The FLOW, Summer 2016

Jul 8, 2016 | Newsletters

This is the cover article from our summer 2016 FLOW Newsletter. Download a PDF of the full Newsletter.

Harbinger at Hwy. 41

By Denny Caneff

A harbinger of and a case study for what was to come in Wisconsin environmental policy-making – in substance and in process — was the special legislation that Governor Scott Walker and the Legislature hustled out the door within 31 days of Walker’s taking office in 2011. You have to ask why a small wetland on the edge of Green Bay (Hwy. 41 at Lombardi Ave.) would compel an executive order, a special legislative session, limits on wetland protection AND the elimination of a legal path for citizens questioning government action in that instance.

Legislation as personal favor – the law was passed to expedite developing land owned by car magnate John Bergstrom. (It was first intended for a Bass Pro Shops store, but they bailed, stating, “We will not be in favor of doing anything to harm wetlands.” Cabela’s eventually put up a store there.)

Picture showing Cabelas Location

Micromanaged policy – the law was written very specifically for this wetland parcel. (But eventually all wetlands would become the natural resource bete noire of this Legislature.)

Cut citizens out of the process – the Bergstrom bill was the first of many more attempts to limit the use of contested case hearings. The law essentially derailed the Wisconsin Wetlands Association’s right to a contested case hearing.

We commend the Wisconsin Wetlands Association’s diligent and dogged work to save that wetland and to call out a deeply flawed process. Little did that group – or any of us — know then what else was coming.

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