For close to 40 years, George Meyer has been at the forefront of Wisconsin’s environmental policy and conservation efforts.

Since ending his 30-plus-year career in 2003 with the state Department of Natural Resources — eight as the department secretary — he has been executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, a sporting organization that advocates for public policies protecting fish and wildlife habitats.

Meyer always has been vocal on issues concerning the environment, stressing he and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation don’t care if someone has an “R or a D” behind their name.

In the wake of news that environmental enforcement by the DNR dropped to a 12-year low in 2011 and that an egregious waste violator was let off the hook, Meyer sat down with The Capital Times to discuss what he says are systemic problems in the DNR that have reached a peak under the current administration.

The Capital Times: Let’s start with Wisconsin State Journal reporter Ron Seely’s investigation showing DNR case referrals to the Department of Justice dropped from 65 to 21, a 67 percent reduction; enforcement conferences dropped from 280 to 196, a 30 percent reduction; and notices of violations dropped from 516 to 233, a 55 percent reduction, in 2011 compared to the prior 11-year average. What was your reaction when you heard those facts?

George Meyer: I knew we were looking at very dramatic changes. Those numbers indicate a few different things are happening. There are not only fewer cases being referred to the DOJ, but there are fewer conferences being held (where the alleged violator and DNR staff work together to bring the company back into compliance) and fewer violation notices are being sent out. These are all big changes.

CT: Why does that matter?

GM: What you will see over time is an increase in violations of the laws. There are two purposes for having an environmental enforcement program: deter people from violating the law and keeping a business and its competitors in line.

CT: So having a strong environmental enforcement program is good for the state and for businesses?

GM: Yes. Most businesses want the DNR to have a strong enforcement program. It works to their benefit.

CT: That’s something you don’t hear every day.

GM: Look, a company that belongs to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is not going to admit that. But the truth is most companies want a level playing field. If you’re complying with the law and it costs you 5 percent more in terms of what your product is going to cost, you want to know that everyone is incurring that cost, too.

CT: I think it’s fair to say the current administration believes less regulation and enforcement is good for business.

GM: I don’t think the current administration is factoring in that it’s good for business to have a fair and effective enforcement program.

CT: Is this at the heart of the philosophical shift people say is occurring under Gov. Scott Walker’s administration?

GM: Yes. This administration did not invent the concept of working with businesses in a positive manner. We emphasized that when I was secretary. I’m sure secretaries Matt Frank, Darrell Bazzell and Scott Hassett also did.

But here’s what that should mean: You work with companies to reduce unnecessary regulations that don’t lead to an improvement in the environment, you get unnecessary regulations out of the way, and then you help them figure out how to comply with the remaining regulations in the most economically efficient way. That is what being friendly to businesses should be.

If a company causes a significant violation of the law or commits fraud, you take that “being friendly to business” hat off. Companies don’t get breaks if they cross the line.

CT: Let’s talk about the Herr case. Herr Environmental’s records show it may have spread human waste at three times the level allowed by its state permit near 40 drinking wells and 30 homes in Jefferson County. The state is refusing to test the wells for contamination. If you were still the DNR secretary, would you test the wells?

GM: Yes. I think that would have happened under any other previous secretary, Republican or Democratic.

CT: Why aren’t the wells being tested under DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp?

GM: I think under this administration, if a business complains, they can get their way.

CT: Herr ended up paying a minimal fine for spreading raw sewage rather than the case being referred to the DOJ. It was also discovered Scott Gunderson, a former state lawmaker and recent DNR appointee, handled the case and had received campaign donations from Herr in the past. Rep. Joel Kleefisch, the Republican lawmaker whose district includes Herr, also attended a DNR conference committee on the company’s behalf. What do you find most troubling about these facts?

GM: Put yourself in the position of the DNR staffers at this meeting. These conference committees are routine things. You hold them about 15 or 20 times a year.

Now all of a sudden, you have the number three person in the department, Scott Gunderson, plus an Assembly leader whose wife is the lieutenant governor show up. Then you find out later Herr had spoken with Stepp before the meeting. The deck was stacked in the company’s favor before the meeting even started.

I think the employees did well under those circumstances. It’s not what they would have done normally. This case should have been referred to the DOJ, not discussed in an enforcement hearing.

