Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ideas on roads, wolves need rethinking

By David Horst 

From time to time, a columnist needs to purge his notebook and produce a mishmash of this and that from bits too little to be a column but too much to be ignored.

Complete streets
I attended the annual meeting of the trail advocacy group Fox Cities Greenways and
heard a presentation by Jack Zabrowski of the La Crosse County Health Department,
who coordinates the county's "complete streets" efforts.

It is a term I had not heard before. The concept is to commit to designing streets not just for automobile traffic, but for all of the functions they serve — safe routes for bicycles, pedestrians and school children. That means more than adding bicycle lanes, Zabrowski said.

It may involve building in such features as bump-out crosswalks as in downtown Appleton, raised crosswalks that serve as low-grade speed bumps, curb cut ramps at intersections, shared bicycle and parking lanes and bike-only lanes. In rural areas, it may be as simple as paved shoulders and 14-foot-wide traffic lanes.

Area communities have done a good job of insisting on recreation trails as part of major highway projects. This is the next step.

New direction 
Another concept is governments having "sustainability directors," people in charge of advancing goals related to ensuring that the Earth lasts, or at least our piece of it. Goals such as reducing landfill waste, increasing local food production and preserving open space.

They go by different titles, but this is part of their jobs.

Who knew, but the City of Appleton has a sustainability director — a guy named Dean Gazza. He's also Director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities Management, so that may not leave a great deal of time for being sustainable.

Appleton has a sustainability plan, drafted in 2010. Included in the objectives for that plan: complete streets.

Tastes like eagle
Conservation Congress meetings across the state will consider a resolution to allow a sandhill crane hunt.

I may not be completely objective on this point, since both my license plate and my email address use the word "sandhill." I enjoy and treasure this bird. In my adult life, they have gone from never seen to part of the landscape.

I know about crop damage and I've experienced enough biology instruction to understand that any species may grow to numbers that the environment can't sustain and some control on the population must be imposed. (We conveniently exempt humans from that axiom.) I just don't believe we're there yet with sandhills.

It also scares me to think some yahoo in the marsh might start shooting at any big bird, including the big white, endangered ones — the whooping crane.

Wolf at the door 
Speaking of controlling populations, state Rep. Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) has introduced legislation to authorize a wolf hunt. Controlling animal populations is exactly what wolves do.

The state already has the authority to allow farmers and livestock owners to shoot problem wolves. When is it time to hunt them again? I'd entrust that decision not to skunked deer hunters, not to a general public with a Brothers Grimm-induced paranoia about wolves, but to able wildlife
researchers with the DNR. Science, not public opinion, should rule that day.

Again, I don't think we're anywhere near that point.

Don't be complacent that crane hunts and wolf hunts are too outrageous to become law. Hunting down mourning doves and crows seemed outrageous, too. Defenders of wildlife will have to reacquaint themselves with Conservation Congress meetings and legislative hearings.

No comments:

Post a Comment