Prehn’s term as NRB chair ends but Republican appointee maintains control

By: - January 27, 2022 6:00 am

Frederick Prehn | YouTube

Frederick Prehn, who has refused to leave his seat on the Natural Resources Board despite his term expiring in May 2021, is no longer the chair of the body after he reached the limit of three consecutive terms with the gavel. 

Prehn’s refusal to step aside has allowed appointees of former Gov. Scott Walker to maintain a 4-3 majority on the board that guides state policy on important and controversial issues such as wolf hunting, water management and environmental health. The Walker appointees’ grip on power allowed them to elect former vice chair Greg Kazmierski to the chairmanship. 

Kazmierski, a hunters’ rights activist who was appointed to the board by Walker in 2011, was chosen over former Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Deputy Secretary Bill Smith, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in 2019. 

In accepting the nomination to be chair, Kazmierski said his goal for the role would be to get the board — which has been meeting virtually for nearly two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic — to better “gel” together. 

“We’ve had a little bit of an issue because COVID came up right in the middle,” Kazmierski said. “So this board hasn’t really gotten to know each other very well except on YouTube. So I’m looking forward to getting this board to gel like we have in the past.”

Smith, who also previously worked as an environmental engineer for the DNR, outlined much broader goals for the position if he were to be elected. 

“I think it’s paramount that we fulfill that role of supervision and oversight of the [DNR], and regulatory, advisory and policymaking matters,” Smith said. “The second one is our shared mission with the department, the Conservation Congress in particular, Sporting Heritage Council and our wide range of conservation partners. That mission emphasizes rich and abundant natural resources, a clean and healthy environment and access for all. And I would work hard to emphasize a positive collaborative relationship with those partners to accomplish that mission. The last point and an important one is the conduct of business in an open and transparent manner, welcoming public input from all viewpoints.” 

Prehn’s refusal to leave his post has drawn significant condemnation and legal pressure, particularly surrounding the state’s wolf hunt, which is a hot political issue and one that Prehn has cited as a major reason for his decision not to leave. Kazmierski has been an important ally of Prehn over the last year and, in emails obtained by the Wisconsin Examiner, agrees with Prehn’s views that as many wolves as possible should be hunted. 

“You are now officially the #1 enemy of wolves. :‐),” Kazmierski wrote to Prehn in June 2021.

Prehn, a Wausau dentist and cranberry marsh owner, has said he will remain on the board until the person selected to replace him by Evers, Ashland educator Sandra Dee Naas, is confirmed by the state Senate. Senate Republican leadership has said it will not confirm any more of Evers’ appointees during the remainder of his first term.


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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.