Tag Archives: resources

Immigration law center flooded with requests for help

The Community Immigration Law Center of Madison reports it has never been busier in responding to immigrants trying to understand the ever-changing immigration legal landscape in the U.S.

“Fear is at an all-time high as everyone from legal scholars to working families try to decipher announced or implied changes in immigration law,” said Grant Sovern, an immigration attorney who volunteers at CILC’s immigration clinic and also chairs the group’s board. “People are scared and lives hang in the balance.”

Sovern said the resources are stretched to the limit as the center attempts to meet an increasing need for consultations and future representation of immigrants, particularly in light of recent news reports that outline presidential orders expanding deportation powers of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

But Sovern stressed that the center at Christ Presbyterian Church, 944 East Gorham, Madison, is responding to the community needs.

The service has helped more than 2,000 people from 130 countries.

“Increased ICE actions have made our services more important than ever,” said Sovern.

Clinic services currently include:

  •   Training and education on immigration law and immigrants’ rights
  •   Guidance on steps to resolve immigration issues
  •   Referrals to immigration experts and other community resources
  •   Training for volunteer lawyers, interpreters and intake workers.

170 conservation groups urge Senate to reject Zinke for Interior Secretary

Some 170 conservation groups are calling on the U.S. Senate to reject Rep. Ryan Zinke as the next interior secretary.

Senators will vote in the coming weeks on whether to place Zinke in charge of the nation’s more than 1,500 endangered species, as well as more than 500 million acres of public lands and minerals leasing for oil, gas and coal across the country and in waters.

A letter signed by the groups says Zinke earned just a 3 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters during his two years in Congress.

At his Jan. 17 nomination hearing, he offered no indication he would manage the Department of the Interior differently from what his congressional voting record indicates: that he consistently put special interests ahead of the nation’s wildlife, natural heritage and climate.

“Zinke’s voting record qualifies him to be an exterminator, not the chief protector of America’s endangered animals and beautiful public lands,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, one group that signed the letter.

As interior secretary, Zinke would oversee the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one of two federal agencies responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act.

In Congress Zinke cast 21 votes against endangered species protections. He even opposed a crackdown on black-market ivory from poached African elephants.

At his confirmation hearing, Zinke endorsed increased fossil fuel extraction on public lands despite the fact that existing oil, gas and coal leases on public lands already account for a significant portion of the U.S.’s carbon pollution.

Additional reserves on public lands contain an estimated 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution, which if fully tapped would dangerously tip the scales toward an unlivable planet for future generations.

“Forty percent of America’s coal and 21 percent of our oil are produced on federal land under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of the Interior. To address climate change, protect our environment, and prevent another BP-type oil catastrophe, we need an interior secretary who understands the science of climate change and will stand up to Big Coal and Big Oil. Zinke’s confirmation hearing made clear that he is the wrong man for this important job, and the Senate should not confirm him,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

“Donald Trump has turned our foreign policy over to Big Oil and now he wants to hand them our public lands as well,” said Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica. “A movement formed to keep fossil fuels in the ground and that movement will resist Trump and his polluting agenda.”

 

Resist and Defend: Links and other resources for activists

Guides

> Indivisible Guide for effectively lobbying lawmakers — at the congressional level and the local level.

News

> Democracy Now independent global news.

National groups

> American Civil Liberties Union.

> Planned Parenthood national.

> Council on American Islamic Relations.

> Indivisible Front Range Resistance.

> Human Rights Campaign.

> End Citizens United, fighting for reform.

> American Federation of Teachers.

> NextGen Climate.

> MoveOn.org.

> StudentDebtCrisis.org.

> Win Without War.

> Media Matters for America.

> NAACP.

> United We Dream.

> AFL-CIO.

> Organic Consumers Association.

> 350.org.

> Sierra Club.

> National Audubon Society.

Wisconsin

> ACLU of Wisconsin.

> Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

> Voces de la Frontera.

> Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

> Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.

> Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.

Campaigns, movement work

> State Sen. Chris Larson’s ResistHateWi.com petition.

> Women’s March on Washington.

> Movement to Oppose Trump Mailing List.

> United State of Women.

Blogs

> Robert Reich blog posts.

Other resources

> Countable, your government made simple.

Have a recommendation for this page? Please email lmneff@wisconsingazette.com with the details.

