Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trump's EPA suppression echoes Walker's takedown of WI DNR

[Updated from 1/25/17]

I'm adding to this recent post because:


*  The ideologically-driven, corporately-attuned Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, soon to lose at Gov. Walker's directive its subscriber-funded, 99-year-old monthly magazine, was accused this week of having made political changes to articles at the expense of science and climate change information.


*  
The ideologically-driven, corporately-attuned oil and gas captive Scott Pruitt won US Senate approval this week to run the EPA.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The denial of climate change, the contempt for facts and a preference for the "alternative varieties," the disdain for science and public service, and the all-purpose elevation of right-wing ideology has spread from the Trump campaign to his administration and now to the US Environmental Protection Agency, where we learned today that the so-called "political appointees" will review scientific information and papers before they are released:
The Trump administration is scrutinizing studies and data published by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, while new work is under a "temporary hold" before it can be released.
The communications director for President Donald Trump's transition team at EPA, Doug Ericksen, said Wednesday the review extends to all existing content on the federal agency's website, including details of scientific evidence showing that the Earth's climate is warming and man-made carbon emissions are to blame...
...the Trump administration was mandating that any studies or data from EPA scientists undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public.  
This is a disaster for public health, and the truth, and, regrettably, there is precedent for it in the formerly progressive State of Wisconsin now entering its seventh straight year of one-party, far-rightwing, corporately-obeisant Republican Party rule:

The abusive manipulation of facts and data by political appointees is precisely what led to the scrubbing of crucial material from Wisconsin right-wing Gov. Scott Walker's "chamber of commerce mentality" Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources climate change web pages, documented here.


And this costly politically-managed management of facts and censorship of science at the very public agencies charged with implementing the scientific protection of the people's air and water and land was pointed out by DNR experts and insiders and included in a long investigative analysis I posted and updated last year, excerpted below:

