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TRAVEL LOG: My week in Northern Wisconsin

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Last week, I kicked off the Senate’s August work period by traveling to Edgar, Wausau, Laona, Rhinelander, Tomahawk, Lac du Flambeau, Saxon, Superior, Brule, Ashland and Bayfield. It was a great opportunity to highlight our hard-working farmers, job training and economic development, our timber economy, the impact of climate change on our economy, the need to build resilient infrastructure, and efforts to protect our Great Lakes.

On Monday, I was in Edgar to visit the Kaldunski’s ginseng farm, where they have grown ginseng for 37 years. Marathon County grows 90% of all cultivated American ginseng, and 85% of Wisconsin ginseng is exported to China. But their tariffs against Wisconsin ginseng for over a year have devastated our exports.

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Talking with Robert Kaldunski, who is also President of the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin

Our Wisconsin ginseng farmers need an end to President Trump’s trade war with China and certainty for the fall season. They can’t afford to wait. Instead of escalating his trade war, Trump needs to reopen our export market in China.

Next, I traveled to Laona to meet with students at the Blackwell Job Corps Center, who are in training to become welders, bricklayers, carpenters, construction laborers, office administration workers and certified nursing assistants. Blackwell has served Wisconsin’s Northwoods since 1964. When the Trump administration announced a plan to close the Blackwell center, I fought back to keep it open. I called on the Trump Administration to immediately halt their decision to close the facility. Together, we kept Blackwell open and now the 55 workers there will continue serving Forest County and our youth with much needed job training.

I was so proud to visit Blackwell to see firsthand how this job center is supporting our Northwoods economy. We must continue to protect and invest in these job training programs to continue building up our workforce with good-paying jobs.

I also ventured to Rhinelander where I joined Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole, the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association, and other stakeholders to discuss the importance of the Good Neighbor Authority to Wisconsin’s timber economy and what can be done to improve the program in the future.

Visiting LP Mill in Tomahawk with Secretary Cole

To help strengthen Wisconsin’s timber economy, I authored the bipartisan Good Neighbor Authority Improvement Act, which was signed into law last year. I also went to Tomahawk and had the chance to tour the Louisiana Pacific Mill, where 15,000 tons of Good Neighbor Authority wood are milled each year.

On Wednesday, I met with Lac du Flambeau tribal leaders to learn how the climate crisis is threatening their traditional ways of life, economic opportunities, and overall well-being. In recent years, storms and flooding have threatened the location and abundance of wild rice on the Lac du Flambeau reservation.

The tribe’s ability to harvest wild rice is both culturally and economically significant, but the habitat for growing has clearly shrunk and been threatened over time and climate change is a big contributor to that. The actions at the federal level to take on climate change absolutely need to be informed by what’s happening here on the ground.

I finished the day with a stop in Saxon Harbor to see the progress of my work with Iron County to rebuild infrastructure after the July 2016 storm and widespread flooding caused numerous road washouts and other damage to area.

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I continued on to Superior, where I had the opportunity to tour the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s new Ballast Water Research Center to see how this research hub is working to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species and threats to Wisconsin’s water resources.

The team at UW-Superior is doing incredible work, and it’s so critical that we make stronger, long-term investments in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That’s why earlier this summer I joined my colleagues to introduce the bipartisan Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2019 so we can continue our federal investments in our Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes support over $5 billion of economic activity in Wisconsin’s economy — and recreational fishing alone brings in $350 million every year to Great Lakes coastal communities. Preserving the Great Lakes is not just an environmental goal, it is an economic necessity.

One of the highlights of my week: I went canoeing down the Brule River with a group that included members of Trout Unlimited, Wisconsin Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and the Brule River Coalition. I love our lakes and rivers, and I’m so grateful to everyone who canoed the beautiful Brule River with me to highlight conservation efforts and our thriving recreation economy — it was a blast!

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Wisconsin has long been a national leader in conservation and we have a proud tradition of hunting, fishing and enjoying the great outdoors. That’s why I worked in a bipartisan way to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, so that future generations can continue to enjoy Wisconsin’s wonderful natural resources.

Last month, I introduced the bipartisan Rebuilding Stronger Infrastructure Act because we need to empower local communities to build stronger roads and bridges that can withstand the next storm or flood. I made a stop in in Ashland to talk with local officials about how we can work together to save taxpayer dollars by making sure that the roads we rebuild today can withstand the severe weather events of tomorrow.

I was also honored stop in Bayfield to present an Indian Community Development Block Grant to the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe, so they can make critical improvements to their commercial fishery dock.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will keep working to ensure this grant program provides the funding our tribes need to improve housing and infrastructure, and expand economic opportunities throughout the community.

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There is nothing like traveling across Wisconsin’s Northwoods, experiencing our different Made in Wisconsin economies and hearing directly from hard working people about the issues that mean the most to them. I look forward to taking the ideas I heard this week back to Washington, and continuing my work to keep moving our state Forward.

Written by

United States Senator Tammy Baldwin. Proudly working for the State of Wisconsin.

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