Tag Archives: great lakes

Republicans join Democrats against Trump’s Great Lakes cuts

It  sounds like an idea that would warm a conservative Republican’s heart: Kill funding of a regional environmental cleanup of the Great Lakes that has lasted seven years and cost the federal government more than $2 billion, with no end in sight. If states want to keep the program going, let them pick up the tab.

That is what President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget plan proposes for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an ambitious push to fix problems that have long bedeviled the world’s largest surface freshwater system — from invasive species to algal blooms and toxic sludge fouling tributary rivers.

During the Obama administration, the program generally got about $300 million a year. Trump’s offer is zero. His spending plan says it “returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities.”

The response from Republicans in Great Lakes states: No, thanks.

“I think it makes sense for us to continue to make prudent investments in protecting and improving the Great Lakes,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told The Associated Press, adding that he would lobby the Trump administration and congressional leaders to put the money back.

Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan considers Great Lakes funding “very important to Michiganders, therefore we know there is strong support among Michigan’s congressional delegation and we will work with them to preserve the funding,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton said.

GOP lawmakers from the region also rushed out statements defending the program. It “helps protect both our environment and our economy,” U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said.

The reaction illustrates a political fact of life: Whether you consider something in the budget valuable or wasteful can depend a lot on where you’re from.

And it underscores the resistance Trump may encounter to some spending cuts he is proposing for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior and other agencies that draw frequent attacks from congressional Republicans yet fund projects and services with support back home.

The president’s spending blueprint also targets a Chesapeake Bay cleanup begun in 1983 that received $73 million last year, plus other “geographic programs.” It doesn’t identify them, but a proposal by the Office of Management and Budget this month called for cutting all or most funding for San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked for more details, EPA released a statement saying the plan “reflects the president’s priorities” and that Administrator Scott Pruitt “is committed to leading the EPA in a more effective, more focused, less costly way as we partner with states to fulfill the agency’s core mission.”

The Great Lakes region includes swing states crucial to Trump’s election — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. There’s also New York, Minnesota and Illinois. And Indiana, whose former governor, Mike Pence, is now Trump’s vice president.

Coincidentally, the budget plan was released as about 100 Great Lakes advocates paid a yearly visit to Washington, D.C., in support of the restoration initiative. They flocked to the offices of home-state lawmakers, reminding them that Congress voted only last year to extend the program another five years.

“We are going to turn once again to our bipartisan congressional champions,” said Todd Ambs, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

While Democratic lawmakers excoriated Trump’s proposal _ “incredibly short-sighted and reckless,” said Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan _ Republicans noted that former President Barack Obama at times recommended more modest reductions to the initiative, which Congress rejected.

Some also pointed out that former President George W. Bush signed initial legislation authorizing a wide-ranging Great Lakes cleanup, although he sought little money for it.

The initiative has funded nearly 3,000 projects across the eight states. Among them: efforts to prevent Asian carp from invading the lakes, prevent nutrient runoff that feeds harmful algal blooms, rebuild wetlands where fish spawn and remove sediments laced with PCBs and other toxins.

Nearly all the federal grants require cost-share payments from a state, local or tribal agency, or perhaps a nonprofit organization. But Ambs said they can’t afford to shoulder the burden alone.

Without federal support, “all of this restoration work would come to a halt,” he said.

 

Chris Abele: Oppose Trump’s plan to defund Great Lakes restoration

Like many of you, I was concerned when I first heard that President Trump planned to cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That concern turned to shock when I heard that the funding was nearly eliminated altogether — a 97 percent reduction.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) sprang from the Great Lakes Compact, a regional commitment to protecting our natural resources that was approved by a bipartisan coalition that included all eight Great Lakes states, the U.S. Congress, and President George W. Bush. Long before I was elected county executive I was lucky enough to be involved with the organizations that advanced the research that led to the Great Lakes Compact. Today, both in office and as a citizen, I remain an ardent supporter of and advocate for the protection of our fresh water.

The GLRI has funded millions of dollars in Milwaukee County Parks alone, to include a four-year, $43 million cleanup effort along the Milwaukee River and a $1.4 million investment in waterway improvements at South Shore and other parks.

Since the GLRI began the need for fresh water hasn’t gone down; it’s gone up. One only needs to look to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan or the freshwater emergency that impacted hundreds of thousands of Ohioans in the Toledo area back in 2014 to know that we must protect the Great Lakes, which hold 20 percent of the entire world’s freshwater.