That was unfair to the employees. It was unfair to other septic companies that comply with the law and it was unfair to the neighbors that are next to the regulated individual.

It was an unprecedented overuse of authority.

CT: Do you think it is an isolated case?

GM: If I believed it was an isolated case I would tell people to get over it. Mistakes happen. But when you put all this stuff together, there is something very wrong with the agency. It needs correction. It didn’t start with this administration but it clearly reached a high point in reduction of environmental enforcement. I think you’re going to hear more stories about more situations.

Reporter

You might also like

(52) comments

Oscar
Oscar

It will only be when the rich folks get sewage illegally dumped in their backyard (and the repug offender gets off scott free), that the pendulum of politics will swing back the other way. I wonder what happens when a repug campaign donor septic waste dumper gets plugged by a repug donor concealed carry whacko?

not_a_tax_bigot
not_a_tax_bigot

Protect Madison's wild habitat. More coyotes needed. Open season on stray cats that kill millions of song birds.

what justice
what justice

So, by the property of transitive stupidity, all the excess sh!t gets spread on the land over YOUR well water...

Dude, you have got to be a genius.

bluffsinview
bluffsinview

Oh yes, we all want a country that has tons of jobs that pay minimum wages with no benefits. That way corporations can keep even more trillions than they have socked away now so their managers and owners get billions, not mere millions, in bonuses for having so much profit. They don't care that people are starving or have no insurance so long as they can have 3 or 4 multi-million dollar homes all over the world. That's the ticket- vote Republican if that's how you like it.

Comment deleted.
aequalitas
aequalitas

beaglemix, if you like it when snootyelites put's his ying yang in your poon tang please write "Well put Snooty" below. Thanks!

aequalitas
aequalitas

At least under Scott Walker the right to hunt deer is safe - wait, what about the "Deer Czar" nutjob Walker hired to explain to us that public hunting grounds are "the last bastian of communism".

QUOTE:
According to Wisconsin’s White-Tailed Deer Trustee Dr. James Kroll, people who call for more public hunting opportunities are “pining for socialism.” He further states, “(Public) Game management is the last bastion of communism.”These are just two insights into the man who has been asked to provide analysis and recommended changes to Wisconsin’s deer management program. Kroll’s insights are from an article entitled “Which Side of the Fence Are You On?” by Joe Nick Patoski for a past edition of Texas Monthly.

If nothing more, the article gives an unabashed look into the mind-set that will be providing the Wisconsin DNR with recommendations on how to change their deer management practices. James Kroll (also known as “Deer Dr.”) was appointed to the Wisconsin “deer czar” position last fall. He was hired by the Department of Administration and instructed to complete a review of the state’s deer management program.
http://bloggingblue.com/2012/05/22/wisconsins-deer-czar-public-game-management-is-the-last-bastion-of-communism/

And then there is this, in keeping with DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp's goal of making the DNR "more like a business".

It seems in addition to serving as Wisconsin’s “Deer Czar,” Dr. Kroll is also a bit of a capitalist, offering endorsements/testimonials for various deer-related products and services. Among the products Dr. Kroll has endorsed is Boss Buck, a feeding system used at game farms that actually bears Dr. Kroll’s name and signature.

Here’s a list of some of the products James Kroll has endorsed or done testimonials for:

•Rack Buck – Buck forage oats
•Sneaky Feed – Remote deer feeder monitor
•Skunk Fusion – Cover scent
•NutraDeer – Deer Feed
•GMS – Game Management Software
•Hunt Encino – Texas Commercial Deer Hunt
•Buck Forage – Deer Feed
•Boss Buck – Deer Feeder
•Trophy Feeders – Deer feeder
The powers-that-be in Wisconsin have long believed in science-driven game management, but thanks to James Kroll we could now be seeing a shift towards profit-driven privatization of hunting and capitalism-driven game management in our fair state.

http://bloggingblue.com/2012/05/23/its-no-wonder-wisconsins-deer-czar-wants-to-privatize-hunting-in-wi/

Madravenspeak
Madravenspeak

Protecting fish and wildlife habitat FOR KILLING AS MUCH WILDLIFE AS POSSIBLE. This guy is a serial killer pusher to children in the schools - to teach them that TRAPPING and maiming wildlife is FUN...enrolling as many women and children and men, of course, into killing wildlife as possible.

