Friday, August 7, 2015

This Land Was Made For You and Me: On Property Rights Discourse and Lake Clean-Up Efforts

Myself with Dan Prestebak, favorite conservationist for the second year in a row:)
When I was deciding the title of my research project, the indoctrinated song "This Land is Your Land" by Woody Gutherie immediately came to mind. I remember singing the feel-good lyrics in elementary school, mindlessly and aimlessly without actually taking the words into account. Perhaps that was when I truly became American, when I was unknowingly singing about my right to land and land privatization. Truly, I wonder what elementary-age Eniola would have to say to current day Eniola if she found out that song would someday become part of the thesis of her now summer research project.

I've had the honorable pleasure of living in, the once unpronounceable, Menomonie, Wisconsin for the past two months. Even after the 8 weeks, riding my bike along Lake Menomin has never once become dull. The same freshness that I experienced in my first week still overcame me as I would ride a long to the Ag Service Center or perhaps on  a journey with my peers to find the Northern Lights during midsummer nights. Lake Menomonin has truly been  the most enjoyable part of my trip, so doing my research project on efforts to clean it up easily became very meaningful to me.

The purpose of my research project was to understand policy implementation, specifically looking at the Dunn County Shoreland Protection Ordinance. In studying policy implementation, I was trying to understand how policies are received and understood by landowners, including farmers. To collect data, I used the method of participant observation which meant attending public meetings such as the Planning Resource and Devolopment Committee and Local Work Group meetings. In these meetings, I was able to better gage how local government work and how government officials make decision. In addition to that, I job shadowed policy actors, interviewed both homeowners and policy actors, and partook in farmer surveying efforts with our sociology group.

For my results, I found that when talking about policy with different land owners and even policy makers, discourses surrounding property rights and land ownership often came up. In some cases such discourses facilitated lake clean up efforts while others hindered such efforts. When talking about landownership, three themes stood out to me: value of property, anti-regulation, and conditional support, For value of property, I found that in relation to policy, people would often talk about what their property meant to them, such as whether their home had an emotional value and so forth. In the case of anti-regulation, people often talked about how they didn't want government officials telling them what to do on their property. Finally, people who had conditional support supported the Shoreland Protection Ordinance but didn't understand it much or they didn't know how to go about carrying out what the shoreland ordianance was asking of them.

Because local government officials lack resources, like time and funding, lake clean up efforts have to be collective and voluntary. One way to make such efforts be more collective is by tapping into people's attachment to their property. A dirty lake effects everyone, including those who don't want to be told what to do on their property because it effects how people value and enjoy their property. One shouldn't have to live along the lake to value it; Lake Menomin, from my experience, is a hidden treasure in Menomonie, something that all of its citizens should value and take pride in. Pointing fingers will not solve the problem. Coming together as one to persevere this hidden treasure for the future should instead be the goal.

I think if elementary-age Eniola found out what current Eniola was doing, she would probably be uninterested because she'd be more concerned with being "Star of the Week" and trying to color in the lines (which she's still very terrible at doing, by the way). But none the less, I think she would be very proud of the current Eniola and what she was able to accomplish in this last eight weeks.

Okay, I'm going to stop talking in third person now so I can truly express myself.

One thing I am taking with me forever from this experience, is the reassurance that there is truly power in local government. I am glad I got to see that especially in action in Menomonie, Wisconsin.

I didn't get a chance to acknowledged the people who truly made this experience for me on my poster so I will be doing so here. I would like to thank LAKES REU for allowing me to be part of such an experience; I wasn't expecting to get accepted to this program, so when I did, I thought there had been a mistake. Thank you for having faith in my abilities, it truly means a lot to me that I got chosen to be part of this program. I would most especially like to thank Tina Lee for putting up with me. Even though you say I didn't give you much trouble, I know I did :) Thank you for being patient, kind, supportive, and understanding. You truly embody what mentor-ship is all about and I've had a blast working with you as your advisee. I would like to thank Melanie Ford for also being patient, kind, supportive, and a friend when I most needed it. I'm so glad to have an anthropal to spazz with. I also wanted to thank Lisette Solis and Yanira Campos for dealing with my random (but great) singing, social justice rants, and just overall support. Thank you to the people who let me take a peak into their daily lifestyles and to Dan and Betty Prestebak for letting me into their home to enjoy farm life. Finally, thank you to my mother, sister, mentors, and friends back home for cheering me on and helping me to get here in the first place!

Your's Always and Truly,
Eniola Afolayan

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