Budget threatens DNR power

Feb. 18, 2015

By now, it is safe to assume a majority of Wisconsinites have heard about Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial budget proposal. The focus seems to be on the cuts to the UW System. Indeed, that’s what I was focused on since it was announced.

Then this past weekend, I learned about the  proposed budget’s plans for the DNR.

I was floored.

Walker’s budget, if it remains intact as is through the Legislature, would strip the policy-setting powers of the Natural Resources Board (NRB), according to Lee Bergquist and Paul A. Smith of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Commentary by
Josh Hafemeister
Managing Editor

The NRB, a part of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), meets regularly to set policies and hear citizens’ questions and concerns. “…The NRB also provides opportunities for citizens to testify and to submit written comments about issues that come before it,” according to the NRB’s webpage on dnr.wi.gov.

The budget proposes to cut $13.3 million in tax revenue from the DNR as well.

This budget also would “halt any deals to preserve pristine areas of the state under the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program for the next 13 years,” said Bergquist and Smith.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program was created in 1989 to preserve “valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, protect water quality and fisheries, and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation,” according to the DNR’s website.

To reach these goals, the program works to obtain land, construct recreational facilities and restore wildlife habitats.

In other words, the budget Walker proposed will halt attempts at preserving and protecting Wisconsin’s natural wildlife until 2028 and would turn the NRB into an advisory board. They would have no power to set laws and policies, and any voice the public had is gone.

To help put things in perspective, Wisconsin outdoor recreation generates approximately $844 million in state and local tax revenue annually and provides approximately 142,000 jobs, according to outdoorindustry.org, a website dedicated to serving and advocating for the outdoor recreation industry.

Trying to save money is great and all, but nothing says “ham-fisted” or “clumsy” more than cutting funds, resources and authority and making claims that it is to, as Walker said, “strengthen leadership.”

So speak up. Contact your representative and tell them to change this budget. To find out who your representative is, visit house.gov/representatives/find.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email