WUWM: Environmental Reporting

Many of us are environmentally aware — many recycle, some conserve water, you might ride a bike to work. But we do face profound environmental challenges.

Help WUWM’s Environmental Reporter Susan Bence dig deeper into the issues you are most concerned about.

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Susan Bence

Wisconsin must prevent pollution from forever chemicals known as PFAS while developing ways to reduce the chemicals' use, according to a 25-point action plan released Wednesday by Gov. Tony Evers' administration after a year of study.

Matt Hudson, Northland College Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation

A binational commission, representing Canada and the United States, is making three recommendations it says will improve the two governments’ ability to protect the Great Lakes.

The group, called the International Joint Commission (IJC), has some experience in advising the two countries.

It was created more than a century ago — through the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty — specifically to prevent conflicts between the two countries over shared water resources.

Rinka +

Over the last decade, Oak Creek has been evolving and city leaders believe a new housing development will continue that trend.

Oak Creek’s evolution began when a former major manufacturing plant site was reimagined as a 21st century town square, with an adjacent restored wetland.

Dylan Buell / Getty Images

A bipartisan task force that brought together environmentalists, the energy industry and others released its recommendations Wednesday for how Wisconsin might bolster its economy while addressing climate change.

LISTEN: 'There's No More Later Left': Wisconsin Launches Climate Change Task Force

KORB + ASSOCIATES

Imagine a skyscraper constructed not from steel and concrete, but instead made mostly of wood. Milwaukee, Wisconsin is on track to achieve just that —  the world’s tallest timber skyscraper.

It was hard to imagine any kind of tower on this nondescript construction site, formerly home to a corner pizzeria in downtown Milwaukee.

Adrian Wydeven

Wisconsin is due to resume management of the gray wolf, including a hunting season, as the animal loses federal protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced the gray wolf's successful recovery, setting the stage to delist in all lower 48 states.

In Wisconsin, the gray wolf has swung between state management and federal protection for more than a decade.

tomreichner / Adobe Stock

One of Wisconsin's great outdoor traditions is in full swing — the annual gun deer hunt runs Nov. 21 to Nov. 29. For tens of thousands of enthusiasts, it’s an annual ritual of sharing cabins, meals, and plenty of camaraderie.

Andi Rich

Jobs, the economy, social justice, the coronavirus: those are a few of the major issues motivating people to go to the polls on Tuesday. But for some voters, including in northeastern Wisconsin, water quality is among the top concerns.

Marinette County residents are dealing with surface, ground and well water contaminated by PFAS, a manmade chemical that has many uses, including as an ingredient of firefighting foam. 

Erin Cadigan / stock.adobe.com

Milwaukee aldermen are in the process of sorting out the city’s budget for next year, divvying up dollars leaders say are increasingly scarce. Among public concerns, an increasing number of people want more funding to go to the city’s health department, specifically to serve children impacted by lead poisoning.

READ: Mayor Tom Barrett's Budget Proposal Cuts 120 Milwaukee Police Officers

Susan Bence

In the spring of 2016, residents of Flint, Mich., were experiencing one of the country’s most devastating water crises. Flint-native Mari Copeny decided to do something about it. She wrote a letter to then-President Barack Obama which led to the president traveling to Flint and sitting down to talk with Mari. 

What might be most remarkable is that Mari was just 8 at the time. Now 13, she’s launched into a life of activism.

Susan Bence

Calls to end systemic racial injustice are reverberating throughout the country. That includes around issues of environmental injustice.

One of the people in the Milwaukee area guiding organizations and corporations along the path is August Ball. She calls herself an inclusive culture coach. She works to help groups fold inclusivity in and push racism out of their operations.

Tuesday marks the end of Jeanette Kowalik’s tenure as Milwaukee’s Commissioner of Health. Kowalik has been on the job for two years. She was hired at a low point in the health department’s history — after news broke that the city’s childhood lead poisoning prevention program had been grossly mismanaged.

Susan Bence

Some highly engaged naturalists — including those at Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center — are piloting a project called Yardversity to lure people to the outdoors as well as fuel research about the natural world.

READ: Milwaukee's Urban Ecology Center Strikes On A Formula That Works

Susan Bence

Many people lack access to food to sustain their families. The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the struggle. According to a recent Feeding America study, food insecurity could impact up to 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 2 children in the U.S.

Milwaukee-area organizations and individuals are stepping up to help fill the food gap.

Susan Bence

The COVID-19 pandemic caused millions of people to lose their jobs and many are facing economic hardship. For some families, it’s been challenging to access fresh food.

Susan Bence / WUWM

Finding ways to connect and collaborate during the coronavirus pandemic is challenging. Organizers of a recent environmental cleanup think they might have come up with a way to combine getting good work done with giving people a chance to connect.

