Friday, January 27, 2017

WI DNR features outdated annual report

Calendar and data checks needed.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has a web page carrying biographies of Secretary Cathy Stepp - - "accomplished deer hunter" - - and her deputy that also includes a highlighted link to its 2013 Annual Report - - the only document with its own link on the page in a box titled "About the DNR."

Why that report is still there, or why the page it's on hasn't been updated since Nov. 1, 2015, is anybody's guess - - and we recently learned when the agency scrubbed its climate change web page that it can edit its web pages quickly and with intention - -  but that Annual Report contains some outdated and inaccurate material that undermine Stepp and her agency's credibility.

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
Just a few examples:

*  In a section heavy with deer hunting information, the report says:

License sales steady (over 633,600)
But The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently said the DNR had reported a substantial drop in 2016 deer license sales despite a relatively-larger herd:
Notably, hunter participation also was down. The agency sold 598,867 gun licenses, a 40-year low and the first time the number has dipped below 600,000 since 1976...
The 2016 deer kill was down despite a statewide herd that was likely larger this year, according to DNR preseason forecasts.
*  And while the report touts state deer herd management, a Green Bay columnist in September, 2016 highlighted this well-known issue which hits a contrary note:
DNR glosses over Wisconsin's CWD problem
* On a page titled "Environmental achievements," there is this text with photos:
Hired two new staff to work on environmental compliance for industrial sand mining 
Leads to faster permitting and better oversight
But a late 2014 report had this discouraging headline:
New report finds majority of frac sand mines committed environmental violations
and a separate, late 2105 report included this information:
[Chippewa Falls activist Pat] Popple and other residents say the state isn’t doing enough to monitor the mines. Roberta Walls, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Industrial Sand Sector Specialist, declined to comment for this report. According to a presentation she provided in place of a comment, the state had only fully completed 68 compliance inspections out of the state’s 129 facilities as of June 2015.
“They don’t have enough people,” Popple said of the Department of Natural Resources, which has been routinely cut under Gov. Scott Walker’s administration. “They simply don’t have enough people to go around and oversee [the mines].”
No offense to the hard-working DNR line staff, but it's widely known that the booming frac sand industry has outpaced DNR management's focus, and that the DNR suffers from deep staffing and funding cuts and other problems introduced ideologically by Gov. Walker and the current top agency managers.

*  Final example: the report claimed progress in preventing phosphorous from entering waterways statewide and highlighted two rivers - - the Sheboygan and Lower Fox - - which had notable water quality improvements, but more recent information on a DNR web page about so-called impaired waters notes trends in the opposite direction:

Every two years, Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states to publish a list of all waters that are not meeting water quality standards. In the proposed 2016 list update, DNR proposes to add 225 new waters. A majority of the listing additions were waters that exceed total phosphorus criteria. A significant number of new listings were also based on poor biological condition. Ten waterbodies are proposed to be delisted.
*  And there's more, like celebrating the state park system while the DNR is likely to raise fees for a second straight year and is looking for corporate sponsorships to backfill Walker's total withdrawal of state operating funding, and look at this contradictory wolf kill data for 2013 that rhetorically makes the out-of-quota killing of six animals disappear:
  • Able to close down harvest zones effectively
  • Quota: 251, Harvest: 257  
Like I said, I don't know why the 2013 Annual Report is still highlighted by the agency, but even its own information and more materials published by a broad spectrum of sources since 2013 undercut what the DNR continues to feature on a page dedicated to telling you who is running the department.

No comments: