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Editorials
Wolf hunt another piece of botched legislation PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 05 September 2012 16:10

An undisciplined legislative majority’s rejection of moderaton and compromise has resulted in unworkable laws while sowing discontent

Moderation is a desirable human trait. We know that from advice received from learned mentors through the ages, the likes of Aristotle (“moderation in all things”) and Benjamin Franklin (“avoid extremes”), not to mention wise and sensible parents and grandparents.

    It is also a key to an orderly society. We can deduce that from the state of chaos that obtains in Wisconsin owing to the lack of moderation in an institution that requires it to be effective—the Legislature.

    Legislatures, where many discrete points of view collide as an inevitable part of the law-making process, can only succeed with compromise. Disdain for moderation, embrace of extreme positions and rejection of compromise have led to a string of costly legislative failures in Wisconsin.

    The latest is the botched attempt to legalize wolf hunting. Gray wolves are thriving in Wisconsin. It is estimated that there are more than 800 in Wisconsin, when 350 was the goal for recovery of a species once all but wiped out here.

    Livestock raisers citing depredations on their herds by wolves, deer hunters fearful that wolves will reduce the population of the game their sport targets and people who just want to kill wolves, supported by the Department of Natural Resources’ position that the wolf population needs to be controlled, clamored for a wolf hunt. It was understandable that the Legislature would oblige. But it couldn’t manage it without going to an extreme.

    A number of states that have robust wolf populations allow wolf hunting. None allows wolf hunting with dogs—except Wisconsin. That immoderate provision was thrown out by a judge last week, leaving the DNR’s wolf hunt plans in disarray.

    We can only wonder at the Legislature’s thinking when it blessed wolf hunting by dogs. Did the lawmakers think hunters needed an extra advantage in killing animals that are frequently sighted in the north woods and have not had the experience (at least not legally) of being threatened by humans?


    And how did the legislators not see the red warning flag waving over dog-hunting? Dogs are cousins of wolves. Wolves are essentially big dogs. Didn’t anyone think that loosing dogs on wolves would lead to dog-wolf fights? Or that animal rights supporters and dog lovers in general would find this objectionable?

    An affiliation of humane societies and individuals sued, with the result that a judge has ruled out wolf hunting with dogs and the DNR says the difficulty of getting new rules in place by the planned Oct. 15 start of hunting may rule out wolf hunting this year.

    Chalk up another piece of legislation as too extreme to work.

    The same can be said for the Voter ID law. Though there was no evidence of the kind of fraud a voter ID requirement would affect, it was part an agenda almost certain to be enacted in Wisconsin with Republicans in control of the governor’s office and the Legislature. Nothing shocking there—victors get the spoils in politics and government. But the victors could not restrain themselves from making Wisconsin’s law one of the most stringent voter ID requirements in the nation.

    The result? The law cannot be enforced because courts have ruled it unconstitutional.

    The pattern for this was set by Act 10. The majority of Wisconsin residents surely supported the reform of public employee benefits promised by Scott Walker in his successful campaign for governor. People of all political persuasions could agree that the disparity in benefits between public and private sector workers was inequitable and unsustainable. It was an opportunity for progressive change.

    But legislators could not discipline themselves to avoid a toxic extreme—outlawing collective bargaining by public employees—at the cost of upheaval in the state capital, millions of taxpayer dollars spent on recall elections and an enduring, debilitating bitterness in public affairs.

    Aristotle and Ben Franklin would be aghast, as should everyone of who understands the value of moderation and compromise and the consequences of extremes.



 
Seeing the light and feeling the heat PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 16:01

Not even the doubters and deniers can ignore the evidence that human-produced greenhouse gases are the cause of global weather chaos

Have you heard the news about global warming?

    It’s going on now. It’s getting worse. It’s on course to become a disaster of biblical proportions. It’s caused by man-made carbon dioxide.

    To many people, of course, this is not news at all. A worldwide consensus of scientists has long warned of the catastrophic consequences of climate warming caused by carbon emissions.

    But it is news, apparently quite startling news, to the disbelievers and deniers who are just now seeing the light of global warming and feeling its heat.

    Earlier this summer, Richard A. Muller, physics professor at the University of California, a high-profile climate-change skeptic whose views were frequently cited by global-warming doubters, announced his conversion, writing that he had “concluded that global warming was real and that prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct.” And then he added a finding that has shaken the ranks of deniers: “Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

    Other public conversions followed the publication of a scientific paper this month by James E. Hansen, a much respected NASA scientist, that said there is no doubt that the drastic increase in the amount of the earth’s surface subjected to extreme heat in recent years and the resulting devastating droughts were caused by greenhouse gases released by humans.  

    Then cracks appeared in one of the most stubborn bastions of global-warming denial, the Wall Street Journal, when it published an op-ed essay by Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, urging political conservatives to face the reality of man-made climate change and come up with their own remedies instead of criticizing efforts to limit carbon emissions.

    There was nothing particularly remarkable about the writer’s sensible comments, except that they appeared in a newspaper whose editorial page has treated global warming as a hoax cooked up by environmentalists to cripple capitalism with carbon emission controls.