Susan Bence

Research at UW-Milwaukee is helping us learn how E. Coli can impact beaches. Just last week, South Shore Beach was closed because of elevated levels of bacteria in the water that could make people sick.

E. coli is a bacteria found in the gut of humans and animals, which can end up in fecal matter. If a lot of that fecal matter makes its way to beaches, it becomes a public health issue. People can get sick with an upset stomach and fever.

Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore

People working to make Milwaukee’s harbor cleaner plan to install a trash interceptor in the Kinnickinnic River. The idea is to catch floating trash before it reaches Lake Michigan. And the group Harbor District, Inc., won a federal grant to bring the project to life.

We recently met Harbor District’s Natural Environment Program Manager Aaron Zeleske as close to the future home of the trash interceptor as we can get – a fence blocks our path and trees and overgrown bushes block the view.

Marathon County Land and Water Program

Over the last seven months, a task force has been deliberating over what Wisconsin can do about climate change. A panel picked by the governor includes industry and tribal leaders, elected officials, and youth activists. Now, everyone in the state has a chance to weigh in.

Susan Bence

The coronavirus pandemic has many of us feeling unsure. How far is far enough when social distancing? How clean is clean enough?

Milwaukee-area entrepreneur Todd Muderlak thinks the coronavirus is changing the way people approach sanitation — and he’s developed products he hopes will fill a void.

Standing in the middle of his Glendale headquarters off Port Washington Road, Muderlak says as a kid he surrounded by his dad’s creations, including washroom innovations.

Susan Bence

Each month, UWM distinguished professor of atmospheric science Paul Roebber talks with Lake Effect as part of our climate conversations series. In this final installment, two policy experts join the conversation.

Amber Meyer Smith is from the organization Clean Wisconsin. She’s a member of Gov. Tony Evers’ climate change task force.

Susan Bence

A statewide research initiative is underway, which involves all of the UW System’s four-year campuses. It’s called The Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin.

The hope is that this initiative will make Wisconsin and UW schools global leaders in freshwater science, technology and entrepreneurship. The group hopes to enroll hundreds of students, raise research dollars and create jobs.

Susan Bence

Friday was Juneteenth Day, which marks when the last slaves in Galveston, Texas learned in 1865 that slavery had been abolished.

There were a number of gatherings and celebrations in Milwaukee. And they took on special meaning in a period of civil rights demonstrations that have sprouted up across the country.

>>Juneteenth: The Day African Americans Truly Gained Freedom

Courtesy of David Thomas

One day a year for the last 24 years, several thousand volunteers have spread out throughout the Milwaukee River Basin to pick up trash. But this year is different, the coronavirus forced the Milwaukee Riverkeeper organization to cancel its 25th cleanup.

The science-based, water advocacy group says the annual cleaning up of tons of trash that accumulates over the winter helps the Menomonee, Kinnickinnic and Milwaukee River watersheds, but it also helps connect people to the natural resource.

Susan Bence

Spring is in full swing, so many plants and trees are beginning to bloom. Research shows that blooming trends are being impacted by climate change.

Mark Schwartz, a UW-Milwaukee distinguished professor of geography, is one of the researchers digging into those trends.

Susan Bence

For many people, the outdoors has become a precious oasis — maybe now more than ever before. One spot that hikers gravitate toward would have been unthinkable and largely inaccessible just a decade ago: the Milwaukee River Greenway.

It forms a ribbon of 878 acres stretching from Glendale to the edge of downtown Milwaukee, much of it parkland. Milwaukee-native Kathy Mooney recalls forbidding parcels before the Greenway was established.

Chuck Quirmbach

The Milwaukee area just came through a bout of long, hard rain. When the deep tunnel capacity was maxed out on Sunday, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) made the tough call to release combined sewer water to Milwaukee waterways which flow into Lake Michigan.

Troye Fox / UWM Photo Services

Coronavirus is a respiratory virus, but a Milwaukee researcher is looking for signs of the virus somewhere you may not expect: human waste.

For years, scientist Sandra McLellan’s team has been tracking bacteria that can impact public health. McLellan is a professor at UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences.

READ: South Shore Beach Goes Green For Science

Erica Heisdorf Bisquerra

Climate change poses daunting threats to every facet and form of life. The Great Lakes region is expected to be hit by an increase in heat waves, flooding and severe storms.

Climate change disproportionately impacts people already grappling with obstacles, particularly in urban areas.

Walnut Way would appear to fit that description. The 30-block section of Milwaukee, 2 miles northwest of downtown falls within the Lindsay Heights neighborhood.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a new database earlier this month. It’s called Nature’s Archives, and NOAA says it’s the most comprehensive temperature change database ever assembled.

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