Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything…
Well, we now know that we have to do something about the climate, and that we can start by talking about climate change and what it means to our lives, our environment and our children’s future. (Did you notice that we said “climate change”? Yes, climate is different from weather, and we need to both talk about it and do something!)
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region (LWV UMRR) has added a focus on climate change to our action portfolio. We are urging our member Leagues to plan programs on the topic – and have an option to offer with prepared material to do it!
LWV Dane County (Madison, WI) has made climate change their topic for action this year. They are sponsoring four forums (link) that will be available for local Leagues to stream. Materials packets are prepared for each forum so viewers will be able to learn about the topic in advance and have good discussion after the program. These packets are rich with information and geared to help build understanding, not detailed scientific tomes. LWV DC does an excellent job with both the packets and with finding a good range of speakers who bring broad expertise to the subject; this would be a great way for a local League to begin the conversation on climate change. As a bonus, their website features a weekly column titled “Climate Corner”, featuring a medley of resources and information that highlight personal actions, diversity and equity perspectives, and additional learning opportunities, all related to climate change.
The first of the four forums took place on September 4 - you can watch the video here. Titled “Why Climate Change is a Public Health Emergency”, the featured speakers were Ralph Petersen , Ph.D. (UW–Madison Space, Science and Engineering Center), Andrea Kaminski (Board Director and former Executive Director of LWVWI) and Dr. Claire Gervais , M.D., (UW Health Clinics). Looking ahead, LWV DC is planning these additional forums:
• November 6, 2019, focusing on government's role in combatting climate change,
• February 5, 2020, focusing on agriculture as a solution and
• April 1, 2020 focusing on water impacts.
LWV UMRR’s Co-Presidents, Mary and Steve Ploeser, are members of the LWV Dane County committee working on the forum. We are proud to share their work with our member Leagues, and thank them for the commitment to LWV and the environment. – Gretchen Sabel, Communications Director, LWV UMRR
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region owes a lot to LWV Jo Daviees County – it was this League in Galena, Illinois, that had the idea to start an Inter League Organization* focused on protecting and improving water quality in the Upper Mississippi. It was from that idea that LWV UMRR was born in 2015, and we thank them for it.
LWV JDC has moved the ball along considerably in their local water quality work now. You can read about how they got started in this blog post from August of 2017. In this post from December of 2017, we shared the good news that LWV Jo Daviess County received a $10,000 prize for their proposal in the US EPA's Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge.
They implemented the proposal, and this month learned that they won big - they were one of three projects across the US receiving a $50,000 prize for their work!
Following is the press release from US EPA. Congratulations to LWV Jo Daviess County!
CHICAGO (Aug. 21, 2019) - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and four federal partners announced the winners of its technology-accelerating water quality challenge. The League of Women Voters of Illinois in Jo Daviess County is one of three national teams selected for the Challenge’s prize of $50,000 each. The winning teams demonstrated how data from low-cost water quality monitoring sensors can be used to inform local decision-making on nutrient management.
It was with great sadness that we learned of the June 25, 2019 death of our dear friend and fellow board member Judy Beck. Judy was a member of the LWV UMRR Board since we organized in 2015, and her leadership helped us find our way as we started out. Judy was also on the Board of LWV Lake Michigan Region ILO and served as federal action liaison between the groups. We benefited from her warmth, wise counsel, and ability to provide context for all that we do.
Judy received a BA degree in Biology from Old Dominion University and worked professionally as a teacher and as Lake Michigan Manager for the US Environmental Protection Agency for 30 years. In addition to her professional work and work with the LWV, Judy tirelessly volunteered her time as a founding member of Save the Grove, as a member and officer of the Grove Heritage Association, as a councilperson for the Northern Illinois Planning Commission, and as a past president of the Illinois Association of Park Districts. Upon retiring as the longest serving Board Member of the Glenview Park District, a park was named "Judy Beck Park" in her honor.
In addition, Judy served as a representative to the LWV Lake Michigan Region board from the Illinois LWV. She represented LWV LMR to Chicago Wilderness, a group spanning the four Lake Michigan states working to preserve and improve nature in our region. Judy managed the Watershed Fact Sheet project with LWV Wisconsin. She was the recipient of LWV LMR's Palleon Advocacy Award in 2016.
