Walker’s budget bad for WI conservation
Article written on 2015-03-20 by: Bruce Deuchert
The Brown County Conservation Alliance is an organization whose members represent several conservation-minded groups within Brown County.
The BCCA was alarmed to learn of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals to eliminate citizen oversight of the Department of Natural Resources by the current Natural Resource Board, elimination of specific positions within the DNR relating to scientific research and placing a moratorium on the availability of Stewardship Funds until 2028.
The DNR board and the Stewardship Fund were created by forward-thinking bipartisan leaders. The health and welfare of every citizen depends upon clean water, clean air, and healthy, abundant, natural resources to sustain a strong economy and provide for a lifestyle that we too often take for granted.
The Natural Resources Board is made up of seven volunteers appointed by the governor. Their job is to oversee the operations of the DNR, as well as to make various rules and regulations that govern the use and management of our resources.
The work of the NRB is conducted in an open, democratic manner and all citizens have a right to appear at NRB meetings, raise concerns important to them and recommend solutions to address those concerns.
Current NRB members represent a wide geographic area of Wisconsin and have varied backgrounds ranging from farming, real estate, education, as well as expertise in natural resource management. With the majority of the NRB being Walker appointees, we question why the governor would want to eliminate this avenue for the public to express its ideas concerning the management of our resources.
Why turn the authority for DNR decisions over to the governor-appointed DNR secretary? The present secretary is a real estate developer, former legislator with no resource management experience. It is obvious the governor feels that a democracy can survive and function without public input.
Walker’s specific attempts to gut much of the DNR’s science and research staff appear directly tied to the work these staff members have been engaged in. Many are researching the effects of metallic and frac sand mining on the health and safety of Wisconsin citizens and their environment. Their research is showing that the negative impacts of these mining operations will be far greater than politicians, including the governor, have led us to believe.
The land and water contamination issues so many citizens here in Northeastern Wisconsin often face as a direct result of the operations of large factory farms are yet another example of the work the scientific staff at the DNR engages in.
The BCCA believes that if solutions to these problems are to be found they will be found though science-based research. It will be sound science that will help us determine how to deal with problems we face today and provide needed information to the mining and corporate farming industry as to how they can best avoid creating future problems. .
The Stewardship Fund has enjoyed bipartisan support from previous legislatures and governors, as well as strong public support. It is intended to protect critical natural resources and provide places for the public to recreate and enjoy.
The public lands protected by stewardship provide huge benefits for local economies by bringing in tourism dollars so critical for many communities. Critics of the Stewardship Fund feel the land protected by the fund should be developed for private profits and closed forever to public access.
The BCCA urges our community to put partisan politics aside. Take the time to find out the facts surrounding the critical issues that face us. Consider what Wisconsin will look like when our grandchildren and their children someday walk in the same footsteps we take today.
If we allow ourselves to be shut out of the decisions being made about how we care for our natural resources and turn that task over to politicians whose only goal seems to be to further their own political agenda, we stand to lose a great deal, a loss that may be difficult to recover from. Please, consider the facts and join with the BCCA in asking our legislators to reject Walker’s proposals that are so wrong for Wisconsin.