Evers’ DNR turning harder left

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers has radicalized the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and things look to only get worse in his next term, conservative leaders predict.

“I’m extremely concerned about the future here,” said DNR Board Chairman Gregory Kazmierski.

He pointed to the agency release of a new Wisconsin wolf plan — just days after Evers won re-election — as a portent of further far left policy to come at Natural Resources. The controversial plan notably omits a statewide wolf population goal, leaving population control to be determined by the agency and an “advisory committee.”

The longstanding wolf management plan, in place since 1999, calls for capping the statewide population at 350 wolves. Former Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, signed a bill in 2012 establishing an annual wolf hunt. The contentious issue has ended up in court. Animal rights activists have worked to kill the hunt, while farmers say growing wolf populations are preying on their livestock.

In February, a federal judge restored endangered species protections for gray wolves, outlawing the hunt in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Kazmierski says the agency’s new wolf plan is a shot across the bow to the conservatives on the DNR Board who have maintained a narrow majority because the Republican-controlled Senate has declined to take up Evers’ nominee to replace Dr. Frederick C. Prehn. Appointed by Walker, Prehn’s term expired in 2021. He has remained on the board out of concern of what rubber stamp Evers’ appointees would do to the independent board.

“They want to drag a lot of those controversial issues out past the three Walker appointees,” Kazmierski said, referring to himself, Terry Hilgenberg and William Bruins, all appointed  to the board by the former governor.

The board chairman’s term, like his two other colleagues, is set to expire in May. Evers’ liberal appointees very likely will take full control of the board.

Kazmierski tells Empower Wisconsin he plans to run for chair again in January and he’s going to submit his application to the governor for another six-year term on the board. He knows the likelihood of Evers reappointing him isn’t good.

Expect more battles ahead as Evers moves to nominate a replacement for Preston Cole, who stepped down as DNR secretary last week.

State Sen. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) said it is extremely unlikely Evers will select a DNR secretary nominee he could support. He said Evers has a constituency to represent and it’s not rural Wisconsinites and hunters. The people who funded Evers’ campaign want extreme environmental policies, the lawmaker added.

Stafsholt said he gave Cole the benefit of the doubt when he began his tenure as secretary. At first, the DNR chief made it a point to talk to northern Wisconsin lawmakers about the issues that were important to their constituents.

“That lasted about six months,” the senator said. “My assumption is the administration reined him in. I haven’t talked to him in 2 1/2 years.”

Stafsholt said the DNR has gotten even more centralized in Madison during the Evers era, with mandates coming from bureaucrats who have little knowledge of what’s happening on the ground. He noted a controversial decision the agency made limiting the type of shotgun shells hunters could use. It was another environmental mandate versus common sense. The rule pushed by DNR turned out to be less humane for the animals being hunted, Stafsholt said, and DNR officials were unaware of the impacts.

“There’s a huge disconnect,” the lawmaker said. “You have a very large building of cubicle-type managers and an agency in Madison that literally are disconnected and have zero experience of what actually goes on in the natural areas of Iron River or Cumberland or Rhinelander.

More so, because of Evers’ lingering pandemic mitigation policies, many of those bureaucrats aren’t even working in their office cubicles in Madison. Kazmierski said a new DNR Board liaison was recently hired under an agreement that allows her to work from home 80 percent of the time. Employees throughout the state bureaucracy are taking advantage of the same remote-work privileges.

“Who in the hell is in those offices in Madison anymore?” the DNR Board chairman said.

Kazmierski said he’d like to see the DNR de-centralize, move out of Madison and into the communities they actually serve.

He sees little hope for any meaningful reform of the DNR anytime soon. If anything, Wisconsin is in for Evers doubling down on far left environmental policies and politization of the state’s natural resources now that the Democrat has secured a second term.

“I think it has emboldened the deep state at the agency. I think it’s probably going to be worse,” Kazmierski said.

Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 1, 2022

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4 responses to “Evers’ DNR turning harder left”

  1. hankdog88 Avatar

    It isn’t Evers that has ruined the DNR. Tommy started it with politicizing the NRB. Doyle broke his promise and maintained the status quo. Walker defunded and centralized what was a very de-centralized agency and eliminated most of the science positions. The four walker appointees to the NRB are no more interested in scientific and sustainable resource management than they are in telling the truth.

    Cole is by far the best Secretary since Buzz Besadny.

  2. M. Gonzalez Avatar
    M. Gonzalez

    Gov. Walker gutted the DNR and then appointed politically motivated individuals who forgot the entire premise of the DNR which is … to Not kill everything that moved. Those of us in the North are more accustomed to the sounds at 2AM-5AM of HOUND packs than wolves. Trespassing on private property, blocking roads with hounding trucks. WI Bear Hunters Association with their king Stafsholt in command. Neighbors cat was killed, not by wolves, but by hounds. Evers MUST take a hard line or there will be nothing left to shoot in this state. Non-consumptive users like bird watchers and photographers won’t be spending our real estate tax dollars nor retail money here. A handful of trophy killers from out of state will be running this state if the GOP inundated NRB and WCC don’t take heed.

  3. David L. Gjestson Avatar
    David L. Gjestson

    Biopolitics is the true cause of destroying sound scientific management by allowing GOP appointment Natural Resources Board members to overrule DNR wildlife biologists on technical matters the policy members have no knowledge of at all. The poor decision-making is compounded by allowing board members with expired terms to continue in office simply because their political party controls the legislature. To have a Natural Resources Board Chairman use his position to publicize inflamitory and politically based statements in the press rather than sticking to improving natural resource management policies demonstrates his misplaced priorities.

  4. Elizabeth Humphries Avatar
    Elizabeth Humphries

    I agree with the comments posted by sensible scientists, and Wisconsin citizens, who this publication simply labels as liberal, and therefore the “enemy”? If you’re going to make accusations about Evers, at least you could have some facts and actual statistics to back up what you’re talking about. Since the time of Walker and his changes to the DNR, which you call progress, we have seen a demolishing of the fishing and tourist industry in upper Wisconsin. Look what happened to the musky fishing as well as trout and walleye in the entire upper area where the short-sighted DNR has favored business over sensible regulation of chemical, pesticides, etc.Because of their favoring of the cranberry growers and other business, who want to grab a quick profit, we now have lakes that have been destroyed as far as , the fishing and natural habitats in those areas. It used to be the musky tournament was a huge event in Hayward Wisconsin— not anymore. Those who write your articles about so-called liberals who are ruining the environment. Why don’t you go ahead and get some facts behind what you’re talking about before you publish your political rhetoric.

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