Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger: Kohl / Baldwin ask Army to explain actions

U.S. Senator Herb Kohl and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin have submitted a joint letter to the U.S. Army asking officials to justify a recent decision to disband and form a new Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) for the Badger Army Ammunition Plant. The August 20 letter to Commanding General Michael Ferriter of the Army’s Installation Management Command also asks the military to explain what it is doing to work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Ho-Chunk Nation to complete the transfer of excess Badger lands to the tribe.

For nearly 20 years, community and tribal members of the Badger RAB have worked closely with regulators and the military on the progress of environmental restoration at the closing military base. Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB), a local community organization that has been pushing for sustainable reuse of Badger since 1990, sought help from Congressional leaders when the U.S. Army announced its decision to form a new RAB at a key time in the environmental cleanup of lands that are slated for transfer to new owners, including the Ho-Chunk Nation.

In 1988, the Ho-Chunk Nation, a federally recognized Indian Tribe indigenous of Wisconsin, filed a timely land claim for excess property at the Badger Army Ammunition Plant through a no-cost transfer process called a Public Benefit Conveyance. The request was based on the tribe’s goals to safeguard cultural, historic, and archeological resources, and to protect and restore both the human and natural ecological environment of former Badger lands.

In the many years since that time, the Nation actively participated in collaborative efforts with community members, farmers, environmentalists, sports-persons, conservation groups, historians, and all levels of government to help protect and restore the environmental and cultural resources of Badger – often on land parcels that have or will be transferred to others including the State of Wisconsin, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local government.

Despite these efforts, the Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a letter on August 22, 2011 refusing to accept the transfer of over 1,500 acres of land held by the U.S. Army on behalf of the Ho-Chunk Nation due to concerns about the cost of environmental assessments and future land restoration.

Members of the current Badger RAB include representatives of local town, village, county and tribal government, and residents who live near Badger. In accordance with the Badger RAB by-laws, both CSWAB and the Ho-Chunk Nation have one seat on this board.

The Department of Defense has used RABs since 1994 to encourage collaboration between communities, government agencies, tribes and installation officials on cleanup decisions, and in particular to offer the public an opportunity to influence cleanups at military bases. RABs have represented more than 300 communities around active and closing bases as well as formerly used defense sites, and are co-chaired by the installation and a community member.