In the last issue of the “Habitat News” (Vol. 9, No. 5) we reported on an important legal victory in the state of Wisconsin that stopped the illegal filling of almost fifteen acres of floodplain wetland by Ashley Furniture Company in the City of Arcadia. The lawsuit, filed by five statewide environmental organizations, took two years and many thousands of dollars to win. In an act of arrogance and defiance, the company has successfully coaxed key legislators to introduce separate bills into both the State Assembly (AB 580) and the State Senate (SB 290) that would allow them exemptions from state law to undertake their fill activities. The Assembly recently passed AB 580, and the Senate will hold a hearing and likely vote on SB 290 in January, 2002. There are rumblings that this bill may pass the Senate as well.
If this bill becomes law, this essentially suggests that if one has enough money and political influence, one can buy oneself favors from the State Legislature. This would set a terrible precedent that would open the door for a flood of special favor legislation. We have an indication from our attorney that this law would violate the public trust by impacting the state’s waters and might merit yet another lawsuit. We’ll keep you posted.