Darling's conservation of logic and wisdom | WisCommunity

Darling's conservation of logic and wisdom

[img_assist|nid=52432|title=Natural|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=200|height=150]When is it true that using up land preserves land? Answer: When you're Sen. Alberta Darling, Republican member of the powerful Joint Finance Committee, and you're in the midst of cutting back funds for one of the nation's most forward land conservation programs. The Legislature created the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in 1989 and so far purchases have preserved 600,000 acres of natural landscape and wildlife habitat. The purchases also protect water quality and fisheries, and offer the prospect of expanded outdoor recreation opportunities for the public.

A few days back, JFC in its budget-deciding duties voted to cut 30 percent of the bonding authority for the Stewardship Program, named after Gaylord Nelson and Warren Knowles, respectively the Democratic and Republican governors who led efforts to preserve natural spaces in our beautiful state. JFC was so unfriendly towards the program -- despite decades of bipartisan support for it -- that the committee actually approved less bonding for it than proposed by Gov. Scott Walker, not known for his friendly approach to the environment. Worse, the committee's Republican majority made it much harder for the Department of Natural Resources to make land purchases, with funds reverting to other purposes if the agency can't follow the JFC's onerous new rules. But hey, you know, Wisconsin is morally broke.

Republicans seem to believe that too much of the land purchased under the program is left undeveloped. Well, duoh! Of course, recreational development is part of the program's purpose, but you can't develop such opportunities on formerly private lands whose natural features have been despoiled in favor of commercial purposes. The program wisely recognizes that the most important task is to buy unspoiled tracts, preserving them before they are ruined forever. Limited public recreation and land management can come later, when funding is available and as demand warrants.

Republicans posture in ways suggesting that cutting funds for the program somehow will speed up recreational development. But the only way that happens under the GOP mindset is if private developers offer public recreation opportunities through private investment -- and we all know how that usually works out. 

When the vote was over (it was 13-3, not even close), Darling was called upon to explain the JFC's action. Her answer may merely have been inarticulate, but you'll forgive us for suspecting she spoke exactly what was on her mind. Here's Darling, as quoted in Milwaukee's Shepherd Express weekly newspaper:

I bet Gaylord Nelson and Warren Knowles would agree with us. Because many areas of our state are saying, "You know what? We better make sure we use these lands."

Nelson and Knowles agree with Darling and the modern edition of the Wisconsin Republicans? Hell, no. If anything the two governors are rolling in their graves.


May 28, 2011 - 9:55am