Scott Walker Dismantled Wisconsin's Environmental Legacy
Since taking office in 2011 Walker has moved to reduce the role of science in environmental policymaking and to silence discussion of controversial subjects, including climate change, by state employees. And he has presided over a series of controversial rollbacks in environmental protection, including relaxing laws governing iron mining and building on wetlands, in both cases to help specific companies avoid regulatory roadblocks. Among other policy changes, he has also loosened restrictions on phosphorus pollution in state waterways, tried to restrict wind energy development and proposed ending funding for a major renewable energy research program housed at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Most recently Walker has targeted the science and educational corps at the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which has responsibility for protecting and managing forests and wildlife, along with air and water quality. In his 2015–17 budget, released in February, he proposed eliminating a third of the DNR’s 58 scientist positions and 60 percent of its 18 environmental educator positions. (The cuts were approved by the state legislature’s budget committee in May, and the budget is currently making its way through the legislature.) Walker also attempted to convert the citizen board that sets policy for the DNR to a purely advisory body and proposed a 13-year freeze on the state’s popular land conservation fund—both changes that lawmakers rejected in the face of intense public objections