WisconsinWeekly: DNR staff allegedly pressured to OK Kohler golf course

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Golf course controversy, DNR under Evers, Nazi salute photo generates outrage, election results boost gerrymandering claim, Assembly GOP intervenes to save redistricting

Of note: This week we feature a story exposing allegations of behind-the-scenes pressure applied to staff at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in the agency’s approval of a controversial golf course to be built among rare wetlands along Lake Michigan. The project includes a small amount of Kohler-Andrae State Park to be traded to Kohler Co. Reporter Sarah Whites-Koditschek spoke with a retired long-time DNR staffer who said she and others were pressured to find that the 18-hole golf course would not violate state wetlands protections, although she believes it would. The project and related land swap are now tied up by lawsuits. This story was reported and written by Whites-Koditschek, the Wisconsin Public Radio Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow who is embedded in the Center’s newsroom for a year.

WisconsinWeekly is produced by Dee and Andy Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Dee is the managing editor and Andy is the executive director.

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Former DNR employee: Staff pressured to OK Kohler golf course on rare Wisconsin wetlands and state park

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism — November 11, 2018

Sarah Whites-Koditschek, the newest addition to our reporting team, brings us this investigation into allegations that the state Department of Natural Resources pressured staff to approve a permit to allow Kohler Co. to build a golf course on sensitive wetlands in Sheboygan County. It wasn’t the first such controversy. In an earlier story, records from the DNR obtained by Wisconsin Public Radio found DNR staff were told to approve a permit to allow Meteor Timber to destroy wetlands to build a frac sand mine in western Wisconsin despite a lack of details about the project’s impact — prompting a judge to overrule that decision. See WPR’s earlier coverage: DNR staff felt pressure to approve wetland fill for sand mining project

Tony Evers could shift direction of Wisconsin DNR, but will face resistance from GOP lawmakers

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — November 12, 2018

Incoming Democratic governor Tony Evers wants to institute new priorities at the state Department of Natural Resources, following years of business-friendly decisions and diminished enforcement under Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Though incoming attorney general and fellow Democrat Josh Kaul will likely share Evers’ priorities, the new governor’s decisions will face resistance by a Republican-controlled Legislature that is already discussing ways to limit his power.

Parents address school board as Nazi salutes in Baraboo High School prom photo spark outrage online

Wisconsin State Journal — November 13, 2018

A photo of about 50 Baraboo High School students seemingly giving a Nazi salute began circulating on social media earlier this week, prompting condemnation from as far away as Poland. The school district and local police are investigating. It’s not the first evidence of white nationalists’ influence in the area: Just two weeks ago, residents of Baraboo and surrounding areas received “White Lives Matter” mailers. Previously from WCIJ: Across Wisconsin, recent rises in hate, bias incidents spark concern

Election results strengthen partisan gerrymandering case, says group that sued over maps

Wisconsin State Journal — November 8, 2018

The Fair Elections Project, which filed a lawsuit alleging that Wisconsin’s election maps are unfair, says the results of last week’s election further prove their claim. While Democrats swept every statewide office, they didn’t gain any seats in the Legislature. “The only explanation is that the maps are rigged,” said the group’s executive director. The case is set for trial in April but likely won’t be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court until the court’s next session, which ends a few months before the presidential election in 2020. Previously from WCIJ: High stakes for elections and democracy as U.S. Supreme Court nears decision on Wisconsin redistricting case

Judges permit state Assembly to join Wisconsin gerrymandering lawsuit

Wisconsin State Journal — November 14, 2018

The state Assembly will be allowed to join the Wisconsin gerrymandering lawsuit, following a ruling by a panel of judges. The Assembly made the request earlier this fall, arguing that a new attorney general might not adequately defend the state’s current maps. Though incoming Attorney General Josh Kaul has said he will defend the maps, the judges approved the request on the grounds that Kaul’s election “introduces potential uncertainty into defendants’ future litigation strategy.”

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