The DNR, once a nationally-regarded science-based resource protection agency, has been disregarded, defunded and degraded by management "deliberately and proudly uninformed," according to one first-hand observer among several whom I surveyed over the course of ten days.
Wisconsin's far-right Governor Scott Walker set the DNR's downfall in motion when he appointed at the beginning of his tenure Racine developer and unabashed DNR-trasher 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
Walker has reduced DNR budgets, pared its long-standing, bi-partisan land acquisition program, slashed science and other staffs, enabled reduced pollution inspections and enforcement actions  - - read this 2012 enforcement summation and a 2016 followup - - and wants to turn over agency permit drafting to 'regulated' applicants already enjoying eased permit reviews... 
I decided to survey people with direct knowledge of the DNR. I asked them to comment on agency issues, including morale, impact of budget cuts, reorganizations, and senior staff leadership/competence.
Here is some of the feedback:
*  A lobbyist noted DNR policy and procedure changes that have tilted agency activity and decisions towards regulated businesses:
Decisions on permits, policies, responses to FOI's [freedom of information requests] are all made by Division Administrators (political appointees)... 
* Another former staffer said:
...morale among the long-time staff is not good. Many are old enough to retire... but feel they can't. I've also heard that senior management (division admins and up) "listen" to advice of technical staff but often don't follow it.
*  A second lobbyist said:
...for retired DNR workers...there's deep dismay about the selling off of the agency, the trashing of its mission, the disrespect for agency workers (and all public employees, for that matter, by the Walker regime). 
   *  A third former staffer said: 
The most alarming issue to me is the great waste of decades of sound science, compiled overtime in on-going studies and data collection. WI had more information about our natural landscape than most states. Abolishing science services put an end to decades long studies vital to maintaining and recovering rare and endangered plants and animals as well as understanding natural communities as information on resilience for climate change. 
* A current employe on personal time echoed many of the lobbyists and former staffers' observations:
Under Walker and Stepp, science is not a priority. Scientific knowledge is ever-changing but in Wisconsin our staff are being left behind. We no longer have a statistician to help interpret data, a library to provide journals or books, or researchers that monitor fish counts, wildlife health, air quality, water quality and etc….employee scientific knowledge and data specific to WI is stagnant...we cannot do the best job possible for our state. 
The DNR is currently run by people who understand public relations spin but not the complexity of the natural resources they are responsible for...Communications staff, generally not trained specifically in resource communication, answer questions with talking points..usually developed by upper management - political appointees - and legal staff. The information provided is biased and superficial.
Act 10 and the pay cuts related to that have been hard on a lot of staff...we can no longer hire and/or keep the best and brightest and that is sad. Especially looking back at some of the really ground-breaking research and resulting policy work done here 20-30 years ago. We now do the minimum to protect resources...
Updated, 6/21/16:
With his permission, I am adding comments from Gordon Stevenson, an engineer and former senior DNR manager, who now serves Midwest Environmental Advocates as board chairman: 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 At an MEA water program in Milwaukee, Stevenson said, in part:
For the majority of my career, water policy decisions were based on the strong bond between law and science, the people in charge of making those decisions had conservation and environmental protection credentials, and my colleagues and I shared the belief that Wisconsin's true and sustaining wealth is its clean water.
Much of that is now changed at DNR. Wisconsin DNR's water quality permit program has been found seriously deficient by the US Environmental Protection Agency. DNR is failing to protect downstream water from upstream pollution sources, they are allowing already impaired water bodies to get worse and they are suppressing the public's ability to challenge water quality permit decisions.
Wisconsin DNR's authority to protect Wisconsin's water resources is delegated from EPA. Under the delegation agreement, DNR is obligated to administer the federal Clean Water Act. DNR is not doing so. On behalf of 16 Wisconsin citizens, Midwest Environmental Advocates has filed a Citizens Petition for Corrective Action with the US Environmental Protection agency to correct these deficiencies. The petition seeks to restore the credible water quality protection program that we once had in this state.
We're arriving at an important crossroads in Wisconsin. We have our own version of Flint, Michigan in Kewaunee County where citizens cannot drink the water and we have our own version of the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone. A dead zone now also exists in Green Bay that runs from the City of Green Bay all the way up to Marinette.
While I am alarmed, I am also encouraged . We are pleased to report that more than 70 people like me, DNR retirees, along with other credible scientist and partners have signed on to support the Petition for Corrective Action along with our original 16 Wisconsin citizen clients. And the number of people supporting the petition is growing daily.
But in a larger sense. I am even more encouraged that so many Wisconsin citizens believe like I do: that water policy decisions should be based on the strong bond between law and science, that the people in charge of making water quality decisions should have the credentials to do so, and that Wisconsin's true and sustaining wealth is its clean water."
In an email to me, Stevenson also said:
In addition, DNR management has made it clear to staff that environmental advocacy is no longer the core mission of DNR and staff are disallowed from doing so. What was once a guardian of Wisconsin’s natural heritage is now reduced to a rubber-stamping vendor of licenses and permits without oversight.
One more thing:

Remember that the Wisconsin DNR wiped references to climate change from its climate change web page.


So are you surprised at this breaking news?

Trump Administration Tells EPA to Cut Climate Change Page From Website
The page was restored, For now. 



Friday, February 17, 2017

The sound of troops in the street getting closer

The Trump regime is labeling it 100% false, but they drafted it

It's 11 pages long

Seal of the United States Army National Guard.svg

Someone put a lot of time into setting a police state into motion in America:
An internal Department of Homeland Security memo from last month proposed calling up as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants, an agency official said Friday.

David Clarke, through his own lens

David Clarke wants you to see this picture. Hat tip, Dan Bice:



WI DNR serving its wealthy property-buying customers anew

Scott Walker says the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources can't continue to mail out as it has for 99 years a subscriber-paid magazine which thousands of customers routinely receive, but has the time for taxpayer-paid staff to cherry-pick some excellent, so-called surplus parcels and offer them through a government asset website to the highest, well-heeled bidder.

