environment

Susan Bence

Milwaukee’s rivers have slowly been revitalized through a variety of cleanup projects in recent years. But, the estuary — the area in which the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers meet Lake Michigan — is still one of the most environmentally degraded sites on the Great Lakes due to contamination caused by decades of industrial waste.

The estuary has a federal designation as an “area of concern.”

But change is coming. Years of planning has led to a massive $400 million cleanup project.

MICHELE WOODFORD

Updated 10:38 a.m. CST

Wisconsin hunters and trappers killed nearly double the number of wolves as the state allotted for a weeklong season, and they did it so quickly that officials had to end the hunt after less than three days, according to figures released Thursday.

Nontribal hunters and trappers had registered 215 wolves as of midday, blowing past the state's kill target of 119. The state Department of Natural Resources estimated before the hunt that there were about 1,000 wolves in the state, and its population goal for the animal is 350.

KARLOS LOMSKY / FOTOLIA

Updated 2:16 p.m. CST

Wisconsin wildlife officials opened a wolf season Monday after hunting advocates sued to move the start date up from November amid fears that the Biden administration might restore protections for the animals.

The hunt will run through Sunday across six management zones. The DNR set the kill limit at 200 animals, with 119 allocated to the state and the other 81 allocated to Wisconsin's Chippewa tribes as per treaty agreements. However, the Chippewa regard the wolf as sacred and will not hunt it, leaving the working kill limit at 119.

Chuck Quirmbach

Three GOP members of the Wisconsin House delegation gathered at a pipeline company in Racine County Friday to criticize President Joe Biden for cancelling a major oil pipeline known as Keystone XL.

US Reps. Bryan Steil, of Janesville, Scott Fitzgerald of Waupun and Glen Grothman of Glenbeulah say the executive order Biden issued after taking office Wednesday has caused hundreds of Wisconsin residents working on the pipeline in the Great Plains states to be laid off. 

Courtesy of Wisconsin DNR

Half of Wisconsin is covered in forests, so managing all that land is no easy task. It’s up to the Wisconsin Division of Forestry, which falls under the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), to keep the land healthy.

The forestry division works with federal, county, tribal and private landowners. It’s a team of about 420 people scattered across the state. And, the person leading this division is Heather Berklund.  

Susan Bence

Updated at 5:16 p.m. CT

Wisconsin health officials said Friday they've finished drafting new groundwater standards for more than 20 substances, including a dozen types of PFAS chemicals.

The United States will formally leave the Paris Agreement on Wednesday, no matter who wins the election. Of the nearly 200 nations that signed the agreement, the U.S. is the only one to walk away from its promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

President Trump originally announced his intention to withdraw from the landmark agreement in 2017 and formally notified the United Nations last year. A mandatory yearlong waiting period ends on Wednesday, a coincidence that nonetheless highlights the Trump administration's commitment to derailing efforts that address climate change.

HKUCHERA / FOTOLIA

The Trump administration's decision to remove gray wolves across most of the U.S. from the endangered species list means Wisconsin wildlife officials must reinstate a wolf hunt.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Thursday that wolves would come off the list, a move designed to appeal to rural voters who have long complained that wolves are preying on their livestock. The delisting is expected to be effective in January.

School Sisters of St. Francis / Facebook

Five years ago this week, Pope Francis released his first major encyclical called Laudato Si' (a letter a bishop writes instructing his followers on how to approach major issues). Instead of taking on an abstract theological issue, he addressed “the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest [people]."

Has Coronavirus Revived Ecofascism?

May 5, 2020
Mario Tama / Getty Images

In America, environmentalism is often seen as a left-wing partisan issue. But in other parts of the world, and at different points in history, environmentalists have also had right-wing motivations too.

The COVID-19 pandemic is delivering the biggest shock to the global energy system in seven decades, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

New Land Enterprises

There have been a lot of environmental stories coming out of the coronavirus pandemic — but one environmental win that has little to do with the pandemic is flying under the radar right here in Milwaukee.

On Tuesday, the Milwaukee Common Council will vote on whether or not to approve a revision to the plans of Ascent, a planned high-rise apartment building in downtown. If approved, Ascent will become the tallest wooden structure in the world after Mjøstårnet, an 18-story wooden skyscraper that went up in Norway last year.

ChiccoDodiFC / stock.adobe.com

Updated Feb. 5, 2020, at 5:06 p.m. CT

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed a Republican-authored bill Wednesday that imposes new restrictions on firefighting foam to curb pollution from PFAS chemicals.  

The bill prohibits the use of foam containing intentionally added PFAS except in emergency fire situations. Firefighters will have to train with foam or other substances that don't contain the chemicals.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

The Environmental Protection Agency is dramatically reducing the amount of U.S. waterways that get federal protection under the Clean Water Act — a move that is welcomed by many farmers, builders and mining companies but is opposed even by the agency's own science advisers.

