Wisconsin State Budget Helps DNR Reach Goals
On Sunday June 26th, Gov. Scott Walker signed the state's two-year budget into law. The Department of Natural Resources was treated well in the budget process – a sign of Governor Walker's and lawmakers' confidence in and value of the agency's role in a strong Wisconsin. We are well positioned to accomplish our mission.
Governor Walker and the Legislature had very difficult decisions to make, but were able to balance DNR's budget with NO program eliminations and no continued furlough days – a desperate budget measure that prevents us from maximizing the use of our workforce. Crippling forced budget lapses that prohibit agencies from using the money in their budgets have been slashed by more than 75 percent. At the same time, Governor Walker ended a years-long hiring freeze and restored DNR's ability to hire key staff.
Governor Walker's economic recovery leadership is working and our state's natural resources and environment are benefitting. Here's proof:
DNR's budget supports outdoor recreation and our tourism industry by making sure there are NO fish and wildlife or parks fee increases, and by protecting hunting and fishing license money for its intended use.
It provides $60 million per year for our bipartisan Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program legacy to our children and grandchildren. Stewardship will continue to secure recreational opportunities, targeting only the most rare and critical lands, and those that enhance outdoor opportunities like hunting, fishing, trapping, cross-country skiing and hiking.
The budget also invests $5 million in parks improvements and provides an additional $1 million in operations funds to enhance state parks recreational opportunities close to home. It supports public safety money to recruit and train new conservation wardens and upgrade radio and data communications for forest fire fighters and wardens.
Importantly, Governor Walker's budget also invests in environmental protection. It includes a commitment to funding for runoff and urban stormwater controls; municipal flood control; contaminated sediments bonding; dam repair; and contaminated soils.
Improved economic conditions will allow recycling grants to continue to help local communities continue programs, recapture raw materials and lengthen landfill lifetimes. Additional funds will be available to encourage consolidation of community recycling programs to save money. The recycling mandate and landfill bans have been maintained because, at the end of the day, we all agree that it is cheaper and better to recycle materials than to bury them in landfills.
DNR plays a critical role in assuring our quality of life. A strong economy is dependent on a healthy environment in Wisconsin, and DNR's staff is committed to that mission. This budget is a launch pad for improving our efficiency and consistency in decision making, improving our responsiveness to permit applicants, and to providing the nation's best in outdoor recreation.