Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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State environmental programs in jeopardy

Recent budget cuts have forced lawmakers to reduce funding to several environmental land and conservation programs, a move that has spurred criticism from environmentalists.

After debating amendments over the weekend, the state Assembly voted 58-41 Thursday to cut the Stewardship Fund by 50 percent, decreasing the program’s annual budget from $60 million to $35 million.

Since its 1990 inception, the Stewardship Fund has conserved over a quarter of a million acres of land in Wisconsin.

In the program, land is purchased by the state, preserved in a long-term bonding program and set aside for state parks, wildlife protection and recreation.

Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, offered amendments Thursday to argue against cuts to the fund.

Black said he fully supports the fund and argues that any cuts could affect the preservation of Wisconsin’s land and wildlife.

“We want to protect the parts of Wisconsin that we love, and the Stewardship Fund is essential to doing this,” Black said.

One of the Stewardship’s largest purchases was the Chippewa Flowage, 20,000 acres of land in Iron County. This area, rich in forests and streams, is now a nesting home to bald eagles and is a popular area for hunters and fisherman.

Dave Cieslewicz, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, said this cut is too insignificant to doctor the state’s budget problem.

“This cut will save the state about $500,000, which is two-tenths of 1 percent of the state budget,” he said.

Cieslewicz said the fund is needed to save forests and water resources in Wisconsin from urban sprawl.

“The market for creating resorts and condominiums in northern Wisconsin is skyrocketing, and any land purchased by these developers will be gone forever,” he said.

The state Assembly is also voting to cut the state’s mandatory recycling program. This law was implemented in 1990, and since then, 40 percent of all trash produced in the state has been recycled by residents, said Kerry Schumann, WISPIRG director.

Caryl Terrell, director for the Wisconsin chapter of the Sierra Club, said cutting this program would mean more landfills in Wisconsin and the threat of pollution problems.

“What they want to do is awful,” Terrell said. “The strength of the recycling program is that it makes it mandatory to recycle, but now the state will have to find landfills, which could lead to the ground and water pollution.”
Republicans and Democrats met separately Thursday to discuss further amendments regarding these environmental programs.

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