Judy was and will continue to be a role model and an inspiration to us. This link takes you to the video of a talk that Judy gave at the LWV Water Caucus meeting in Chicago in 2018. The picture above was taken at the LWV UMRR Annual Meeting in Hastings, MN, on June 1 2019. Thanks to Judy's advocacy, Minnesota Congresswoman Angie Craig came and spoke at this meeting. In this picture, Judy is introducing Representative Craig. The photo below shows Judy and LWV Glenview's Henrietta Saunders in consultation.
A memorial service will be held on July 26th at 1 pm at The Grove, Redfield House, 1421 Milwaukee Rd., Glenview, IL. Here's a link for her full obituary.
LWV Upper Mississippi warmly welcomes new Co-Chairs Mary and Steve Ploeser from LWV Dane County in Madison, Wisconsin. Mary is a retired middle school math and science teacher, and Steve retired from the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services where he was a systems analyst. Parents of three grown children, Mary and Steve live in the same house they bought when first married thirty-five years ago.
Mary and Steve are members of LWV Dane County. They joined LWV to help potential voters, with and without birth certificates, get the proper photo ID required by the state. Steve also served on the LWV Dane county board as membership chair and later as business systems analyst. Mary joined to help register voters and was later asked to be the LWVDC representative to the Upper Mississippi River Region ILO..
Now as co-leaders of LWV UMRR, their goals are to continue holding board meetings around the four states and learn the concerns of all the member Leagues ,and to continue the ILO’s efforts to keep the water in the Upper Mississippi watershed as clean as is possible.
When not busy with the ILO Steve also works with the AARP Smart Driving Classes and Mary helps with voter registration. We both work as cashiers at Habitat for Humanity’s Restore and enjoy traveling to new and exciting venues.
What do you do the first day you're in office when you take over as head of the LWV Upper Mississippi? You visit the Mississippi Headwaters! Steve and Mary Ploeser made the pilgrimage to the river's source at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota on June 2. What a good way to get your feet wet in the Mississippi!
In February of 2019, Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is pleased to announce the 16 members of the bipartisan Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality. There are 12 Republican representative and senators and 4 Democrats. Representative Todd Novak-R-Dodgeville is the Chair and Representative Katrina Shankland-D-Stevens Point-Co-Chair.
The development of the special legislative committee commenced after Reps. Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) and Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) made a request to the speaker in reaction to a preliminary report showing widespread contamination in private wells in southwestern Wisconsin. Because of the great importance of the issue being studied, this task force will also include members of the state Senate.
“Wisconsinites deserve to have safe, clean and healthy water,” said Speaker Vos. “We’re beginning this essential work by gathering input from across Wisconsin. I’m pleased these legislators have agreed to take part in this statewide, collaborative effort.”
The task force has been asked to make recommendations on assessing and improving the quality of surface water and groundwater. Legislators will hold public hearings around Wisconsin to gather information on the specific concerns in the various regions of the state. The speaker’s office has already been contacted by dozens of groups including Wisconsin Wetlands Association, the UW Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences and the Wisconsin Conservation Voters. “The goal is to take input from everyone; stakeholder groups, individuals and local officials,” said Speaker Vos. “Every important solution starts with robust conversation.
The Task Force will be traveling to 11 Wisconsin cities to get input. Next week Mauston, Wisconsin will have their hearing on Wednesday, June 12, 2019 and La Crosse, Wisconsin will have their hearing on Thursday, June 13th, 2019. For more information, click here.
LWV Action on Climate Change: A Call to Arms, with lots of guidance, from Caryl Terrell (LWV Dane Co, WI) at the LWV UMRR Annual Meeting on June 1
The LWV US Tool Kit for Climate Action is an excellent resource for getting started. Take some time to explore this website - the menu on the right has links to a wide array of information, advice and examples.
The Nature Conservancy's big idea to protect the upper Upper Mississippi - talk by Matt Gladue on June 1
The upper Upper Mississippi is that part of the Mississippi that starts at the Headwaters and flows to the Twin Cities. Water quality in the upper Upper Mississippi River is very good. The river, especially in the furthest north reaches, is protected by extensive forests and wetlands. But threats to this river are growing - threats from land conversion and development. The river is in danger of becoming polluted, like the Minnesota, which would endanger the water supply of millions of Minnesotans as well as damage this invaluable natural resource.