In WalkerWorld, some customers are really, really more equal than others, as the record has already shown.

Follow item #17123-70 - State of Wisconsin, Dept. of Natural Resources - - for the latest round of deals, including, for example:

PR40217
16c.jpg202 +/- Acre Wooded Parcel w/Easement and is Split by State Hwy 51 Near Rock Falls, WI (Lincoln County)
- DNR File #: Parent File P 1705 - Sale File PR 40217
- Address: Rock Falls, WI 
- Property Details: The parcel is comprised of both lowland and upland woodland. The Department purchased this parcel located in the Town of Rock Falls in Lincoln County. At the time of acquisition, the Natural Resources Board approved that once the Ice Age trail location had been set, the portion of the land not needed should be sold or exchanged. It has been determined that only the northern portion of the property will be needed for trail purposes and the remaining land is to be sold. Land to be sold is outlined in Red.

Milwaukee rail line win 20 years in the making

So great to see this story and headline: 

Milwaukee Streetcar route construction to begin in April


Service for the initial downtown route is expected to begin in fall 2018, and the lakefront line is expected to start operating in 2019.

The streetcar plan aims to connect the Milwaukee Intermodal Station with the city's lower east side.
Milwaukee Intermodal Station.jpg
And what an lesson about sticking with a vision - - from the Norquist years though the Barrett administration - - to beat back partisan, suburban-based opposition that kept the city from years of growth, as I wrote in 2008:  
----------------------------------------------------------
The railroad not taken
Had plans unfolded on schedule, the starter light rail, with an estimated 21,000 riders on weekdays, would have opened in 2006 and run about 10 miles from the Third Ward to Summerfest, downtown, Miller Park, the Milwaukee County Zoo and the County Grounds.

Talk about a missed opportunity...

Extensions to Milwaukee's north side and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee would have generated support, and light rail could have assisted Waukesha County commuters because years of Zoo Interchange and I-94 reconstruction are planned west of Milwaukee...

In late January 1997, then-Gov. Tommy Thompson and aides showed the two-county transportation plan to local officials and asked them to support the package even if they disliked one or another element. As policy director to then-Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, I attended the meeting at which Thompson made his pitch. Though opposed to special lanes, Norquist agreed not to attack the plan.

Light rail already was controversial: The late business leader George Watts said publicly in late 1996 that light rail could deliver 'strangers' into unsuspecting communities and threaten their property and children - a remark some felt was racist. And 'light rail' was and continues to be aimed as a partisan, fear-laden phrase against Milwaukee and its urban, Democratic majority on conservative talk radio and in some Republican-dominated suburbs.

Sensing a backlash in Thompson's base, an administration spokesman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a Feb. 1, 1997 article - just days after Thompson's presentation to Norquist - that not 'a nickel' of state money would be spent on light rail in Milwaukee. 
-----------------------------------------

And, yes, things have somewhat changed. The initial routing. The equipment. There is a dedicated rapid bus planned from downtown to the Medical Complex.

But I am convinced the streetcar will be a success. There are new downtown venues and residents to serve. And just as Wauwatosa signed on to the dedicated bus route, its North Ave. development could someday be a rail destination.

Miller Park?  Mitchell Airport? Oak Creek's Ikea store? Who knows?

Many urban rail systems nationwide find their suburbs demand service when rail's advantages become obvious. 

So I won't get too far ahead of myself. It's just a good day for the urban agenda, and the beginning of something positive.