I strongly oppose the president’s proposed decimation of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Environmentalists, business owners, and politicians from across the divide have historically been advocates for our freshwater and they are speaking out now as well. Yesterday, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and Gov. Scott Walker all spoke out in favor of restoring Great Lakes funding. And for good reason — the Great Lakes are a spectacular and rare treasure for all of us and we must protect them. Preserving these natural treasures isn’t idealistic or naïve; it’s part of who we are as a country.

I will be writing Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation to ask that they oppose this cut and I urge you to do the same. To find your elected officials visit: https://myvote.wi.gov/en-US/MyElectedOfficials

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele

 

Rep. Sean Duffy’s bill would strip protections for wolves

Legislation was introduced on Jan. 10 in Congress to strip federal protections from wolves in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming.

With language preventing any further judicial review, the bill would overrule two court decisions that found the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrongly removed Endangered Species Act protections for the wolf.

“The new Congress is the most extreme and anti-wolf our country has ever seen, and members wasted no time in attacking endangered wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This bill promises to undo hard-earned progress toward gray wolf recovery that has taken years to achieve. Without federal protection hundreds of wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan will once again suffer and die every year.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed protections for gray wolves in the Great Lakes region — Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota — in 2011 and in Wyoming in 2012.

Federal judges have overturned agency decisions for prematurely removing protections, failing to follow the requirements of the federal Endangered Species Act and ignoring the best available science.

Since the 2011 passage of a rider abolishing wolf protections in the northern Rocky Mountains, there have been dozens of legislative attacks on wolves in Congress, according to the CBD.  The bill introduced this week is the first introduced in the 115th Congress.

“Wolf recovery should be allowed to follow a course prescribed by science, not politics,” Adkins said. “This shameful meddling is harmful to wolves, harmful to science and harmful to our democratic processes.”

The bill has bipartisan sponsorship. It was introduced by U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Sean Duffy, R-Wis. and Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

Similar bills have passed the House but failed to clear the Senate and White House. But that was when the Senate and White House were in Democratic control.

CBD said the bill’s chances are considered  better in 2017,  when Republicans will control the House, Senate and White House.

For the record

Wayne Pacelle, president & CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, wrote about the issue on his blog for The HSUS. An excerpt:

With Republican majorities in both chambers, and with the Trump administration likely to actively support trophy hunting, this is a perilous moment for wolves.

In order to retain federal protections for them, we’ll need a massive outpouring of concern from citizens to their lawmakers. If they are delisted, we can expect more than 500 of the 5,000 wolves in the lower 48 to be shot, trapped, snared, and even chased by packs of hounds this coming fall and winter.

Please call your U.S. representative and U.S. senators and urge them to oppose any delisting bills or amendments or riders in Congress because they subvert judicial review and fly in the face of science that shows wolves are not adequately recovered to remove protections and turn management over to states that have pledged to immediately begin killing them again.

Your comments on the grizzly bear delisting proposal have enormously influenced decision makers, and now it’s time to speak up loudly and in overwhelming numbers for the wolves.

The entire blog is here.

 

Botulism suspected in deaths of birds along Lake Michigan

Officials say botulism is suspected in the deaths of hundreds of birds recently along Lake Michigan.

Dan Ray, botulism monitoring project lead for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, counted a large number of dead birds last week.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle reports he joined a team of volunteers over the weekend in burying 250 birds at Michigan’s Good Harbor Bay Beach.

Ray says the birds “almost certainly” died of type E botulism. He expects to see more dead birds on Lake Michigan’s shoreline through November.

Typically, type E botulism occurs in fish-eating birds in the open waters of the Great Lakes.

The nonprofit conservation group Common Coast says the bird deaths extended at least 10 miles up the Leelanau Peninsula and past Leland, Michigan.

On the Web

http://www.nps.gov/slbe/learn/nature/sick-birds.htm

Surfrider-Milwaukee celebrates ‘Great Lake’ with art show

As part of its 30 days to Celebrate Our Great Lake event, Surfrider-Milwaukee presents Contained in Water, a mixed media art exhibition at Colectivo Coffee in Shorewood.

An opening reception is 8-11 p.m. July 22 at Colectivo Coffee, 4500 N. Oakland Ave., Shorewood.  The show runs through Aug. 28.

