Sunday, September 18, 2016

WI DNR whines about staff shortages, but wants more staff cuts

A couple of weeks ago I said that given Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's obeisance to monied, pollution special interests and their shared disdain for the agency's public mission, more budget cuts to the already-beaten down Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources were on the way: 
In his first budget, Walker ended state-financed recycling. The Legislature restored part of it. 
In his last budget, Walker proposed freezing for thirteen years all state land conversation purchases through a DNR-managed borrowing program, ended all state spending for state parks, and axed a swath of DNR science staffers to further his pro-commerce, pollution-enabling deregulation of the state's land, air and water.
While the Legislature restored some of the land purchase borrowing, I'd expect more cuts to the DNR, and perhaps more movement towards selling park naming rights, or even park land itself to fulfill Walker's purported love for small government.
You may also remember that Scott Walker's designated 'chamber of commerce mentality' developer-cum-DNR Secretary 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
- - complained in 2012 that staff shortages played a role in reduced DNR inspections and enforcement actions:
Enforcement by the DNR has dropped precipitously at the agency in the past two years with the issuance of violation notices reaching a 12-year low last year. Referrals to the Department of Justice also are down dramatically, from the 12-year annual average of 65 to 21 in 2011. Stepp and other administrators blame the drop on lack of staff as well as a change in philosophy that emphasizes cooperation with businesses and bringing violators into compliance earlier in a case rather than relying on prosecution.
Her top Deputy said the same thing, keeping that change-the-subject narrative alive:
When it comes to inspections, Deputy DNR Secretary Matt Moroney said an employee shortage is to blame. 
Stepp hauled out the same trope in 2014, and again last year with a new twist: staff shortages were allegedly foisted on the agency by the Legislature - - oh, poor powerless Scott Walker and his appointees - - and were to blame for her agency's pollution enabling.

The capitulation to special interests began just days after Walker was sworn in as Governor in January, 2011.

Among those not fooled: Scientific American:

How Scott Walker dismantled Wisconsin's environmental legacy
Well, end the phony finger-pointing from the agency's top efuse-makers and note that the budget Stepp is asking Walker to fund in the next biennium includes less funding and more staff cuts:
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp submitted a budget request with a 2.1 percent decrease from the 2016-17 base... The request would cut 9.5 full-time positions from the DNR's base staffing.
The budget would also reallocate four full-time staff positions to increase its CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) program staff. There are currently 285 permitted CAFO operations in Wisconsin, up from 40 in 1995. 
Little wonder why the DNR is on such a downward path.
Note also that the DNR is close to allowing polluters to write their own enforcement plans - - with the final decision on such a momentous, corporate bell-hopping change now put off until after the election.

And it looks like State GOP Rep. and DNR expert Joel Kleefisch wasn't exactly clued in:

He also said the next Walker budget might actually have an increase in science staff funding - - so, again, yea, for that - - but Kleefisch also said such an increase "may come at a cost to programs, such as stewardship," so boo to a signal that special interests who want to push development into land which could be saved for public purposes like access and storm water runoff and wooded-and-wetland hunting and fishing reserves still have Walker's budgetary ear.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's all part of the WALKER governing plan.................cut funding to an agency so that it can't do its mission .....announce to the public the lousy performance by the agency and use the negative public sentiment towards the agency to invoke additional cuts in funding. He's done it with education and teachers and he'll use it with the DNR with Stepp's help to reward his corporate donor polluters!