WUWM: Environmental Reporting

Many of us are environmentally aware — many recycle, some conserve water, you might ride a bike to work. But we do face profound environmental challenges.

Help WUWM’s Environmental Reporter Susan Bence dig deeper into the issues you are most concerned about.

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Ways to Connect

Susan Bence / WUWM

Linda Halley is general manager of Gwenyn Hill Farm in the Town of Delafield. "Gwenyn" means honeybee in Welsh. Halley says the name is a nod to generations of people who farmed this lush valley, starting back in 1842.

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.

Student Conservation Association

On Monday evening, Nearby Nature Milwaukee held their second Annual African American Environmental Pioneer Awards celebration to honor people in Milwaukee who are helping to create a healthier and more racially just environment.

Sylvia Wilson, program director of  Teens Grow Greens, was one of the honorees.

Susan Bence

For people who revel in snowy and icy winter pursuits, Wisconsin boasts a unique fishing season. Generations of family and friends gather on Lake Winnebago to try their luck at spearing huge, prehistoric-looking sturgeon. But what’s considered a conservation success story has become overcast.

MICHELE WOODFORD

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) say natural resources officials ignored state law when they failed to schedule a wolf hunt season this winter. The gray wolf was delisted from the Endangered Species Act in early January 2021, returning the wolf to Wisconsin DNR management and triggering a 2011 state law that requires a hunting season between November and February.

Milwaukee County Parks

After hearing from numerous residents, a Milwaukee County panel is giving the public two more weeks to weigh in on a proposal to privatize part of the Bradford Beach Bathhouse.

The pavilion already houses a counter service restaurant on the first level, operated by Nicholas Hynes and his partner Lukaz Cholodecki. They’re proposing adding chairs, tables and a service bar on the building’s second floor, which is currently open to the public. Critics say the move would restrict access to the space because it would be reserved for paying customers.

Ellen Halley

One of Milwaukee County’s most cherished and popular shared spaces is Bradford Beach. Swimmers, sunbathers and volleyball players enjoy its sweeping vista along Lake Michigan.

But there are rumblings of concern over a proposal, critics say, would privatize a portion of this public treasure.

UW-Stevens Point

The controversy over how the gray wolf, humans, livestock and pets can coexist is not new. The wolf has been on and off of the federal endangered species list within the last decade.

Susan Bence

Wisconsin must prevent pollution from forever chemicals known as PFAS while developing ways to reduce the chemicals' use, according to a 25-point action plan released Wednesday by Gov. Tony Evers' administration after a year of study.

Matt Hudson, Northland College Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation

A binational commission, representing Canada and the United States, is making three recommendations it says will improve the two governments’ ability to protect the Great Lakes.

The group, called the International Joint Commission (IJC), has some experience in advising the two countries.

It was created more than a century ago — through the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty — specifically to prevent conflicts between the two countries over shared water resources.

Rinka +

Over the last decade, Oak Creek has been evolving and city leaders believe a new housing development will continue that trend.

Oak Creek’s evolution began when a former major manufacturing plant site was reimagined as a 21st century town square, with an adjacent restored wetland.

Dylan Buell / Getty Images

A bipartisan task force that brought together environmentalists, the energy industry and others released its recommendations Wednesday for how Wisconsin might bolster its economy while addressing climate change.

LISTEN: 'There's No More Later Left': Wisconsin Launches Climate Change Task Force

KORB + ASSOCIATES

Imagine a skyscraper constructed not from steel and concrete, but instead made mostly of wood. Milwaukee, Wisconsin is on track to achieve just that —  the world’s tallest timber skyscraper.

It was hard to imagine any kind of tower on this nondescript construction site, formerly home to a corner pizzeria in downtown Milwaukee.

Adrian Wydeven

Wisconsin is due to resume management of the gray wolf, including a hunting season, as the animal loses federal protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced the gray wolf's successful recovery, setting the stage to delist in all lower 48 states.

In Wisconsin, the gray wolf has swung between state management and federal protection for more than a decade.

tomreichner / Adobe Stock

One of Wisconsin's great outdoor traditions is in full swing — the annual gun deer hunt runs Nov. 21 to Nov. 29. For tens of thousands of enthusiasts, it’s an annual ritual of sharing cabins, meals, and plenty of camaraderie.

Andi Rich

Jobs, the economy, social justice, the coronavirus: those are a few of the major issues motivating people to go to the polls on Tuesday. But for some voters, including in northeastern Wisconsin, water quality is among the top concerns.

