Changes in forestry unveiled

Editor

Madison One week after Gov. Scott McCallum vetoed a partial
split of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Darrell Bazzell
outlined a three-pronged approach addressing forestry concerns.

However, the DNR secretary does not intend to stop there. Some
of the changes will be applied to other bureaus as well, including
fish, wildlife and parks.

“I would like to get most of this done in the next few months,”
Bazzell said recently.

In May, when state Rep. John Gard (R-Peshtigo) revealed his plan
to split forestry, wildlife, fish, parks and law enforcement away
from the DNR to create a new department, Bazzell hinted that he had
changes he would like to make to improve the DNR’s performance.

Bazzell was appointed as the new DNR secretary a day or two
before Gard officially announced his desire to split the DNR.

Bazzell waited for McCallum’s decision on the split before
announcing the changes.

“We’re going to bump forestry to division level status that’s
the first thing,” Bazzell said.

That will occur as soon as the change is approved by the
Department of Administration. That change will create a new central
office structure in Madison.

The second change will create a new field structure and the
third leg of this stool will address funding adjustments.

Bazzell said the field structure will take a little longer to
address because any changes that occur for forestry will likely be
applied to fish, wildlife and parks.

“I will be a little more deliberate there,” he said. “We will
take more time with that and get some dialogue going before we make
any decisions, but I have already started the process.

When it comes to fiscal issues, Bazzell said he has requested an
internal audit on the spending of segregated funds.

“I know there is ongoing interest (in this area) in the
Legislature, but I won’t wait for the audit bureau. We’re going
ahead internally, although we will incorporate any suggestions from
the audit bureau when we get them,” Bazzell said.

There’s also some work to be done in the Legislature. Bazzell
said McCallum’s veto not only prevented the forestry split, it also
froze any money going into the forestry budget.

“We have to go back to the Legislature to operate forestry the
veto took out all of spending,” Bazzell said.

Bazzell also wants to look at forestry’s overhead costs. Any
changes there will include the Legislature, since that spending
needs approval of both houses.

“If we’re spending too much on overhead, I can’t move back to
forestry myself. That has to be done by the Legislature,” he
said.

Based on input from private citizens, conservation groups and
the Legislature, Bazzell knows any DNR actions are going to be
closely scrutinized over the next few months. He believes
meaningful changes can occur in a timely fashion.

“If our constituency focuses on helping us identify problems and
give us space to find solutions, yeah, we’ll get there,” he said.
“As long as they can focus on the big picture and give our
management team the latitude to fix things, we’ll get it done.”

Bazzell agrees with the veto.

“I think it was the right decision. It was right for the
resource, but supporters of the split raised legitimate issues that
we will address,” he said.

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