I’m proud to be from Northeast Wisconsin. Here, we treat everyone we meet with kindness and respect. We stand by our veterans and help those in need. And we work hard every day to, in our own small way, hold the line and leave our little part of the world better than we found it.
Our character is shaped not only by our traditions of kindness and decency, but also by our land. From our rivers and streams, to our forests and rich farmland, the natural abundance of Northeast Wisconsin shapes and defines who we are as a people. Perhaps most significantly, we are home to the largest freshwater system in the world: the Great Lakes. These waters are tied directly to 1.4 million jobs, including the tourism industry that sustains many of our coastal communities. The lakes give drinking water to 40 million people each day and provide water for our crops that feed people around the world.
CASCO, Wis. — Farmers and agricultural professionals from Kewaunee County gathered Tuesday morning at a local dairy to voice their commitment to agriculture, the community and the environment.
“We are committed to the belief that agriculture, a strong community and environmentalism can co-exist. Farms are an important part of our local communities,” said Lee Kinnard, the fifth generation of his family to farm in the county. “We take pride in being part of that 1.7 percent of the U.S. population that feeds everyone else in the country and we also take pride in protecting the environment.”
Michigan leaders have formed a unique new coalition working to improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin.
The Michigan Cleaner Lake Erie through Action and Research (MI CLEAR) Partnership includes farmers, agricultural and environmental leaders, universities, conservationists, landscape professionals, energy leaders, tourism and economic development interests, and more. Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Jamie Clover Adams said she was encouraged to call the diverse membership to the table as a new way to tackle the ongoing water quality challenges affecting the basin.
“Our mission is to improve the water quality of the Western Lake Erie Basin through open discussion among regional leaders that brings a coordinated perspective to existing efforts,” Clover Adams said. “We will drive support for research that builds understanding of the science around water quality issues, and promote actions that bring long-term, meaningful change.”
She added the MI CLEAR Partnership will promote awareness of science and research-based efforts aimed at improving the health of Lake Erie, and provide quantifiable metrics and unbiased information about Michigan’s efforts to preserve and protect the WLEB’s waters.
In addition to MDARD, other members of the MI CLEAR Partnership:
Michigan Farm Bureau
University of Michigan Water Center, Graham Sustainability Institute
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
The Nature Conservancy – Michigan Chapter
Monroe County Drain Commission
Michigan Agribusiness Association (MABA)
Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association
Michigan Chamber of Commerce
American WaterWorks – Michigan Chapter
Michigan State University Extension Institute of Water Research and Technology
By MAA A Dane County judge ignored an opinion from the Wisconsin Attorney General and state law when vacating eight high capacity well permits issued by the Department of Natural Resources, according to the leader of a non-partisan organization focused on protecting the state’s water resources and advocating for sound water policies.
“This is an ill-advised and seriously flawed decision from a Madison judge who wants to legislate from the bench rather than follow the statutory law and accept the opinion of the Wisconsin Attorney General,” said Dan Ellsworth, president of the Wisconsin Water Alliance. “In reaching its faulty decision, the court ignored a 2016 attorney general opinion that correctly states the DNR’s authority and the proper statutory provisions controlling the issuance of high capacity wells.”
Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn ruled this week the DNR had ample authority to set limits on well applications to protect drinking water supplies and lakes and streams that might be affected by heavy water use.
Ellsworth said the ruling also goes against Act 310, which was enacted by the Wisconsin Legislature in 2003 and contains specific requirements for issuing high capacity wells, and Act 21, which provides that explicit statutory laws are controlling and the public trust doctrine is not implicated when issuing permits for high capacity wells.
“These laws were enacted by the Legislature to give certainty to the regulatory permitting process without sacrificing water protections. Unfortunately, the judge failed to read the clear statutory law that regulates high capacity wells and instead invoked a flawed and incorrect reading of the public trust doctrine,” he said. “We expect the case will be appealed and are confident that it will be overturned.”
Ellsworth said WWA will continue to work to protect the state’s water resources and advocate for sound water policies that benefit current and future generations of Wisconsin families, cities, businesses, farmers and others.
A diverse group representing Wisconsin businesses and landowners have formed a new organization aimed at broadening the discussion about Wisconsin’s fresh water supply and the important role it plays in sustaining and growing the state’s economy.
The Wisconsin Water Alliance (WWA) will advocate for common sense regulations and policies that both help protect the state’s abundant fresh water supplies and foster a science and fact based discussion on water related issues, said Dan Ellsworth, who serves as president of the WWA board and is president and CEO of ANIMART LLC.
“Wisconsin has an abundant supply of freshwater, including deep, replenishing aquifers, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, the Wisconsin River, many other rivers and streams and an estimated 15,000 inland lakes,” he said. “We want to work with policy makers and others who share our commitment in protecting this vital natural resource for generations to come and to also make sure that we can continue to rely on it to help drive the state’s economy.”
Ellsworth added the WWA has as its mission to advocate for sound water policies that benefit current and future generations of Wisconsin families, cities, businesses, and others.
A group of farmers in western Wisconsin launched the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance (LASA) in late August.
LASA will identify and promote conservation practices that demonstrate continuous improvement in farming methods that protect water quality.
The farmer-led, nonprofit organization, sets forth three main responsibilities: protecting natural resources, empowering members to continuously improve and giving the public an inside view of farming practices, said Jim Winn, a dairy farmer from Wiota and chairman of the new group.
“All of us in the community share in the responsibility of protecting the quality of our water. As farmers, we realize and accept our role,” he said.
Sixteen farmers, representing 23,000 animals and 56,000 acres of farmland, already are on board. Members include crop farmers, beef farmers and a pig farmer. The farms are of all sizes and types, including one organic dairy.
By MaryBeth Matzek
By making changes to their farm practices during the past several years, Yahara Pride Farms members dramatically reduced the amount of phosphorous entering the Yahara River watershed. But while they’ve been successful, members say there is plenty of work left to do.
“Five years ago, we had no idea we would be here,” said Bob Uphoff, owner of Uphoff Ham & Bacon Farm and vice-chair of the Yahara Pride Farms Conservation Board. “As we keep making changes and improvements, who knows where we will be in five years?”
Yahara Pride Farms held its annual watershed-wide conference on March 2 to share information and research on the different steps being taken to decrease the amount of phosphorus in the watershed and to celebrate its successes.