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Environmentalist: Proposed Wisconsin Budget “Punitive”

PHOTO: The state's largest environmental organization, Clean Wisconsin, says Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget contains cuts to the Department of Natural Resources that go too deep and will jeopardize the state's crown jewels - clean air and clean water. Photo courtesy Clean Wisconsin
PHOTO: The state's largest environmental organization, Clean Wisconsin, says Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget contains cuts to the Department of Natural Resources that go too deep and will jeopardize the state's crown jewels - clean air and clean water. Photo courtesy Clean Wisconsin
June 15, 2015

MADISON, Wis. – Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget includes some very deep cuts to the ranks of the Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Scientific Services.

Many of the scientists hold Master's and doctoral degrees, and Amber Meyer Smith, director of Programs and Government Relations for the state's largest environmental group, Clean Wisconsin, calls the budget “punitive” and not good for Wisconsin.

"Natural Resources didn't fare very well, especially when you take into account how sound decisions get made,” she states. “They really have to be made on science and research, and if they're not, then we're just throwing money away."

Republicans, who support the deep cuts to the ranks of DNR scientists, say the criticism is unfounded because there will still be a lot of scientists working for the DNR.

But Meyer Smith counters, "They need somebody to do the research for them to make those management decisions, so I don't think it's as simple as just saying, 'Oh, there's plenty of other scientists there to do the work,' because there really isn't."

Meyer Smith stresses fundamentally, everything Wisconsinites care about regarding clear air and clean water is driven by science.

She maintains the proposed budget, which must be passed by both houses of the legislature and signed by the governor before it takes effect, is mostly bad news for the state's environment. But she concedes it's not all negative.

"Some good movement towards restoring the stewardship program, which helps us preserve open spaces, and some movement in regards to waterway cleanup, but we really need more focus on what resources we really need to protect our clean water and our clean air," she says.

Meyer Smith adds she’s really annoyed by a proposal in the budget to eliminate the Gaylord Nelson Chair of Environmental Studies at UW-Madison. The position is funded completely by private donations and does not take one cent of taxpayer money, so it has no impact on the state's budget.

"What an attack on the heart of our environmental history here in Wisconsin,” she states. “And to just kind of take a stab at his legacy like this just seems very punitive to me."


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI