Wisconsin DNR’s ability to manage natural resources in poorer hands now with Thiede’s departure to EPA

Kurt Thiede resigned to work for Cathy Stepp as her chief of staff at the EPA in Chicago. (Photo by Tim Eisele)

Here we go again.

When politicians play games with the DNR, we end up with agency leaders who do not have the mix of leadership skills, natural resource backgrounds, or natural resource management experience that Wisconsin sportsmen have seen at work in the past.

Kurt Thiede, with a background in wildlife management, left the agency as DNR deputy secretary on Feb. 19.  There will now be nobody in the DNR secretary’s office with a Wisconsin background in fisheries, wildlife, forestry, or parks.

Instead, those in the secretary’s office (DNR Secretary Dan Meyer, Deputy Secretary Ed Eberle, and Assistant Deputy Secretary Patrick Stevens) only have backgrounds in politics and administrative work.

Meyer was a state legislator from 2001 to 2013 and prior to that served as the executive director of the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce in Vilas County.

Eberle previously worked at the Department of Administration and then Gov. Scott Walker appointed him to work at DNR.

Only Stevens has worked in environmental matters, but not traditional fish-wildlife-forestry resource management in Wisconsin.

Gone are the days when people such as the late John Beale came up through the ranks in resource management and then served as deputy secretary.

The system that worked so well from 1927 to 1994 (when a citizen board – most recently the Natural Resources Board – hired the DNR secretary who came up through the ranks of career conservation employees) was replaced by political patronage.

Thiede’s resignation, after 19 years at the DNR, causes one to wonder if it was the lure of a much larger paycheck that could entice him to leave Wisconsin for Chicago and a job as Cathy Stepp’s chief of staff at the EPA, or does he know that something else is coming down from Gov. Walker that will further divide and weaken the DNR if Walker is re-elected?

The change brings questions, and constant amazement that citizens don’t finally demand a return to a system that worked to put the Humpty Dumpty DNR back together again as the resource protection agency it once was.

Categories: Wisconsin – Tim Eisele