Walker’s budget guts DNR science and citizen power
Feb 04, 2015
Today, Midwest Environmental Advocates expressed dismay over last night’s proposed policy changes and resource cut-backs in Governor Scott Walker’s budget address. By demoting the state Natural Resources Board to an “advisory” body and by cutting state Department of Natural Resources staff, among other sweeping changes, the Governor’s budget proposal will in effect leave the future of Wisconsin’s clean water, air and land at risk for all citizens.
“People in Wisconsin who contact our law center for help have too many stories of contaminated drinking water wells, area streams polluted with green slime or manure runoff, and are told by the DNR that there aren’t enough staff to help,” said MEA Executive Director Kim Wright. “Wisconsin is already heading the wrong direction from the water-rich state we once were. The changes proposed by Governor Walker will only further allow politics to trump science in our state’s natural resources protection.”
The Governor’s budget’s proposed change in policy comes on the heels of the Natural Resources Board’s decision to direct the DNR to conduct a strategic analysis of the impacts of frac sand mining on our health and the health of the environment. Comprehensive in scope, a strategic analysis would be a deeper look into externalized costs and consequences of silica sand mining such as respiratory disease and infection, decreased property values for homeowners living next to frac sand mining activities, loss of wildlife habitat, lack of stormwater runoff controls and more.
“We don’t need more policies that impact our clean water, air and land to be made by politicians, heavily lobbied by corporations and special interests,” said Wright. “The citizen appointees on policy-making bodies such as the Natural Resources Board are from a spectrum of experience and areas of the state. They serve in order for the people of Wisconsin to be heard and have the public’s interests considered in balancing our state’s needs for economic development and protecting our natural resources for this generation and the next.
“A citizen-led Natural Resources Board provides some checks and balances over environmental policies created on the state level. If the Governor uses his proposed budget to disempower the NRB to being simply ‘advisory,’ it in effect allows one of the last avenues of citizen voices and power to be more easily disregarded and dismissed. Citizens from Arcadia to Waukesha must see that this move takes away their power.”