Advancing and defending the principles of Scenic Wisconsin made 2021 another busy year. From efforts toward ending billboard blight to advocating for Scenic Byways, agricultural tourism, and barn preservation, Scenic Wisconsin actively engaged with decision-makers and the public.
We joined the fight to save the right to regulate billboards
Supreme Court decision on Reagan v. Austin expected in the spring
The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Reagan Advertising v. City of Austin, Texas on November 10, a case that considers whether billboard restrictions violate first amendment rights. Reagan argued that regulating signs based on whether they are off-premises of the product advertised on them violates the right to free speech. At stake is whether federal and state governments will continue to have the right to regulate outdoor advertising signs, commonly known as billboards, along highways in this country. The justices expressed concerns about the implications of the case on the national landscape, the legacy of the Highway Beautification Act, and the costs of overturning long-standing scenic laws. The outcome is far from certain.
In August, Scenic Wisconsin joined other scenic-oriented state organizations in signing an amicus brief in support of the City of Austin. In October, we issued a strongly-worded bulletin in favor of Austin, to encourage people and organizations in Wisconsin to join the fray against Reagan. Attached to the bulletin was an improved edition of our policy statement “Billboards are not a benefit in Wisconsin”, which states the importance of scenery.
We facilitated drafting new Billboard Reform Bill in state legislature
We engaged with a Representative in the state assembly in drafting a new bill that would prohibit new billboards from being installed along the major highways of the state of Wisconsin. This new bill is much shorter and narrower in scope than the bill that was introduced two years ago and there were several senators and assembly representatives that indicated support for it. However, the bill has not yet been introduced due to heavy political headwinds: the stated opposition of majority party leadership and the uncertainty created by the impending Supreme Court decision.
We are active in support of Scenic Byways & Rustic Roads
During 2021, Scenic Wisconsin prepared for future efforts to establish a Northern Wisconsin River Scenic Byway. We have discussed needed statutory changes for the scenic byway with a prominent state senator and will continue those discussions in 2022. Also, we have been consulting experts as we continue to work with officials in the City of Milwaukee on strengthening the urban forestry programs which have important social, environmental and economic benefits.
Scenic website continues to present relevant, educational information
The Scenic Wisconsin website continues to present interesting and influential information that is important to sustaining our scenic objectives. Prime examples of this are the recent articles about the pending Supreme Court decision. Other subjects of articles over the past few years include: Climate change, how planting trees is practical as well as scenic; Scenic Byways and Habitat Highways; and saving iconic traditional dairy barns.
New directors this year: Emily Voight and Chuck Law
Emily Voight of Appleton, who ran for state assembly last year, is a member of the Calumet County Board of Supervisors, and helps manage Butterfly Gardens in Appleton. Chuck Law, professor emeritus at UW-Madison, directed the historic barns preservation programs for the UW-Extension and has advised Scenic Wisconsin about iconic barns for years.
It takes financial support to continue to defend scenery against self-serving actions of the well-funded outdoor advertising industry. Please contribute as much as you are willing and able to, however much fits into your budget.
Send your check to:
705 West Avenue South
LaCrosse, WI 54601
Thank you and happy holidays.