- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A new reorganization plan by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources won’t fix numerous problems within the agency, according to a former official.

On Tuesday, the agency launched a reorganization to divide protection for water quality between two divisions and leave other environmental protection programs in a “business support” division. Officials didn’t return requests seeking clarification of the changes, but a document distributed to employees at a recent meeting said managers will analyze agency work to “help us allocate our limited staff and funding to accomplish the work that matters the most.”

George Meyer is a former secretary for the state Department of Natural Resources and now directs the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. He told the Wisconsin State Journal (https://bit.ly/1MUH9NL ) that a new organizational chart won’t even begin to address the agency’s worsening weaknesses.

“It’s cosmetic in terms of solving any problems,” he said of the reorganization. “The true problem is not enough staff to get the job done.”

Staffing at the agency has been reduced by 15 percent since the 2000-2001 budget. Over that same period, the need for environmental regulation in Wisconsin has increased due to an explosion of factory farms and industrial sand mining, both of which have been criticized for their impact on water and air quality.

Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature also are pressuring the state Department of Natural Resources to further reduce its staff.

The agency’s new management structure moves watershed management, which includes efforts to protect lakes and streams from runoff of manure and other pollutants, away from offices that are responsible for controlling waste water discharges from industry and protecting drinking and ground water.

“That’s not going to make the environment any better,” Meyer said. “It makes it harder to manage water quality programs when you have the watershed management off by itself. It makes coordination more difficult.”

Fisheries and wildlife management are being combined in a single division, with functions related to the timber industry and forest protection in a separate division, according to the memo.

On Thursday, agency officials are expected to begin meeting with workers at the Department of Natural Recourses’ facilities across the state.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj

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