Opponents win hearing on Waukesha's Lake Michigan diversion

Some months ago I'd written that many cities along the St. Lawrence Seaway and across the Great Lakes region in the US and Canada

would launch an appeal of Waukesha's diversion application approval:
Litigation could keep Waukesha diversion spigot shut
Word is out today that the appeal will get a hearing next month in Chicago, so stay tuned: 

PUBLIC NOTICE

Public Notice is hereby given on behalf of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council (“Compact Council”) under the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (“Compact”) that it will be meeting to hear Oral Argument as part of the hearing process initiated in response to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative's Request for Hearing regarding the Compact Council’s Final Decision in the matter of the Application by the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin for a Diversion of Great Lakes Water, No. 2016-1, on March 20, 2017 beginning no sooner than 1:00 p.m. CDT at:
University of Illinois-Chicago
Student Center East
750 S. Halsted – Illinois AB
Chicago, IL 60607


This Notice is given pursuant to provisions of certain governing documents, including, without limitation, Article 6 and Section 7.3 of the Compact.

Further information on the Request for Hearing, as well as contact information, can be found on the http://www.waukeshadiversion. org website. 

Walker's DNR mag kill destroys Stepp's pro-customer mantra, too

The "chamber of commerce mentality" Wisconsin DNR Secretary whom Scott Walker installed atop the agency has been pitching customer service because says the DNR should be run like a business.
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
So you get things from former home builder and McDonald's manager Cathy Stepp like "DNR has committed to: Measurably increasing customer satisfaction through increased customer outreach and assistance" in a 2011 reorganization plan. an early echo of a 2016 agency "realignment" in which Steps makes the same point and pledge:
In fact, this initiative, based on private sector best business practices, will allow us to focus even more on that responsibility...
We are a customer service agency that also regulates our customers. That's a unique challenge. Our customers include everyone who lives, works, plays or makes anything here. They all expect clean air and water, robust wildlife, world-class trout streams and first-class parks and forests. All of our customers, taxpaying citizens, license and permit holders and visitors also deserve the best possible return on their investment that we can provide. This alignment plan sets us on the path to accomplish that.
"All of our customers...," well not all, because Walker plans to wipe out the DNR's subscriber-based, long-standing bi-monthly magazine with at least 75,000 subscribers, er customers - - many of who have signed up regularly for two and three-year commitments.

What kind of customer-driven, best-business practice-centered operation intentionally insults 75,000 paying customers by killing a popular product while offering weak explanations for the decision?


Customers need to fight back.

Subscribe NOW.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trump's worst performance yet scares the hell out of everyone

Yeah, so he had himself a [rehearsed] tantrum today. So many grievances, aired.

Here's the transcript, with high-lighting by the fake media the paper that sent an unstable Richard Nixon packing.

The day that Donald Trump mused barely coherently at a White House news conference that "this administration is running like a fine-tuned machine," and thought aloud about blowing a ship belonging to Russian mentor Vlad out of international waters off the US east coast - - 
Donald Trump official portrait.jpg
- - and claimed he inherited "a mess" from the outgoing President who saved the US auto industry, created 11.3 million jobs and spurred a tripled Dow Jones average seems the perfect day to remind ourselves that just about every Republican politicians right up to House Speaker Paul Ryan either told us that Trump was the best person for the job, or like the hapless Mitt Romney, came around when the dust settled hoping to bit off a piece for themselves.

Exhibit "A" for this dysfunction - - this "A" grade just awarded Trump by the Grade-A sycophant, former four-term WI Gov. and Bush 43 cabinet Secretary Tommy Thompson.

Your timing and evaluative skills leave much to be desired, sir.


But here's the craziest thing in this worsening and transparent White House madness:


Republicans have to come to the country and world's rescue before he does blow a Russian or an Iranian ship out of the water.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Walker as Labor Secretary? Doubtful. And yet...

Right-wing WI GOP Gov. and enemy of labor everywhere Scott Walker says he has no interest in filling the newly-available position in the Cabinet as Donald Trump's Secretary of Labor.

Not to worry: Super thin-skinned Trump would never give such a job to someone who zinged him in an early GOP Presidential debate as sure to be "an apprentice in the White House" - - and made it a two-layer insult by adding, "we have one right now," so equated Trump with the stealth Kenyan-Muslim fake Christian-American Barack Obama whom Birther-in-Chief Trump had lied about and otherwise denigrated for years.


