Environmentalists "Stunned" By Gov. Walker's Budget

Feb 5, 2015

The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway has benefited from the Knowles -Nelson Stewardship Fund. Gov. Walker's proposed freeze could have a chilling effect on the Riverway's mission to conserve land for public enjoyment along its 92-mile course.
Credit S Bence

Walker's budget would freeze the state’s stewardship program designed to conserve land and unique habitats; and would cut back the DNR's science staff.

Adrian Wydeven admits to feeling stunned. He’s a wildlife biologist, and for over two decades he played an integral role in rehabilitating the wolf population in northern Wisconsin.

Wydeven says it could not have happened without the DNR science team. “We’ve been very reliant on the science bureau for providing the scientific basis for wildlife management," he says.

Gordon Stephenson introduces himself as “one of the state’s experts on manure management and water quality protection.” Stephenson doesn’t hold back an ounce of reaction to the prospect of a streamlined DNR science department. “Unless we continue to do that science, and continue to have a state agency responsible for the resources of this state, that one believes science and two, advances that science, I think we’ve lost," he says.

Tom Thoreson, now retired, served as the DNR's enforcement deputy director. He says he worries about the governor’s plan to strip the Natural Resources Board of its authority to make policy.

Thoreson says the state created the board’s foundation – the State Conservation Commission - in the 1930s. “It goes back to Aldo Leopold, it served the citizens of Wisconsin well – you’re always going have some politics, no matter what kind of system you have, but the idea that the citizens of the state can go a board and talk issues out, or the board can ask the resource agency about policies that should be happening in relation to water, air or fish and game," he says.

It remains to be seen how Gov. Walker’s proposals will ride the months of debate and revision. He maintains his budget will streamline state government and make it more effective and accountable.

CORRECTION:  Thursday morning, we reported that another impact of Gov. Walker's proposed budget would "alter a 25 year old project along 90-plus miles of the Wisconsin River," called the Lower Wisconsin State Waterway, by eliminating its board's authority.

We have since learned that information was incorrect.

However, Lower Wisconsin State Waterway Executive Director Mark Cupp states, "the proposed demise of the Stewardship Fund would adversely affect the Riverway. We’ll see what happens with that during legislative deliberations."