When the Wisconsin Legislature substantially revised the state’s wetland protection and permitting law in 2012 [see our previous Client Alert Governor Signs Wetlands Reform Bill: 2011 Wisconsin Act 118], the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) hoped it would get authority to issue citations for violations of the law. It did not. On December 13, 2013, WDNR got its wish when SB 189 became law.
With the addition of the following language to Wisconsin’s wetland law, wetland violations may now be enforced by the local district attorney:
281.36 (14) (f) The department may follow the procedures for the issuance of
a citation under ss. 23.50 to 23.99 to collect a forfeiture for a violation of this section.
Prior to SB 189, judicial enforcement actions for wetland violations could only be brought by the Wisconsin Department of Justice (WDOJ) upon referral from WDNR. Now, WDNR may choose to use the same citation procedure for wetland violations that it has historically had available to enforce violations of navigable waterway laws in Wis. Stat. Ch. 30. The addition of the citation authority for wetland violations is consistent with the overall wetland reforms enacted in 2011 – when the Legislature revised the wetland laws to use terminology and procedures like those used in Ch. 30.
The use of citation authority for wetland violations is optional – WDNR is still authorized to refer such violations to WDOJ for enforcement. The general view is that issuing and enforcing citations is easier and less time-consuming than referral to WDOJ. So, we may expect that the addition of this citation authority will result in more judicial enforcement of wetland violations.