Curated by surfer and psychologist Kenneth Cole and environmental artist Melanie Ariens, Contained in Water reflects a love of the Great Lakes.

The show features tiki artwork by Dave Hansen, prints by Tamir Klein, sculptural video projection by Adam Kuhnen, paintings by Jarka Sobiskova, canvas prints by Bodin Sterba and photographs by Ryan Bigelow and Terri Hart-Ellis, as well as work from the show’s curators.

In addition to Contained in Water, Surfrider-Milwaukee’s 30 days to Celebrate Our Great Lake includes:

• A beach cleanup at Bradford Beach, July 30, 9-11 a.m.

• Surfcraft & Draft at Draft and Vessel in Shorewood, Aug. 6, 6-10 p.m.

• Surf @Water, Atwater Beach, Shorewood, August 20, 6 a.m.-10 p.m.. This event celebrates surf, sun and fun with a sunrise paddle, beach yoga, SUP and surf lessons and a surf film festival under the stars.

Surfrider-Milwaukee‘s mission is “to celebrate, protect, and educate the community about our Great Lake, Lake Michigan.” Local surfers Eric Gietzen, Ken Cole, Bodin Sterba, Hans Good and Ryan Bigelow lead the group.

Since 1984, Surfrider Foundation International has been working to protect waters across the globe.

Terri Hart Ellis, Feather, photograph. — IMAGE: Surfrider-Milwaukee
Terri Hart-Ellis, Feather, photograph. — IMAGE: Surfrider-Milwaukee
Jaroslawa Sobiskova, Luchador #1, mixed-media. — IMAGE: Surfrider-Milwaukee
Jarka Sobiskova, Luchador #1, mixed-media. — IMAGE: Surfrider-Milwaukee
Bodin Sterba, Surf@Water, digital print. — IMAGE: Surfrider-Milwaukee
Bodin Sterba, Surf@Water, digital print. — IMAGE: Surfrider-Milwaukee

Great Lakes states OK diversion of Lake Michigan water

A panel of governors on a Great Lakes regional council on June 21 has approved a request from Waukesha to divert water from Lake Michigan.

A Great Lakes compact prohibits most diversions of water outside the watershed boundaries, but allows for communities such as Waukesha, which straddles a border, to request an exemption.

Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly, in a press statement, thanked the Great Lakes governors and their representatives. “Today’s vote is an enormous accomplishment for the people of Waukesha, after more than a decade of work,” he said. “The regional commitment to implementing the requirements of the Great Lakes Compact is also a victory for protecting this tremendous resource.

“The same states and provinces that authored the compact and who adopted laws to implement it, have determined that the Waukesha application meets the compact’s standards for borrowing Great Lakes water. We greatly appreciate the good faith they showed in focusing on the facts and science of our application.”

The city’s request was challenged by a number of environmental groups that said Waukesha has other alternatives and options to address problems with its drinking water.

“There are a lot of emotions and politics surrounding this issue but voting yes — in cooperation with our Great Lakes neighbors — is the best way to conserve one of our greatest natural resources,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said, according to the AP. “Mandating strict conditions for withdrawing and returning the water sets a strong precedent for protecting the Great Lakes.”

Waukesha had received an endorsement of its request last month from a panel for eight Great Lakes states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — and also the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

The endorsement came with conditions, including the requirement that Waukesha reduce the volume of water it would withdraw from 10.1 million gallons a day to 8.2 million gallons and a day. The city also must reduce the area to get the Lake Michigan water.

The Wisconsin Compact Implementation Coalition, consisting of environmental organizations in the state, issued a statement on June 21 expressing appreciation for the serious review given the application.

“We especially appreciate how the regional body and compact council heeded the concern, echoed by tens of thousands of Great Lakes residents, that Waukesha’s inclusion of neighboring communities in its original application did not meet the requirements of the Great Lakes Compact. We have no doubt that the extent of public engagement across the Great Lakes states, together with the advocacy efforts of our regional environmental partners, contributed to improvements in the diversion proposal ultimately approved by the compact council.”

The coalition, however, expressed continued concern that the council “did not fully resolve other flaws in Waukesha’s proposal to ensure that this precedent-setting application meets all of the rigorous requirements laid out in the Great Lakes Compact. We continue to believe the compact council should have denied Waukesha’s proposal to divert Great Lakes water until the remaining areas of non-compliance were remedied.”

The coalition — Clean Wisconsin, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Waukesha County Environmental Action League, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and also attorney Peter McAvoy’s firm — continued, “While we acknowledge that Waukesha must address the radium in its drinking water, we maintain Waukesha can safely meet its community’s drinking water needs now and well into the future without a diversion from the Great Lakes. In fact, in light of the conditions approved today that rightly reduce the area served and the amount of water originally requested by Waukesha, the evidence that Waukesha has a reasonable water supply alternative is even stronger. Regrettably, the Compact Council also has chosen to leave unaddressed a number of other concerns voiced by our coalition and citizens across the Great Lakes basin, including lack of a sufficient monitoring plan for return flow through the Root River, no reduction in the maximum amount of water Waukesha can draw from the Great Lakes from 16.7 million gallons per day, and failure to require a new needs analysis with the reduced diversion area.”

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.

On the Web

Details on the application.

Watershed campaign: Milwaukeeans unite behind water initiative

For some Milwaukeeans, summer begins with a dance in the Summerfest water fountain during PrideFest.

For others, it begins with a starry night paddle on the Milwaukee River or the first beach day.

Water puts the sparkle in Milwaukee’s summers and helps define the city’s identity.

“I live to be on the water,” says Bobby Lagerstrom, an avid kayaker and competitive swimmer. “That’s what brought me here. Milwaukee is a great water town.”

In mid-May, Milwaukee Water Commons, a project of the Milwaukee Environmental Consortium, brought several hundred people together at the Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery for the Confluence Gathering. The event was the culmination of a two-year process involving 1,300 people and more than 30 groups interested in shaping a vision to make Milwaukee a model water city.

“It was a very robust conversation,” said Milwaukee Water Commons executive director Ann Brummitt. “We talked to people about water — what matters, what are the issues, what are the concerns. And then we really asked people about a vision going forward.”

Milwaukee Water Commons’ slogan is “Together, we’re shaping Milwaukee’s water future.” The nonprofit abides by these principles: Water is an essential element for all life on Earth. Water belongs to no one and cannot be owned. People have a responsibility to protect and preserve clean fresh water. Decisions about the care and use of water must involve everyone. And the Great Lakes are a gift, having “nurtured our ancestors and shaped us as a people and as a community. They continue to sustain us.”

The group operates a water school that collaborates with other organizations on specific programs and cultivating neighborhood leadership. MWC also conducts town hall-style meetings and workshops and works with local artists.

The Confluence Gathering provided the opportunity to launch six water initiatives under the “Water City Agenda.” The vision is for Milwaukee to:

• Be a national leader in “blue-green” jobs. Work is underway to promote the blue-green economy in the city, but the scale needs to grow, according to Brummitt, who previously directed the Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition and worked as a school teacher.

• Make safe, clean and affordable tap water available to every Milwaukeean. A chief concern in Milwaukee, as it is nationally, is aging pipes. “While our tap water that comes out of Milwaukee Water Works is very good, by the time it gets to your kitchen faucet there’s a chance of lead,” Brummitt said.

• Advance green infrastructure practices across the city. “There’s a lot of really good energy going into this goal already,” according to Brummitt, who said elements in new developments might include rain gardens and green roofs, bioswales and curb cuts.

• Make Milwaukee’s three rivers and Lake Michigan swimmable and fishable.

• Offer every Milwaukeean meaningful water experiences. Brummitt made this observation: For all the sailing, kayaking, swimming, fishing and strolling that takes place in Milwaukee, there are children in the city who’ve never been to one of the rivers.

• Celebrate local waters in arts and culture.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” said Brummitt. “As strong as our water culture is, we’re still losing ground. We can’t keep pace with the environmental degradation. So that’s where we felt there was room to bring in more people and more perspective. Everybody has something to say about the future of water in Milwaukee.”

In the coming months, think tanks will be established to tackle each initiative and, Aug. 7, an annual H20 happening — We Are Water — will be held at Bradford Beach on the Lake Michigan shore.

Institutional partners in carrying out the Water City Agenda include the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District.

“The science is there, the tools are available and our water policy researchers are ready to help turn these transformative ideas into reality,” Jenny Kehl, director of the Center for Water Policy at UW-M, said in a news statement.

Nonprofit partners in the campaign include leading environmental groups, as well as community and neighborhood organizations such as Alice’s Garden, a nonprofit in the Johnsons Park neighborhood.

“The work Milwaukee Water Commons has taken on is some of the most important work this city will do,” said Venice Williams, director of Alice’s Garden. “It is about preserving the dignity of the ancestral waters of Lake Michigan. It is also about helping every human being who quenches their thirst, bathes their body, rinses their clothes, mops their floors, enjoys their cup of tea to understand one cannot exist without water.”

A sister project, with a regional focus, is the Great Lakes Commons, and organizers in other Great Lakes cities, specifically Toronto and Cleveland, are at work employing the “commons” concept.

“When we started this work, we started to look and see if there was a model for this kind of thing,” said Brummitt. “But there just isn’t a well established framework for a water city. This is our foray into creating that. It will be developed. That’s coming. We’re shaping the agenda in Milwaukee.”

Become a commoner

For more information or to get involved with Milwaukee Water Commons, visit milwaukeewatercommons.org.

Save the date

On Aug. 7, Milwaukee Water Commons will present We Are Water 2016, a communitywide celebration at the north end of Bradford Beach. The event will feature song and dance, artwork and spoken word, and the creation of a large, illuminated image of the Great Lakes in the sand.

In related news …

Carpenter raises concerns for pipeline spills

Wisconsin Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, asked U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson to join with U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan to make sure the Department of Transportation classifies underwater pipelines in and around the Great Lakes as “offshore” facilities.

Why? Carpenter said under federal law cleanup for “onshore” facilities is capped at $634 million but “offshore” facilities must have resources to cover all costs.

If there were a spill in the water from the pipeline that’s transporting 23 million gallons of crude oil and liquid gas daily, the cleanup could be $1 billion. The pipeline crosses the Straits of Mackinac, connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

“Our incentives should be to protect the waters and avoid economic catastrophe of spills,” Carpenter said.

WiG

Great Lakes group moves Waukesha water request forward

Representatives of Great Lakes states and provinces have given preliminary approval to a precedent-setting request by Waukesha to draw water from Lake Michigan.

The regional group agreed the water diversion application by Waukesha complies with a Great Lakes protection compact if certain conditions are met, including an average limit of 8.2 million gallons a day — 20 percent less than the original request.

The group includes eight states and two Canadian provinces. Minnesota abstained from voting during a conference call earlier this spring.

Governors of the eight states, or their representatives, will meet in Chicago later this month to consider the conditional approval and vote on Waukesha’s request, which has drawn substantial opposition from environmental groups.

AP

 

 

Public record: majority opposes Waukesha quest to divert water

More than 99 percent of those who registered comments in a regional review explicitly opposed or expressed concern over Waukesha’s request to divert Great Lakes water.

More than 11,200 public comments were submitted to the Regional Body and Compact Council on the issue and many opposed the proposal, according to a review of the comments completed by a coalition of environmental groups — the Compact Implementation Coalition consists of River Alliance of Wisconsin, National Wildlife Federation, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Midwest Environmental Advocates and Clean Wisconsin.

The coalition said of the 315 tribes, First Nations, governments, elected leaders, organizations and associations that submitted or signed on to comments regarding Waukesha’s application, 256 explicitly opposed, expressed concern or had unanswered questions about the city of Waukesha’s application.

Also, in six of the eight Great Lakes states and both Canadian provinces, not a single tribe, First Nation, government, elected leader, organization or association submitted or signed on to a comment explicitly supporting Waukesha’s application.

“Anyone paying attention to the polarized nature of today’s political climate knows this level of agreement across political divides and international boundaries is nothing short of astounding,” said Jodi Habush Sinykin of Midwest Environmental Advocates. “The extent of public concern and outcry shown, speaks to how important this first-of-its-kind regional decision will be seen by citizens throughout the Great Lakes region.”

Waukesha, located about 17 miles west of Lake Michigan, wants to divert water from Lake Michigan. To do so, the Milwaukee suburb needs an exception from the Great Lakes compact and agreement that restrict diversions outside the Great Lakes Basin. The city lies outside the Great Lakes basin but is in a county that straddles the basin.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources completed its review of the city’s application earlier this year and sent the issue on to the Great Lakes states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec for consideration.

A regional public comment period on the application review closed in mid-March.

Next the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin Regional Body and Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin Compact Council — composed of the eight Great Lakes governors and two Canadian premiers — will meet to reach a decision on the application.

