GALENA, Ill. — A divided Jo Daviess County Board last week voted to develop its first climate change action plan.
By a 9-6 vote, board members approved a resolution stating that the county acknowledges the existence and impact of climate change; that the county will develop a climate change mitigation and adaptation planning process to educate residents; and that the county will include items in its comprehensive plan that work to combat climate change.
The resolution was proposed by the county’s Social and Environmental Committee. County Board Member Hendrica Regez said she developed the resolution in order for the county to take the first steps in addressing climate change.
“We want to develop a thorough climate action plan for the county,” she said. “This resolution helps us get started on the process.”
Efforts to get the specific votes of all county board members after the meeting were not successful.
The proposal has been under discussion by board members for several months. Since its announcement by Regez, several farming groups have come out against the development of any such plan.
In a letter to the county board, the Jo Daviess County Beef Association denounced the proposal, arguing that farmers already have taken great steps in reducing their impact on the climate and contending that the resolution could lead to local policies that harm the county’s agriculture industry.
“Any action taken at the local, state or national level towards climate change would do the agricultural community a disservice,” the letter states. “The words ‘first step’ in the description of the referendum are a political trap to find endorsements before identifying what the plans really are.”
The Jo Daviess County Farm Bureau submitted a similar letter, stating it does not support the resolution.
During last week’s meeting, several county board members also spoke out against the proposal.
“We are trying to fix something that isn’t broke,” said Board Member Robert Heuerman. “It will be expensive to the county one way or the other.”
Board Chairman Scott Toot, who voted against the proposal, said he believes the county isn’t the proper government body to try to tackle climate change.
“I think issues like this need to be addressed at a national level,” Toot said. “I don’t deny there is a problem, but we are not the ones who will solve it.”
But the majority of board members expressed their support for the proposal. Ron Smith said he believes the county should do what it can to be prepared for climate change.
“I agree that we have to start addressing this,” he said. “We can look at the weather changes that are happening in our area.”
Regez said she plans to work with the Social and Environmental Committee to draft additional proposals in the future, including a plan to reduce the county’s carbon emissions over time. While she already has been met with resistance from several groups in the county, Regez said she was encouraged by the county board voting in favor to take the first step in addressing climate change.
“I was happily surprised that it won since so much of the board is Republican,” Regez said. “I think that shows that this isn’t a political issue and that we all need to face this.”