Matt Gladue's talk at the Annual Meeting engaged the audience in understanding the value of the upper Upper Mississippi - in the heart and soul of Minnesotans, as the source of drinking water for millions, and as an invaluable natural resource for wildlife and recreation. The threats to the river are many, but it is within the power of Minnesotans to make a changes that will save the river.
The Nature Conservancy has a big idea for saving the river. They have identified critical conservation lands, about 2% of the land in the watershed, that if protected from development or restored to forest will help to protect the river. Matt talked about this project, and that The Nature Conservancy is working on doing grass-roots organizing to develop public support. They are also seeking organizations to partner with them in this effort. To learn more about TNC's big idea, click here.
The videos below are broken up in part because Matt provided discussion periods during his talk and in part due to technical difficulties that resulted in small gaps.
What does Climate Change mean for the Upper Mississippi? Comments by John Linc Stine, Freshwater Society, at the LWV UMRR Annual Meeting on June 1.
The Minnesota River starts on the western border of Minnesota, and flows first southeast and then northeast to meet up with the Mississippi at Fort Snelling, just below the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. In the Minnesota, river bank erosion accounts for more than half of the sediment in the river. This sediment moves down the river, changing habitats. Flows in the river have increased as well, nearly doubling in the past twenty years. Tile drainage of farm lands has virtually eliminated storage of the water on the land. This means that when rains come, and when snows melt, water rushes down the river, scouring the banks and causing yet more erosion. The result is a muddy mix of silt and water that visibly pollutes the Mississippi at it's confluence, as shown in the above photo from Minnesota Public Radio. More rain and more forceful storms exacerbate the problem.
The Minnesota is a river in tough shape. The cost of repairing this damage is high, and will require significant change in farming practices to bring it back to health. John wrapped up his talk by talking about the positive impacts that groups like LWV can have by working to prevent, plan and prepare. Read more about the problems on the Minnesota River in this October 2017 report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Many thanks to John for taking time on a beautiful Saturday to be a guest speaker at our Annual Meeting!
The following notice is from the Sustain
La Crosse Commission, and is included in its entirety in this blog post. Groundwater contamination problems in Wisconsin have been documented for years - LWV UMRR explored this topic at our 2017 Annual Meeting in La Crosse. Check out this talk from that meeting, this related story in the La Crosse Tribune and this more recent story on Wisconsin Public Radio. (Photo from the La Crosse Tribune story)
And here's the meeting notice:
La Crosse County Water Challenges and Improvement Opportunities
Thursday, May 16 5:30 – 6:30 PM Basement Auditorium (Room 0430)
La Crosse County Admin. Center 212 6th Street N.
The Sustainable La Crosse Commission will host a public program about issues related to ground and surface water quality in La Crosse County and surrounding areas.
Nitrates in well water and its impact on health
The first topic will include a discussion on groundwater nitrate contamination from animal production units and other sources. This topic has received attention lately because of the results of studies conducted in the Towns of Onalaska and Holland on nitrate levels in local resident’s wells. The panelist for this portion will be Jennifer Rombalski, La Crosse County Health Department La Crosse River watershed
Nutrient credits for shoreland improvements
The second topic will include a discussion on opportunities to use “nutrient credits” derived from shoreline improvements, establishment of buffer zones, etc. to offset more stringent output water phosphorus levels that the La Crosse Sanitary Sewer Utility will be facing in the future. The panelist for this portion will be Karl Green, UW Madison Division of Extension La Crosse County.
The second topic is directly related to a goal that has been established by the Sustainable La Crosse Commission – Water Work Group: To restore water quality of the rivers, streams, lakes and ponds that make up La Crosse River watershed by concentrating efforts to reduce non-point source phosphorus pollution. Advocate for stream bank protection, restoration and permanent easements with the goal of removing the La Crosse River from the “Impaired” water classification, as established by the WI DNR
Thank you for your interest in water sustainability. We hope that you can attend, learn, provide your input and help us to achieve our goal.
About the Sustainable La Crosse Commission In 2009, the City and County of La Crosse passed a join resolution establishing a “joint long-term sustainability committee.” The Commission created a Strategic Plan for Sustainability and works to advise and make recommendations on policy and funding related to sustainability and to educate the public about sustainability issues.
For more information, contact Rick Cornforth Sustainability Commission Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org
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