Railroad bill needs your attention

2/25/16 @ 8:53 AM
ORIGINAL POST
campfire22
campfire22
USER since 12/16/07
By Jim Furley, February 23, 2016 Wisconsin lawmakers once again are discussing the public’s right to easily access lands and waters in Wisconsin. The outcome could have a big impact on tourism. At a recent public hearing in Madison, state Rep. Lee Nerison (R-Westby) said, “It’s currently illegal to cross the railroad track to access and enjoy our states many public lands and waterways. Until 2005 (Act 179) it was not considered trespassing to directly walk across the tracks or right-of-way of any railroad. Assembly Bill 876 simply restores the law to where it was prior to 2005.” It should be noted that if you’re not at a dedicated crossing, Act 179 also made foot traffic illegal for property owners to cross private land as well. During the last state budget, Governor Scott Walker vetoed a similar attempt to allow direct pedestrian access across railroad tracks. Walker said: “I am vetoing this section because I am concerned that allowing a person to walk across railroad tracks outside of a designated crossing impairs public safety.” Rep. Nerison is one of several lawmakers who introduced AB 876. Nerison went on to say, “Wisconsin has a rich tradition of outdoor recreation reinforced by the state’s constitutional guarantee of the right to hunt, fish and trap. This bill allows our constituents to freely enjoy our state’s public recreational areas.” George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, supports the bill. Meyer said the current law is a state-wide problem. Meyer explained that he asked the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for a list of DNR properties impacted by the law. “We got back a list of 121 DNR properties that are bisected by railroad tracks,” he said. “This does not include railroad crossings that cross federal lands such as U.S. Fish & Wildlife Refuges and National Forests.” Meyer pointed out that a railroad track cuts straight through Devil’s Lake State Park near Baraboo. Nearly 2 million people visit the park each year. “I’m confident in saying that a minimum of 100,000 people a year cross that railroad track. I suspect that a few, if any, understand that they are violating the railroad trespassing law,” Meyer said. Even though the AB 876 is supported by a long list of outdoor groups, it also has many groups that still oppose it. The Wisconsin Legislature received a letter from the DuPage Railroad Safety Council. The Illinois organization said, “Not only is it wrong to allow people to trespass on private property (railroad tracks), more importantly, it is exceedingly dangerous.” Last May, the La Crosse Tribune reported that, statistically, accidents are more likely from people intoxicated, suicidal, or simply wandering down the tracks than crossing them. Dan Trawicki, who represents the Safari Club International for Wisconsin, agrees. Trawicki has read only one report of a hunter or angler killed by a train while walking across railroad tracks in Wisconsin. Mark Clements, owner of Clements Fishing Barge in Genoa, has a lease with the railroad that allows his customers to walk across railroad tracks to access his business on the Mississippi River. Clements also runs a bait and tackle shop and is a passionate supporter of Nerison’s bill. “The injury numbers are deceptive,” Clements said. “Most train accidents happen at dedicated crossings. We should be more concerned with that.” Clements went on to say there are other activities more dangerous than walking across railroad tracks. “You’re more likely to be killed riding a bicycle,” he said. Even if statistics don’t show that walking directly over railroad tracks is a major problem, there are plenty of powerful lobbyist lined up to sink the bill. According to the Government Accountability Board, in addition to three railroad companies, 16 other groups are against AB 876. They include: The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, League of Wisconsin Municipalites, Wisconsin Railroad Association, Wisconsin EMS Association, Wisconsin Troopers Association and the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. It’s unfortunate, but in life there are risks in everything we do. We don’t outlaw bicycles, so why do we outlaw outdoor recreationists and other responsible pedestrians from walking directly across railroad tracks? The railroad trespassing bill flew under the radar and was passed in 2005. The law made no sense then, it makes no sense now. I feel that the law is wrong for Wisconsin. As of this writing, AB 876 passed the Assembly and now goes to the Senate. If readers of this column don’t contact elected Wisconsin lawmakers soon and support AB 876 in the Senate, public access to prime outdoor lands and waters in Wisconsin will get more restrictive every year, or possibly eliminated, forever. The future of Wisconsin’s outdoors is in your hands. * Edit: According to the Crawford County Independent, February 25, 2016, a Wisconsin DNR memo states: "This might well be the largest loss of public access to public waters in the history of the state."
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Displaying 1 to 10 of 63 Posts
4/1/16 @ 10:14 PM
John.Rennpferd
John.Rennpferd
USER since 6/3/10
As I understand it both chambers could not agree on the same bill; and it died in the Senate committee during reconciliation. Apparently Van Wanggaard is willing to bring it back at the top of the 2017 session as long as there are some changes. That's why we have to keep the pressure on; to keep that verbal commitment to bring it back up.

