DNR Continues to Move Toward Reorganization of Agency

The Department of Natural Resources is finalizing a plan to reorganize portions the agency, in order manage dwindling staff levels and improve the quality of the DNR’s work with citizens.

The DNR originally announced its plan to reorganize in July 2015. During a recent announcement to DNR employees, Deputy Secretary Kurt Thiede announced the final alignment decisions will be made by June 30, 2016.

Overall, the reorganization is aimed at accomplishing the following:

  • Leverage staff expertise and accomplish core work;
  • Making strategic investments in information technology;
  • Improving service delivery to the public;
  • Enhance integration;
  • Streamline permitting; and
  • Streamline policy development.

The component of the reorganization that will have the most impact on Wisconsin’s businesses is the DNR’s changes to the permitting process. The DNR will create more general permits, allowing staff to spend more time on complicated permit cases, and less time working through individual permits. The streamlining will also include “alternative approaches to the development of permits”. For example, the DNR is looking at a pilot air program where some qualified permit applicants would draft their own permits.

The DNR also plans to streamline the rulemaking process, including referencing federal rules instead of codifying federal rules into state statute. The plan also will look at using federal economic analyses, in order to save time and money on creating Wisconsin-specific economic analyses.

For information technology investments, the DNR plans to automate business processes, both internally and externally, such as digitizing records and developing online, fillable forms, especially in the areas of permitting. The DNR also plans to create a “business portal” for companies in industries, such as agriculture and construction, making the permit process faster and easier.

The biggest change the general public will see is consolidation of work done by the DNR and the Division of Motor Vehicles in the Department of Transportation. Registration of recreational vehicle and trailer, as well as operator certification and licensing functions currently maintained by the DNR, will be partly taken over by the DMV.

The DNR hopes to make final decisions and implementation by midsummer, just in time for state budget discussions to begin.