MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin DNR will no longer have a large presence at the state fair, where it has previously promoted hunting, fishing and other recreational pursuits.
A department spokesman told the Wisconsin State Journal that the department will no longer send between 100 to 200 staff members to the 11-day event.
The decision is part of the department’s attempt to refocus its efforts after budget cuts and criticism from the Legislature. The department is taking steps to decentralize its research bureau, cut back its magazine and change how it provides law enforcement in parks and public lands.
The department has previously operated a two-acre Natural Resources Park on the state fair park grounds, where it offered activities such as archery, birdwatching, fishing, knot-tying and tracking. It has spent $600,000 improving the area in the past two years, and more expenditures would have been needed, according to a newsletter sent out by the department.
Starting this year, the department will offer information on state parks, recreation areas and endangered species, but the state fair will manage the two-acre park, said Jim Dick, a spokesman for the department.
Gov. Scott Walker said he wants all state agencies to become more efficient.
“Part of that is looking at the numbers and saying, for the money they take to operate something like that, and the staff time involved, is that the best use of those dollars, or can they plow more of that into hunter safety in schools where you have direct access to kids, or through other youth activities?” he said.
In 1948, the Wisconsin Conservation Department established the section of the fairgrounds the department operated.