Monday, June 19, 2017

Divorcing the public, WI DNR flips off State Fair

[Updated from 6/17/17:] Walker intends to further reduce the DNR's science agenda by disconnecting through transfers the few scientists he hasn't already pink-slipped. A key GOP Walker legislative ally says the goal is to make sure climate change science is more deeply buried at the agency, even though there is existing and new information that a warming climate threatens state fisheries.]

Details, context here:
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Walker is further weakening through disconnecting transfers - - and age-old bureaucratic ploy - - the work of the few science staffers whose positions he had not already eliminated that his GOP legislative allies have sought and will additionally further restrict scientific work carried out at the direction of Cathy Stepp, the former developer whom Walker appointed in 2011 as agency's business-friendly Secretary: 
The story quotes outspoken climate change denier and eager corporate captive State Sen. Tom Tiffany, (R-Hazelhurst), in support of even more limitations on what remains of DNR science:
Stepp should be able to ensure that research benefits sportsmen and the DNR should be better able to prevent further research that takes climate change into account, Tiffany said.
Tiffany doesn’t accept the findings of 97 percent of working climate scientists that the climate is changing rapidly in large part because of human-caused pollution.  
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has found a new way to further separate itself from taxpayers and visitors who want the agency to embrace its information services and stand up for an environment which has been allowed to degrade under a politicized DNR.

*  The DNR has already stopped providing timely and useful information to the public about deteriorating air quality or climate change.

*  It has turned away from policy basics like aggressively attacking fecal contamination of rural well-water

* And Scott Walker's intentionally-refocused "chamber of commerce mentality" DNR - - which is more and more a defacto state commerce department prioritized to hand out permits for massive animal feeding operations and sand mines than an environmental protection organization - - is adding to the distance it is cementing between everyday Wisconsin residents and taxpayers by ending its 70-some-years-old big outreach presence at the Wisconsin State Fair: 
Effective this year, the DNR will no longer offer fisheries, wildlife or environmental management booths, casting clinics, archery, a children's nature play area, Smokey's Schoolhouse and a number of other attractions. 
A surprise not unlike its efforts to kill off without warning or fact-based justification the 99-year-old popular Wisconsin Natural Resource magazine that legislators hope to save by trimming its issues by one-third.

I remember years ago when a Wisconsin Secretary of Transportation said the agency's job was "to let contracts," as if citizens as varied as motorists, pedestrians, transit riders, and people living near highways who expected the agency to deliver a basic like clean air weren't as important as road-building contractors and the concrete they were going to receive taxpayer dollars to pour.

So add the DNR under Walker and his hand-picked Secretary, former developer and McDonald's restaurant manager Cathy Stepp - - 

Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp proudly shows off her first deer, taken opening weekend last year. In the upcoming TV Special "Deer Hunt Wisconsin 2012, Stepp urges male hunters to take more girls and women hunting. "The secret's out," she says. "Hunting is a lot of fun, so don't keep it to yourselves."  photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR
- - to Wisconsin department secretaries who are divorcing their agencies and missions from the people and public expectations

An elitist, corporatist attitude Stepp affirmed last year when describing a jargon-filled departmental reorganization that is all about business and not about, say, the families who walk the state fair grounds every summer and had enjoyed the DNR's informative and open-arms traditional greeting now headed for the ash can: 
In an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal and meetings with employees, DNR secretary Cathy Stepp and her top deputies said plans for the next 18 months include:
Creating a certification program aimed at placing more responsibility on private contractors in the writing of permits governing lakefront construction and water pollution discharges from animal feedlots.
Reducing the number of armed rangers with arrest powers in state parks...
Distributing what remains of the department’s science research bureau among several divisions.
Stepp touted the plan as a first-of-its-kind “business plan” detailing agency functions in ways that should help shield the department from budget cuts and make the shrinking DNR workforce happier and more efficient.
As I wrote last year to end a long description of the ascendancy of corporate privilege and control throughout Wisconsin at the expense of the people's interests:
Wisconsin is corporate heaven; less so for the less-powerful
...the Walkerites have used law and policy and political power in Wisconsin - - this GOP/corporate control has been an under-covered, carefully crafted take-over operation - - to tilt benefits and access in a heavenly way towards big business and the executives who own them. 


Anonymous said...

This must not be one of the core functions of the agency. Someday, Stepp might tell employees, legislators and citizens what the core functions are. For now I guess we will just have to be satisfied that, like that SCOTUS Justice who didn't like porn, she can't define the DNR's core functions, but she knows em when she seems em.

Anonymous said...

There will be no park rangers with law enforcement credentials. ZERO. All forest rangers will also lose there credentials.

Mortified West Allis Resident said...

Welcome to "Exploratory Park". Will Tommy Bartlett become the corporate sponsor? Just guessing!

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Walker just build a moat around the Capitol? That would also create a lot of minimum wage jobs and that would help his 259,000 total.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I really respect and have affection for the DNR Park Rangers. A few years back, I worked with them on development of a couple of projects in the Poynette reserves, and it was the first time I ever made a presentation to an audience who was armed. (although it seems that our Republican Idiot Overlords want to make that an everyday occurrence). But the people were/are simply aces, and Turdwaffle's treatment of them is appalling, shortsighted, and goes further to make Wisconsin an unattractive backwater.

Sara said...

I've read through this Update, and I have a question about the State Fair changes. Is there any way to comment or politically activate on this particular issue?? (Or is it just over and done, with no possible responses or opinions to share with the agency or leaders?)

James Rowen said...

Calls to legislators got the DNR and Walker to back away from fully ending the DNR magazine, so there is that. The Fair begins in a few weeks, so unless there is a massive campaign I suspect it's a done deal within the agency's administrative purview.

Anonymous said...

It would be tough for staff to pull together the fair on such short notice. It would be best if the fish tanks and other infrastructure were not yanked out. Maybe next year DNR could return.