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Scenic Wisconsin

An Affiliate of Scenic America

Current Issues

Charlie Mitchell, Editor

Year End Report

December 7, 2020

The year 2020 has been another active year for Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin, and we continue to defend and advance our scenic principles.

We have brought on two new highly motivated and qualified board members.

Jay Salinas of Reedsburg is experienced in promoting agricultural tourism, an activity that depends on attractive rural scenery and increases respect for that scenery. Jay is director of the Wormfarm Institute, an organization working to integrate art, agriculture and ecology for improved agricultural life-style. Jay organized this year’s Farm Art DTour, an event with exhibits of sculptures and sales of local delicacies along a 60-mile figure-eight of scenic country roads near Reedsburg that took place Sep 26-Oct 4 and attracted 22,000 people.

Frank Shansky of St.Francis has been deeply involved with the citizens’ drive in recent years to save Sanctuary Woods on the Milwaukee County Grounds in Wauwatosa, an old growth hardwood forest. He has spoken repeatedly before the common Council in Wauwatosa and the Milwaukee County Board to conserve the Woods by making it part of recently created County Grounds Park. Now that the Woods it is part of the park, he continues in an activist, leadership role to make sure that elected officials respect zoning that prevents commercial building adjacent to the Woods and to the nearby Monarch Trail butterfly habitat.
A cooperative relationship has been established with the Wormfarm Institute.

A new strategic relationship has been established between the Wormfarm Institute (described above) headquartered in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, whereby both organizations cooperate to support and advance initiatives, such as agricultural tourism, that encourage conservation of scenery.

Scenic Wisconsin leadership is engaged in re-building at Scenic America.

In discussions with Scenic America President Mark Falzone and new Progarm Director Nathan O’Neill at the September Affiliates meeting, President Gary Goyke and Secretary Charlie Mitchell reported on our activities and presented the History of Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin and a report of States with Good Billboard Regulation. Scenic America will make the History available in their library, and the report will be the basis for a bulletin intended to support strengthening billboard laws.

We have become active in support for Rustic Roads in Wisconsin.

Scenic Wisconsin was invited by the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation to participate in the stewardship of the Rustic Roads program. Gary will be consulting with the Rustic Roads board about improved signage and other upgrades, and will advocate for funding in the WisDoT budget in the upcoming state legislative session. Rustic Roads are scenic rural back roads designated and managed by the WisDoT to keep them scenic.

We advocated for the Billboard Reform Bill in the state legislature.

Known as the Billboard Reform Act, the bill was intended to prohibit new off-premises advertising signs known as billboards along state and federal highways. Scenic Wisconsin officers and board members had been instrumental in drafting this bill sponsored by Representative Amanda Stuck of Appleton. While the bill stalled in the Assembly Transportation Committee, it had the effect of blunting advances by the aggressive Outdoor Advertising industry.

The board of directors have been very active personally informing legislators and candidates, making them aware of our scenic values, and will remain steadfast in pressing for billboard reform in the upcoming legislative session.    

It takes financial support to continue to defend scenery against self-serving actions of the well-funded outdoor advertising industry. Please contribute as much as you are willing and able to, however much fits into your budget. Return the slip provided here with your check or credit card number in the enclosed envelope.

Thank you and happy holidays.                   
                                                                                          Gary Goyke, President
                                                                                          Charlie Mitchell, Founder   

P.S: The History of Citizens for Scenic Wisconsin and the Report of States with Good Billboard Regulation are exceptional works authored by Charlie that will not only aid our efforts, but influence the national scenic movement.  The History is an example and the Report is a reference for other state scenic organizations. Nice job, Charlie!                                 Gary      

Art DTour in Sauk County reveals wonders of scenic farm country

October 15, 2020
By Charlie Mitchell

The 60-mile drive in Sauk County known as Farm Art DTour provided thousands of “Dtourists” with an opportunity to view and enjoy the charming, scenic farmland in pleasant early fall weather. Organized and presented by the Wormfarm Institute (headquartered in Reedsburg) the event encompassed the towns of Plain and Sauk Prairie on a figure-eight route of country roads through an artwork of fields and farms. Along the way were large-scale sculptures and local food markets, all of it punctuated by educational field notes and roadside poetry. 

