Proposed legislation that would remove protections from 1 million acres of wetlands in Wisconsin brought out much opposition testimony last week, including a Northwoods resident.
The bills authored by Senator Roger Roth of Appleton and Representative Jim Steineke would eliminate the DNR development permit system and allow filling of non-federal isolated wetlands. Isolated wetlands are protected under state law. The authors say the bill helps people get through the red tape of the system. Developers would have to replace wetland losses.
Retired DNR biologist Ron Eckstein of Rhinelander spoke for the new group Wisconsin's Green Fire in opposition to the proposals...
"....this would cause, we think, many problems for wildlife, wildlife habitat, flood control, all the functions wetlands do for a variety of reasons...."
Eckstein says the Northwoods has the majority of the state's wetlands, but where the problem arises is in southern Wisconsin, where agriculture and development have taken away most of the wetlands at this point, and with the bill, would enable even more loss...
"....here in northern Wisconsin we still have our wetlands. In Oneida county, 30 percent of the county is considered wetlands. But they are forested wetlands, they have forests growing on them...in far southeastern Wisconsin, more than 90 percent of the wetlands have been drained and are gone..."
Eckstein says remaining species, including water fowl and pheasants, would have a difficult time surviving if the remaining wetlands are gone.