George Meyers will go down in infamy in this state for destroying our wildlife populations. He has orchestrated taking over ALL public lands, state parks and county parks and mandating ALL $1.67 billion general citizen investment in Stewardship to intensive trapping and hunting our wildlife. Indiscriminate steel jaw traps, snares, conibear traps will destroy millions of wild animals for the perversion of 8,000 trappers in Wisconsin.

George Meyers has pushed running packs of dogs on wolves - pushing for destroying 300 of our 800 wolves indiscriminately. The wolves are just off the endangered list and a fragile population living on 5% of their former range, harming noone - and in fact, enriching farmers who attribute every missing or stillborn or farmer neglected calf to "wolf predation" and getting compensated full market value - and one payment for two deer supposedly killed by a wolf was $20,000. Only in George Meyer's mafia control of wildlife and public lands, do sadists who loose their dogs to kill baby bears, get compensated on average $2500 if a dog is killed while harrassing our wildlife. This is the only state in the country where cruel people can do, not dog fighting, but wolf/dog fighting day and night with no rest for any animal, for four and a half months.

George Meyers is a sadist extraordinaire. As he repeatedly says - he is no biologist...just an apologist and marketeer of cruelty to wildlife and dogs. One hopes there is both a heaven and a hell.

aequalitas
aequalitas

But the new DNR secretary is a a real estate developer with no degree in Biology or any of the related natural sciences - so that makes everything OK. Plus, she knows that 4 mile long 1 mile deep pit mine are good for the environment.

Please, next time you try character assassination on George Meyers, provide some credible links. The woman Scott Walker appointed to the DNR, Cathy Stepp is an unqualified political appointee. Not long after she was appointed the nature columnist of the Appleton Post-Crescent wrote this open letter to Cathy Stepp.
QUOTE:

Please consider that you are not running just any agency. You may serve at the pleasure of Gov. Walker, but you are being entrusted with the health of land trod upon by John Muir, Increase Lapham, Aldo Leopold, Fran Hammerstrom and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson. You owe an allegiance to them as well.
I don't expect you to compare to any of those people. But don't let it be said, whenever you leave office, that you ran the department like a chamber of commerce. You are charged with protecting extremely valuable natural resources that belong to the people of this state.
-- Open letter to DNRSecretary Cathy Stepp from Appleton Post Crescent nature columnist David Horst.

.

rali74
rali74

Just read any article about Wisconsin wildlife and you will usually see a quote from George Meyer about wanting to allow it to be killed. He is on record about wanting to slaughter at least 60% of the wolf population and is a staunch supporter of bear hounding and the most brutal of trapping techniques. He also believe that bear hounders should continue to be reimbursed when a wolf kills one of their dogs while terrorizing bears and other wildlife. He is no friend to the environment. His only concern is having land for hunter and trapper "opportunity." How about this quote from him:

"By carrot or stick, hunters and trappers will gain access to public lands and private lands."

Sounds like a real reasonable person, right? You want a link detailing the reimbursement program Meyer supports? Here it is:

http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/wolf/documents/WolfDamagePayments.pdf

Look at how there was $190,702 in reimbursements this year for "missing" calves. With ZERO evidence these "missing" calves are automatically attributed to wolf depredation. Seems a little fishy that there were only 25 "missing" calves last year when the wolf was on the endangered species list and 257 when they are off and people like Meyer are pushing to hunt and trap wolves.

Character assassination? I don't think so. Read up on what this guy supports and if you care anything for wildlife you will be horrified.

what justice
what justice

If you are serious about protecting the environment and/or wildlife, attacking Mr. Meyer is exactly your worst possible mistake. It is the principle of 'divide and conquer' at work, except that Walker and his crew didn't have to do a thing.