Also working against Walker joining Team Trump: that Walker has his own dedicated and seasoned swarm of protesters who would follow him to Washington and anywhere he might  might make a speech, grab a burger, and huddle with CEO's to Make America Great Again by stripping workers of overtime hours. 


And Walker's smart enough not to swim towards President Ahab's doomed ship (of state), so look to Trump and his handlers to find a cookie-cutter corporate cipher willing, like Walker, to tout $7.25 as a living wage, but from whom Trump could expect regular flattery without having to relive Walker's disrespect.


But that's not to say that Walker and Trump's futures aren't destined to merge.


I can imagine powerful Republicans in DC with Wisconsin connections plugging Walker in should Indiana bestie Mike Pence suddenly need a Veep, as I theorized, here.


Strange Vice-Presidential materializations and Presidential successions have happened before. 


Gerald Ford was appointed Vice-President by Richard Nixon when Spiro Agnew had to leave town and got the rest of the enchilada shortly thereafter when Nixon was excused, too.

Such are the dreams of Presidential aspirants. 


Labor secretaries? Not so much. 




Trump distracts from and ignores the real, serious news

One of the penalties inflicted on the country by the incompetent, scandalized and downright dangerous Trump Presidency is distortion it inflicts on the national conversation.

The country's tallest dam is in serious trouble. It's emblematic of aging infrastructure nationwide and the risks posed to it by a changing climate that intensifies storms with more precipitation.

This story should be leading the news.

It's the poster-story for the implications of climate change.

How big does the canary in the coal mine have to be for Trump not to bump into it when he's looking for the TV remote?

But we have a pathologically-self-absorbed White House squatter- - 
Donald Trump official portrait.jpg
- - who thinks the country's biggest infrastructure need is a $21 billion-dollar wall on the southern border, and is in a suicidal embrace with the Russian dictator, believes climate change is a Chinese-invented marketing ploy, and who can't focus on anything for more than fifteen seconds, except he showed us again today at BibiFest by the Potomac, his Electoral College victory margin. 




Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2 senior WI GOP leaders key to probe/remove Trump

If our Republic is to be rescued from the anti-democratic and corrupt Trump-Putin partnership, there is a relatively short list of influential Republicans who will have to step to the fore and put the American people ahead of partisan agendas.

Or at least to use that explanation for cover if doing the right thing alone is too unpalatable.

Two of these potential big players are from Wisconsin, and therefore reachable by Wisconsin citizens, opinion-makers, editorial writers, political activists and others.

*  US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan.
A portrait shot of Paul Ryan, looking straight ahead. He has short brown hair, and is wearing a dark navy blazer with a red and blue striped tie over a light blue collared shirt. In the background is the American flag.

*  Former Republican National Committee chairman and current Trump White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
RPriebusTwitter.jpg
Without effective pressure on and from these two Wisconsinites, there will be no serious and independent probe of Putin and Team Trump's symbiotic moves.

And since some of you are ready to call me crazy, so I'll add this one more thought.

Ryan and Priebus no doubt prefer Vice-President Mike Pence as a more reliably, conservative Republican incumbent President through at least 2020.

And if Trump is persuaded to leave, as was Richard Nixon, Ryan and Priebus are perfectly positioned to pitch Pence best friend Scott Walker as the appointed Veep to replace the elevated Pence.

Remember that Pence is Righter than right for Republicans on the issues dear to their deeply reactionary hearts, and donors:

Bashing unions, rewarding private choice schools, defunding Planned Parenthood, overturning Roe V. Wade, deregulating Wall Street, adding tax cuts for the rich, and on and on and on.

Too crazy a scenario?

Makes sense to me as a way for Republicans, who are in charge right now, to navigate their party and credit card financiers through uncharted, dangerous waters.




Save the DNR magazine. Subscribe now.

