Citizens to Lobby for Clean Water in Madison on Feb. 8

Seventy-five-year-old Fred Depies will be riding a bus from Green Bay to Madison on Feb. 8 to be part of a historic grassroots effort in lobbying state legislators for sound surface and groundwater protection.

“I have watched the quality of the water that we’re drinking deteriorating,” said Depies. “I feel that there really needs to be something done.”

Called Citizens’ Water Lobby Day, six busloads of clean water activists from all over the state plus other organizers will converge at the Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 8, to demand responsible water policy from their elected officials.

“We’re in the business of local sustainable foods,” said Depies, who runs a wholesale food business called Trust Local Foods and also publishes the annual Farm Fresh Atlas of Eastern Wisconsin. “My goal is to bring awareness to better farming practices, such as grazing, to bring about control of some of the pollution that we’re now having under current farming methods. We really work hard educating and teaching our customers about food and its impact on water resources.”

“This is our chance to help build a statewide coalition, to speak with our lawmakers about our water issues, and to help influence how water legislation is determined,” said Don Ystad, from the Concerned Rome Citizens’ group, a co-organizer along with Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network.

Ystad said the idea for the Citizens’ Water Lobby Day started with an anonymous donation of six charter buses to get Wisconsin citizens to Madison for a legislator contact day.

The initiative has brought together grassroots groups and individuals who have come to the clean water fight through different avenues – concentrated agricultural farm operations (CAFOs), frac sand mining, pipelines, mines, high-capacity wells, shoreland zoning and social justice.

“We intend to engage with our elected officials until we have absolute certainty that our water is protected from various forms of pollution,” said Mary Dougherty, president of the Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network and regional consultant for the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project. “Feb. 8th is just the beginning of our presence at the Capitol and we’re hoping citizens across Wisconsin will stand with us.”

Civic engagement is the central theme and legislative staff will kick off the day with a boot camp for participants – providing tips for effective citizen interactions with their elected officials.

Criste Greening, board member of the Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network, is encouraging citizens to contact their representative ahead of time to set up a meeting time that day.

“Hearing voting constituents’ personal stories in person is much more powerful than a random email sent on behalf of an organization,” Greening said.

For more information, visit the event listing at

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