The 51st Earth Day doesn’t have flare of last year’s 50th anniversary, but it comes at a time when more people are enjoying the outdoors than we’ve seen in a long, long time.
The unlikely and unwelcomed motivator is the COVID-19 virus and the bad case of stir crazy it gave so many people. Trails saw at least double the usual usage. Nature’s attractions like the sturgeon spawning became very popular. Police had to be called out to direct traffic at the popular Shiocton viewing spot called Bamboo Bend.
In the midst of this demonstration of the calming and healing power of nature, a few state legislators are toying with the idea of attacking the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, which helps local governments, state agencies and conservation nonprofits acquire and develop the potential of recreation properties.
Named for former Republican Gov. Warren Knowles and former Democratic Governor, U.S. Senator and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, it has been renewed for 10-year periods since its creation in 1989. That was until the Legislature set off warning lights in the last biennial budget when it was only renewed for two years.
The Community Foundation has joined more than 50 environmental, government, and hunting and fishing groups led by nonprofit Gathering Waters to make it clear to legislators that Knowles-Nelson is a needed and wanted state program. It has provided more than $18 million in grants for Fox Cities-area projects (such as the Nelson Family Heritage Crossing pictured above). To show your support, go to KnowlesNelson.org and send an email or post card to your legislators.
Enough about politics. Here are some ideas for how to celebrate Earth Day 51:
- Join PopEarth and seven other groups noon to 2 p.m. Saturday in Houdini Plaza for a Climate Justice Rally.
- Take part in the Fox Cities Greenways cleanup of the CE Trail Thursday and Friday, April 23 and 24. Get more information here.
- Support Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve for its 50th anniversary by taking part in its Earth Day Challenge running all the way through Earth Month.
- Recycle your unwanted electronics at a drive-up collection 4-6 p.m. Friday in the parking lot of Lawrence University’s Alice G. Chapman Hall. Masks and social distancing required.
- Sign up now for the Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance’s rapidly growing river cleanup day on May 1. Details on more than the 60 cleanup locations here.