National Parks Service lifts restrictions on naming rights, clears way for commercialism

After months of reviewing public comments, the National Park Service announced director Jonathan Jarvis signed and finalized “Director’s Order #21,” a policy allowing federal parks to seek donations from corporate vendors, allowing the parks service to partner with alcohol companies, dropping the policy that parks must be free of commercialism and lifting restrictions on naming rights in parks.

This is a statement from Kristen Strader, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert Program:

It is disgraceful that the parks service plans to sell our national parks to the highest bidder despite overwhelming public opposition to increased commercialism in our national parks. More than 215,000 petition signers and hundreds of commenters opposed this policy.

Now that this policy has been finalized, park visitors soon could be greeted with various forms of advertisements, like a sign reading “brought to you by McDonald’s” within a new visitor’s center at Yosemite, or “Budweiser” in script on a park bench at Acadia.

The NPS did make one right move by removing a provision from the policy that would have allowed corporate logos to be placed on exhibits and waysides.

In a society where we are constantly inundated with advertisements everywhere we go, national parks offered a unique and beautiful escape. Even in schools, students endure a constant barrage of billboards, social media advertising and marketing. Until now, national parks have remained relatively commercial-free, which is why they were such a valuable respite.

The finalization of Director’s Order #21 signals a dangerous shift toward opening our parks up to an unprecedented amount of commercial influence.

Shielded Native American sites thrust into debate over dams

A little-known federal program that avoids publicizing its accomplishments to protect from looters the thousands of Native American sites it’s tasked with managing has been caught up in a big net.

The Federal Columbia River System Cultural Resources Program tracks some 4,000 historical sites that also include homesteads and missions in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Now it’s contributing information as authorities prepare a court-ordered environmental impact statement concerning struggling salmon and the operation of 14 federal dams in the Columbia River Basin.

A federal judge urged officials to consider breaching four of those dams on the Snake River.

“Because of the scale of the EIS, there’s no practical way for us, even if we wanted to, to provide a map of each and every site that we consider,” said Sean Hess, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Pacific Northwest Region archaeologist. “There are some important sites out there that we don’t talk about a lot because of concerns about what would happen because of vandalism.”

Fish survival, hydropower, irrigation and navigation get the most attention and will be components in the environmental review due out in 2021. But at more than a dozen public meetings in the four states to collect feedback, the cultural resources program has equal billing. Comments are being accepted through Jan. 17.

The review process is being conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, an umbrella law that covers the well-known Endangered Species Act. Thirteen species of salmon and steelhead on the Columbia and Snake rivers have been listed as federally protected species over the past 25 years.

But NEPA also requires equal weight be given to other laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act, which is where the cultural resources program comes in. Among the 4,000 sites are fishing and hunting processing areas, ancestral village areas and tribal corridors.

“People were very mobile, prehistorically,” said Kristen Martine, Cultural Recourse Program manager for the Bonneville Power Administration.

Some of the most notable sites with human activity date back thousands of years and are underwater behind dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Celilo Falls, a dipnet fishery for thousands of years, is behind The Dalles Dam on the Columbia River. Marmes Rockshelter was occupied 10,000 years ago but now is underwater behind Lower Monumental Dam on the Snake River.

“If we’re breaching dams, it would definitely change how we manage resources,” said Gail Celmer, an archaeologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon ordered the environmental review in May after finding that a massive habitat restoration effort to offset the damage that dams in the Columbia River Basin pose to Northwest salmon runs was failing.

Salmon and steelhead runs are a fraction of what they were before modern settlement. Of the salmon and steelhead that now return to spawn each year, experts say, about 70 to 90 percent originate in hatcheries.

Those opposed to breaching the Snake River dams to restore salmon runs say the dams are an important part of the regional economy, providing irrigation, hydropower and shipping benefits.

Meanwhile, several tribes said they are better able to take part in the review process than they once were.

“Tribes have not had much opportunity to participate in these things because they didn’t have professional staff or trained people,” said Guy Moura of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington state, noting the tribe employed four people in its cultural resources program in 1992 but now has 38. “With growth in size, there also came the evolution of what was being done.”

The tribe at one time had a large fishery at Kettle Falls, on the upper part of the Columbia River, but it was inundated in the 1940s behind Grand Coulee Dam. Dams farther downstream on the Columbia prevent salmon from reaching the area.

