The Governor’s budget seems set to demolish Wisconsin’s conservation heritage. Freezing until 2028 the Stewardship Program that acquires easements and acreage for conservation or recreational purposes is simply wrong. Many opportunities for acquisition of critical parcels for urban parks and to reduce ownership fragmentation are time specific.
Cutting or eliminating research scientists from DNR (with no budget savings) is very short-sighted as these provide vital information for directing programs, informing decision-makers, maintaining long-term databases, and for short-term problem solving. These services cannot be readily provided by University or other outside scientists despite what some legislators or the Governor say.
Perhaps worst of all is the proposal to emasculate the Natural Resources Board in favor of direction from the Governor and Secretary. It is a lie to say that the NRB is not accountable to the electorate as members are appointed by the elected Governor for staggered 6-yr terms and must be confirmed by the elected Senate. Moreover, NRB rules that implement legislative statutes are subject to review by public hearings and the elected legislative Join Committee for Review of Administrative Rules.
Natural resource management requires a long term perspective and should not be subject to the whims of a Governor whose perspective often extends only to the next election. An independent DNR and NRB provide transparency and insulation from political mischief. They also provide a scapegoat for politicians to blame when an individual or industry is told “no” as when air and water purity is about to be threatened or land mismanaged.
Budget cuts can be restored rather easily when conditions change, but the structural changes as proposed will be very difficult to rebuild. Hopefully, the Budget will be reconsidered and we will keep Aldo Leopold’s legacy alive. You might want to call your favorite legislators, eh?
Joe Stengleson, Rhinelander