If you are angry that Scott Walker's war on science, information and public service now extends to his unsupportable and politically-inspired proposed wipe out of the DNR's popular, low-cost and completely-subscriber supported Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine - - 
Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine cover photo
 - - then subscribe NOW.

We need media stories about a flood of new subscribers.


People and editorial boards turned around Walker's attacks on the Open Records law and the US System's search-for-truth Wisconsin Idea mission statement. 


Send Walker the same message, again: Wisconsin should support and facilitate the free flow of public information, not delete and now budgetarily wipe it out.

Save this magazine. C'mon, environmentalists, organizations and First Amendment honorees - - Subscribe, now, here.

Inside the WI DNR: poor morale, fear, despair over lost mission

[Updated] I am again updating this comprehensive 2016 review of right-wing GOP WI Gov. Scott Walker's ideological attack on science, freely flowing information and public service at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources by adding links about the agency's intentional scrubbing of climate change information from websites and Walker's plan to cancel the agency's 99-year old, subscriber-supported bi-monthly magazine.

Walker's spokesman offered a preposterous explanation contradicted by facts.


The real context is below:


--------------------------------------

[Updated from 6/2/16] 

After two recent, high-ranking staff departures - - and a host of legal, program and policy changes in state government which have put Wisconsin air, water and land at risk since Gov. Walker's inauguration in January, 2011 - - I thought it was time to get a closer look inside the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


[6/10/16 update, 2:12 p.m.] The DNR has quietly adopted the advisory opinion of Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel - - one lawyer's view that is not state law approved by the Legislature - - that Wisconsin groundwater is not afforded protection or regulation long-guaranteed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Wisconsin Constitution. 


[6/16/16 update] Ordered up by Big Ag, mega-dairies and other special interests - - in writing:


The hand-delivered memo, its bold and bold-faced language. and the weighty array of powerful logos at the top tell the story:

An urgent communication to all Wisconsin legislators 
We are at a crossroads. It is imperative that the legislature assert its authority and bring certainty and sanity to the regulation of new and existing high capacity wells in Wisconsin. 
And:
However, we cannot accept any legislation that would create new, stifling regulations or establish regulatory uncertainty as to how DNR and the state will approach new well applications moving forward. 
Another win for polluters at the expense of the people who own all the water of the state, and solid evidence that the DNR is little more than a subsidiary of corporate Wisconsin where the GOP runs and coordinates all theree branches of the government.

My findings, below:


The DNR, once a nationally-regarded science-based resource protection agency, has been disregarded, defunded and degraded by management "deliberately and proudly uninformed," according to one first-hand observer among several whom I surveyed over the course of ten days.


Wisconsin's far-right Governor Scott Walker set the DNR's downfall in motion when he appointed at the beginning of his tenure Racine developer and unabashed DNR-trasher 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
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR 
- - read her anti-DNR-staff-and-program rant while a revealing Stepp video has been taken off-line - - to oversee the DNR as Secretary with what Walker called "a chamber of commerce mentality."

Walker then added other top managers with work at leading builders, transportation and commerce trade associations on their resumes to oversee crucial air, water and other environmental policy development, implementation and decision-making.
While Stepp, at times, has promoted in-house activities or made remarks which one first-hand observer has called "not very professional. I think she is deliberately and proudly uninformed."

A summary post about some of this is here.

Walker has reduced DNR budgets, pared its long-standing, bi-partisan land acquisition program, slashed science and other staffs, enabled reduced pollution inspections and enforcement actions  - - read this 2012 enforcement summation and a 2016 followup - - and wants to turn over agency permit drafting to 'regulated' applicants already enjoying eased permit reviews. 


