Governor Walker's proposed state budget includes deep cuts to a large number of valuable natural resource programs. Wisconsin Wetlands Association opposes many of these cuts, but none more strongly than the elimination of funding to support science-based, community-driven land and water resource management. We need your help to prevent these significant cuts!
Effective land and water management, including wetlands management, requires three things: good science, experienced local practitioners, and engaged communities. For decades, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), County Land Conservation Departments, and UW-Extension have collaborated to provide every community in the State of Wisconsin with the science, expertise, and support they need to protect, restore, manage, use, and enjoy local lands and waters.
Governor Walker has eliminated or reduced support for the critical staff who implement this collaborative approach to land and water resource management. Specifically, Walker's budget:
1. Eliminates 18.4 research staff positions (33 percent) from WDNR's Bureau of Science Services.
2. Cuts funding for County Land Conservation Departments by roughly 10 percent.
3. Eliminates funding for 5 of 12 UW-Extension community-based Natural Resources Educators.
Proponents of these cuts, including their most ardent supporter Senator Tom Tiffany, say that WDNR's science does not provide value to the citizens of the state and that we can't afford these positions. We strongly disagree for the following reasons:
1. No WDNR science positions are funded through state general purpose revenue. Funding for these positions comes through hunting and fishing license fees, federal taxes on the purchase of outdoor recreation equipment and gear, and forestry mill taxes. The revenues are "segregated," or dedicated for land and water resource research, management, and acquisition. And WDNR researchers routinely boost state revenues by securing new grants.
2. Land and water resource management is too expensive to do by trial and error. Would you spend millions of dollars on a project or program without an analysis of what will work? WDNR research staff provide WDNR program managers with the science they need to make cost-effective decisions on how to maintain healthy land and water, improve fishing and hunting opportunities, and sustain our forests. Elimination of 18.4 applied research positions will result in less accountability for how the agency spends public dollars on public projects.
3. Communities, farmers, foresters, and private landowners rely on local experts to help them understand and address local land and water resource management concerns. And local experts, including County Conservation staff and UW-Extension Natural Resources Educators, rely heavily on WDNR-generated science when carrying out this work. For example: County Conservation Department staff use WDNR science to help farmers, woodlot owners, and other private landowners reduce polluted runoff and maximize the economic and conservation value of their farms and forests. These conservation professionals live and work locally. They have a deep knowledge of local resource needs and the trust of their neighbors. Prior cuts have diminished their capacity to serve their communities, and the loss of additional funding and reliable science will further erode community access to their expertise.
Natural Resources Educators provide conservation training and technical support in direct response to requests from the communities they serve. They help translate the findings from WDNR's research - for use by citizens and communities in local land use planning, project selection, problem solving, and much more. These educators already serve between three to nine counties each. Elimination of five of 12 positions and the loss of reliable science will reduce the extent and effectiveness of local engagement in land and water resource management.
How you can help:
Call, write, or visit your legislators to urge them to restore full funding for WDNR's research staff, County Land Conservation Departments, and UW-Extension's Natural Resources Educators.
1. Share stories for how you, or your community, have used science to solve conservation problems.
2. Provide examples of how County Conservation staff and UW-Extension educators have supported local land and water resource management projects.
3. Show them how science-based, community-driven land and water resource management results in local, on-the-ground conservation successes.
Contact information for your legislator can be found at: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/
Being heard this budget cycle will require a persistent campaign to call attention to the issues you care about. We need your help to restore funding for science and conservation in the state budget.
- Erin O'Brien, Wisconsin Wetland Association Policy Director