Tom Tiffany On Proposed DNR Changes In Budget
Frederica Freyberg: Now, the Governor's budget has big changes for the Department of Natural Resources. Among them, cutting66 positions from the DNR with more than a quarter of those, or 18 positions, coming from the agency's Bureau of Science Services. Other changes include making the Natural Resources Board advisory only, without authority to set policy for the DNR, and the Executive Budget would curtail stewardship land purchases until 2028. Republican Senator Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst joins us with his take on the proposals. and, Senator, thanks very much for doing so.
Tom Tiffany: Good evening, Frederica.
Frederica Freyberg: Well, now I understand that you support cutting the scientists from the DNR. Why?
Tom Tiffany: I think it's about value for the taxpayer. You know, if you talk to my constituents here in Northern Wisconsin,there's probably not one in 1,000that knows what the Bureau of Science Services does. Does it bring value to the taxpayers? Quick example: They help set the deer herd numbers. In Northern Wisconsin the deer hunt has been a disaster the last few years. We were urging a number of years ago for them to reduce the antlerless permits that were being issued and they did not do so until this past year. We could go into bobcats and other predators that they help manage. And I don't think they've done a good job of it here `especially for those of us in Northern Wisconsin.
Frederica Freyberg: Now, I do know that Bureau, the scientists, kind of wrote an exhaustive report and analysis on the Gogebic Mine. Did that factor into you believing that they really don't serve the taxpayers well?
Tom Tiffany: Yeah, not really. I never did read the report that they put out. But it is interesting that they partnered with Northland College and one of their professors up there, who's one of the most anti-mining zealots you'll find in the State of Wisconsin that they would use a person like that to do their so-called science, I think it does call into question some of the work that they do.
Frederica Freyberg: What role, if any, do you think that there is for scientists within the DNR?
Tom Tiffany: Well, I think when you talkto my constituents, they're looking for opportunity, whether it's fishing, hunting, whatever. That's what they're looking for. That's what the Department should be focused on is offering more opportunity to those sportsmen out there. I think they sometimes geta little far afield in Bureau of Science Services in keeping their eye on the ball. So it's important, I think, that the Department uses good science, but there's scientific research that's going on in a lot of different ways, including here in Wisconsin, especially with our Universities. And while it's important, I'm not sure that Science Services has really done that part for the people of the State of Wisconsin in the Natural Resources Department.
Frederica Freyberg: Well, what do you think of the Natural Resources Board being advisory-only under the Governor's budget?
Tom Tiffany: I generally support that. And I've been getting a lot of feedback from constituents on that. And one of the reasons that I support it is it's an unelected board. So, in other words, they can pass rules and then not have to go back and face the voters. And you may have other unelected Boards herein the State of Wisconsin, like the Government Accountability Board, which people have heard a lot about the last few months. And I think that's a real concern. The voters should be able to have a say at the end of the day for those who are creating the laws and rules here in the State of Wisconsin.
Frederica Freyberg: I want to ask you, too about the curtailing of purchase of stewardship land until 2028. What about that for your constituents?
Tom Tiffany: You know, as I go through the budget, I separate wants from needs, and you look at the needs that we have here in the State of Wisconsin. I mean, look at the cut that's being proposed for the UW System, our K-12 schools. Are we going to fund schools? Are we going to fund our transportation needs? Are we going to buy land? I think when you break it down to a simple concept like that, it's hard to put buying more land as a priority. I mean, we have almost one in five acres herein the State of Wisconsin that are under public ownership. I think it's good to take a timeout here. It's just a moratorium, take a timeout on more stewardship purchases and make sure that we fund the things that are important like education, transportation and things like that in the budget--healthcare.
Frederica Freyberg: Senator Tom Tiffany, thanks very much for joining us.
Tom Tiffany: Good to be with you tonight.