Commitment is not always easy.
People hesitate to commit when fear of the unknown creeps in. Something that sounds good today could turn out to be trouble later. So why commit?
Fontana village leaders are being asked right now to make a commitment to support the environment.
The Geneva Lake Conservancy has asked the village to grant conservation easements on three pieces of village-owned property with environmental significance.
The easements are legal mechanisms for ensuring that the properties will remain undeveloped and will be preserved in their natural state indefinitely — forever, really. If anyone tried to build something, the conservancy would have the legal authority to block it.
We urge the Fontana Village Board to make the commitment and approve this proposal.
The properties in question are not sizable, but they are important and worth protecting: a wetland area near St. Benedict Catholic Church, and a prairie and oak savanna, both at the north entrance to the village along state Highway 67.
Altogether, the three properties amount to only about 20 acres combined. But in terms of showcasing Wisconsin’s natural beauty, this is prime real estate.
The Fontana Garden Club and other local nature lovers have spent years growing and nurturing these sites, literally one seed at a time. That sort of civic dedication should be acknowledged and rewarded with village action to ensure that no bulldozer will ever undo what has been accomplished.
Not only pretty to look at, these three properties also play a role in filtering pollutants out of Fontana’s groundwater before it reaches Geneva Lake. Clean water is not some trendy fad whose popularity is going to wane in a few years. Nobody should hesitate at making a commitment to safeguarding our lake indefinitely — forever, really.
Still, forever is a pretty heavy concept when you think about it.
The Geneva Lake Conservancy is asking village leaders to ensure, by approving these easements, that no future village board ever will be able to authorize development on these properties for any reason. So, what if sometime in the future, there is a really tempting proposal from a business or investor to develop one of these sites in a way that seems beneficial to the community?
That is the unknown causing some people to be fearful of the easements — and to feel uncertain about making this commitment.
It is a tough decision, but we urge village officials to come down on the side of conservation.
Village Trustee Arvid “Pete” Petersen seems to take offense at the situation. Peterson questioned the need for easements, saying that current village leaders have been good stewards of the wetland, prairie and savanna, and he is confident future leaders will do the same.
That misses the point.
Nobody around here today knows what will be happening in Fontana in 20, 50 or 100 years. New public officials could face new pressures to compromise on issues like conservation and water quality.
This proposal is designed to guarantee that will not happen.
No, we do not have a crystal ball, any more than anyone else has a crystal ball. But we know enough about the future to know that we want Wisconsin’s natural beauty to remain part of our community as much as possible for as long as possible.
Go ahead, Fontana. Make the commitment.
Future generations will thank you.