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December 21, 2010

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Here were some of the key natural resources highlights for Wisconsin in 2010.]

Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program enters its third decade -- More than 580,000 acres have been preserved for public use over Stewardship's first 20 years; better than 90 percent is open for public uses like hunting, hiking and nature study. Purchases include new properties, improvements and trail links. The legislature bolstered the commitment to Stewardship by raising the bonding authority from $60 million to $86 million annually for the 10-year period that began July 1, 2010.

Forty years for cleaner air - This year, Wisconsin residents have good reason to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act. A mercury pollutant rule has the state's major utilities on track to reduce their mercury emissions and reduce multiple pollutants including nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Businesses, home owners, local governments, commuters and others are committed to become more energy efficient to further reduce emissions and benefit from the savings. This year a pilot program allowed individuals to specify counties, when receiving air quality notices, instead of receiving statewide notices.

Green Tier double participants -- Green Tier, a program that provides incentives to businesses and communities to move beyond environmental compliance, address unregulated problems and restore natural resources, sustained momentum in 2010 with the number of participating facilities more than doubling, (42 in December 2009 to 86 in December 2010) and now representing 43 businesses in the program. Participants in the programs range from very large to very small manufacturers, units of government from special districts to school districts to incorporated units and also include farms, service organizations and many other entities. Green Tier ventured into new relationships through charter provisions that were expanded when the law was made permanent by the legislature. One highlight of 2010 was the signing of the Green Tier Legacy Communities Charter, an agreement signed by DNR, five communities and five non-governmental organizations. The charter recognizes and brings together local leaders interested in sustainable growth to share ideas, technologies and policies that will enable communities to help Wisconsin reach environmentally-sustainable economic growth. Two pilots will focus on water issues and will address the full range of local water resources issues by integrating wastewater, stormwater, drinking water, wetlands, and other water issues in a holistic, watershed based manner. Under another provision of the Green Tier law, 16 independent colleges and universities have used compliance audit provisions to complete the most comprehensive environmental review and improvement program undertaken thus far under the law, having made myriad improvements to assure environmental protection.

Environmental cleanups -- In 2010 the Remediation and Redevelopment program provided $1.5 million in DNR Brownfield Assessment Grants to assess contamination at abandoned or underused properties in 26 communities across the state, which help jump start the redevelopment at these brownfields; to date the program has helped assess more than 1,600 acres of contaminated property in 205 Wisconsin communities. Additionally, seven communities received more than $600,000 in environmental funding to assist with cleanup work at closed industrial sites through its Wisconsin Plant Recovery Initiative Program, a statewide effort to expedite the cleanup at recently closed factories and plants and return them to economic vitality. To date the program is working with communities and companies on 53 plant closings that may have environmental issues. Through the Wisconsin Sustainable Cleanups Initiative a project was set up to install 44 solar panels at the Refuse Hideaway landfill near Madison to run collection and gas release systems. The Remediation and Redevelopment program also awarded the 100th voluntary party certificate of completion to the AxleTech International manufacturing firm in Oshkosh. The certificates help clarify future liability at contaminated properties that businesses and communities willingly clean up, as long as they receive state oversight and follow all environmental laws.

Shoreline protection rules receive significant public input -- Earlier this year, state shoreland development rules were updated to better protect lakes and rivers, while allowing property owners more flexibility on their land. These improvements were made after more than 30 public hearings, more than 70,000 public comments and hundreds of hours of research. The final rules offer a workable set of guidelines that allow property renovations, guide new development and encourage buffers and naturalized shorelines for better habitat and pollution prevention.

E-Cycle gets the waste out -- It is now easier for people to recycle or donate unwanted electronics. E-Cycle Wisconsin provides a list of collection sites across the state. Wisconsin's electronics recycling law, passed in October 2009, bans the disposal of a wide range of consumer electronics in state landfills and incinerators and creates a statewide electronics recycling program, under which electronics manufacturers pay to recycle a certain amount of electronics. This year we celebrated 20 years of recycling law in Wisconsin.

New Hunting Mentorship Program is a hit -- This law allows people interested in experiencing hunting, including those age 10 and older, to hunt under controlled conditions and under the close supervision of a mentor. By working together, many statewide conservation organizations, the DNR and legislators have made this the safest mentored hunting law in the country. This law gives seasoned hunters a chance to give something back -- to do for someone today what someone else did for them years ago -- introduce them to the hunting experience.

Ballast water exchange requirements - Wisconsin has started regulating oceangoing ships arriving in its Great Lakes waters to stop the flow of invasive species in ballast water. Wisconsin is also pushing treatment technology that will provide the greatest level of protection possible against releasing aquatic invasives from ballast water. Starting January 1, 2012, new oceangoing ships must treat their ballast water to reduce, contain and make harmless the number of live plants, animals and organisms. Wisconsin, other Great Lakes states, the federal government and the shipping industry have jointly supported the Great Ships Initiative, a research effort designed to find the most cost-effective treatment technology for freshwater shipping on the Great Lakes.

Phosphorus rules tackle a long-standing problem - Wisconsin is respected nationally for its efforts to reduce pollution. The state took another major step in that direction this year when the Natural Resources Board and then the legislature approved new rules to reduce phosphorus and other nutrients in state waters. The end result should be cleaner water, improved public health and healthier fisheries and wildlife.

Vigilance to identify and control invasive species - Surveys at Wisconsin boat landings in summer 2010 show that 96 percent of people say they are following a new law to prevent the spread of Eurasian watermilfoil and other aquatic invasives. We've set up a comprehensive program to identify and then curb new invasive species before they can get a foothold in Wisconsin. Local groups across the state have taken advantage of a tripling of grant funding opportunities to set up local programs to control invasives and stop their spread by many innovative means. Web users can find statewide data by county on boat inspection efforts, boater compliance and special projects to prevent or control invasive species.

Web redesign - Our customers told us our website needed improving, so we are working to better meet your needs. For starters, we have improved our search engine to help people find the information they need. We have been removing outdated information and are providing features like real-time news updates and links allowing you to easily subscribe to specific information.

Other major news items for 2010
Last Revised: Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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