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Dairy farm

The number of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, in Wisconsin has shot up in the past decade — as have concerns about their impact on water quality. Manure is a contributor to bacterial and viral contamination in Wisconsin’s drinking water. Seen in 2013, this large farm near Hilbert, Wisconsin, operated by Holsum Dairies, has been recognized by the state for its efforts to protect the environment.

Wisconsin grass-roots groups and individuals are joining forces to demand responsible water policy from our elected officials. They will converge on the Capitol on Feb. 8 for Citizens' Water Lobby Day.

The need for this event is clear — threats to Wisconsin’s ground and surface waters have been increasing in recent years. In 2016, 225 lakes, streams and rivers were added to our impaired waters list. Thousands of families' drinking water wells have become polluted beyond use. But as lakes continue to dry up, contamination levels skyrocket, and blue-green algae blooms cause severe illness, legislators continue to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to citizens' concerns while influenced by industry lobbyists trying to gain an upper hand on controlling Wisconsin water resources.

Add to that the dismantling of the Department of Natural Resources and the elimination of “science” in our decision-making process. Citizens are faced with a clear recipe for disaster, and we are driven to take action.

The Concerned Rome Citizens group in the Central Sands region of Wisconsin has been battling the proposed Golden Sands Dairy CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) sought by the Wysocki organization and was approached by a generous benefactor willing to pay for six charter buses to get citizens from around Wisconsin to Madison to share concerns about water. The idea of Citizens’ Water Lobby Day was formed when they partnered with the Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network, a coalition of grass-roots groups fighting to keep water safe from CAFOs.

It's time for all people and groups that have an interest in clean and abundant water to join forces. Water is the common ground among grass-roots groups opposing frac sand mining, other mining, pipelines, high capacity wells, easing of shoreline zoning rules and CAFOs across Wisconsin. Feb. 8 is the first step in unifying their voices and strategically focusing on what is needed — elected officials who are willing to stand up and fight for citizens' rights to clean water.

Participants are encouraged and empowered to engage with elected officials until there is absolute certainty Wisconsin’s water is protected from various forms of pollution. Attendees will be canvassing as many legislative offices as possible to share personal stories and concerns about water, as well as the message that grass-roots groups from across the state have united, are networking, and will no longer sit idly by as constituents' concerns are ignored and damaging water legislation is passed in Wisconsin.

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Feb. 8 will be a true citizen-led event. Much time and effort has gone into behind the scenes to work with participants on advocacy and speaking to their representatives, as well as a mini boot camp planned that day for those new to the process. Additionally, speakers from various groups will be on hand to share their experiences with the many threats to water in Wisconsin and why we need to unite to demand change in Madison.

Water knows no boundaries and should be a viewed as a nonpartisan issue in our Legislature. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case in recent legislative sessions. The health, safety, and welfare of Wisconsin citizens should be the sole issue on the minds of all elected officials when voting on water legislation. We invite all interested parties to come stand with us at Citizens’ Water Lobby Day and send a clear message to our elected officials that we will no longer be ignored and we demand clean abundant water for all.

Christe Green, of Wisconsin Rapids, is a member of the board of the Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network. For more info on Citizens' Water Lobby Day, email srwnboard@gmail.com or visit the Facebook event page at www.facebook.com/events/240757196368636/

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