From Brett Davis' Newsletter
Celebrating Earth Day
This past week, Americans commemorated Earth Day, a unique reflection on our use and conservation of natural resources. As you probably know, this celebration has Wisconsin roots. It was former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson who initiated the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. A Clear Lake native, Nelson championed landmark laws in the U.S. Senate including the Wilderness Act, the National Trails Act, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and the National Environmental Education Act. Nearly 40 years later, Wisconsin’s citizens and legislators are committed to Nelson’s conservation legacy.
In the 2007-09 Wisconsin budget the Legislature dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to state conservation and environmental protection programs. Foremost among these efforts is the renewal of the Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson Stewardship Program until 2020 with increasing funding annually, from $60 million to $82 million. The Stewardship program will allow the DNR to protect ecologically valuable forests, prairies and waterways for future generations. This reauthorization also ensures open access for hunters, fishers and other outdoor enthusiasts, expanding opportunity for families and friends to enjoy and appreciate Wisconsin’s natural landscapes.
Another conservation victory in the 2007-09 budget is more funding to fight non-point source pollution. Water is our most valued resource, a source of nourishment and recreation. The DNR estimates that up to one-half of state lakes and waterways are in some way affected by non-point source pollution. The current budget boosts funds $18 million to $135.2 million for soil erosion abatement and other land management programs to curb the adverse affects of water pollution.
With the global demand for oil at an all-time high and skyrocketing gas prices, the Wisconsin Legislature took action by investing in renewable energy at historic levels. The budget established the Renewable Energy Grant and Loan Program which widens the breadth of businesses eligible for grants and loans for research into renewable energy technology.
In addition, during the state budget process, Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) and I were successful in securing a $4 million grant to provide an incentive for the creation of Wisconsin's first soybean crush facility in Evansville. The new crush plant will create 40 jobs, reduce transportation costs, and provide the oil needed for renewable fuels like biodiesel.
Additional conservation achievements in the 2007-08 budget include a $1.2 million increase for invasive species control and a $13 million increase in state recycling grants. Over the next two years, $32.9 million in recycling grants will cover one-third of local recycling costs state-wide.
Finally, Governor Doyle, the Legislature, and the Department of Natural Resources recently reached a bi-partisan agreement to protect our Great Lakes from being drained for profit. The deal will move the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact forward in Wisconsin, which is a key provision necessary to preserve Wisconsin’s water needs and Great Lakes ecosystems. The state Legislature is expected to pass the legislation in the coming weeks. No matter how you celebrated, I hope you enjoyed Earth Day and know that your state government is committed to conserving Wisconsin resources for generations to come.