DNR Secretary-designee Adam Payne and members of the Natural Resources Board at the Jan. 25, 2023 meeting. (Screenshot | DNR)
Gov. Tony Evers announced three appointments to the Natural Resources Board (NRB) on Friday, taking another step toward solidifying Democratic control of a body that a Republican appointee attempted to cling to long past his term had expired.
The Natural Resources Board is the policy making body of the state Department of Natural Resources. For more than a year, Fred Prehn, an appointee of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker remained in his seat on the board after his term expired in order to maintain a conservative majority, which helped Republicans retain influence over controversial decisions such as wolf hunting quotas and water quality standards.
Prehn remained in his seat with support from the state’s largest business lobby and the Republican majority in the state Senate, which was able to extend his term by refusing to hold a confirmation vote for the replacement Evers had already named. The conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court then ruled that Evers did not have the power to remove Prehn despite the expiration of his term. Two of Evers’ appointments Friday will replace Republican appointees.
“From working to protect wildlife to making necessary progress on getting harmful contaminants like PFAS out of our water once and for all, the work of the Natural Resources Board is essential to the health and prosperity of our state,” Evers said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have each of these well-qualified, motivated individuals on the board and for the expertise and perspectives they will bring to this critically important work.”
On Friday, Evers reappointed Paul Buhr, a former Democratic candidate for the Assembly who for 45 years ran a dairy farm in Viroqua. Buhr also previously served on the state’s technical college board and was initially appointed to the NRB in January.
Evers also appointed Dylan Bizhikiins Jennings, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and a doctoral fellow at UW-Madison’s Earth Partnership, which focuses on ecological restoration. Jennings also previously worked as a public information officer for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and served on the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change in 2019.
“I’m extremely humbled and honored to work on behalf of all Wisconsinites on the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board,” Jennings said. “I look forward to working to protect our environment for future generations to come.”
The other appointee is Jim VandenBrook, who has 40 years of experience working on Wisconsin conservation issues as the director of the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, Water Quality Section Chief with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and as a county conservationist in Trempealeau and Vernon counties.
“I am honored to be nominated by Governor Evers for a seat on the Natural Resources Board,” VandenBrook said in a statement. “As a life-long resident of Wisconsin I believe that our economy and quality of life are completely dependent on the wise use and management of our land and waters. I hope that my 40 years of experience in land and water resource management will help advance the governor’s work to make Wisconsin a better place to live, work, and enjoy.”
The next meeting of the NRB is set for May 23 in Madison.
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