Sunday, June 18, 2017

Damage deepens at Walker/Stepp's anti-science WI DNR

The same sickening science-free song keeps seeping from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources which Scott Walker 

is managing with his self-described "chamber of commerce mentality." 

Walker has normalized environmental degradation and science dismissal in Wisconsin and at the DNR since January, 2011 - -  just as Donald Trump is moving swiftly and recklessly to inflict the same on budgets, mission, climate science and the public interest at the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, the National Parks Service, the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Agriculture.

Walker has been more surgical, though with the same instant and long-lasting impacts that Trump is taking national.

*  It was only yesterday that I put the DNR's near-complete withdrawal from a high-profile, seven decades-long run of exhibits, clinics and welcoming staffing at the annual State Fair into a broader context of the DNR's intentional pullback from public information services and modern scientific work in the public interest that people in Wisconsin absolutely need if they, we are going to have clean and air, water and land.

* That post validated information and opinion I gathered, posted and updated last year from many current and former DNR staffers and managers, as well as a number of professionals in routine contact with the agency.

They all described a debilitating, politicized, anti-science environment within the DNR that was squashing research, data collection and normal activities at what had been a nationally-valued public resource oversight department.

*  Now a new hammer blow that suggests the tipping point has come:

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Walker is further weakening through disconnecting transfers - - an 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.
"Benefits sportsmen?" Seriously?

Set aside Tiffany's one-dimensional policy blinders and old-timey gender flub and recall that he was the state legislator whose view of fishing and hunting in the Bad River watershed - - which, by the way, is not in his district  - - included an active public relations role promoting a possible 35 years of mountaintop blasting, forest-clearing, open-pit iron ore mining, contamination runoff and wetland filling:
News that State Sen. Tom Tiffany, (R-Hazelhurst) is aiming to wipe out local jurisdictions' controls over mining-related dynamiting, road use, air and water regulation so GTAC mining is freer to engage in 35 years of mountain-top open pit iron mining up North is not the first time he has put the company's interests before everything and everyone else. The bill would also place similar restrictions on local controls over frac sand mining.
*  There was his failed attempt to close 3,500 acres of publicly-accessible forest land because mining might take place there. The effect was to bar scientists working for the nearby Ojibwe band from cataloguing wetlands in harm's way - - and right before state geologists found asbestos-bearing rock on potential mine property.
*  One set of URL's and citations about his close relationship to the mining company is here.
*  Another URL, thanks to the League of Conservation Voters and that connects the Governor's office to blatant special interest strategizing for the mine, is here.
A sample:
Begin by taking another look at this Facebook posting from last year by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters about Tiffany's relationship to a Gogebic's lobbyist:
Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters · 15,050 like thisJune 27, 2012 at 5:42pm ·  
David Storey, lobbyist for Gogebic Taconite, sent e-mails to then-Rep. [and now State Sen.] Tom Tiffany, and Walker policy adviser Eileen Schoenfeldt that discussed forming a "response team" to combat negative PR once the final mining bill was released. Read the emails here:
Here's what's simultaneously jaw-dropping and sad about Tiffany's continuing attack on science, and his influence in the Walker administration which is only too happy to please major corporate interests undermining the study of a changing climate that has already raised temperatures in the region, triggered more intense summer storms and spurred more evaporation from the Great Lakes.

Tiffany is either unaware or dismissive of published work by DNR researchers posted by a UW-Madison program from which Walker's DNR has now distanced itself that showed the dangers a warming climate posed to Wisconsin's lakes, rivers and streams - - the very 'sporstmen' arenas Tiffany allegedly is trying to assist.

Few Wisconsin wildlife species are more sensitive to changes in their environment than trout. They depend on a particular set of conditions to survive, including a narrow range of cold water temperatures. Climate change poses an extraordinary challenge to this critical state resource.
Department of Natural Resources researchers John Lyons and Matthew Mitro have spent years studying the impacts of environmental change on 50 fish species in Wisconsin. They track how things like changes in land use, stream characteristics and warming temperatures affect fish populations...
Incorporating Wisconsin specific climate data in the fish researchers' models produced startling results: all but four of 50 species they studied would be affected. About half of them, warmwater species such as bass, could benefit from the change. But coldwater species are at risk as air and water temperatures increase. Brown trout and wild brook trout in particular have narrow temperature ranges in which they can successfully live, feed and reproduce.
Under the most extreme summer warming conditions projected by the models — where air temperatures would increase by about 9°F and water temperatures by 7.2°F — brook trout may not survive in Wisconsin at all, and brown trout may decrease by 88 percent. Even under more moderate conditions of air temperature increasing by 1.8˚F and water temperature by 0.8˚F, brook trout distributions may shrink by 44 percent and brown trout by 8 percent. 
And there has been a very recent report disclosing that a warming climate requires affirmative state action to protect walleye stocks in some Wisconsin lakes - - the very merging of climate science and informed DNR leadership without political interference which the Walkers, Stepps and Tiffanys of the state are working hard to crush.

wrote about it, clear as day:

Probably no fish is more dear to the state's recreational economy and thousands  of anglers - -  "highly prized," says the Wisconsin DNR - - than walleye.Walleye painting.jpg
So maybe that same Wisconsin DNR will rethink its decision to scrub climate change from its websites now that climate scientists are saying measures should be taken because climate change will lessen the ability of some state lakes to support walleye:
Nearly 100 lakes in Wisconsin are predicted to support naturally reproducing walleye populations even under extreme warming conditions.
These lakes are resilient to climate change, and should be protected from other stressors such as habitat loss, invasive species, or overfishing to maximize the potential for continued walleye production.
Some lakes that are unlikely to support natural walleye reproduction will continue to be suitable for adult walleye, and fishable walleye populations could potentially be maintained in these lakes via stocking.
But as I said in a post earlier this week, an intentionally ideological and anti-science DNR has been badly distorted and we may not be able to recover from it:
Scott Walker's intentionally-refocused "chamber of commerce mentality" DNR [--] is more and more a defacto state commerce department prioritized to hand out permits for high-volume, privatized groundwater pumping, massive animal feeding operations and sand mines than an environmental protection organization... 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think losing primacy is the end game isn't it? If Wisconsin isn't running the anti-pollution programs, EPA will take them back. And we all know that EPA won't have the staff to do that starting in October. So yes, DNR is shutting down. Yes DNR will lose primacy over programs like Ag waste and Drinking water over the next 2 years and yes, EPA will not be able to help. Privatization will be the only course of action for all agency functions, both state and federal as Wisconsin cities aren't allowed to raise taxes or utility rates to keep local government going. Stepp is very good at her job.