The meeting is expected in April. The eight Great Lakes governors are allowed to vote. The council could approve, deny or approve with conditions the application. Only one “no” vote is required to deny the application.

“The public has definitely spoken on this topic, and we feel strongly those voices need to be heard,” said Jennifer Bolger Breceda of Milwaukee Riverkeeper. “We hope this outpouring signals to the Regional Body and Compact Council that they need to take these many, many concerns into consideration while reviewing this flawed proposal and deny Waukesha’s diversion request.”

On the Web

For more information about the application, visit www.protectourgreatlakes.org and http://www.waukeshadiversion.org.

‘Eco’ impact of invasives on Great Lakes underestimated

New research from Wisconsin suggests the negative economic and ecological impacts of invasives in the Great Lakes is dramatically underestimated.

The study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found just one non-native species in one inland lake triggered $80 million to $163 million in damages.

“Our study indicates that previous attempts to put a price tag on invasive species impacts haven’t come close to the true cost,” says Jake Walsh of the UW Center for Limnology and the lead author on the report recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

He says the study also might inform the conversation about costs and benefits of the Great Lakes shipping industry. For decades, oceangoing ships have brought tons of cargo and pumped tens of millions of dollars into the Great Lakes economy each year. But the man-made connection between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean has brought in more than 180 non-native species.

Most studies, Walsh says, have focused only on invasive species that live in the five Great Lakes and looked at direct costs of managing them — like the $20 million spent each year to poison invasive sea lamprey.

Walsh and his colleagues examined “secondary invasions” — places where invasive species have moved since their introduction to the Great Lakes.

For example, the researchers observed that since at least 2009, Madison’s Lake Mendota has been invaded by a voracious zooplankton — the spiny water flea — from Russian lakes. The invader made its way to the Great Lakes in the ballast water of oceangoing cargo ships, moved inland in boats or bait buckets and now feasts on a vital native species of zooplankton, Daphnia pulicaria.

Daphnia would eat huge amounts of algae, creating clear water. Now, however, the spiny water flea is consuming the lake’s daphnia before the daphnia can consume the algae.

Since the spiny water flea's invasion, water quality in Lake Mendota has plummeted and algal blooms are on the rise. — Photo: Steve Carpenter
Since the spiny water flea’s invasion, water quality in Lake Mendota has plummeted and algal blooms are on the rise. — Photo: Steve Carpenter

Acting against invasive species

An AmeriCorps team is working with the River Revitalization Foundation through April 22 to remove invasive species from along the Milwaukee River.

An AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps team of nine people, dispatched from the North Central Region campus in Vinton, Iowa, is helping the RRF clear Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard, reed canary grass and common buckthorn in three locations along the river.

The crew is using herbicide, chainsaws, handsaws, loppers, wood chippers and brushcutters.

“I am very excited to be serving with the River Revitalization Foundation,” said AmeriCorps member Patricia Peacock of Henrietta, Texas. “It is a great organization. I love learning interesting things about invasive species.”

Interested in environmental activities? Throughout April, WiG will announce Earth Day events and other environmental events at wisconsingazette.com.

Activists fight to protect wolves from hunts

The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to strip wolves of federal protections in Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The 242–161 vote was on amending a hunting bill, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act. 

“This vote by the U.S. House of Representatives is a crack at the very foundation of the Endangered Species Act, a law that has a 99 percent success rate at pulling species back from the brink of extinction,” said Drew Caputo of the environmental group Earthjustice. “Ninety percent of Americans from across the political spectrum support the act. If we continue down this slippery slope, we could end up in a world where our children or grandchildren might never again see a bald eagle, or a breaching whale, or hear the cry of a wolf in the wild.”

Amendment sponsors include U.S. Reps. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Dan Benishek of Michigan, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota.

Their measure, which the House voted for in late February, would override the federal court rulings that state management plans do not sufficiently protect wolves and return species management to states. This could again allow for the trophy hunting of Great Lakes wolves and the killing of wolves in most of Wyoming, where a management plan would provided for shooting wolves on site.

The amendment also contains a clause precluding further judicial review of the removal of federal protections in Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“If enacted, this legislation could prove devastating for the recovery of wolves in the continental United States,” said Caputo. “What’s at stake here is whether wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes will again face the same unregulated killing that nearly wiped them out in the first place.”

The House vote came less than two months after Congress rejected a rider to an omnibus spending bill that would have removed Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the Great Lakes and Wyoming.

