During the most recent Natural Resources Board (NRB) meeting on April 12, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Payne said the agency will examine its internal review process for Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funding to ensure that local governments are being heard.
Secretary Payne acknowledged there had been a breakdown in department communications, which resulted in the Natural Resources Board being unaware of concerns of local governments before approving funding through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program for the Pelican River Forest, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Secretary Payne committed to sharing local government resolutions with the NRB for their deliberations. In addition, he acknowledged that local governments need at least 60 days to formally react to proposed conservation projects in their jurisdictions, instead of the currently required 30 day period.
“We have a real opportunity here to take better care of our state parks, our lands, our property,” Payne said to Wisconsin Public Radio. “I’m hopeful that some of that’s going to come out of this process.”
The main impetus for this discussion is the Pelican River Forest, which was set to receive Knowles-Nelson funding before the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee blocked the project by failing to approve the funds. The project, which is the largest land conservation project in state history, has received an outpouring of support from the public. The Joint Finance Committee has still not scheduled a meeting to either reject, amend, or approve the project, and there is no indication that it plans to do so.
“If the committee chooses to stall completion of the Pelican River Forest, it is their responsibility to convene public debate. More than four months have passed since that objection was raised and the committee has failed to take any action,” said Charles Carlin of Gathering Waters. “It is tremendously difficult to work toward common sense compromise when the committee chooses to obstruct the process rather than facilitate productive dialogue.”
Featured image by Joshua Mayer, 2014.