WUWM: Environmental Reporting

The environmental beat is massive -  from covering threats to air and water, to sharing scientific research, to uncovering the individuals and groups working to create sustainable communities.

Although I (WUWM's environmental reporter Susan Bence) have reported on a variety of stories, I continue to think 'I need to dig deeper.' So, I'm turning to you to help make that happen.

Wisconsinites, what have you been wondering about when it comes the environment? Questions about conservation? Climate change? You ask and I'll report.

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Ways to Connect

Chris Young

As Alverno College students count down to graduation day, several seniors shared their choices and concerns for the environment.

Hannah Burby says her family set an environmental example - outdoor people, who reuse cream cheese containers, not Tupperware. Recycling is not an option, it’s mandatory. Burby’s “people” are engineers.

“I wanted to apply that and be an environmental engineer, and now I’ve changed my mind to do something more community-based,” Burby says.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

More than a decade ago, residents living near the last operating landfill within Milwaukee's limits were presented with a challenge -- as well as an opportunity. As the landfill closed, neighbors organized. And today, a 20-acre park - featuring a labyrinth, bronze sculptures, a playground and more - stands in its spot.

Near the spot where West Keefe Avenue meets the Menomonee River Parkway, Milwaukee’s Commissioner of Public Works Ghassan Korban touts the park as a stormwater management marvel.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

UW-Milwaukee student Jessica Hufford spearheaded the first week-long No Impact Challenge on campus last year. She's working to get more students involved this year.

"The way the challenge works is that there is a theme for each day, consumption on Sunday, trash Monday, etc. and the challenge builds on itself throughout the week to ease into sustainable living," Hufford says.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

A decades-old tradition unfolded at West Allis Central High on Monday evening - and at schools and courthouses in every county in the state. The Wisconsin Conservation Congress conducted its annual spring hearings.

Susan Bence

More than 300 hundred people came out Thursday evening to view the latest iteration of a plan for 1200-acres in the southwest portion of Wauwatosa, but their focus was on a small parcel within the plan. Sanctuary Woods is located within what’s commonly known as the County Grounds.

Some see its 22 acres as an oasis within a hub of activity surrounding Watertown Plank Road: traffic and business; the medical complex and UWM’s Innovation Campus: a new apartment complex. Some of that development has swallowed up, what for decades, was green space.

Susan Bence

John Dickert has been Racine's mayor since 2009. This summer, he’ll abandon that post to take a job with the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities initiative.

The organization represents mayors from more than 120 American and Canadian cities.

Last January inside Racine City Hall, Dickert addressed a swarm of journalists. They were there to learn about the contentious plan allowing the City of Waukesha to divert drinking water from Lake Michigan.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

River Revitalization Foundation is a nonprofit headquartered in what originally was a brick ranch along the Milwaukee River, upstream from downtown Milwaukee. Surrounded by restored shoreline, the south-facing portion of the building’s roof will soon be topped with ten solar panels.

That’s if Mike Ballo achieves his goal to raise $10,567 to install the panels. The panels themselves were donated to the foundation.

Cheryl Nenn

Over the last seven years, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has pumped $2.2 billion into restoring the Great Lakes - thousands of projects both large and small. President Trump would like to eliminate the fund by 2018.

READ: Trump's Budget Eliminates Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Funding

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative came to life during the Obama Administration, but it's seed was planted during George W. Bush's tenure.  And, now President Trump's budget calls for defunding the program.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

One of the startups selected for this year's The Water Council's BREW Accelerator program was on display last week outside the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District headquarters.

Menomonee River water was being sucked up into the CORNCOB demonstration model – picture a water heater tipped on its side. A gleaming metal barrel connected to pipes and valves is being monitored by a sophisticated computer system.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Wednesday evening update:

The National Trust's presentation did not bring the Milwaukee County Task Force on the Mitchell Park Conservatory Domes any closer to its mission.  It is  "to recommend a course of action to the County Executive and County Board" on a sustainable future of the Domes.

Milwaukee County Parks Director John Dargle described the National Trust's report as "weak and vague."

Fellow task force member John Gurda suggested Milwaukee County engineers analyze the report and provide feedback at the next meeting. Its date has not yet been set.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Jacqui Patterson works in communities around the country to engage African-Americans on climate issues. She directs the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program and helped build the program from the ground up.

Pat Rabinson

Milwaukee Water Commons was created four years ago to educate the community about water - its rivers, streams and Lake Michigan - to cultivate informed stewards.

“I came from a more traditional environmental effort, which was the Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition – working to make the river more beautiful, more accessible. There was already a ton of passion around that issue, but it was by and large a middle class and white group of people,” founder Ann Brummitt says.

David Flowers

Milwaukee native Davita Flowers-Shanklin brings a unique experience to the discussion of segregation, and its ripple effects.

“I remember being in high school and being really into science and biology. I was the co-director of Camp Everytown, which is a diversity camp for teenagers," Flowers-Shanklin says. "So my work even as a teenager was around anti-oppression."

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Segregation impacts many different areas of our lives in metro Milwaukee. One that may not be top of mind is its connection to environmental health and justice. WUWM found an intricate tapestry of challenge and hope -- starting with Antoine Carter.

His childhood started on East Chambers in Milwaukee.

“I remember drugs and gangs and outdoor football and people getting jumped and all sorts of stuff. Just living in this area in the 1990s, I was a little too young to understand everything that was going on, but I still could see that things weren’t right,” Carter says.

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