A group of state agencies, working with local partners, will hold a series of environmental equity listening sessions this fall, in hopes of hearing from Wisconsinites about what environmental, health and socioeconomic priorities matter the most to them.
The listening sessions are part of an effort by Governor Tony Evers, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Department of Health Services and Department of Natural Resources along with WEDC, to develop a comprehensive environmental and public health mapping system, which will be known as the Wisconsin Environmental Equity Tool, to analyze and visualize data online so users can identify environmental challenges, pinpoint the most affected communities, and prioritize investments to continue building healthy, resilient communities.
“Wisconsinites from Superior to Trempealeau and from Stevens Point to Milwaukee have experienced the effects of climate change firsthand,” Governor Evers said in announcing the initiative. “We cannot ignore the role environmental justice plays in building a state where every family in every ZIP code can be successful. We can do better, and we want everyone to be a part of our work to better understand and address the environmental and health inequities facing Wisconsinites every day and to build a healthier, more equitable future for our state.”
In the listening sessions, the agencies involved hope to hear from Wisconsinites about environmental and public health needs due to pollution, climate change, poverty and other environmental hazards. Participants will have the opportunity to share their challenges and experiences, as well as what they hope to see in the new tool.
Because the listening sessions are virtual, anyone located anywhere in Wisconsin can attend. In particular, the agencies involved hope to hear from members of underserved communities—such as tribal nations, communities of color and low-income families—which often face the greatest environmental and health consequences. State agency staff and environmental health experts will facilitate the sessions’ small group discussions. The three virtual listening sessions will be held on the following dates via Zoom, and participants can also dial in using a toll-free phone number:
- Nov. 2 at 7:00 p.m.
- Nov. 4 at 4:30 p.m.
- Nov. 6 at 10 a.m.
“Development of the tool must be driven by community needs and concerns, and it is essential that every community in the state—rural, urban and tribal—is given the opportunity to provide insights, guidance and feedback throughout the process,” says Marcy West, director of WEDC’s Office of Rural Prosperity.
Advance registration is encouraged, but not required. Visit wedc.org/environmental-equity to register for listening sessions and access phone and Zoom connection information. Interpretation for the listening sessions will be offered in Spanish and Hmong by request. In-person listening sessions may be scheduled in the future when it is safe to gather indoors. People who are unable to attend the scheduled listening sessions are encouraged to provide written comments and sign up for project news at wedc.org/environmental-equity.
This is part of an ongoing series about initiatives that support diversity, equity and inclusion in economic development, a strategic priority for WEDC.