A similar push is on in the U.S. Senate. In January, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works added a provision to the Sportsmen’s Act to subvert the judicial process and delist wolves. Currently, gray wolves in Minnesota are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and as “endangered” for Wyoming, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Both the House and Senate measures would order the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reissue a rule to delist the gray wolf. The rule was first issued in late 2011 and cleared the way for states to manage wolf populations, which quickly led to the slaughter of wolves.

Hunting wolves

Wisconsin legislators legalized the use of firearms and crossbows to kill wolves. The state also legalized the baiting, trapping and hounding of wolves.

“In Wisconsin, wolves are killed in some of the most brutal ways,” said Wendy Keefover, manager of The Humane Society of the United State’s native carnivore protection program. “Wisconsin is the only state where you can hound wolves. You can bait wolves. You can use neck snares to trap a wolf. …Wisconsin has some of the most egregious ways to kill.”

Different numbers can be found for the wolf hunts held in 2012–13, 2013–14 and 2014–15 in Wisconsin.

Data from HSUS shows:

  • 2012–13: The 2012 winter wolf count was 779–804 in 205 packs. The proposed hunting quota was 201 wolves. The DNR reported the killing of 117 wolves: 56 hunted and 61 trapped.
  • 2013–14: The wolf population was 660–689 in 197 packs. During that “season,” 17 wolf packs disappeared and the population declined by 19 percent. The HSUS said 65 wolves were killed for livestock depredation, 21 died in vehicle collisions, 59 were killed illegally, and hunters and trappers killed 257 wolves. Some 16,672 applications were filed and 1,879 permits were sold for the trophy hunt.
  • 2014–15: The state issued 1,500 permits to hunters and trappers and set a hunt quota of 156 wolves, prompting an appeal from The HSUS, which said the pace of trophy hunting, along with poaching, would cause a population crash. The HSUS estimated the total number of wolves killed was 301. Less than a week into the hunt, the DNR closed four of the six zones, with half the zones exceeding quotas.

“There was such a rush to hunt,” said Melissa Tedrowe, Wisconsin state director for The HSUS.

“After delisting, the only management tool offered by our state or the other states was to kill wolves,” said environmental activist Kelly Powell of Madison. “That isn’t a management plan. That’s slaughter. That isn’t the way to deal with a recovering species.”

The official wolf hunting season in Wisconsin ended in early December 2014.

That month, a federal judge overturned the delisting of the Great Lakes wolves, putting permitted hunts on hold.

Benishek, in a statement, said the delisting amendment “was based on valuable input from both Michigan and federal officials in order to use sound science to responsibly manage the wolf population while also meeting the needs of local communities. As the number of wolves has increased well beyond the recommended number for recovery, there has been a negative impact on other species and a constant threat to livestock and pets.”

The delisting measure has the support of Safari Club International, a hunting group, and the National Rifle Association, the largest gun ownership group in the United States.

On the opposing side, Earthjustice, the Center for Biological Diversity and The Humane Society of the United States, along with many state and local organizations, maintain the congressional push to delist wolves does not involve sound science or responsible management, nor does it have widespread public support.

“I just really want to emphasize that the American public and the majority of Wisconsinites value and appreciate wolves as they icon that they are,” said Keefover.

She and Tedrowe said the drive to delist is based on myths about wolves as predators and ignores the role of large carnivores in the ecosystem.

A year ago, a coalition of animal protection and conservation organizations suggested reclassifying the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act as threatened throughout the contiguous United States. That move would continue federal oversight and funding for species recovery efforts but provide some regulatory flexibility to address wolf conflicts.

“A congressional end run around science and the Endangered Species Act will create more controversy and put wolves and the law itself in jeopardy,” Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said at the time. “The better path is to downlist wolves to threatened, replace the failed piecemeal efforts of the past with a new science-based recovery strategy and bring communities together to determine how wolves will be returned to and managed in places where they once lived.”

The proposal pending in the Senate and the measure that passed the House does not take that approach. Another version of the Senate bill lacks the delisting amendment, and others opposed by animal welfare advocates and environmentalists.

Activists also have grave concerns that lawmakers may attach riders to budget bills providing for the delisting of gray wolves in the Great Lakes and Wyoming.

Recommended reading …

Wyoming’s dire plans for the wolves by Tim Preso of EarthJustice.