Local Control

Citizens rely on their local authorities to be the first line of defense in protecting their air and water. Empowering local authorities has long been something Wisconsin state legislators of political persuasions could agree on. That is why Wisconsin citizens were so surprised – and angry – when local authorities were attacked not once, but twice last legislative session. 

The Problem

boyinwater1The proposed bills would have prevented local communities from having a say about what’s happening in their very own backyards – a move that would make it easier for polluters to contaminate air and water. Even worse, the proposals retroactively stripped already-existing local community ordinances addressing public health and safety concerns from the books.

Here are just a few examples of the many local protections that would have been reversed:

  • Rosendale’s ordinance prohibiting aerial spraying of manure due to health concerns of exposing citizens to the viral and bacterial pathogens found in untreated manure.
  • Adams County’s three-year moratorium on aerial spraying of manure to allow time for a study on the health effects of this practice.
  • Trempealeau County’s moratorium on permitting additional frac sand facilities until we know more about the health effects from compromised air quality.
  • The result would have been more frac sand mining, more manure spraying, and more air and water contamination. 

Our Winning Strategy

Last session’s bills moved fast, but we – and conservation voters across the state – moved faster. Within a week of finding out about the devastating plans to limit local control, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters organized an impromptu lobby day to encourage citizens to testify against the bill and meet directly with their legislators. Ultimately, 2,600 letters opposing the bill were sent to legislators. More than 350 Wisconsin municipalities across the state passed resolutions in support of maintaining local control. The public’s overwhelming opposition defeated the two bills that would have kneecapped local control.

Looking Ahead

With the huge statewide opposition – from the town of Chilton to Douglas County – to the last attempt at undermining local control, we are hopeful that legislators learned their lesson to not mess with local control. However, the main author of this bad idea, Senator Tom Tiffany, will return to the Senate next year, so we will remain diligent. This issue will remain on our radar to ensure that decisions made at the state level don’t have dangerous consequences for Wisconsin’s local communities. Stay tuned right here.

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