Susan Bence

Environmental Reporter

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.

Susan is now WUWM's environmental reporter, the station's first. Her work has been recognized by the Milwaukee Press Club, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

Susan worked with Prevent Blindness Wisconsin for 20 years, studied foreign languages at UWM, and loves to travel.

Ways to Connect

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A day long festival Saturday at Atwater Beach in Shorewood celebrates surfing and the importance of Lake Michigan.

Surf @Water kicks off with a sunrise paddle and ends with a surf film festival at sunset.

Polly Morris

Bob Retko tended the Lynden Sculpture Garden  long before it took on that name or mission.

Retko grew up nearby in River Hills. He first wandered onto the grounds off Brown Deer Road with a friend when he was 10 years old. But it was during his teenage summers that Retko was hired to help tend the grounds.

“I worked through high school an then I went to UW-Stevens Point and earned biology and natural resources degrees,” Retko says.

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Opinions dramatically conflicted, yet the first public hearing coordinated by the Wisconsin DNR ran smoothly and with civility at the jam-packed Carroll University.

Two more sessions will take place today: 1 pm in Milwaukee at the Zilber School of Public Health and at 5:30 pm in Racine at the downtown Masonic Center.

Monday evening, people shared their views on whether Waukesha should be allowed to divert Lake Michigan water.

Susan Bence

 

Grand hiking trails of the U.S. include the Appalachian and the Pacific Coast Trails, but if Melissa Scanlan has her way, there will be another one – a Great Lakes Trail, which would span eight states and two Canadian provinces.

Scanlan now teaches environmental law at Vermont Law School, but her roots are in Wisconsin and Lake Michigan. The idea of a Great Lakes Trail came to her as she was hiking the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin.

Not everyone in Wisconsin feels its pull, or takes full advantage of Lake Michigan. So last year, a coalition of Wisconsin professionals including scientists, environmentalists and others launched the first Lake Michigan Day to change that and foster more connections to the Great Lake.

The inaugural event took place in Manitowoc. This year, Milwaukee is joining.

Linda Reid spearheaded the event that's taking place today at Discovery World.

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Steamy heat is expected to dominate the Wisconsin State Fair’s closing days, so the DNR park at the southwest corner of the grounds might get more visitors than usual.

DNR outreach coordinator Trisha Nitschke says 120,000 people wander through its shady lanes every year. 

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Until a short time ago, the empty lot at 14th and North Avenue was an eye sore, and for years and years before, attracted dumping and troublesome activity.

Now named Sunshine Park, the parcel is dotted with dozens of freshly-planted bushes and fruit trees adjust to their new surroundings. 

Limestone pavers slice a path for walkers. Soon crews will add benches and a grill.

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The Urban Connections program isn’t new. It’s been providing city kids with a taste – that the Forest Service results in a passion for the natural world, even in a world that’s mostly paved.

But Milwaukee is unique among its fellow urban connections’ cities of Boston, Detroit and the Twin Cities. It’s the only place the Forest Service dispatches teams of interns to work with kids of all ages in the summer.

Places like Tiefenthaler Park, northwest of downtown Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Water Commons started up a year and a half ago. And, Melanie Ariens has played a pivotal role in the group's efforts to cultivate people’s desire to connect to and care for water.

As artist in residence, Ariens devised a way to amp up outreach. “I have the lucky job of people the creative, fun art person and I‘m also sort of a bike geek,” she explains.

Ariens set out to create a “rolling kiosk” by attaching a cart to the back of her bike. It’s big enough to hold a rain barrel – in fact it does.

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It’s being called a “department strategic alignment effort” and comes after waves of change within Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources in recent months.

The state budget doled out staff cuts, including to the DNR’s science research team.

Now, the agency has announced a major reorganization. Governor Walker wants the DNR to become a customer-oriented team - for hunters and corporations alike.

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Keith Hayes was among the first to recognize the potential of a former rail corridor, where Milwaukee's Harambee and Riverwest neighborhoods intersect. The space, now called the artery, stretches from W. Keefe Avenue up to W. Capitol Drive.

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Standing close to the spot where Waukesha’s proposed pipe would discharge treated water, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee biologist Tim Ehlinger worries about the impact it could have on the Root River.

“The Root is a fabulous treasure. I think what’s gorgeous about it down here is you’ve got all this riparian wetland and wooded wetland that floods frequently and it provides for the life of the amphibians and the birds and the water quality,” he says.

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Waukesha hopes to pump in 10 million gallons a day from Oak Creek’s utility, then treat and return the water to Lake Michigan via the Root River.

The city says it’s the best way to solve its existing underground source that it’s becoming more tainted with cancer-causing radium.

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Waukesha’s proposal to tap into Lake Michigan is inching forward after years of debate and revision.

The city is under federal order to secure clean water for residents because their underground source is increasing concentrated with radium, a health hazard.

The state DNR recently gave the nod to Waukesha’s application.

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Tia Nelson found herself in the center of  controversy at the close of her tenure as executive secretary of Wisconsin's Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. She resigned from her post last week.

The agency recently prohibited staff from talking about or working on anything to do with climate change.

Nelson is the daughter of Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson and is committed to carrying on her father’s environmental legacy.

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