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Walker: New Farm Permit Process Won’t Change Final Approval Practices

Too Soon To Tell If Proposed Realignment Will Lead To Cost Savings

Scott Walker
Morry Gash/AP Photo

Gov. Scott Walker says the proposed reorganization of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is aimed at freeing up staff and won’t give private companies influence over regulations.

“It’s just a question of one of the changes that the Department of Natural Resources staff was given was – how do you find ways to be more effective and more efficient,” Walker said Thursday. “This allows them to spend less time on burdensome paperwork and more time on enforcing the laws and regulations of the state.”

The DNR released a plan Wednesday calling for allowing consultants, who meet as-yet-to-be determined qualifications, to write permit applications for large livestock operations. DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said the new program should result in highly-skilled consultants turning in higher-quality applications, saving DNR staff’s time, The Associated Press reported.

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The proposed changes would streamline some DNR staff duties and put more of the regulatory burden on those making the applications. Applicants would have to hire private contractors certified in areas like feedlots and lakefront developments.

Walker stressed the proposal would not change the final approval process.

The proposed realignment must go through the state budget process, which begins in February. Walker said it’s too soon to tell what cost savings, if any, there may be.

“Cost is part of it but time is part of it, too,” Walker said. “If it allows those staff to spend more time on enforcement as opposed to filing more and more paperwork, that puts the burden on the person seeking the permit to do the paperwork. But the enforcement standards remain.”

Besides permit applications, the realignment includes some changes to DNR law enforcement and allows for surprise inspections.