The state Department of Natural Resources needs to spend more money to protect wildlife and maintain facilities on public land, a conservative-leaning member of the agency’s policy board said Wednesday.
Greg Kazmierski said he’s worried the agency has purchased so much land through its stewardship program that there’s not enough money left for maintaining wildlife populations and public amenities on all the acreage.
“We can’t let this get too far ahead to the point where we have a wildlife desert out there because we haven’t kept up with wildlife management,” he said.
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Kazmierski presented a resolution to the board asking the Legislature’s finance committee to provide what he termed “adequate funding” for habitat management programs and to maintain public lands and facilities. The resolution doesn’t call for a specific amount.
The board decided to spend the next several weeks revising the language with a vote tentatively expected at its next monthly meeting in April. The board isn’t scheduled to meet in March.
Kazmierski offered the resolution after Tim Gray, a DNR budget analyst, noted in a presentation to the board that the amount of state dollars allocated for wildlife management has grown from at least $7.2 million in fiscal year 2011-12 to at least $11.2 million in fiscal year 2022-23. The amount of state funding allocated for managing public lands stood at $107 million this year, he said. That’s not counting federal funding, he added.
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DNR Assistant Deputy Secretary Steven Little told the board that the agency has purchased about 1.5 million acres through the stewardship program so far.
The program has grown extremely unpopular over the years with Republican legislators, who complain that land purchases deny local governments property tax revenue.
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Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker appointed Kazmierski to the board in 2017.