DNR Sec. no better than predecessor

JOSEPH CANNING | canni001@rangers.uwp.edu

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Dan Meyer

On Monday, September 25, 2017, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced that Republican, and former Northwoods area representative Dan Meyer would be Wisconsin’s new Secretary of Natural Resources.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is responsible for the conservation and protection of the state’s wildlife, land, water resources and public health.

In a statement on his website regarding Meyer’s appointment, Walker said, “he understands the balance between protecting our natural resources and supporting economic prosperity in our state.” However, the DNR during Walker’s governorship has never taken this balance of priorities into consideration before.

A broken institution

Meyer’s predecessor, Cathy Stepp, was also a Republican state representative. She came under sharp criticism for the reduction of various regulations as well as the removal of educational materials previously provided by the DNR.

Fines for environmental damage or misconduct reached a 30-year low during her time as secretary. It is highly unlikely Wisconsinites all decided to become tree-huggers, and her administration was infamous for its failure to enforce its own policies.

Water regulations were ignored an appalling 94 percent of the time during Stepp’s administration according to the Legislative Audit Bureau, a nonpartisan state organization that ensures the effective oversight of state policy.

Following the litany of controversy, Stepp finally announced her resignation in August after being offered a position in the Environmental Protection Act (EPA).

Business before nature

The gross mishandling of state environmental protections by Republicans has historically been fueled by business interests and other financial considerations. Stepp, for example, co-owned a construction company with her husband; her allowance of development on wetlands directly benefited her financially.

Governor Walker has had many of the same accusations of profiteering and conflict of interest thrown at him since he first assumed his office, so it is no surprise that his replacement for Stepp is yet another wealthy businessperson.

Meyer has already announced his intentions to the River News, a local Northwoods paper, that he will remain committed to benefitting the private sector which he feels is being neglected, though he gave no details.

Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) reported that at his first DNR meeting, the new secretary asserted the Northwoods offer enough opportunities for recreation, but that it was hard to make a living there. His address to the board was brief, and he was again reluctant to discuss any details regarding future plans.

More of the same

Meyer is a perfectly conservative option for a secretary who is determined to solve problems that do not exist and to allow Wisconsin’s environment to suffer so the affluent can profit from business enterprises like Foxconn. Walker and his cohorts will go as far as to endanger public health to stuff their own pockets.

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