Close up of a single small pinecone on a branch.

Don’t let an anonymous lawmaker spoil Wisconsin preservation effort

More than a dozen times, key initiatives to protect invaluable natural areas have been blocked by legislators who ignore their own rules.

Retired Wisconsin State Assembly member Spencer Black called for Governor Tony Evers to fund Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Projects that have been illegitimately blocked by the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. The committee recently moved to block the largest land conservation effort since the inception of the Stewardship Program.

Writing for the Cap Times, Black points out that state legislators are required to schedule hearings to discuss Knowles-Nelson projects if a member of the committee objects to a project. Hearings are neither being scheduled nor held, which sabotages projects by throwing them into an indefinite limbo.

Black writes, “The law requires the Joint Finance Committee to schedule a public meeting for its objection to the purchase to be valid.

“Embarrassed by their action, they have failed to meet this legal requirement for transparency and accountability. Therefore, Evers, who used his power to protect Cedar Gorge, now has the legal authority to conserve the Pelican River Forest for all of us.”

Black applauds Governor Evers for funding the popular Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs project along Lake Michigan, an effort headed up by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust. However, the Finance Committee continues to ignore state statute, which has stranded the vital Pelican River Forest conservation project in northern Wisconsin.

It’s time for Governor Evers to confront the Finance Committee and fund stranded Knowles-Nelson projects.

The Cap Times also published a letter to the editor by Bill Walters in Fitchburg, who shared his support for the Pelican River Forest project and argued for more transparency and accountability from our elected officials.

Walters writes, “Legislators who act without visibility cannot be scrutinized and impugned for their actions. And since the objector is a legislator, an elected official, the public has a right to know who they are and why they object. This information should be part of a public record.”

Featured image by Anne Marie Peterson, 2015.

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