Gov. Scott Walker’s new state budget is an obvious attempt to “dumb down” the state’s natural resources functions.
Walker’s proposed state budget not only hits the DNR's major functions (not funding state parks, eliminating positions in Science Services, transferring DNR employees to the Tourism Department, taking authority away from the Natural Resources Board, and eliminating the Knowles/Nelson Stewardship program that buys public land), but it also eliminates employees who educate the public about natural resources.
Within the DNR, state park naturalists, public information officers, and even the popular Natural Resources magazine staff have received notices that they may be subject to layoffs.
According to the DNR, the budget calls for: eliminating eight of 11 communications positions; eliminating eight of 16 educator positions; eliminating 24 of 27 research scientists; and eliminating two of three research technicians.
Some of these are funded federally, so there will be no savings to state taxpayers.
Outside of the DNR, the proposed budget repeals the statute that established the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education (WCEE) at Poynette.
This center was created more than two decades ago to support environmental education for students from kindergarten through high school.
WCEE has been a national model for public and private partnerships in education.
The budget also eliminates the Department of Public Instruction’s Environmental Education Consultant position. This position is NOT funded by taxes, but from earnings on a trust fund, and it provides curriculum and leadership for educators in environmental instruction statewide.
And the proposed budget eliminates the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board, which provides grants to schools.
At some point Wisconsin’s citizenry needs to ask if a future of people no longer educated in environmental education is really a worthwhile goal?
People who agree, should send e-mails to legislators on the Joint Finance Committee (http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/jfc/Pages/default.aspx) and inform them that undercutting environmental education does not bode well for the future of this state.
Someone should have given a young Scott Walker a copy of A Sand County Almanac many years ago.