During a public hearing in Reedsburg March 26, Democratic members of the Joint Finance Committee called for the removal of provisions in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget relating to the Department of Natural Resources.
Their request targets changes that would drastically limit citizen oversight and input, weaken scientific research on wildlife and the environment, and reduce the state’s ability to preserve public lands and parks for future generations.
The proposed budget kneecaps the DNR board into an advisory-only role, consolidates power into the DNR Secretary’s office, eliminates 66 staff positions in education and science programs, freezes the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, and removes taxpayer funding for the operation of state parks.
“Our offices have heard from citizens from all over Wisconsin who are shocked and dismayed by this proposal,” Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) said, “It has been made clear that these changes do not reflect Wisconsin values of protecting our environment and wildlife, and need to be removed immediately.”
“In community after community we have heard how much Wisconsinites and tourists from out of state treasure our environment,” said Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison), “Our environment is a major reason Wisconsin benefits from a $17.5 billion tourism industry. Especially during the sluggish Walker economy, it’s critical that we preserve the Stewardship program and funding for our parks.”
“Wisconsinites have an absolute right to be heard and have a say in the conservation and protection of our natural resources,” Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) said. “This proposal completely cuts the public out of the conversation.”
“My office has received hundreds of contacts on this issue, and not a single one has been in favor of these changes,” Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) said, “As members of the Joint Finance Committee, we have listened carefully, and now it is time to act. The co-chairs of the JFC need to immediately remove these harmful provisions from the budget.”
The four Democratic members of the Joint Committee on Finance will be sending JFC Co-Chairs Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) a letter formally requesting that these changes to the DNR in the budget be removed.