Meetings of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) were held in each county of the state on Monday, April 10.
Twenty-nine farmers, hunters, fishers and conservationists from Crawford County, gathered in the auditorium at the Prairie du Chien High School to elect delegates to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) from the county, and to vote on 88 questions about water, hunting, fishing, trapping and more.
Those 29 people represented just 0.22 percent of the county’s voting age population. That’s right just a little more than two-tenths of one percent of those of voting age in the county decided where the county stood on 88 conservation questions posed.
Bill Howe, Prairie du Chien, who has served as a delegate to the WCC for 60 years was elected for another three-year term; the second seat for a two-year term remains unfilled.
The impact of voting is advisory. Results will be considered by the WCC in making recommendations to the DNR about policy and legislation.
A proposal to allow online voting in future years has passed, but with the state split right down the middle on the question.
On a percentage basis, support was relatively low with 59 percent of county participants supporting, and 44 percent statewide.
Perhaps more telling, 35 of the state’s 72 counties approved, 35 did not approve, and there was a tie-vote in two counties.
Opponents feared that creating online voting would allow special interests undue influence in the results; while supporters think that offering online voting will increase participation.
Five new citizen resolutions were also introduced in the county, which will be forwarded to the Rules and Resolutions Committee of the Congress for consideration to be included on future surveys for the annual county meetings.
Statewide, the meetings attracted a total of 5,073 participants. This is just 0.11 percent of the state’s voting age population.
A resolution was presented in Marquette and Waukesha counties that seemed to aim at expanding citizen input into the recommendations made by the congress.
In the two counties, a resolution was introduced calling for inclusion of the WCC delegate elections in statewide elections on the first Tuesday in April. The resolution passed in Marquette and failed in Waukesha.
A complete listing of county and statewide results can be found at the Wisconsin Conservation Congress website.
Wardens and state parks
Proposals to create a stable funding source for the conservation warden service, and to restore funding to state parks enjoyed strong support in the county and statewide.
The conservation warden service funding proposal received support from 90 percent of county meeting participants, and 73 percent statewide.
The state parks proposal received 73 percent support in the county, and 72 percent statewide. Both proposals passed in all 72 of the state’s counties.
Hunting and fishing
Fishing and hunting were the subjects of more than two-thirds of topics for the 88 survey questions voted on by meeting participants.
Fishing was the topic of one of the five citizen resolutions presented as well. The county proposed resolution asked for the right to cross railroad tracks for access to the state’s waters, at places other than designated crossings, be restored. The resolution passed in Crawford County unanimously.
The resolution’s author, Mike Cross, Prairie du Chien, said he brought the resolution to “keep the ball rolling, so the issue doesn’t just get forgotten, and state leaders are encouraged to continue the legislative approach.”
Fishing questions dominated the survey, but in the county, hunting and the environment seemed to be at the top of participant’s concerns.
Two questions on the survey pertaining to hunting garnered support from greater than 90 percent of participant’s present.
Having a consistent last day of the season for archery deer, turkey, pheasant and fisher drew support of 97 percent of meeting participants in the county, though only 62 percent statewide. The proposal passed in 71 of the state’s 72 counties.
The main impetus of this change would keep the turkey, pheasant and fisher seasons open through the New Year’s Holiday weekend, consistent with the archery deer season.
Ninety percent of county meeting participants supported allowing the assistant of a disabled hunter with a Class A permit to pursue and dispatch an animal if legally shot, wounded and subsequently tagged by the disabled hunter. Statewide, this proposition gained 74 percent support.
Trout and walleye
Support for funding of state fisheries was high among county meeting participants. Eighty-six percent of participants supported a license fee increase to fund some cold-water fish hatcheries, and over two-thirds supported an increase in Wisconsin’s inland waters trout stamp fee.
Statewide, these resolutions received 63 and 47 percent support from participants. This likely reflects the importance of trout fishing to the Driftless area’s economy and fishing traditions. The resolutions passed respectively in 70, and 55 of the state’s 72 counties.
A proposal to restrict the daily walleye limit on the Mississippi River to three fish over 18 inches from March 1 to May 31 received support from 83 percent of county meeting participants, but received only 49 percent support statewide.
The background to this proposal stated that the quality of the Mississippi River walleye fishery seems to be declining. The trend seems to be toward fewer and smaller walleye.
It is now generally accepted that allowing walleyes to reach the length of 18 inches provides a much greater probability of females reaching maturity and having at least one opportunity to spawn.
By far and away, the largest group of top-vote-getting questions in the county pertained to environmental questions, and in particular, issues surrounding water quality and polliinators.
There was a lively discussion about the proposal to support increased planting and maintenance of milkweed.
One resident recounted the many years he had spent battling milkweed on his land as a weed. A local orchard owner spoke to the need to support the population of pollinators as being crucial to agriculture. He was concerned about the Monarch butterfly, in particular.
The proposal received 90 percent of the county vote, and 74 percent statewide. The proposal passed in 71 of the state’s 72 counties.
Ten of the 14 environmental proposals on the survey, and three of the five citizen resolutions brought before county meeting participants, related to issues surrounding water.
Two proposals about water quality were in the group that received very high vote percentages. The companion proposals addressed citizen commitment to enforcing the clean water laws, and following up on 75 outstanding violations indentified in a review by the EPA that are currently languishing in the DNR’s ‘Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elemination Sytem’ (WPDES).
Both proposals received 90 percent support in the county, while enjoying only two-thirds support statewide. Both proposals passed in all 72 of the state’s counties.
Perhaps surprising to some, a proposal to require beaver management, with respect to their influence on cleaner water, reduced flooding, better water inflitration, and better habitat, received support from 86 percent of county meeting participants. The proposal received 60 percent approval statewide.
High capacity wells remained a high profile issue as results of voting on two proposals clearly show.
The proposals were to require public notice to be sent to area residents within a two-mile radius upon application for a high capacity well, and to include the authority to suspend approvals for high capacity wells that have caused impact or impairment.
Both of these proposals received 83 percent support in the county, and 80 and 79 percent support statewide. The proposals passed in all 72 of the state’s counties.
Karst, research, science
Two citizen resolutions were presented calling for designation of areas of the state with Karst geology to be designated as state sensitive areas, and for state-funded hydrogeological mapping. The resolutions passed in Crawford County 21-6, and 20-7.
The sensitive areas resolution was also presented and passed in Door, Green, Iowa, Kewaunee, Monroe, St. Croix, Sauk and Wood counties.
The hydrogeological research resolution was also presented and passed in Adams, Green, Iowa, Marquette, Monroe, Richland, Rock, St. Croix, Sauk, Vernon and Wood counties.
In addition, a resolution calling for assessment of the cumulative impacts of high capacity wells to become standard practice in the state, and one asking to restore reliance on sound science to the DNR’s policy, research, actions and communications were presented at the county meeting.
The cumulative impacts resolution passed in Crawford County 26-1, and the sound science resolution also 22-4.
The cumulative impacts resolution was also presented and passed in Adams, Eau Claire, Marquette, Vernon, Waushara and Wood counties.
The sound science resolution was presented and passed in Clark, Iowa, Oneida, Portage, Sauk and Vernon counties as well.
Railroad safety was also on county meeting participant’s minds.
A proposal favoring the Natural Resources Board and DNR working with the Office of the State Railroad Commissioner, elected state and federal officials, and other state and federal agencies to protect natural resources and citizens; to submit prevention and response plans; train local emergency first responders; create an inventory of public and private resources available upon a derailment, and more was on the survey.
The proposal received 83 percent of the county vote, 72 percent support statewide. The proposal passed in all 72 of the state’s counties.