Those aware of their importance call them “nurseries of life”. Wetlands, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, are “those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas”.
Those aware of Scott Walker know the term “pay-to-play”. A common definition is “the payer (an individual, business, or organization) makes campaign contributions to public officials, party officials, or parties themselves, and receives political or pecuniary benefit such as no-bid government contracts, influence over legislation, political appointments or nominations, special access or other favors”.
What do wetlands have in common with pay-to-play? For a very good example illustrating the link, Scott Walker offers a perfect example how the two work together for him at the peril of the state he governs part-time when not being out of state looking for more pay-to-play opportunities:
The new law, though, dramatically reworks that process, creating a two-tiered construction permit system for wetlands. Developers can apply to the agency for a general permit or an individual permit for more specialized projects.
Individual permit applicants must also submit mitigation plans, which could include buying credits from groups that have already restored wetlands, paying the DNR to support the agency’s wetland restoration work or enhancing or restoring wetlands within a half-mile of the proposed project or within the surrounding watershed.
While submitting a plan won’t guarantee a permit, the law can bolster a developer’s case for one because it provides another way to show the DNR it can offset a project’s impact.
The Wisconsin Realtors Association gave $43,125 to Walker when he ran for Governor in 2010. The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce has bragged regarding political contributions that there “are no contribution limits under law” and spent nearly a million dollars in political ads during the first season of recalls last summer. Both groups were jubilant that Walker was willing to lower environmental standards regarding wetlands. After all, they bought him.
There will be consequences to Walker’s continuing careless attack on Wisconsin’s environment for his pay-to-play kickback deals from his political contributors:
“Allowing more people to build in wetlands today creates more flood victims and disaster costs tomorrow,” Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, a longtime flood prevention advocate, said in a statement.
The Wisconsin Wetlands Association, a nonprofit advocacy group committed to the preservation and restoration of wetlands, campaigned against the Republican-led bill.
“Previously, the permitting system for wetlands had a three-prong approach: avoid, minimize and mitigate,” said Tracey Hames, executive director of the organization.
Hames said the “avoid” phase asked developers, “Are there alternative sites you can use to place your development that will not impact wetlands?”
After alternatives are considered, the “minimize” phase seeks to curtail the effect development has on the respective wetlands, she said.
The mitigation phase serves as a last resort to create new wetlands to replace any wetlands that filled or altered.
“The bill,” Hames said, “turns the process backwards.”
The Sierra Club of Wisconsin has a great document illustrating the other Walker attacks on the environment since he’s been governor. Walker’s fanatical agenda trying to strip environmental standards should alarm those who cherish Wisconsin’s natural beauty, whether they enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking and just want to do the correct thing to preserve what even old-school Republicans called “conservation”.