The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) formally submitted their agency budget request to Governor Walker on September 15, 2016. Overall, DNR’s all funds budget for the 2017-19 biennium is 2.1 percent less than the 2016-17 fiscal year base doubled. This amounts to about $23.4 million less funding over the biennium. DNR’s all funds budget is $1.1 billion over the biennium. According to the request, most of the decrease is due to savings from budgeted versus actual salary levels and one-time costs.
Despite an overall budget decrease, DNR is proposing to increase staff levels for the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) program. DNR reallocated four positions to the CAFO unit, which they cite will assist with the review and evaluation of CAFO permits and provide targeted education and outreach efforts. The additional staff will increase the permit to regional staff ratio to 20 to one, and bring the total staff from 17 to 21. Since February 2016, permits increased from 279 to 285.
DNR’s budget request includes several statutory changes related to timber sales on public lands. DNR requests to increase the direct sale limit for timber sales on public lands from $3,000 to $10,000. Direct sales do not require a competitive bidding process. Also, DNR seeks to remove the current requirement that timber sales must be published in an official newspaper.
Also included in request, although the program is jointly administered by the Department of Administration and DNR, is the biennial finance plan for the Environmental Improvement Fund (EIF). EIF included the Clean Water Fund Program and the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program. For the 2017-19 biennium, it is projected that Clean Water Funds will be sufficient to cover projects requests. The Safe Drinking Water Loan Program, however will require $8.4 million of new general obligation bonds to fund the projected $860.2 million in new projects.