  Scenic overlook along Farm Art Dtour. Photo: Wormfarm Institute    

The Wormfarm Institute is an organization dedicated to integrating art, agriculture and ecology for the betterment of the agricultural life-style. In the words of their website, their stated mission is “to integrate culture and agriculture”, to bring together farming, conservation, and the arts to kindle cultural expression and enhance the economy of the region.

Jay Salinas, artist and farmer, is Wormfarm co-founder, and with his partner Donna, they organize the DTour, with the help of a small dedicated staff and dozens of volunteers and collaborators. Jay says, “My reward is witnessing the range of relationships that develop between artists, farmers, landowners and business owners during the event.”

One tourist, Gary Goyke of Maple Grove, said that the tour was “excellent” and that he really enjoyed it.     

 Now a biennial in its eighth year, this year’s event took place Sep 26 to Oct 4 and drew over 20,000 people. Although scheduled well before the coronavirus pandemic began, the event was planned to include a comprehensive safety protocol of social distancing, using the motto Stay One Cow Apart.

It was a celebration of the agricultural lifestyle of Wisconsin, the best of “agritourism”: reaching out to urban residents, providing education to all and building respect for Wisconsin’s scenic heritage.

Habitat Highways

Roadsides can provide vital sanctuaries for pollinators and other wildlife
July 1 2020

State highway departments are beginning to plant native species for habitat, increasing the esthetic attractiveness in the process, thanks in large part to the Habitat Highways initiative by the World Wildlife Federation.

Excerpts below from WWF Magazine April/May 2016

An Interstate highway may seem to be an unlikely place to create a butterfly habitat, but across the country roadside rights-of-way are attracting the attention of biologists and conservationists for their potential to foster monarchs and other kinds of wildlife. Roadsides can support a surprising variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, moths and other insects. Long-distance migratory birds such as the ruby-throated hummingbird can use roadsides as pit stops for resting and feeding. Small mammals thrive on the edges of highways.

Flowers bloom in roadside habitat. Photo: World Wildlife Federation

Starting not far from the shore of Lake Superior, Interstate 35 heads south for more than 1500 miles through fields of corn and soybeans and the remnants of midwest prairie until it reaches the Texas chaparral country along the Rio Grande river. It’s an artery of speeding motor vehicle traffic, but to biologists like Michael Gale of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, this Interstate could one day become the “monarch highway”.

“It overlaps perfectly with the central flyway of migrating eastern monarch butterflies” says Gale, a participant in a multi-agency federal plan to increase the numbers of that beloved but beleaguered butterfly. During the past two decades, the population of monarchs in Mexico for the winter has plummeted 80 to 90%, primarily as a result of habitat loss in the United States.  

In the past, US roadways have been anything but wildlife friendly, planted with exotic grasses like fescue, excessively mown and heavily sprayed with herbicide. In recent years, however, several state transportation departments – including those in Iowa, Indiana, Florida and Nebraska – have begun changing their right-of-way management practices. In December 2015, President Obama signed the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” which, among many measures ,encourages states to plant milkweed and other native plants along highways for pollinators to feed on. And in 2016, the Federal Highway Administration released new “best management practices” that provide guidance to transportation authorities about how to develop wildlife habitat along rights-of-way.

For more information, Habitat Highways World Wildlife Federation.        

Commuter is thankful for billboard removal in Madison

January 3, 2019
One driver took the time to publicly thank the Dane County Board for taking action that resulted in the removal of three large outdoor advertising signs. Here is a copy of the letter that appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal on Nov 8, 2018.

Thanks for removing billboards

My daily commute to work has improved by 100%, and I have the Dane County Board to thank for that.

Three huge billboards were along Aberg Avenue in Madison between the East Washington Avenue exit and the airport. What was once an ugly sight is now beautiful and clear, full of fall foliage that we all love in Madison.
It was a long time coming, and I want to thank the county for having those monstrosities removed and making Dane County even more beautiful than it already is.
                    Name Withheld, Madison

A report on the court action that upheld the order to remove these billboards appeared on this web site on December 29, 2016.