Over the last few months, you’ve heard from us about bills AB 547/SB 600 that proposed to eliminate state permit protections for more than one million acres of “isolated,” non-federal wetlands. Wisconsin Wetlands Association (WWA), as a part of a large coalition of conservation partners, has spent hundreds of hours since the bills’ introduction last fall encouraging alternative approaches to address wetland permitting challenges.

Recently, amended versions of these bills have passed through committees in the Senate and Assembly. The version expected to go to the floor in both houses lessens the negative impacts of the original bill, but still clears the way for the destruction of tens, possibly even hundreds, of thousands of acres of wetlands important for waterfowl, trout, furbearers, and many other species of fish and wildlife.

The amended bill removes protections to many isolated wetlands within a half-mile radius of every city and village in Wisconsin and in all towns served by a sewerage system — with the first 10,000 square feet (nearly ¼ acre) of fill per project exempt from mitigation. As communities grow and expand, the areas exempt from wetland protection will grow too.

Though the wetlands threatened are also critical for reducing floods, recharging groundwater, and protecting water quality, the bill eliminates the authority of municipalities to preserve these protective services through local ordinances. This undermines community-based efforts to address water management challenges across the state and puts Wisconsin’s people, property, waters, and public infrastructure at risk.

What’s most disappointing is that options were offered by WWA and other experts that would have more effectively reduced regulatory delays and expenses, while also protecting the resource. Unfortunately, the policy makers involved didn’t fully trust what the conservation community had to offer and rejected our best ideas.

AB 547 is expected to be voted on in the Assembly on Thursday, February 15th, with a Senate vote soon thereafter.

Though we fully expect the amended versions to pass both chambers, almost certainly on a straight party-line vote, it is still important for legislators to hear from their constituents so they understand that the amended versions of AB 547/SB 600 will harm wetland resources and do not enjoy public support.

We urge you to find your representative in the Legislature and do the following:

  1. If they are likely to vote in favor of these bills, express your disappointment in their lack of commitment to protecting Wisconsin’s wetlands. Remind them that while it’s possible to reduce red-tape, promote well-planned economic development, and protect our wetland resources, these bills will harm wetland resources and put people, property, waters, and public infrastructure at risk.
  2. If they are likely to vote against these harmful bills, thank them for their commitment to protecting Wisconsin’s wetlands.

As always, please help us spread the word. Let us know how your legislators respond and thank you for speaking up for wetlands.

For more information on the bills, or Wisconsin Wetland Association’s efforts, please contact Brian Vigue, Policy Liaison, at brian.vigue@wisconsinwetlands.org, or call 608-250-9971.

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