New laws protect natural resources
I heard a meteorologist say that since we had April weather in March in Wisconsin, it is not surprising that we are having March weather in April.
Earlier this month, Governor Scott Walker signed five pieces of legislation regarding natural resources.
The new laws include streamlining processes at the Department of Natural Resources, creating a Sporting Heritage Council, clarifying shoreland zoning requirements and providing for a wolf hunting season.
One of the laws will hopefully put an end to the decade-long debate over pier regulation. Senate Bill 326 exempts existing piers from regulation and eliminates the requirement that piers be registered. The bill also streamlines certain permitting processes at the Department of Natural Resources regarding wetland permits. It requires specific timelines for different types of permitting and improves transparency by making more information available electronically. All-in-all, this bill makes the permitting process more certain, helps the DNR become more customer-friendly and establishes a procedure for improving impaired wetland areas. This bill received bipartisan support in the legislature.
Another bill that became law created a Sporting Heritage Council in the DNR. The council will have 12 members and will study issues surrounding hunting, fishing, trapping and other outdoor activities and consider ways to increase access to land. The new law creates two free fishing weekends, lowers fees for first-time applicants, allows school boards to offer credit for hunter education and lowers the sturgeon spearing permit minimum age requirement from 14 to 12. All of these provisions are directed at increasing participation in these outdoor activities. A study by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance found that Wisconsin only has five new hunters joining the sport for every 10 who leave.
With the continued focus in the state on job creation, the governor signed Assembly Bill 467, a bill that passed unanimously in the state Senate and with only five votes against it in the state Assembly. This new law allows the state to defer consideration of greenhouse gas emissions due to carbon dioxide emissions coming from the burning or decomposition of biodegradable materials while the federal Environmental Protection Agency studies the impact of these emissions.
This new law will reduce the cost of obtaining and complying with air permit requirements and is in line with the regulations of our neighboring states. It makes sense to wait on considering these specific greenhouse gas emissions until they have been studied in greater depth.
Senate Bill 411 allows for a wolf hunting and trapping season from October 15 through the end of February if the wolf is removed from the US and Wisconsin list of endangered and threatened species. By enacting this law now, the DNR will have the opportunity to create regulations to ensure a wolf herd with healthy and sustainable numbers. The Wisconsin wolf population has increased from about 25 in 1980 to 800 today.
Finally, Senate Bill 472 protects property owners from changes in municipal zoning ordinances by creating a statewide approach to shoreland zoning standards. With this law, owners of legally non-conforming homes and lots will have greater certainty as to how they can maintain or repair their property.