Also among the 4,000 historical sites is Bonneville Dam, one of 14 dams involved in the environmental impact statement. Bonneville Dam is the lowest dam in the system at about 145 miles from the mouth of the Columbia River. It started operating in the 1930s and became a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Cities struggle as big box retailers fight to minimize tax assessments

Some big-box retailers in Wisconsin have successfully challenged their tax assessments by claiming they should pay the same rate as a store that’s closed and remains vacant.

Critics say that “dark store” legal loophole could cause municipalities to raise residential taxes to make up the difference.

The legal tactic is relatively new and has some cities struggling to keep up, according to Rocco Vita, chairman of the Wisconsin Association of Assessing Officers’ Legislative Committee.

“The stores have this very polished and professional legal team that peddles a product — property tax mitigation strategies,” Vita said. “All of a sudden, this strategy is gaining power in the Midwest. It has taken people by surprise.”

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue requires property tax assessors to account for the fair market value of a property. That includes both the value of the building and its location.

Retailers have successfully argued in court that there should be no tax difference between their thriving businesses and the vacant retailers down the block, Vita said.

In one case, Menards argued in a lawsuit filed in July that the value of its store in Fond du Lac assessed by the city at $9.2 million should be no more than $5.2 million. A similar lawsuit from Target argues that Fond du Lac should reduce its taxes on the retailer by about a third, according to USA Today Network-Wisconsin.

In another case, Oshkosh was ordered to pay Walgreens nearly $306,000 in overcharged taxes, plus court fees and interest. Last summer, two similar lawsuits surfaced from Menards and Lowe’s.

Oshkosh City Attorney Lynn Lorenson said municipalities are worried that as retailers win these lawsuits, more stores will follow. The limits of the loophole are unclear, she said.

“If one type of business or one type of property gets more favorable treatment, then everybody is going to be looking at that,” Lorenson said. “They’ll say, ‘If Walgreens had success, maybe we can use a similar argument.””

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities has helped draft legislation to plug the loophole, according to Curt Witynski, the league’s assistant director. The league hopes lawmakers will introduce in January.

Canadian prime minister makes pipeline decisions

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has approved one controversial pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast, but rejected another.

He approved Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline to the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, British Columbia , but rejected Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, B.C.

These are the first major pipeline decisions for Trudeau, whose Liberal government is trying to balance the oil industry’s desire to tap new markets in Asia with environmentalists’ concerns.

“The project will triple our capacity to get Canadian energy resources to international markets beyond the United States,” Trudeau said at an Ottawa news conference. “We took this decision today because we believe it is in the best interests of Canada.”

Alberta, which has the world’s third largest oil reserves, needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production. Approving Trans Mountain helps diversify Canada’s oil exports. Ninety-seven percent of Canadian oil exports now go to the U.S.

“We are getting a chance to sell to China and other new markets at better prices,” Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said. “And we’re getting a chance to reduce our dependence on one market and therefore be more economically independent.”

Houston-based Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to Vancouver Harbour in Burnaby will increase the capacity of an existing pipeline from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.

But there remains opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline in British Columbia, the birthplace of the Greenpeace environmental movement. There is no guarantee it will get built despite Trudeau’s approval as it faces strong opposition from environmentalists and indigenous leaders. Vancouver, B.C. Mayor Gregor Robertson said he was profoundly disappointed by Trudeau’s decision and said it would bring seven times the number of oil tankers to Vancouver’s waters.

Interim federal opposition Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said she supports the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, but doubts it will be built because of the opposition.

Trudeau rejected the Northern Gateway project to northwest British Columbia which passes through the Great Bear Rainforest. Northern Gateway would have transported 525,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific to deliver oil to Asia, mainly energy-hungry China.

About 220 large oil tankers a year would have visited the Pacific coast town of Kitimat. The fear of oil spills is especially acute in the pristine corner of northwest British Columbia, with its snowcapped mountains and deep ocean inlets. Canadians living there still remember the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off an Alaska export hub. 1989.

Trudeau also promised to introduce legislation for a moratorium on crude oil tanker shipping on B.C.’s north coast.

“The Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline and the Douglas Channel is no place for oil tanker traffic,” Trudeau said.

Northern Gateway was approved by the previous Conservative government but a federal appeals court blocked it, ruling that aboriginal communities had not been adequately consulted. That put the decision on Northern Gateway in Trudeau’s hands.

