To the editor:
Having read the recent commentary from Senator Tom Tiffany and Representative Adam Jarchow (Jan. 3 issue), I must ask the question: Just who is being “dogmatic?"
Tiffany and Jarchow are extremely dogmatic advocates of private property rights without responsibilities to protect the public good. In particular, they have pushed through legislation, hidden in the state budget bill, that makes it much more difficult for local and county governments to enact rules to protect our lakes, streams and groundwater from irresponsible development.
The two legislators complain that environmental regulations could inhibit the ability of a business to locate in a small community. That may be true if the regulations in question are needlessly restrictive. But what happens is such cases when regulations are too lax? Then water and other resources are placed at risk.
In Oneida County, where I live, the lakes and rivers are the backbone of a multi-million-dollar tourism economy and are a primary reason people choose to live here. What if we allow our shorelines to become excessively developed and without responsible practices to prevent runoff of nutrients and other pollutants into the water? The damage — environmental and economic — can be severe and is likely irreversible. And such damage is exactly what Tiffany’s and Jarchow’s policies risk allowing.
How severely would degraded water resources damage the economy? What happens to the stores, gas stations, restaurants, motels, car dealers and other businesses when people no longer visit because the lakes have lost their luster?
A recent study prepared by Oneida County resident David Noel and released by the Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association found that poor water quality in the county’s lakes could mean the loss of $2 billion in property value and $100 million in annual tourism revenue. This is a steep price to pay for allowing unwise development under the banner of property rights.
Being a lake resident and a long-time fisherman in Wisconsin, I have deep concern for our water resources. Tiffany and Jarchow seem to wear it as a badge of honor that the Wisconsin League of Conservation votes gives them failing grades for their legislativeperformance. In reality, that is a badge of shame.
Economic prosperity and environmental protection are not at odds, as these legislators seem to suggest. They go hand in hand. A quality environment is essential to a sound and sustainable economy. We can’t have one without the other. If this belief makes me “dogmatic,” then that is a label I will wear with pride.
Ted J. Rulseh