DNR Secretary: Give Us Time To Work

DNR Secretary Stepp response to call for replacement of deer management staff

By Cathy Stepp, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

On Tuesday, we received the Wisconsin deer report from Deer Trustee, Dr. James Kroll and his team Dr. David Guynn and Dr. Gary Alt. This comprehensive report included a series of recommendations that will take some time to review. While changes won’t be immediate, my staff has already rolled up their sleeves and started their review, and are planning for how the public will be involved in the next steps.

Within that report, on a number of occasions, Dr. Kroll and his team applauded the integrity, commitment and dedication of our wildlife management staff. During this very intensive review of our state’s deer program, our deer program staff cooperated, kept an open mind, and showed a great deal of professionalism. A review of anyone’s work is never an easy thing, but I am very proud of the way they represented themselves throughout this process.

Less than a day after it was released, a press release was issued calling for the replacement of the DNR’s Big Game Management Unit. This is not the time for such demands.

As I have said repeatedly, each day I am impressed with work of what I feel is the finest group of natural resources professionals in the nation. Their dedication, commitment and passion for their work are unprecedented. I am proud to be associated with them. Regardless of staffing challenges, they roll up their sleeves every day and do their job with integrity and a sense of servitude.

Regarding our big game team, I am proud to say, as did Dr. Kroll, that we are already moving in a direction of better public involvement, reconnecting with hunters and doing more listening and recognizing the importance of both sociology and biology in our decision making process. This past year we began down this path, and I know our team is working on even more ways to improve the public’s role in deer management decisions. But we all agree…we can do better.

Now, thanks to Dr. Kroll’s report, we have an additional tool to guide our decision and actions. We want the same thing that Dr. Kroll and his team wants – which is to have the best managed deer herd in the country. We see this as an opportunity.

Our message to staff when we came to the DNR was clear, we need to better engage our customers, involve them and be responsive. Dr. Kroll has a similar message and I know that message is resonating through our management team and our staff.

We are not afraid to face recommendations and critiques that are contained in the report and adjust accordingly. We are just now getting a chance to dig into the report, so we now need to extend a courtesy to allow my staff to complete their review and develop a plan of action. This is not a report to that will sit on the shelf. Governor Walker and I are committed to following through. If we need to make changes in the way we do business, and the public supports these changes, we’ll make them.

Wisconsin is known as a destination for great deer hunting, which is a testament to the commitment and professionalism of our deer managers. We look forward to working with Dr. Kroll and his team to make Wisconsin deer hunting even better. Our commitment is to make Wisconsin the leader in deer management.

I want to thank Dr. Kroll and his team for their efforts. All along we’ve had the same goal, to make sure Wisconsin leads the nation in deer management and that our rich deer hunting tradition remains strong.

[EDITOR’S ADVISORY: The Wisconsin Deer Report can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Administration website.