occurred in Wisconsin in recent years would shock Gaylord Nelson, a three-term United States Senator and the state’s 35th governor, today perhaps best remembered as the founder of Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Nelson, who died in 1988, was a Democrat, but he shared the name given to state’s conservation stewardship program with former Republican governor Warren Knowles. The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grants still fund conservation land purchases across the state, despite attempts by the current legislature to allow more development on the purchased lands. Nelson was also known as an advocate for consumer rights, and were he alive today, he might be shocked to see the changes that have taken place in a state with a once proud track record of both natural resource conservation and support for the interests of average citizens.