Northwest Waters News and Issues

Some officials within DATCP have plans to gut the LWCD's efforts to protect our waters. The article below explains. If this remains in the 09 state budget, our northwestern lakes and streams will suffer. Please pass this op-ed on so many readers learn that they should contact their legislators. 

Below: A letter to to DNR Secretary Matt Frank regarding two issues important to northwest Wisconsin lakes.


Keep the W in Wisconsin’s LWCDs


Wisconsin’s County Land and Water Conservation Departments (LWCDs) conduct very important work for our citizens and are essential for the protection of both our lands and waters. In the south, where agriculture plays a key role in Wisconsin’s economy, the LWCDs focus on the land. North of Highway 29, however, our economy is driven by tourism and our tourism is driven by our clean lakes and streams. Up north, although still very important, agriculture is much farther down the scale. Our northern LWCDs work to protect our lakes, streams, groundwater, wetlands and shorelands.

In spite of this good work, there is a Department of Agriculture plot to remove the word ‘water’ from our Land and Water Conservation Departments across the state, thus placing two thirds of Wisconsin’s 15,000 lakes and thousands of miles of streams at risk. If certain DATCAP (Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection) officials have their way, there will be little conservation work done for our waters up north. These officials are also leery of oversight and now working to dismantle the citizen board of conservationists that helps guide our state LWCD program and assure DATCP’s accountability. They claim this will save money but the savings will be minimal, perhaps no more than $12,000. The real reason behind this is that they want more control and fewer eyes. The result will be a strong emphasis on Ag and, perhaps most disturbing, the loss of many key water resource jobs plus the loss of important protection of our lakes, streams, groundwater, wetlands and shorelands across the state.

Among other work, our northern counties’ Land and Water Conservation Departments provide the shoreland mitigation plans and storm water management plans for our lakes and streams. County LWCDs have also taken on much of the on-site inspections of lakeshore development projects that the DNR can no longer afford to do because of their own budget cuts.

If we hope to keep ahead of the damage done by the rapid development of the northern lakes and streams, we must:   1. Restore the funds that were removed from the LWCD staffing grant; 2. Retain the Land and Water Citizen Conservationists Board; 3. Follow the well-written Chapter 92.14 in future allocations; and 4. Promote locally lead, participatory conservation wherever possible. 

If you’ve enjoyed experiencing Wisconsin’s clean, clear, pristine lakes and streams and wish future visitors will be able to share the same experiences, contact your Wisconsin Legislators. Let them know that you want the W left in the County Land and Water Conservation Departments.


Jim Brakken

Bayfield County Lakes Forum President

Northwest Wisconsin Waters Consortium Vice President

Wisconsin Association of Lakes Director Emeritus






The following is a recent letter sent by Northwest Waters VP, Jim Brakken,  to DNR Secretary Matt Frank regarding two issues important to northwest Wisconsin lakes.

Dear Secretary Frank,


I enjoyed our brief discussion of lake issues at the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Convention May 8th. I think it’s great that you attended, giving folks the opportunity to speak with you in this casual setting.


I mentioned in our conversation two issues that we feel are very important for our lakes. One was that many in our northern counties who have worked very hard to achieve strong shoreland zoning regs are not particularly pleased with the present version of NR 115. It has been watered down to satisfy the already developed lakes in the south. If it passes as now proposed, we know that developers in the north will use it to argue against the stronger county language. Eventually they will win out through persistence, changes in county boards, etc. As shoreland values rise, as they always have and will, the effort to erode our county shoreland regs will increase


On the other hand, it is clear that a strong NR 115 would not fit well in the south. It would make many lake homes non-conforming. I doubt that legislators want this. The answer may be simple:  Divide the state, just as we do for grouse hunting, duck season, some fishing seasons and other issues. Two-thirds of our 15,000 lakes are north of Highway 8. Many are already developed. Some are over-developed but there are still many small lakes that have not yet been developed. Although some call them the jewels of Wisconsin, they are also looked on as potential gold mines by developers. These lakes need greater setbacks, larger lot sizes, smaller impervious ‘run-off’ areas and better buffer zones than the already developed southern lakes. Establishing stronger NR 115 language for the north would help assure that future generations could see and enjoy some degree of that wilderness quality that we all value. Plus, with tourism being our greatest economic driver in the north, a strong NR 115 up here would help guarantee a good economy and clean, healthy lakes for everyone to enjoy.


The second issue was my concern that, although Governor Doyle’s recent infusion of $2M into the AIS control program is much appreciated, we still see too few grant dollars for the landings.  It is at the landing where we will intercept the invasives.  (You've heard the story about my wife catching the same boater with EWM on his boat . . . twice!) Each dollar spent on our CBCW landing monitor effort will save many, many more because, as you know, treatment of a contaminated lake is far more costly than prevention. I have watched our local landing when our CBCW monitor is both on and off duty. When on, boaters carefully clean their equipment prior to launching. When off, they don’t. We need to have our landings monitored and the lack of grant funding prevents that. If there is any way to shift funds into the ‘boots on the ground’ part of this effort, it should be done. Also, the programs not funded by grant aps that didn't make the cut this spring represent ‘shovel-ready’ projects that will put college kids, retired folks and others to work. If any stimulus dollars come floating downstream, this would be a good investment.


I’ve enclosed my latest Bayfield County Lakes Forum newsletter. It may offer some insight to the effort being made by volunteers in the northwest. I invite you to attend the 11th annual Northwest Lakes Conference, June 19th if your schedule allows. We expect about 250 lake leaders, agency folks, NPOs and volunteers will be there. Please be our guest!


Finally, I am among many in the northwest who feel you are doing an exceptionally fine job, especially in light of the problems we face with our economy. Keep up the great work for our woods and waters and those who enjoy them both now and in the future.  





Jim Brakken,

Bayfield County Lakes Forum President

Cable Lake Association President

Northwest Waters Consortium VP

Wisconsin Association of Lakes Director Emeritus

Town of Cable AIS Coordinator

Wisconsin Conservation Congress Delegate representing Bayfield County


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