    The apparent dawning of climate-change reason is cause for relief, but not optimism. The folly of doubting for years the preponderance of scientific evidence may be ending, but the time lost by the highjacking of an environmental threat by politics has set back hope for a timely response.

    A climate simulation model produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicates there is a 10% chance the earth’s average surface temperature will rise by more than 12 degrees by 2100, warming so extreme that much of the life on earth would not survive it.

    Short of that catastrophe, frequent crippling droughts and heat waves are almost certain to plague the planet through the century. A report by the National Climatic Data Center predicted that the excess of heat and shortage of rain that broke records this summer—the last 12 months were the hottest one-year period ever in the United States—was a pattern that will assert control over the climate for the coming decades.

    Ozaukee County experienced enough of that this summer to see that global warming’s consequences go far beyond melting glaciers and threatened polar bears. Plant life suffered greatly as rain avoided the area for weeks at a time. Human life, even people who welcome summer heat as the antidote to frigid winters and chilly springs, suffered through successive days heated to the high 90s or low 100s, the fortunate among them finding relief only in spaces cooled by air conditioning chugging away and adding more carbon to the atmosphere.

    The drought here is in remission, but scars remain. Some of them are evident in Lake Michigan, so depleted by the lack the rain and the excess of heat-induced evaporation that its water level is nearly a foot lower than a year ago.

    That fits with the global warming scenarios projected by American scientists: higher water levels (dangerous flooding) along the ocean coasts due to the melting of the polar ice caps, lower water (an essential resource depleted) in the Great lakes due to drought.

    Thus does the evidence relentlessly build. It should be impossible to ignore, even by those who haven’t heard the news about global warming.



 
Do not forsake Port’s noble ash trees PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 17:05

The city should pursue an expert’s opinion that treatment can be successful and cost effective in saving the trees of Lake Park and elsewhere

  The City of Port Washington has invested heavily in its future, specifically in its future as a place where for generations to come its streets, walkways, neighborhoods, parks and downtown will be graced by the beauty, shade, bird life and sound-mellowing and air-purifying effects of hundreds upon hundreds of deciduous trees.

    It is to the city’s enduring credit that even in a time of economic challenges and revenue constraints it has carried on an aggressive tree-planting program, budgeting funds annually to buy, plant and maintain trees. Trees in public places are essential to the quality of life in a community, and worth every penny they cost taxpayers.

    If these young trees, planted as bare-root saplings, are assets to community life—and they surely are—think how much more valuable are the mature trees that have grown for decades and, as their towering green canopies attest, have reached their potential as gifts of nature.

    We hope city officials are thinking of that and preparing to refuse to let Port Washington’s forest of ash trees succumb to the emerald ash borer.

    There are hundreds of these trees on public land throughout the city, including a magnificent stand in Upper Lake Park. Their loss to the insect that is killing ash trees across the Midwest would be nothing less than a disaster.

    An arborist who is an expert on the predations of the ash borer made an illuminating presentation to the Park and Recreation Board  earlier this month that was both sobering and hopeful.

    Sobering indeed was the prediction by Wayne White of Union Lake, Mich., that if nothing is done all of the city’s ash trees will likely be dead in a few years. Ash borer infestation of trees in and around downtown has been confirmed. The insects will attack other ash trees.

    The hopeful part was White’s assurance that the bug can be defeated. He claimed a 99% success rate in treating trees with a combination of insecticide injections and drenching soil with nutrients.

     White estimated that treating the 200 ash trees in Upper Lake Park would cost $15,000 a year for a number of years. If that number is daunting, it was softened by the arborist’s explanation that not every tree in the park would have to be treated. The best specimens among them could be selected for treatment, while marginal trees could be sacrificed.

    The most intriguing statement in the presentation was White’s assertion that it would cost more to remove the park’s ash trees after they are killed by the borer than to treat them.

    If that is true—and, of course, the city needs to verify it independently—it should make the decision easy: Find the money to treat at least the healthiest, strongest trees. Better to spend it on saving trees than cutting them down and disposing of tainted wood.

    The ash borer is a clear, present and quite awful threat—Lake Park without trees is too painful to contemplate—and the city needs to deal with it as such and move quickly to adopt an effective response. Allowing nature to take its course, meaning letting the trees die, seems to be an option the city government is considering. It shouldn’t be. Attempting to save as many sound trees as possible should be the only option.

    A treatment program should be as comprehensive as it can be, taking into account not only ash trees on parkland, but also some in parkways along streets. Ash trees on private property, which after all are part of the community forest, should be considered as well. The possibility that an arborist service provider who gets the city contract might be able to offer more attractive rates to both the city and private payers for a large volume of work should be explored.    

    Welcome as they are along city streets, the ranks of newly planted trees are still only slender, sparsely-leafed hopes for a green future. The great ashes of Port Washington, mature trees of tall, sturdy trunks and arching crowns, are the trees of the present, splendid living things and important contributors to the city’s character that must not be forsaken.


 
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