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10/4/2018

I will work for everyone to protect our environment and natural resources

Keeping our state healthy and our economy strong, vibrant and growing should be a shared mission of both the DNR and state and local governments.

“...The preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense. Our physical health, our social happiness, and our economic well being will be sustained only by all of us working in partnership as thoughtful, effective stewards of our natural resources. “ President Ronald Reagan, July 11, 1984 (conservativestewards.org)

“All economic activity is depend upon that environment and its underlying resource base of forests, water, air, soil, and minerals. When the environment is finally forced to file for bankruptcy because its resource base has been polluted, degraded, dissipated and irretrievably compromised, the economy goes into bankruptcy with it.” Former U.S. Congressman, Wisconsin Governor, and founder of Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson “Beyond Earth Day:Fulfilling the Promise, p. 18, Univ of Wisconsin Press (AZ Quotes.com)

President Reagan, and Clear Lake native Gaylord Nelson realized long ago the importance of environmental protection and that such stewardship should override politics and unfettered economic growth. Sadly, I think that lesson has been lost as our Department of Natural Resources has become little more than a permitting factory in recent years. I don’t think the environment should be a political football. I am frustrated that protecting the environment has become a political issue, and seen as a “Business/Jobs” versus “Environmental Stewardship” and protecting our natural resources. Like many issues, I don't see this as an either/or issue, but an ‘and’ issue. We can grow the economy AND protect our environment.

Of course Republicans and Democrats both want clean air and water, and vibrant fish and wildlife, and public lands for sports men and women. But I sometimes wonder why Republican legislators don't defer more often to experts. Former DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp basically got rid of the science department at the WI DNR. No scientists at an agency tasked with protecting our natural resources? As usual, Wisconsin’s loss was Minnesota’s gain, as many of these scientists have been re-employed by our neighboring state. I am not a scientist, and I won't play one in the legislature. I respect experts, whether they be scientists, geologists, biologists, hydrologists, etc. Scientific understanding and data offer the best window into environmental conditions and problems. Therefore, I don’t feel the “state” has a role in “controlling” the DNR any more than any other agency. Obviously, the state controls the budget of the DNR, but I don't believe the budget should be used as a bludgeon to force policy changes. The agency should be fully funded so it can fulfill its mission. Local, and state governments should work in partnership with the DNR to protect our natural resources while serving the interests of sportsmen and sportswomen, farmers, landowners, lake shore owners and businesses. Keeping our state healthy and our economy strong, vibrant and growing should be a shared mission of both the DNR and state and local governments.

Has there been some overreach on the part of the DNR? Probably. As I meet voters on the campaign trail, I hear stories about permits being denied for structures that have existed for years, nuisance tickets for snowmobile tags, and farmers no longer being allowed to farm plots they’ve farmed for decades. This is something we should work to fix.

On the other hand, the DNR has suffered an enormous loss of staff and resources. While it may be annoying to be ticketed for expired tags on your ATV, we can't forget that the DNR is the agency that comes through with large grants to clean up your lake, or fences your berry farm when the deer become too much of a nuisance At a recent lake district meeting, there was an audible gasp from the audience when a member of the local government explained that there was no longer a Wildlife Biologist for Polk County. From what I hear, DNR personnel who remain are spread thinly.

With regards to Chronic Wasting Disease, it’s been on the increase in our state. We can’t wish it away. I am not an expert in this area, but since it is increasing, I would advise that we listen to and implement the recommendations of wildlife biologists and others studying this disease. Same with mining. The DNR’s reports on the effects of various mining operations, or potential mining operations are based on evidence-based science. We can create jobs without poisoning our water or destroying unique wetlands. We don’t know if the cure for cancer might be found in that rare hardwoods wetland, and once we destroy it, it can’t be replicated. Water is a shared resource, and the rights of all stakeholders should be considered when permitting a high capacity well. Good environmental stewardship protects not only our health and the health of our children and grandchildren, but our property values, our tourism industry, hunting and fishing opportunities, and the beauty and wild spaces that Wisconsin is known for.

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