Gov. Scott Walker releases proposed budget for 2013-2015
Gov. Scott Walker has released his proposed 2013-2015 state budget that he says shows his belief “in moderation of state spending.”
For the DNR, the governor is recommending a budget of $570,591,700 for Fiscal Year 2014 (from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014), and $573,676,600 for Fiscal Year 2015.
The change is a spending increase of 1.6 percent in 2014 over the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2013, and 2015 is a 0.5 percent increase.
In terms of full-time equivalent positions (the key is equivalent because that does not mean the same as total full-time permanent positions) the proposed budget would increase the DNR positions from the current 2,659 to 2,683 (an increase of 24), and then in 2015 decrease positions by 13.
Walker puts deer management as his first priority in the DNR budget, catering to the wants of dissatisfied deer hunters.
The governor says that the number of hunters shrunk 6.5 percent from 2000 to 2010, insinuating that it is due to unhappiness over the DNR management of deer, but without mentioning that the population of hunters is getting older and without mentioning that chronic wasting disease (CWD) was found in Wisconsin in 2002 and legitimately caused some hunters to stop hunting.
The new budget includes $1.3 million in 2014 and $641,500 in 2015 (coming from Federal Pittman-Robertson funds) for his deer management initiative which implements recommendations of the Deer Trustee report by Prof. James Kroll.
The funding will begin updating the state’s land cover map, provide research and monitoring of deer habitat, buck mortality and herd health, and allow the DNR to begin a deer management assistance program (DMAP) with landowners.
The funds pay for 1.5 positions that will include a position in wildlife to coordinate trail camera photo monitoring submitted by landowners and hunters, and a half-time position to conduct research.
In addition, (but not shown in the budget), the DNR intends to have a DMAP coordinator using federal money. The state anticipates a big increase in federal Pittman-Robertson funds because of the increase in firearm sales following interest in curbing sales of assault weapons.
The new budget proposal recommends reducing the wolf hunting license fee and removes the statutory authority permitting wolf hunting at night to address public safety concerns. The current wolf license is $100 for residents and $500 for non-residents, and would be reduced to $47 for residents and $249 for non-residents.
The governor is also changing the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program, catering to requests from those who say it is time to improve land the state now owns. Previously, the thought was that as land prices increase and land is sold it is more important for the state to get the best of what it can while it is available to benefit future citizens.
Under the governor’s proposal the yearly funding amount would not change ($60 million), but a portion of the funding that now is used to buy land will be “repurposed” for property development, for such things as repair and maintenance of roads, boat access sites and renovation of the Kettle Moraine Fish Hatchery.
According to Joseph Polasek, Jr., DNR budget director, the proposal would shift $10.5 million from acquisition to development. Of that, $7 million a year would be used to renovate the Kettle Moraine Fish Hatchery. This hatchery produces primarily fish stocked in Lake Michigan. Currently the DNR can spend $28.5 million on land acquisition and this shift will reduce that by $6.5 million. Non-profit conservation groups have been able to apply for $12 million, which will now be reduced by $3 million. Also, the DNR has been able to buy $2 million worth of land annually from the Board of Commissioners on Public Land, and that will be reduced by $1 million.
The budget includes $50,000 in federal funds, but no new positions, for a young adult hunter education program, which is to be a pilot program designed to increase the recruitment of young adults into hunting via social networks and other means. There are no specifics about what this could include.
Although no additional funds are provided, the budget provides statutory modifications to allow introduction of more elk into Ashland, Bayfield, Jackson or Sawyer counties.
The budget provides funding for an endangered resources liaison position with the Department of Transportation funded by DOT. Currently that work is contracted and paid from endangered resources funds.
The proposed budget also:
· Increases funding in the fish and wildlife account to fund fringe benefits of a natural resources educator position at the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area and Visitor Center.
· Increases $50,000 each year for conservation warden mileage costs and $226,600 each year for lease payments on mobile data computers for wardens.
· Continues two positions but shifts them from federal funding to funding from the state’s Environmental Fund to monitor the sand mine industry.
· Maintain operations at the state’s fish hatcheries by providing $85,000 in 2014 and $135,200 in 2015 to pay for increased distribution, utilities and production costs at state fish hatcheries.
· Protecting lake and river water quality by providing an additional $24 million over the two year biennium to reduce non-point source water pollution.
There is nothing in the budget that is specific to proposed mini-hunts that are part of the DMAP program, or who will operate the MacKenzie Environmental Center.
According to Polasek, the budget also authorizes the DNR to charge a minimum of $5 for antlerless deer tags in CWD zones, with funds from the sale of those tags going to CWD research.
The proposed budget now goes to the legislature and its Joint Committee on Finance to be adopted, and then must be signed by the governor.