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4/1/16 @ 9:16 PM
danedogs
danedogs
USER since 10/14/01
It is my understanding that both the house and the assembly passed the bill and sent it to Walkers desk and he vetoed it. Is this true?

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4/1/16 @ 4:23 PM
John.Rennpferd
John.Rennpferd
USER since 6/3/10
Keep the pressure up on this. It is my understanding that this is going to come back up in the next session. Apparently getting crossing rights restored died due to a view that the way the fix is written could have been construed to allow people to cross freight yards as well as regular tracks.

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3/5/16 @ 1:37 AM
cnrwi
cnrwi
USER since 4/1/12
I wrote emails to my assemblyman and senator. They both responded they were in favor of AB 876. My assemblyman wrote me a fairly lengthy response the next day. It was pretty clear the politicians fighting for us are pretty frustrated with those that oppose us being able to get to public recreation.

From what I understand one senator is holding up the bill? What a mockery of our legal system. Most likely millions of outdoor enthusiasts support AB 876 and for the most part, one entity, the railroad, which as far as I know the railroad doesn't check their name in the ballot box, opposes it. We can see who some politicians cares about.

There are so many wrongs with this entire situation, which have probably been already covered so I won't get into them. I will say that the very same group of politicians, whom I have voted for some of them in the past, are the same ones that are always proposing "freedoms" of other sorts. Where's the average Joe's "freedom" on this one? I guess they've gotten bold enough where they're not even trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

It seems the tactic for now it to just ignore us while they have the majority. I can't imagine someday telling my grandkids, "Look over there we use to be able to cross the tracks and fish there."

I know how I'm voting next round.

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3/2/16 @ 9:44 PM
drewster
drewster
USER since 7/6/09
Dead. Killed. Ignored. Not even worthy of a discussion, apparently. That's our representative government at work. Not.

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2/29/16 @ 10:28 AM
badgerstatehunter
badgerstatehunter
USER since 2/6/06
"The RR tracks on the Mississippi line (along with a large portion of the lines in WI) are on land granted as an easement under the Right of Way Act of 1875, they don't even technically own that property."

don't let facts get in the way of their points man! walking across the tracks to go fishing is like me going to dittos house and using his swimming pool without permission! i mean what is the difference here? (sarcasm)

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2/29/16 @ 10:20 AM
badgerstatehunter
badgerstatehunter
USER since 2/6/06
"skitter pop....You must not live in this area... If so you would know that some these area's would be completely unfish-able without crossing the tracks-there some spots where there is 4 miles or more between access points The spillway is one my favorite shore spots,and the 5 or so crossings you noted all impossible for me,and I'm NOT lazy-I had to give up boat fishing because of a disability and that disability limits my walking to 200yds or less so the spillway was an ideal place for me and many others,now, after many-many years of crossing the tracks I can't....Why?"

what? you mean you can't wade threw a marsh, then swim the entire way across lake onalaska, or get in the black river and swim upstream through the roaring current of the spillway to fish there? how lazy of you

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2/29/16 @ 9:00 AM
amaranthlost
amaranthlost
USER since 5/31/10
The RR tracks on the Mississippi line (along with a large portion of the lines in WI) are on land granted as an easement under the Right of Way Act of 1875, they don't even technically own that property.

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2/28/16 @ 9:30 PM
ditto
ditto
USER since 12/6/10
Pertinent points? You mean like private property rights? I keep those rights pretty high. I think it sucks that they're closing off access but just because I don't like it doesn't mean that I think rights should be taken away.

Not sure how to respond to the issue about going on land to cross a river obstruction. Never really thought of it to be honest.

I'm sure way back when the RR's were given the land there were plenty of farmers also getting land for free or next to nothing. That doesn't matter though because the land was given to the RR's with the agreement that they would never have to pay taxes on it. This is the way that the government was able to expand the country, without giving land away to the RRs the country would not be what it is today. Out west the RR was given land a lot more land per mile of track than they were in Wisconsin and it was given in a checker board pattern, if you think you have issues with the RR do some research on BLM and RR lands out west.

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2/28/16 @ 8:35 PM
cds
cds
USER since 9/18/01
Ditto - The point about the farmers was to illustrate how obstructionist the RR companies have historically been even when they're legally in the wrong...NOT to say that the general public has a right of trespass on farm fields.

How about addressing the point about right-of-travel across property where the landowner bought his land at full market price and pays a pretty penny on his residential property tax bill....and who is sometimes creeped-out by a fisherman or canoist crawling out of the creek onto their lawn.

On second thought don't bother. I've seen you debate the issue on here and I don't really see the point of discussing it with anyone who ignores pertinent points.

Get well soon.

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Displaying 1 to 10 of 63 Posts