Dear Editor: The autumn edition of Orion Magazine has the most powerful Wisconsin climate-loss story  I’ve ever heard. Every elected official in Wisconsin should read it.

Like the Great Barrier Reef, Menomonee County is visible from space — a densely forested island in a sea of dairy grassland.

Perhaps more surprising, Wisconsin’s Menomonee Indians are the Green Bay Packers of forestry management — with admirers as far away as Germany and South Africa.

Recently, a group from the Society of American Foresters convening in Madison took a three-hour bus ride to the reservation. They’re also the subject of multiyear research projects with the Smithsonian Institute, Penn State, Michigan State and the Northeast Climate Adaptation Center — an academic consortium.

The Menomonee’s forestry approach is so unique that a Venn diagram designed to show overlap between Western science and native wisdom showed no points of overlap. Losing that wisdom would be like losing a world cultural heritage site.

Yet soon it’s all going to be lost to climate change as Menomonee’s forest turns to open, grassy savannah.

We’re standing at the intersection of climate science and social justice — about to witness a horrible accident: the extinction of a tribal culture with over a 1,000 year history in Wisconsin due to something almost entirely outside their control. That’s disturbing enough.

But the clear point of the story is that somehow the Menomonee will adapt — and it’s really our, the world's loss — if we let this heritage of forestry wisdom fall victim to climate change.

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Dick Smith


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