The other day I wrote about Republican attacks on Wisconsin outdoor recreation programs, discussing their 40% cut to funding for the Stewardship Program, the Department of Natural Resources land acquisition plan.
The motion not only slashed borrowing authority, but it also restricted outright buying of land in "fee simple" (as opposed to buying easements on property) to one-third of the authorized amount. Since many landowners are reluctant to sell easements and would prefer that the DNR simply buy their land from them, that essentially amounts to an even deeper cut that's possibly much greater than 40%.
Then there's the roads issue. The Republicans demanded that the DNR map all existing roads into its own properties and develop a motorized vehicle access plan for each. They would officially designate driving into a property as an outdoor recreational activity, and authorized the use of now very limited Stewardship Fund dollars for development of snowmobile and ATV trails.
The DNR could limit vehicular access, but the motion only specifically calls out one activity for which they can do that: logging. In other words, they want to make sure that members of the public in their SUVs don't interfere with logging activities on public land. Great.
My guess is that the roads language was probably done at the behest of the bear hunters. Bear hunting in Wisconsin is a disreputable activity. Dogs are equipped with radio collars. They chase and corner a bear, which often winds up climbing a tree. The hunters sit in their vehicles monitoring their radio equipment. When it's clear that the bear has been trapped. They walk over to where it is and shoot it. These are not sportsmen under anyone's definition. I assume the bear hunters wanted the road language so that they won't have to walk as far.
So, that's your modern Republican definition of public outdoor recreation.
We used to have Republicans in this state who understood what Wisconsin's natural resources were all about, people like Governor Warren Knowles, for whom the Stewardship Fund is named along with environmental icon Gaylord Nelson. I got to know Governor Knowles a little bit when I worked for The Nature Conservancy and he was on its board. I think I got to know him well enough to think he is resting uneasily in his grave today.