Updated, 6/5: As if on cue, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, citing a non-partisan state watchdog agency report, noted that the DNR has been routinely ignoring its own procedures and declining to charge large numbers of industrial and municipal polluters, for years:

Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources isn't following its own policies for policing pollution from large livestock farms and wastewater treatment plants, a state audit says.  
The Legislative Audit Bureau report found the DNR failed to send violation notices in 94% of the nearly 560 instances its policies said it should have over the past decade. The report found that permits have been extended without review for years due to a backlog and that staff members don't have time to thoroughly monitor concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.
And Walker has added special-interest friendly policies, rules and legislation to the DNR's purview, is using the agency to fight federal clean air standards, allowed the agency to systematically ignore federal clean water law enforcement and has opened the door to  sand and open-pit iron mining, wetland filling and shoreline development, regardless of local residents and governments' input or desires.

Added to this toxic brew which puts special interests above the public's needs: 


*  A solidly pro-Walker, GOP gerrymandered state legislature;


*  A 5-2 majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court elected with the help of large campaign donations from some of the same trade associations supplying the DNR with senior administrators and corporate policy agendas;


*  An Attorney General also captured by special interests, especially those who would privatize the public's water while the current DNR is all-too-happy to look the other way.


* [6/19/16 update]: And the agency has just announced the sale of 128 parcels of publicly-owned land, many of which are labeled designated wildlife, water management of gifted property. Political and insider opportunities abound.


So after those two high-profile, senior DNR staff departures, and other policy decisions which put the public interest at the back of the line, I decided to survey people with direct knowledge of the DNR. I asked them to comment on agency issues, including 
morale, impact of budget cuts, reorganizations, and senior staff leadership/competence.


Here is some of the feedback:


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Updated, 6/21/16:

With his permission, I am adding comments to this post from Gordon Stevenson, an engineer and former senior DNR manager, who now serves Midwest Environmental Advocates as board secretary and spoke at a a May MEA water program in Milwaukee. This is from his MEA bio:

Gordon is a 26 year veteran of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. His last assignment was serving as the Chief of Runoff Management until his retirement in January of 2011. His professional expertise includes watershed-based water resource protection and control of diffuse water pollution sources. Gordon had been instrumental in development of policies and administrative codes for the State of Wisconsin involving both agricultural and urban nonpoint source water pollution. In particular, Gordon has been an architect of Wisconsin’s environmental programs that apply to Wisconsin’s extensive livestock industry. He wrote and issued the first permits for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in Wisconsin, developed technical guidance for abatement of agricultural pollutants in both surface water and groundwater and was the voice of the Department of Natural Resources to Wisconsin’s livestock producer community.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 At the MEA water program, Stevenson said, in part:
For the majority of my career, water policy decisions were based on the strong bond between law and science, the people in charge of making those decisions had conservation and environmental protection credentials, and my colleagues and I shared the belief that Wisconsin's true and sustaining wealth is its clean water.
Much of that is now changed at DNR. Wisconsin DNR's water quality permit program has been found seriously deficient by the US Environmental Protection Agency. DNR is failing to protect downstream water from upstream pollution sources, they are allowing already impaired water bodies to get worse and they are suppressing the public's ability to challenge water quality permit decisions.
Wisconsin DNR's authority to protect Wisconsin's water resources is delegated from EPA. Under the delegation agreement, DNR is obligated to administer the federal Clean Water Act. DNR is not doing so. On behalf of 16 Wisconsin citizens, Midwest Environmental Advocates has filed a Citizens Petition for Corrective Action with the US Environmental Protection agency to correct these deficiencies. The petition seeks to restore the credible water quality protection program that we once had in this state.
We're arriving at an important crossroads in Wisconsin. We have our own version of Flint, Michigan in Kewaunee County where citizens cannot drink the water and we have our own version of the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone. A dead zone now also exists in Green Bay that runs from the City of Green Bay all the way up to Marinette.
While I am alarmed, I am also encouraged . We are pleased to report that more than 70 people like me, DNR retirees, along with other credible scientist and partners have signed on to support the Petition for Corrective Action along with our original 16 Wisconsin citizen clients. And the number of people supporting the petition is growing daily.
But in a larger sense. I am even more encouraged that so many Wisconsin citizens believe like I do: that water policy decisions should be based on the strong bond between law and science, that the people in charge of making water quality decisions should have the credentials to do so, and that Wisconsin's true and sustaining wealth is its clean water."
In an email, Stevenson also said:
In addition, DNR management has made it clear to staff that environmental advocacy is no longer the core mission of DNR and staff are disallowed from doing so.  What was once a guardian of Wisconsin’s natural heritage is now reduced to a rubber-stamping vendor of licenses and permits without oversight.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*  A lobbyist noted DNR policy and procedure changes that have tilted agency activity and decisions towards regulated businesses:

