Wisconsin conservation wardens, forest rangers to see big changes from DNR alignment

Madison — Alignment.
Re-alignment.
Re-organization.

The DNR is calling its new way of doing business for a little more than 200 employees and a raft of programs an alignment.

Call it what you want, those changes came as tough news for many DNR employees beginning at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 30 as they began hearing about what’s coming down the pike.

Other employees whose job descriptions and work locations won’t change were still wondering how the distribution of duties will impact them or their work in the field.

Forest rangers will eventually lose their credentials. The job of “ranger” will remain, but in the future, rangers in state parks and on state forests will no longer do law enforcement work.

Thirty-three conservation warden slots will eventually be added to pick up the slack from the formerly credentialed forest rangers.

Timber sales in state parks will be put together by the Bureau of Forestry, not by state park personnel.

Wildlife staff will turn prescribed burns over to forestry and fire control crews.

Those are just a handful of the changes DNR employees and sportsmen can expect to see in the way of personnel and program changes under the new alignment.

 DNR Deputy Secretary Kurt Thiede, DNR Chief Warden Todd Schaller, Division Administrator Sanjay Olson, and Ben Bergey, Bureau of Parks and Recreation director, talked about some of the changes ahead, including a shift to a “line authority” schematic that allows bureau leaders to reach out directly to field personnel without first having to go through a regional office.

Thiede credited Bergey, Schaller, and Olson for working on more than a year to pull together a new plan for their areas.

Olson said sportsmen and state park visitors will notice no differences from the customer service end of things.

 The DNR provided the following list of changes in a press release from DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp on Nov. 30.

• The DNR’s alignment effort will not weaken environmental or conservation standards. “Instead, the effort is intended to maximize how we use the staff resources we have available, working with our partners to accomplish our mission,” said Stepp.

• The alignment will involve significant changes for approximately 5 percent of the DNR’s 2,549 full-time employees. These changes may include changes to position descriptions, differences in reporting structure or changes in division assignments resulting from the transformation of seven operational units to five: Forestry; Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Environmental Management; Internal Services; and External Services.

• Other employees may see lesser changes to their position descriptions or program structures. A majority of employees will see no change.

• Responsibility for staff with law enforcement authority will be shifted to the Bureau of Law Enforcement.

• The Fish, Wildlife and Parks Division will manage all property management staff and functions. As a result of the changes, Fish, Wildlife and Parks will provide better customer experiences at state properties and more effectively deploy staff and equipment to perform needed habitat work.

• Also, the DNR’s 19 researchers now located in the Bureau of Science Services will join other scientists within programs as well as a new Office of Applied Science within the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Division to ensure management decisions are informed by the best available science.

• Within the Internal Services Division, a new bureau will focus on facility and property services including real estate operations and property planning.

• Within the Environmental Management Division, staff working on water-related sediment cleanups will be combined with staff working on soil cleanups in the Remediation and Redevelopment Program to provide a more consistent approach to on-shore and in-water cleanups.

• The External Services Division will use the DNR’s assured wetland delineator program as a model to develop and staff assurance programs for items such as nutrient management plan review and lake shoreline stabilization projects. This model will free staff to provide greater oversight in the field.

For more on this topic, please see the Dec. 9 issue of Wisconsin Outdoor News.

Categories: Wisconsin – Dean Bortz

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