Preston Cole finally confirmed as Wisconsin DNR secretary

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) finally has a permanent secretary and, unlike DNR secretaries for the past decade, one who has formal educational training in natural resources.

The Wisconsin State Senate voted unanimously Feb.19 to confirm Preston D. Cole as Gov. Tony Evers’ secretary of DNR.

Cole has served as secretary-designee since December 2018.

Normally a governor’s secretary appointees are confirmed soon after hearings where legislators have the opportunity to ask questions about their qualifications and goals running their departments.

The Senate’s Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry Committee didn’t hold a public hearing on Cole’s appointment until March 7, 2019, when 22 people registered in support of Cole and nobody registered against.

At that time, committee chair, Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua), who has been known to oppose environmental regulations and was a major instigator in past-Gov. Scott Walker’s dismantling of the DNR’s Science Services Section,  said that he liked Cole but was very concerned that Evers would call the shots at the DNR and attempt to expand government.

In the end, the five committee members each voted Oct. 1, 2019, in favor of confirmation.

Cole, 57, is no stranger to natural resources, as he holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in forest management.

He worked as a parks superintendent for the city of St. Louis and a resource forester for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Cole said that he would “double down on science in natural resources management” at the DNR and he would see that citizens could more easily have access to NRB meetings without having to drive long distances to testify in front of the board.
That has occurred as citizens can now “participate” from different locations of the state at NRB meetings.

In other legislative news, the State Assembly passed the proposed Managed Forest Law “clean-up” bill (AB 856) just prior to adjournment Feb. 20.  It now must have a public hearing and pass the State Senate to have a chance to become law.

To track legislation, go to: https://notify.legis.wisconsin.gov/login?ReturnUrl=%2f

Categories: Wisconsin – Tim Eisele

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