Marinette County residents are dealing with surface, ground and well water contaminated by PFAS, a manmade chemical that has many uses, including as an ingredient of firefighting foam. 

Erin Cadigan / stock.adobe.com

Milwaukee aldermen are in the process of sorting out the city’s budget for next year, divvying up dollars leaders say are increasingly scarce. Among public concerns, an increasing number of people want more funding to go to the city’s health department, specifically to serve children impacted by lead poisoning.

READ: Mayor Tom Barrett's Budget Proposal Cuts 120 Milwaukee Police Officers

Susan Bence

In the spring of 2016, residents of Flint, Mich., were experiencing one of the country’s most devastating water crises. Flint-native Mari Copeny decided to do something about it. She wrote a letter to then-President Barack Obama which led to the president traveling to Flint and sitting down to talk with Mari. 

What might be most remarkable is that Mari was just 8 at the time. Now 13, she’s launched into a life of activism.

Susan Bence

Calls to end systemic racial injustice are reverberating throughout the country. That includes around issues of environmental injustice.

One of the people in the Milwaukee area guiding organizations and corporations along the path is August Ball. She calls herself an inclusive culture coach. She works to help groups fold inclusivity in and push racism out of their operations.

Tuesday marks the end of Jeanette Kowalik’s tenure as Milwaukee’s Commissioner of Health. Kowalik has been on the job for two years. She was hired at a low point in the health department’s history — after news broke that the city’s childhood lead poisoning prevention program had been grossly mismanaged.

Susan Bence

Some highly engaged naturalists — including those at Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center — are piloting a project called Yardversity to lure people to the outdoors as well as fuel research about the natural world.

READ: Milwaukee's Urban Ecology Center Strikes On A Formula That Works

Susan Bence

Many people lack access to food to sustain their families. The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the struggle. According to a recent Feeding America study, food insecurity could impact up to 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 2 children in the U.S.

Milwaukee-area organizations and individuals are stepping up to help fill the food gap.

Susan Bence

The COVID-19 pandemic caused millions of people to lose their jobs and many are facing economic hardship. For some families, it’s been challenging to access fresh food.

Susan Bence / WUWM

Finding ways to connect and collaborate during the coronavirus pandemic is challenging. Organizers of a recent environmental cleanup think they might have come up with a way to combine getting good work done with giving people a chance to connect.

Susan Bence

Research at UW-Milwaukee is helping us learn how E. Coli can impact beaches. Just last week, South Shore Beach was closed because of elevated levels of bacteria in the water that could make people sick.

E. coli is a bacteria found in the gut of humans and animals, which can end up in fecal matter. If a lot of that fecal matter makes its way to beaches, it becomes a public health issue. People can get sick with an upset stomach and fever.

Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore

People working to make Milwaukee’s harbor cleaner plan to install a trash interceptor in the Kinnickinnic River. The idea is to catch floating trash before it reaches Lake Michigan. And the group Harbor District, Inc., won a federal grant to bring the project to life.

We recently met Harbor District’s Natural Environment Program Manager Aaron Zeleske as close to the future home of the trash interceptor as we can get – a fence blocks our path and trees and overgrown bushes block the view.

Marathon County Land and Water Program

Over the last seven months, a task force has been deliberating over what Wisconsin can do about climate change. A panel picked by the governor includes industry and tribal leaders, elected officials, and youth activists. Now, everyone in the state has a chance to weigh in.

Susan Bence

The coronavirus pandemic has many of us feeling unsure. How far is far enough when social distancing? How clean is clean enough?

Milwaukee-area entrepreneur Todd Muderlak thinks the coronavirus is changing the way people approach sanitation — and he’s developed products he hopes will fill a void.

Standing in the middle of his Glendale headquarters off Port Washington Road, Muderlak says as a kid he surrounded by his dad’s creations, including washroom innovations.

Susan Bence

Each month, UWM distinguished professor of atmospheric science Paul Roebber talks with Lake Effect as part of our climate conversations series. In this final installment, two policy experts join the conversation.

Amber Meyer Smith is from the organization Clean Wisconsin. She’s a member of Gov. Tony Evers’ climate change task force.

Susan Bence

A statewide research initiative is underway, which involves all of the UW System’s four-year campuses. It’s called The Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin.

The hope is that this initiative will make Wisconsin and UW schools global leaders in freshwater science, technology and entrepreneurship. The group hopes to enroll hundreds of students, raise research dollars and create jobs.

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