Environmental Stewardship is Crucial Part of Our Community

By Rep. Dave Considine

Since Governor Walker’s 2015-2017 biennial budget address on Tuesday, February 3rd, I have received a great deal of valuable input from citizens in all parts of the 81st Assembly District. Whether you have contacted me about the proposed $300 million UW System funding cut, the plan to borrow over $1 billion for transportation projects, or the more encouraging proposals such as providing $5 million in additional grants to domestic violence shelters, I want to thank you for making your voice heard. As your State Representative, my highest priority is to listen and maintain open dialogue so that we can work together to resolve the issues we all face.

However, there is one other alarming aspect of the budget that has not been widely discussed: what will happen to our environmental and natural resources. Amid other proposals, the Governor plans to turn the Board of the Department of Natural Resources into an advisory council, and freeze Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. According to Governor Walker, these ideas are designed to “preserve Wisconsin’s heritage.” I fully support the goal of protecting our precious lands, but this is not the right path to achieve it.

The 81st Assembly District is home to some of Wisconsin’s most well-loved environmental landmarks. From our Baraboo Bluffs, to Devil’s Lake State Park and more, we have much to be proud of. But without the oversight authority of the Natural Resources Board, these assets would be far more vulnerable. The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program has also been an essential part of protecting our environment. Since its creation in 1989, it has played a major role in preserving invaluable wildlife habitats, protecting the quality of our water, and expanding outdoor recreational opportunities across the state. This program, which brings economic and health benefits to thousands of Wisconsin families, has been supported by members of both parties. Losing or weakening this program would be a significant blow to the natural resources we all know and enjoy.

There is no doubt about it: the budget is a complex, multifaceted document. While I have serious reservations about many parts of the Governor’s budget, I am open to learning more about his proposals. As my colleagues and I discuss and deliberate this legislation, I am optimistic that we will find ways to work together to achieve our shared goal of preserving Wisconsin’s priceless natural resources. Ensuring proper stewardship of our environment is absolutely critical to protecting these resources for generations to come.