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Our View: Increase in fine won't stop littering
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Littering in any state, let alone one with Wisconsin's natural beauty, is despicable.

Taking a walk in the Cadiz Springs State Recreation Area, or a run or bike on the Badger State Trail should not include the pleasure of having to look at a decaying refrigerator or pile of beer cans. Not only is the garbage unsightly, but there is a serious risk of items like refrigerators or junk cars causing pollution. Antifreeze from a vehicle's radiator could easily leak into a stream, a potentially fatal problem for wildlife.

In a flurry of activity last week as the state Legislature rushed to pack up shop before the latest session was halted until April 13, the Senate passed a measure that would double the fine for littering from $500 to $1,000.

Ideally, a stiffer fine would prevent people from committing this terrible scaring of Wisconsin's picturesque landscape or one of its city's artistic urban settings, but in practice the bill might not be so effective.

The Senate bill's increase would only apply to large items like discarded refrigerators, automobile tires and the vehicles themselves. Basic trash items such as cigarette butts and food wrappers could still only cost you $500. A similar version of the bill, which passed the state Assembly would also have applied to small trash. An identical version of the bill must be passed by both houses of the Legislature before the governor can sign it into law.

The intention of this Senate bill is, of course, good, but there is a glaring weakness to the increase. Who will enforce the stiffer penalty?

There is a much larger issue that needs to be addressed to slow littering in Wisconsin. A different way to enforce the law must be undertaken, but at the cost of what other type of law enforcement? Should the state Legislature choose to keep Department of Natural Resources game wardens from carefully managing wildlife habitats or investigating deer herd populations? Or, should the state government decide to pull State Patrol officers off Wisconsin's highways to investigate littering complaints? Perhaps, the state can pass the cost and responsibility on to county and local levels of law enforcement.

Unless the increase in the fine is to pay for stepped-up enforcement who is going to think twice about pitching a piece of junk along the side of the road, like the big-screen television currently planted in the ditch to the south of Highway H, a few miles west of New Glarus.

Is it likely law enforcement will initiate an investigation into who tossed the television? Maybe, but we certainly doubt it.

The state should increase the fine for dumping large items. The new law could help generate some added revenue for park or highway beautification, but as far as curbing the practice of littering, anyone with such a small amount of compassion for the state's natural resources probably won't be stopped by an increase in the fine.