Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. We believe that every citizen has the potential to make a difference.

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Larson Acres “Friend of the Court” Brief

— Midwest Environmental Advocates supports an interpretation of the Livestock Facility Siting Law that upholds local control and sufficiently regulates large livestock facilities in Wisconsin.

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On July 11th, the Supreme Court issued its decision in John Adams v. State of Wisconsin. The 5-2 decision affirmed the Court of Appeals ruling that the Town of Magnolia overstepped its authority when it issued a local livestock siting permit that was more restrictive than the current state-wide Siting Law.

The Livestock Sitiing Review Board, part of the Department of Agrculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, will be holding a teleconference on the decision Friday, July 20th at 12 pm. This call is an open meeting and the public is welcome to attend. Click here for details and information on how to attend.

Case Summary

In April 2011, Midwest Environmental Advocates filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief with the Wisconsin Supreme Court on behalf of  Wisconsin Trout Unlimited, River Alliance of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Lakes Association in a case involving interpretation of the recently enacted Wisconsin Facility Livestock Siting Law (“Siting Law”).  

At question was the ability of a local government to set conditions on livestock facilities that are more strict than state law. In our amicus brief, Midwest Environmental Advocates argued that the ruling by the Court of Appeal’s, which found that local livestock siting conditions could not be more restrcitive than state-wide law, must be reversed, as it creates unreasonable and unintended gaps in the regulatory oversight of a high-risk class of polluters—large livestock facilities, known to generate enormous amounts of manure and thereby harmful levels of bacteria, pathogens, nitrates and phosphorous.  We further argued that the Court of Appeals’ ruling interferes with local communities’ ability to protect surface water and groundwater resources vital to public health and local economies. 

As the amicus brief sets forth, the lower court’s misinterpretation of the Siting Law raises the possibility of a dramatically altered Wisconsin — a state in which water quality impacts are inconsistently considered in the CAFO permitting process and where local communities have limited ability to prevent threats to local waterways and drinking water supplies. The landscape of the state varies widely and we believe that a state-wide rule does not offer the best protections for residents.