Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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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

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

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.

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