Given the current climate emergency and the broader ecological breakdown that looms, there are few issues more pressing than that expressed by the single word: Enough!
Supreme Court Case
Oral arguments will be heard on October 1, 2021, in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. FBRF will argue the right of Wisconsin citizens who use state parks to challenge DNR decisions that affect them. This is in regard to our suit against the DNR for its transference of Kohler Andrae State Park property to the Kohler Company for its golf course. (also referred to as “the land swap”). Our right has been affirmed by an appellate court who noted the right of citizens who use park resources to sue to protect them, “particularly in matters of the environment.”
The Kohler Company and the State have asked the Supreme Court to review the court’s decision. The argument will be in person in Madison and can be viewed online on WisconsinEye. https://wiseye.org/
Regarding the Wetland Fill Permit, a separate legal matter: The Wetland Fill Permit granted to the Kohler Company by the DNR was revoked by an Administrative Law Judge in 2019. Kohler appealed this to the Circuit Court. In June, the circuit court judge affirmed the decision of the ALJ. Kohler appealed that decision to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, which will receive briefing this fall.
Sign the SIERRA CLUB-WISCONSIN CHAPTER petition to the Kohler Company HERE
Click Here to sign a Change.org petition to the DNR stating your opposition to giving Kohler Andrae State Park land to the Kohler Company for the company’s profit. 23,000 petitions have been sent to Governor Evers with comments.
CLICK HERE to contribute to our legal fund and educational efforts which have helped preserve this central Wisconsin coastal landscape for 7 years.
Forests and microbes are symbiotically connected globally. Image courtesy of Sora Hasler
BEING A STEWARD OF THE ENVIRONMENT IN 2021: Waking up in Minocqua, Wisconsin, one morning in August, I looked out at a hazy sky and smelled the burning forests north of Duluth. This heavy air had been added to the Canadian smoke filling my lungs for the past month. First in Jackson, Wyoming, then in Yellowstone, now in Wisconsin.
Millions of acres of trees whose function had been to create life-essential oxygen would no longer be able to purify the planet. The lungs of the planet were being attacked by drought-driven firestorms, lack of water and clearcutting for profit.
Being surrounded by trees of all kinds and sizes, mosses, ferns,, lichens, mushrooms, brought to mind our 8 year work of educating people about the Black River Forest biome along Lake Michigan..
I had been reading Suzanne Simard’s Finding the Mother Tree, a memoir of her astounding research into the world wide web of trees. (see sources, below), I knew at the beginning of my multi-destination trip that I was walking among living breathing entities, but I didn’t know the forest was anchored by Mother Trees, communicating and cooperating with their kin and other tree species through a microrrhizal fungal network sensing what each other needed, sending nutrients back and forth cooperatively to stay healthy.
Simard speaks about the traditional thinking guiding forestry management, that trees compete with one another for nutrients. Her exhaustive research has shown definitively that mother trees connect with their offspring and other tree species through a worldwide web of microrrhizal fungi. This network exchanges carbon which sends nutrients when needed, alerts for danger and stress. The seminal discovery—these are not one way signals from the Mother Tree, but are sent back in cooperation with one another.
Science is discovering the wonders of trees and literature is weaving these wonders into stories of our interconnection and dependence on them.
“Tree’s are life. Not just my life”, she would add, since her fields were forests and ecology, “but life period. They literally make oxygen. We need to keep at least seven trees for every human the planet, or else people are going to start suffocating. Think of that.”
― Therese Anne Fowler, A Good Neighborhood
From Richard Powers The Overstory: “We found that trees could communicate, over the air and through their roots. Common sense hooted us down. We found that trees take care of each other. Collective science dismissed the idea. Outsiders discovered how seeds remember the seasons of their childhood and set buds accordingly. Outsiders discovered that trees sense the presence of other nearby life. That a tree learns to save water. That trees feed their young and synchronize their masts and bank resources and warn kin and send out signals to wasps to come and save them from attacks. “Here’s a little outsider information, and you can wait for it to be confirmed. A forest knows things. They wire themselves up underground. There are brains down there, ones our own brains aren’t shaped to see. Root plasticity, solving problems and making decisions. Fungal synapses. What else do you want to call it? Link enough trees together, and a forest grows aware.”
Wow! This brought to mind the many times our FBRF neighbors had queried out of common sense and intuition (and many were avid gardeners), “Taking out Kohler’s 180+ acres connected to the Black River Forested area of the state park, would have to affect the health of the remaining park trees, wouldn’t it?” There was no invisible line separating the heavily wooded Kohler property and the park forest. They are part of one and the same biome. Kohler will also remove some trees in the park if it is ultimately allowed to proceed with the land swap.
There is much to learn here for our DNR forestry department when deciding what land it will clear across the state and how this cutting will impact the remaining trees which over time will decline and die. A couple of Mother Trees here may not decimate a forest, but thousands? What a terrible impact on this gem of a state park and those who travel here to enjoy the 150 species of birds, the yearly migratory shows and over 50 species of trees.
In this time of massive planetary degradation, with the UN declaring this the decade of ecosystem restoration, and its IPCC report on the imminently dire impacts of climate change, it is time to prioritize our trees and forests. There could not be an environmentalist who doesn’t know that trees are the lungs of our planet. They filter pollution from air and water creating oxygen.
One effort in the human community is taking place in Pakistan which has recently announced the goal of planting 10 billion trees:
“Direct planting…. accounts for about 40 percent of the program’s new trees. Hundreds of thousands of people across Pakistan are working to nurture and plant 21 species, from the chir pine to the deodar — the national tree.“Everyone is waking up and starting to plant,” lawyer and environmentalist Hazrat Maaz told The Washington Post.” Read the article here
Stewards of the earth are answering the call to plant not cut, restore not plow under, conserve not consume, taking drastic steps to reduce carbon emissions.
