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“No longer functional”: Wisconsin’s Green Fire calls for changes to the state’s environmental rule-making process

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Wisconsin’s Green Fire Executive Director Fred Clark says it wasn’t always this way.

Between the 1960s and 2010, the group says Wisconsin was recognized as a national leader in conservation and environmental protection.

“Those kind of victories, that brought together conservation and science and the role of the business sector, was something Wisconsin did very well for a long time,” said Clark.

So what changed? Wisconsin’s Green Fire points to a shift in how the Government started operating when Governor Scott Walker took office in 2011.

That year, several laws were passed that limited an agency’s ability to create and approve administrative rules and instead gave those powers to the state legislature.

More recently, the group’s report on the issue pointed to the State Senate refusing to instate Governor Evers’ appointees to seats like on the Natural Resources Board where Fred Prehn, appointed by Walker, has refused to step down.

“The result of these changes are that the rule making process is no longer functional here in Wisconsin,” said Clark.

Wisconsin’s Green Fire points to several examples where it says these changes have made it more difficult for the state to enact science-based policies that address both public health and environmental protections.

They include a lack of or limited rules surrounding PFAS standards and pollution caused by nitrates.

Green Fire also says it has led to reduced shoreland protection in the state.

Paul Heinen is Green Fire’s policy liaison and worked as the legislative liaison for the DNR for more than 34 years.

“As a result of the increased building density and the impact of these law changes on shoreline vegetation, we expect that lake clarity and water quality are going to be degraded on many of our most used lakes. Years from now people will be wondering why and how we let that happen,” said Heinen.

Wisconsin’s Green Fire would like to see a series of policy reforms that it believes would make the state a conservation leader once again.

They include restoring more local control on issues and making changes to Governor appointees to boards.

You can view more of Green Fire’s report here.