Bazzell moving ahead with changes for DNR
Madison Details about DNR secretary Darrell Bazzell's efforts to "reorganize the reorganization" continue to emerge. In the meantime, Conservation Congress chairman Steven Oestreicher said that group will work with Bazzell.
"We're not going to tell Darrell what to do; first we're going to hear what he has in mind, then go from there," Oestreicher said.
Bazzell was to have met with the Conservation Congress Executive Council in Stevens Point on Sept. 21 to further outline changes he sees for the DNR, particularly the bureaus of forestry, wildlife, fisheries and state parks.
Bazzell started moving ahead with those plans in late August when Gov. Scott McCallum vetoed a proposed split that would have cleaved the forestry division away from the DNR to create a new Department of Forestry.
Earlier, Bazzell said the changes will come in three areas for the Bureau of Forestry: a new central office structure in Madison, a new field structure, and funding adjustments.
Similar changes at least at field levels will likely occur for fish and wildlife bureaus.
There will be three new bureaus: the Bureau of Forest Management (includes a land management section and forest tax section), Bureau of Forest Protection (will include the Le May Center section, a fire management section and law enforcement section), and the Bureau of Forestry Services (includes a planning and analysis section and hiring and training section).
Division of Forestry director Gene Francisco noted that Bazzell and others didn't wait for McCallum's veto to come up with changes; they just waited to announce those changes.
"We've been working on this a long time because we wanted to develop a structure that would still keep the interdisciplinary functions that made us national leaders in forestry and made Wisconsin a national leader in resource management," Francisco said.
Hearing Bazzell talk about new bureaus may make taxpayers wonder how much these changes will cost, but forestry bureau director Paul DeLong said the DNR should be able to set up the new central office structure with "existing resources."
In looking at a new field structure, Bazzell mentioned an observation that has annoyed field DNR employees ever since the 1995 reorganization meetings, and more meetings.
"Time spent on integrating resource management has taken away from time spent on day-to-day work activities, not just in forestry, but in all programs," Bazzell said.
Conservation groups that closely monitor the DNR have said for several years that the new DNR was actually getting less work done on the ground.
"One of the unwanted and unforeseen consequences that came about with the reorg is that we were planning ourselves to death," Bazzell said. "We can't just go back to the former functional alignment, or we will just recreate old problems, but we will reach a balance between integration and specific program needs."
Bazzell noted that forestry came out of the recent budget talks with 23 new positions and another $1.7 million that will be put toward forestry operations.