Trudeau also approved an Enbridge pipeline replacement called Line 3 that will carry oil from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest. That pipeline will carry oil from Alberta, through northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin. The Line 3 project would nearly double the existing pipeline’s volume to 760,000 barrels a day.

Notley said Trans Mountain and Line 3 are critical to the oil-rich province’s economic future.

The importance of Trudeau’s decisions on pipelines only grew after the Obama administration turned down TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline that would have taken Alberta oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast. President-elect Donald Trump has expressed support for Keystone XL.

Trudeau noted that more oil would end up being transported by rail if more pipelines are not built. There have been a number of accidents involving oil trains during the past decade in the U.S. and Canada. The worst occurred in 2013 when a runaway train derailed and set off fires that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

 

Morning news: Thick crowds of sunrise watchers pose risk at national park

The National Park Service wants to manage safety and resource protection concerns as growing crowds of people compete for space to watch the sunrise at Hawaii’s Haleakala summit.

Private or rental vehicles have exceeded available parking 98 percent of the time this year, up from 83 percent in 2014 and 94 percent last year, the Maui News reported.

Some people are parking and walking where they shouldn’t, a Haleakala National Park official said. Visitor safety is also a concern as people venture out to find a better view.

“People want to get away from the crowds, so they go off trail into endangered species habitat, which is also where many sensitive cultural resources are,” said Polly Angelakis, the park’s chief of interpretation and education. “Or they move out on to cliff faces or crumbling volcanic rocks, which are very dangerous.”

The sunrise can draw as many as 850 people in one morning, with a daily average of 600.

“These resources can be damaged both by vehicles and off-road travel by visitors,” Angelakis said.

No plan has been drafted to manage the noncommercial crowds.

Two meetings have been held to solicit public comment on ways to manage crowds, visitor enjoyment as well as the protection of natural resources.

People can submit comments by June 6 via the online Planning, Environment and Public Comment System.

Park officials plan to use the comments as they develop a potential plan.

We have hope | Letters to the future: The Paris Climate Project

Dear Earth,

We do not know how you will look in the next 50 or 100 years … but our world leaders will have a hand in determining that in Paris next month.

But we do know how you have changed. … The burning of fossil fuels has changed your landscape. It’s made your air more difficult to breathe, impacted your waters and endangered plants and wildlife. It has affected people of all ages, families and homes, cities and states. It has affected economies, whole industries.

Despite this, we have hope for you. … At Clean Wisconsin, we know the Clean Power Plan can be a win for Wisconsin, reducing health costs and slashing dangerous emissions. The plan presents a tremendous opportunity to lower electricity bills while creating good-paying jobs, developing clean sources of energy such as solar and wind power and making our homes and businesses more energy efficient.

For your future, Earth, we need to stop sending $12 billion out of Wisconsin to import dirty coal and other fossil fuels each year. Instead, we must seize the opportunity to lead the nation in innovation, job creation and health protections by developing a strong implementation plan immediately.

We want to remember 2015 as the year our world leaders — and state leaders — listened.

Editor’s note: World leaders convene in Paris soon for the critical U.N. climate talks. In fact, December of 2015 may be humanity’s last chance to address the crisis of our time.

Will the nations of the world finally pass a global treaty aimed at reducing the most dangerous impacts of global warming … or will we fail at this most crucial task?

Here and on letterstothefuture.org, find letters from authors, artists, scientists and others, written to future generations of their own families, predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks and what came after. Read these letters and write one of your own. The letters will be sent to targeted delegates and citizens convening at the Paris talks.

DNR delays decision on sale of lakefront land to Walker donor

The Department of Natural Resources’ board has put off deciding whether to sell a parcel of state-owned lakefront property to one of Gov. Scott Walker’s major donors.

The agency wants to sell 1.75 acres along the Rest Lake shoreline to Elizabeth Uihlein for $275,000. 

Uihlein and her husband, Richard, have donated nearly $3 million to Walker’s presidential super PAC, Unintimidated PAC, and Our American Revival, Walker’s now-defunct political committee. She owns a condominium complex adjacent to the property but it lacks lake access.

The Natural Resources Board voted unanimously during a meeting in Bowler this week to consider the sale as part of a larger plan to sell multiple parcels.

The DNR expects to finalize that plan and bring to the board by early next year.