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Tribes Voice Concern Over Proposed Changes To Lakes, Wetlands Regulations

Bill's Author Says Measure Is Meant To Protect Rights Of Property Owners


Voigt Task Force Vice-Chair Mic Isham addresses the gathering of tribes at the Voigt Intertribal Task Force meeting Thursday. Danielle Kaeding/WPR

Wisconsin tribes are speaking out against a bill that proposes a long list of changes to state laws regulating lakes and wetlands.

Wild rice was a chief concern among tribes at Thursday’s meeting of the Voigt Intertribal Task Force. Vice-Chair Mic Isham said a 1983 federal court ruling known as the Voigt Decision recognized tribes’ treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather in ceded territories. Isham said the bill — which would ease restrictions on filling wetlands and dredging along lakefronts — ignores those rights and would harm wild rice habitats.

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“In the ruling, it said you can’t legislate away treaty rights,” he said. “You also can’t do with the land what would essentially have the same effect. There’s always give and take with that. But, to me, this would have that effect.”

A spokesman for the bill’s author, Republican Rep. Adam Jarchow, said they haven’t been contacted by any tribes about the bill. Jarchow has said the bill protects property owner’s rights.