LASTWEEK’S POLL RESULTS
Is the Natural Resources Board dead in the water, now, due to Gov. Walker’s budget proposal stripping it of oversight authority over DNR?
THIS WEEK’S POLL
Conservation Congress Opposes Walker Budget Proposal
MADISON — Text of letter Wisconsin Conservation Congress Chairman Rob Bohmann sent to Gov. Walker and State Legislators on Feb. 13:
The Honorable Governor Walker and Wisconsin State Legislators,
With full appreciation for your efforts to bring more efficiency to state government and the public sector, I must respectfully but vehemently disagree with the proposal in the 2015-2017 state budget to remove the policymaking authority from the Natural Resources Board and make them strictly an advisory council. The repercussions of this action will have a significant and adverse effect on our state’s natural resources.
Wisconsin has been widely regarded as the center of the conservation movement. It was renowned conservationists Aldo Leopold, William Aberg, and Haskell Noyes that helped forge the Conservation Act of 1927, which created the Conservation Commission (predecessor of the Natural Resources Board). With great foresight these pioneers of conservation created a unique system to keep conservation and politics separate by creating an independent board, beholden to no one. The Natural Resources Board has successfully operated with its policy-making authority uninterrupted for the past 88 years during which time Wisconsin has continuously been a national leader in environmental protection and wildlife conservation efforts.
Nowhere else in Wisconsin state government do the people of this state have such a direct avenue for input as through the Wisconsin Conservation Congress and the Natural Resources Board. Currently, natural resource policy decisions are made in full view of the public, broadcast online, and with ample opportunity for citizens to provide testimony or written comments. The unsurpassed level of citizen involvement we have in the anagement of our state’s resources is the envy of many other states. This proposed change would take the policy-making authority from the public arena to the political arena. Giving the policy-making authority solely to the department secretary would potentially allow for important natural resource decisions to be made behind closed doors without any public vetting. Any potential gains in efficiency that may result from this proposal do not justify the loss of an open and transparent government. The division of power and citizen involvement is essential for the long-term management of the state’s resources which are held in public trust and belong to all citizens of the state.
The Natural Resources Board and Wisconsin Conservation Congress have been working tirelessly in shaping conservation policies for over 80 years. Eliminating the authority of the Natural Resources Board and making the Conservation Congress advisory to the DNR secretary would undermine this proven system of citizen engagement that so many have worked so hard for and would irreparably mar the legacy we leave for future generations. I respectfully ask that the Natural Resource Board retain their policy-making authority and Conservation Congress remain the citizen advisory body to the board to ensure the continuation of Wisconsin’s rich tradition of citizen involvement in conservation.
Rob Bohmann, Chair
Wisconsin Conservation Congress