The Nature Conservancy Magazine, December, 2020, features Louis Bacon, a conserver of trees. He speaks of those who inspired him: “Ted Turner’s commitment to environmental conservation has also had a significant impact on my conservation philanthropy,” he said. “A trip to Ted’s ranch La Primavera in Patagonia was particularly memorable—to see and experience his efforts in action. Both Ted’s example and my father’s influence have guided and focused my efforts to preserve and protect wildlife habitats and improve water systems for future generations—because once they are lost, they’re gone forever.” Read the Nature Conservancy profile here
What is the value of a forest? While public relations efforts might try to convince us that because golf is the preeminent driver of our state’s economy, anything destroyed in its path is worth it, This does not stand up to the data on what brings tourists to Wisconsin.
In his recent op-ed, (here) Steven Davis, author of In Defense of Public Lands, uses state data to value the economic benefit of Kohler Andrae State Park at 19.9 million dollars annually.
Yes! magazine writes in its Fall, 2021 issue, “Given the current climate emergency and the broader ecological breakdown that looms, there are few issues more pressing than that expressed by the single word: ENOUGH.” This can mean “no more will be tolerated,” but it is also explored from the question of how much do some people really need, when the earth’s land, air and water are in dire straits.
There is a message for us all here. Be environmentally bold now. Reduce your emissions now. Preserve the trees now. Restore ecosystems now. Join the valiant efforts around the globe to act swiftly and boldly. Restore, regenerate, conserve HERE, NOW. I join the planet in saying “enough.”
Simard, Suzanne. Finding the Mother Tree: uncovering the wisdom and intelligence of the forest. Penguin. 2021.
See the Mother Tree Project for a graphic depiction of how trees talk to one another here
Davis, Steven, In Defense of Public Lands: the case against privatization and transfer. Temple University Press. 2021.
Old Growth, the best writing about trees from Orion Magazine. Orion. 2021.
Fowler, Therese Anne. A Good Neighborhood. St. Martin’s Publishing Group. 2021.
More reading on forests, interconnection and wonderment
“The more we destroy the forests, the more we turn into separatists, strangers in our own home. We lose our way because an age where all things are considered expendable makes it increasingly hard to identify what it is we need. You cannot follow trees if they are not in you, but only in your way. ”
“It may be the less we are able to attribute to trees, the more impoverished we become: It is a kind of deforestation of the spirit.”
Hay, John. The Autumn Trees., Old Growth, the best writing about trees from Orion Magazine, Orion, 2021, 91-92.
And here is a gift to those who care so deeply about our planet and need a boost of hope in the midst of the wanton destruction we witness daily:
In Wonder and Other Survival Skills, H. Emerson Blake asks the questions, “How do we bring wonder back into our lives? How can mystery and beauty change our sense of our place in the world? How do we stay engaged in the face of darkness and uncertainty?”
Wonder and Other Survival Skills, A Selection of Essays from Orion Magazine, 2021. (x)
And from Mary Oliver:
When I Am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness. I would almost say that they save me, and daily…
–from Devotions. The
Selected Poem of Mary Oliver, 2017. Penguin Random House.
The Kohler Company plans to transform its 247 acres of rare dunes, wetlands, and habitat adjacent to Kohler Andrae State Park which includes a rare privately held intact forest on the Wisconsin Lake Michigan shore.
Kohler’s original wetland permit application indicated approximately 50% of the Kohler forested land will be clearcut. Estimates from Kohler’s CUP application to the City of Sheboygan are closer to 75% of clearcutting.
From the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology to the DNR, 2015, “The Kohler parcel is one of the few remaining large forest blocks with enough resources to support large numbers of migrants of many species through extended stopovers, which migratory bird biologists refer to as “full service hotels.” (Mehlman et al. 2005)
Kohler’s information states the wildlife of the 247 acres will be reduced to that of a residential subdivision.
Globally significant ridge and swale wetlands protected elsewhere, will be filled or transformed. The Wisconsin Wetland Association comments to the DNR in 2015, “The interdunal and ridge-swale wetlands located on the proposed development site are rare, with only 10 known examples in Wisconsin and small acreages present at each site. In 2009, WWA recognized the importance and rarity of these interdunal wetlands when we designated the adjacent “Kohler-Andrea Dunes Wetland Type” as one of Wisconsin’s Wetland Gems®
Habitat for 11 endangered, threatened and species of significant concern will be impacted.
Thousands of pounds of fertilizers and pesticides will be applied onto the shallow sand-based aquifer threatening groundwater. The elimination of trees and wetlands will increase runoff into groundwater and Lake Michigan.
Roundup will be used to eliminate vegetation adjacent to the park and a residential area.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has given the Kohler Company acres of prime Kohler Andrae State Park land for chemical, fuel and machine storage as well as the rights to reconstruct the entrance to the park and cut a road across the park to its proposed golf course. This will transform public access to park land preserved for natural habitats, education and recreation since it was added to the park in the 1960’s. Equipment noise, increased ozone pollution from diesel equipment and tournament traffic, will negatively impact the KASP natural experience.
An archaeological report in 2015 uncovered artifacts throughout 185 acres of Kohler’s 247 acres. One known burial mound was reported at this stage of excavation.
The Army Corps of Engineers determined Kohler’s land to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places because of the prehistoric and historic artifacts discovered through 2015.
This Wisconsin Watch story, published May 22, 2021, details the unearthing of human remains through 2019 on the Kohler land. rread the article here. Tribal Historic Preservation Officers have asked what will become of the remains unearthed during the bulldozing required to build the course.