There have been various efforts to split the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources into two agencies over the past several years. This spring, Representative John Gard (R) tried to accomplish a split of the DNR by incorporating his proposal into the biennial budget. By doing this through the budget, the effort does not receive the same amount of attention and public scrutiny as if it were introduced as a separate bill. However, the environmental and conservation community rallied to defeat this unsound and costly proposal, and it seems that, for now, the concept of a split agency is dead. In light of Michigan’s unfavorable experience with a split in their DNR several years ago, it appears to be a positive outcome for the state.
Representatives Gard and Scott Gunderson (R) believe the hunting/angling community can be better served by an agency devoted specifically to natural resource management. They suggest that air and water quality regulations should be the work of a separate agency. However, with mercury pollution being a serious threat to our state’s fisheries, how can air and water quality be separated from a program in fish management? The animosity toward the regulatory side of the DNR is deep in certain circles. In what seems like a retaliatory response by several Representatives, the DNR budget may be severely cut this year in several critical areas of operation.