In Houston’s tragic flooding, one of the contributing factors has been the fact that much of that city is built over marshland, or wetland.

When wetlands are drained, or when streets and concrete, parking lots and other infrastructure are built right over them, such areas become a funnel for floodwaters rather than a sponge to help absorb them.

How foolish, we might think. How shortsighted of the planners and developers.

Yet similar things are happening in Wisconsin. As you read this, our governor’s budget is being pushed through Madison, with plans to:

  • Divide the DNR and weaken its environmental oversight.
  • Eliminate the forestry mill tax, leaving the future of our forests (and of programs like wildfire prevention) to big-money lobbyists and politicians.
  • Loosen environmental rules for the benefit of big animal feed operations and a mega-business like Foxconn.

To developers, business interests and their lobbyists and politicians, these changes are merely steps toward reducing burdensome regulation. To those of us upset with these changes, they represent the erosion of protections and safeguards. And to point out parallels with Houston is to be dismissed as a Democrat.

But when we see disasters happening with increasing frequency, couldn’t we for once recognize shortsighted approaches, and our common need for safeguards?

As the Houston floodwaters start to recede, there will be haunting questions “Blowin’ In the Wind” (to paraphrase Dylan) for a long, long time. Questions like: How many disasters will it take till we know that too many safeguards are gone?

Dan Henderson, Holmen