Politics

Should Walker be the next Department of Interior chief? Former DNR heads weigh in

Walker is in DC this week

Should Walker be the next Department of Interior chief? Former DNR heads weigh in

MADISON, Wis. - With Gov. Scott Walker on the short list for the U.S. Department of Interior secretary position, what is his record on conservation issues?

Walker has repeatedly said he plans to stay in Wisconsin after he's out of a job on Jan. 7, when Gov.-elect Tony Evers is sworn in. But Walker made those comments before President Donald Trump announced current Secretary of the Interior chief Ryan Zinke would be leaving.

Two former secretaries from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources weighed in on Walker's eight years in the statehouse and whether he would be qualified for the Cabinet position.

Scott Hassett, who was appointed to the DNR by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, said he thought Walker would be an "unusual pick," because the position tends to go to a politician from the western part of the country who is able to deal with federal land management issues.

"I don't think Scott Walker has the knowledge base to deal with those kinds of issues so it would all be new for him," said Hassett, who served in the DNR from 2003 to 2007.

George Meyer, who was twice appointed to the DNR by Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, said he believes Walker has shown low interest in protecting conservation lands.

"I would have great concerns about Gov. Walker being the secretary of the Department of Interior," said Meyer, who has served as executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation for the past 15 years.

Hassett and conservation groups expressed concerns about how Walker has shifted the focus of the state department away from science.

But Republican business groups that back Walker have applauded his efforts to make the department more business-friendly with fewer regulations. The groups declined to comment on this story.

Walker also previously tried to cut state funding from state parks and make them self-sustaining. As head of the Interior Department, he would have control over parks at the federal level.

Hassett said there are a number of parallels between national and state conservation issues.

"There are a lot of overlapping issues. We have a lot of public lands in Wisconsin," he said.

Walker tweeted from Washington D.C., on Monday, but his office would only say that he was at the White House for a reception.

 

 

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