Viewpoint: Increasing efficiency in the DNR
With Joint Finance considering the state budget this week, what efficiencies have been implemented within the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources? The DNR has been working for months on a redesign of duties. In the last budgets, funding was seriously cut. It would seem efficiencies and cuts in middle and upper management would have resulted from these changes.
I am most familiar with the wildlife section. Several middle-management vacancies have occurred in the past few years, but no reduction in middle-management staff. Currently, county wildlife managers have had five “bosses” between their position and the division administrator. Even higher-level staff, such as wildlife experts assigned to various species, has five layers of supervision to get to the division administrator. Why the hefty vertical ladder of bosses?
The science section, which was seriously cut in staff in the last budget cycle, seems also to be burdened by excessive supervisory positions. Wouldn’t a team approach, focusing on more “worker bee” personnel create more efficiency and get more work done?
The WI DNR could be saving money and accomplishing more without the long, drawn-out processes of planning that uses up staff time and resources. The latest attempt at revising the wolf management plan involved 17 days of meetings with an average of 10 DNR staff present at each meeting, not to mention the paid DNR partners who attended, such as the WI County Forest Association, USDA Wildlife Services, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, UW Forest Service, etc. What do we have to show for that long and expensive effort? Nothing!
Same thing happened revising the 10-year Beaver Management Plan. April 2010 was when I first heard about this effort, which was completed fall, 2016. It took six-and-a-half years to write a 10-year beaver plan!
Similarly, the DNR spent hours of staff time and spent money from an unknown source to conduct a 12-page wolf public opinion survey. A similar survey (eight pages this time) is planned to measure public opinion of bears. Do we really need potentially 8,000 surveys mailed out to tell us what people in Wisconsin think about bears? This survey will likely turn out just like the wolf survey. If you have had negative encounters with these large carnivores, or are a farmer, you want less. If you are a bear hunter you want enough to hunt. If you have warm cuddly feelings toward large wild animals, you want an unlimited supply. I don’t think it is necessary to send six months and tens of thousands of dollars to learn the obvious.
We need to be asking for accountability and efficiencies within state government. I think there is a lot of room for the DNR to scale back on supervisors, focus on outcomes, and eliminate fancy, ineffective and complicated planning in favor of a common sense approach to delivering plans, surveys and services.
Laurie Groskopf, Tomahawk