Last year was the second hottest on record globally, according to the latest climate data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

It's the latest confirmation that the Earth is steadily getting hotter — the planet has already warmed about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (or almost 1 degree Celsius) compared with in the mid-20th century — and that robust greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming to continue unabated.

On "good" bad days, the shells lie open at the bottom of the river, shimmering in the refracted sunlight. Their insides, pearl white and picked clean of flesh, flicker against the dark riverbed like a beacon, alerting the world above to a problem below.

Susan Bence

Gov. Tony Evers signed into law a bipartisan proposal Wednesday making it a felony to trespass or damage oil or gas pipelines in Wisconsin, a measure that opponents said would violate free speech rights and disproportionately affect Native Americans whose lands are often affected by pipeline projects.

Evers said he had problems with the bill but signed it anyway.

Jason Rieve

One of the miracles of manufacturing new products today is the use of nanomaterials — extremely small substances. Think of a piece of paper you’re holding in your hands. Look at the edge of the paper and imagine something 100,000 times smaller.

Nanomaterials are found in all kinds of products we every day, things like sunscreen, car paint, and clothing. While the tiny particles have dramatically improved the performance of many products, there’s a downside: Scientists are finding that nanomaterials are often being washed into our lakes and streams.

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

Millions of young people raised their voices at protests around the world Friday in a massive display meant to demand urgent action on climate change. Scores of students missed school to take part, some joined by teachers and parents.

Some of the first rallies began in Australia, and then spread from Pacific islands to India and Turkey and across Europe, as students kicked off what organizers were calling a Global Climate Strike.

When curbside recycling caught on in the 1970s, it was mostly about cans, glass, cardboard and paper. That's how Donald Sanderson remembers it.

Sanderson is 90 years old, an earnest man with a ready smile. Every Thursday in Woodbury, N.J., where he lives, he hauls a big blue recycling bin out to the curb. Recycling is close to his heart. "I guess you could say I'm the father of recycling," he says. "I don't know if that's good or bad."

A standard river barge can hold about the same amount as 60 semitrucks. In early June, 642 of them had floated to a standstill near American Commercial Barge Line's office outside Cairo, Ill.

"That's just me. That's not the other fleets in the area," said Mark Glaab, facility manager there. "That's just ACBL."

"Water, water everywhere." That line from poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge could be the mantra for rain-weary residents across the country. Some regions have seen record amounts of rain since early spring. The Mississippi River and tributaries spent months above flood stage, while all of the Great Lakes are nearly at or above historic highs.

Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit, says data show that the Great Lakes have been on the rise for several years, especially in recent months.

The avalanche of plastic waste that's rolling over land and sea has inspired numerous potential solutions. Some involve inventing our way out of the mess by creating new kinds of natural materials that will harmlessly degrade if they're thrown away.

Others say it might be quicker to change people's throwaway behavior instead.

LOOZRBOY / FLICKR

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Canada-based Enbridge Energy doesn't need to carry additional insurance for a pipeline project in Dane County, despite the local government's insistence that it do so in case of an accidental spill.

Dane County officials made a $25 million environmental liability policy a requirement for Enbridge's permit for a project to triple the flow of crude oil from its Line 61 pipeline to 1.2 million barrels per day. The pipeline runs from northern Wisconsin to Illinois.

Nick / Flickr

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul recently announced that he will defend an EPA decision to exempt parts of the Milwaukee area from stricter air quality regulations. Kaul will be siding with the Trump administration and former Gov. Scott Walker in defending the exemption, which contends that much of the area’s air pollution is caused by Illinois and Indiana.

The largest habitat for life on Earth is the deep ocean. It's home to everything from jellyfish to giant bluefin tuna. But the deep ocean is being invaded by tiny pieces of plastic — plastic that people thought was mostly floating at the surface, and in amounts they never imagined.

Johanna Madjedi / Flickr

Most of us see birds every day — it might be a pigeon shuffling down the sidewalk or a robin hopping past the yard — but few of us take much notice of them. A new book is hoping to change that and make bird-watching a bit more accessible.

Chuck Quirmbach

Wisconsin scientists are working on new ways to protect drinking and surface water from pollutants. They’re also investigating better methods of cleaning water that's already contaminated. But researchers say success may cost taxpayers more money.

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Preston Cole has been promising to place a higher priority on good science when crafting policy. For example, he hopes better research will lead to cleaner drinking water. 

alexandrink1966 / stock.adobe.com

Quality is perhaps the most important part of any water distribution system. Water utilities process every drop that makes it into our plumbing, which takes a lot of time and energy. One way to keep from overburdening the system is by reducing our consumption — what we know as "water conservation."

Bill Graffin works for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, which works in wastewater treatment and conservation efforts in the Milwaukee area. Here are some helpful tips from Graffin on how you can conserve water at home.

Milwaukee-Area Engineer Aids International Environmental Crises

Apr 16, 2019
Image courtesy Mike Paddock

Parts of the Midwest are still reeling from spring flooding caused by a winter's-worth of snow melting in a very short period of time. The floods have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage, even in places with plans for such occurrences. 

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