No legislative analysis of bills by Department staff. No testimony on bills unless asked by a legislator... DNR used to have written instructions on providing testimony. That no longer exists. 
Decisions on permits, policies, responses to FOI's [freedom of information requests] are all made by Division Administrators (political appointees) 
Routine for permit applicants to meet with senior staff (Secretary's Office) with no front line staff working on permits attending - or even notified of these meetings. 
General - low morale - much of it from fear. Employees have no idea what realignment will look like and many long term employees are afraid they will be out of a job. There is no info on the realignment which is supposed to happen by July 1.
*  A former longtime staffer said:
Employee morale is far lower than it ever has been. Most experienced  employees leave as soon as they can. There is often a fear to make unpopular decisions which often are part of the job.
* Another former staffer said:
...morale among the long-time staff is not good. Many are old enough to retire... but feel they can't. I've also heard that senior management (division admins and up) "listen" to advice of technical staff but often don't follow it.
*  A second lobbyist said:
...for retired DNR workers...there's deep dismay about the selling off of the agency, the trashing of its mission, the disrespect for agency workers (and all public employees, for that matter, by the Walker regime). 
The most deeply dismaying, for former DNR types, is how acquiescent and compliant newer DNR workers are to this philosophy of government -- how they really know nothing else and they think this is normal. Retirees understand younger DNR workers have families to support and careers to build, but it pains them to see them robbed of their autonomy and professionalism -- and that newer workers may not even fully understand the robbery.  
*  A third former staffer said: 
The most alarming issue to me is the great waste of decades of sound science, compiled overtime in on-going studies and data collection. WI had more information about our natural landscape than most states. Abolishing science services put an end to decades long studies vital to maintaining and recovering rare and endangered plants and animals as well as understanding natural communities as information on resilience for climate change. 
* A current employe on personal time echoed many of the lobbyists and former staffers'  observations:
Under Walker and Stepp, science is not a priority. Scientific knowledge is ever-changing but in Wisconsin our staff are being left behind. We no longer have a statistician to help interpret data, a library to provide journals or books, or researchers that monitor fish counts, wildlife health, air quality, water quality and etc….employee scientific knowledge and data specific to WI is stagnant...we cannot do the best job possible for our state. 
The DNR is currently run by people who understand public relations spin but not the complexity of the natural resources they are responsible for...Communications staff, generally not trained specifically in resource communication, answer questions with talking points..usually developed by upper management - political appointees - and legal staff. The information provided is biased and superficial.
Act 10 and the pay cuts related to that have been hard on a lot of staff...we can no longer hire and/or keep the best and brightest and that is sad. Especially looking back at some of the really ground-breaking research and resulting policy work done here 20-30 years ago. We now do the minimum to protect resources...
We have 2,500 full time staff (down from 3,100) and about 1,500 Limited Term Employees. That is an extremely high number of temporary employees who can and have been fired without any notice. After Civil Service "reforms" which go into effect in July, we will all be subject to that uncertainty. Under these circumstances, collective institutional memory can be lost very quickly...Reinventing the wheel is wasteful... 
Also happening in July is our "Alignment," the new term for reorganization. Anyone not performing a "core function" will be moved to a new job [but] there has been no information provided to staff on just what the core functions are….
I do believe that all the natural resources of Wisconsin belong to the people of Wisconsin...I don't understand why people who live in one of the most beautiful and environmentally diverse places in the world voted for environmental degradation.