As well, reimbursements to farmers for livestock lost to wolf predation are made to SUPPORT wolf recovery! Those reimbursements were fingers in the dyke holding back thousands of people who have been ready to use any excuse to go after wolves. Please, think your positions through...

rali74
rali74

So what you are saying is that people needed to be bribed not to poach wildlife? So much for those "rule of law" conservatives. Up until the inflated "missing calf" numbers this year the vast majority of reimbursements went to bear hounders. How does paying off irresponsible bear hunters "support" wolves? They were the ones who wrote the bill that allows for wolves to be hunted with packs of dogs, at night, trapped, baited, and use electronic calls all for 4 1/2 months. Does that sound like support? That sounds like revenge to me. Meyer wholeheartedly supports this plan. I cannot ally myself with a person or group that finds the deplorable act of hounding to be acceptable. Meyer and his group promote the most brutal and barbaric methods like hounding, baiting, and trapping. They also think that it is just fine to unleash packs of dogs on wolves. Wisconsin is the only state that allows this. How does that make us look to have basically legalized dog fighting? Meyer wants a token population of wolves and that is it so that they do not go back on the list. I wouldn't call that "support." With "allies" like these who needs enemies? I have felt this way long before Walker and his goons came along.

what justice
what justice

It makes me sad that I need to remind you that the subject of this article is Meyer criticizing poor enforcement of water protection laws. Are you SO anti-trapping, etc. that you would refuse the help of a trapper to keep your water clean? REALLY?

My 9 year old daughter and I actually cared enough about wolves to show up at the latest round of public hearings. Nevertheless, both the wolves and my daughter need water they can safely drink and Mr. Meyer is a strong advocate on that point--and MANY others.

what justice
what justice

I often find that I agree with you on specific issues and I respect your passion for wildlife, but when you attack people like George Meyer you hurt the cause of protecting wildlife immeasurably. If you think that all of the hunting and trapping that has happened on Earth from the beginning of time until now has had more negative effect on the populations of wild animals than habitat destruction and toxic pollution, you're either crazy or you're not paying attention.

When people like you, like George Meyer and like me can't find common cause in protecting wildlife habitat, clean air and clean water, Herr Environmental (hah!) and, even worse, Gogebic Taconite, will win EVERY TIME.

I stood up and argued the opposite position from Mr. Meyer at a public hearing on wolves the day before yesterday, but I disagreed respectfully knowing both that Mr. Meyer wants to sustain a population of wolves in the state and that he is an invaluable ally when fighting toxic pollution and wildlife habitat destruction.

Know your enemies: they are Scott Walker, the Republican legislature (Senator Schultz excepted) and Gogebic Taconite, NOT George Meyer.

Comment deleted.
beaglemix
beaglemix

Well put Snooty

Comment deleted.
Ringsaker
Ringsaker

I don't think that the note of snootyelites is appropriate and I have reported it to the webmaster as abuse.

I think that people need to be civic, and that post is not.

Lynne4300
Lynne4300

He retired in 2003, and has had no comment until now?

TheMatador
TheMatador

Seeing as he's commenting on things happening in 2011 I would say it would have been impossible for him to comment on them before.

array1
array1

Amazing someone actually needed that explained to them

Comment deleted.
TheMatador
TheMatador

Your post shows your ignorance.

tasman
tasman

Here are a few nuggets:
1. The Madison lakes may never be "clean" - There is so much annual recycling of phosphorus. I've seen no visible change in 50 years (1/2 century) despite multiple studies and expensive projects.
2. Referrals to the Dept of Justice have always been few and for the recalcitrant. Settlements from DOJ often take years.
3. Concerned neighbors can sample their own wells for a twenty dollar bill. And they should do so regularly regardless of the nearby land spreading.

geo_
geo_

Why do republicans refuse to accept personal responsibilty for their actions, Herr should pay for the well tests.

what justice
what justice

So someone spreads excess sh!t over my drinking water well and I'm on the hook for the cost of figuring out whether the contamination is reaching my well? You're a regular genius, 'tasman'.

sarge
sarge

the madison lakes are much cleaner than they were before the original phophate ban in the 70's. I routinely watched birds walking on lake kegonsa as a yuff.

Comment deleted.
jonas
jonas

Also, there are many many class A trout streams. They may be in their best shape ever.

Comment deleted.
Rosalie
Rosalie

First, Vast majority of DNR employees have no clue about business and most of them are Cap Time reading lefties that signed the recall petitions in excess of 90%.

We'd like to see some documentation of this assertion! Did you comb through the recall petitions?

Can you post anything without resorting to childish insults?

concerned_citizen
concerned_citizen

we can look forward to nasty water and dirtier air under these state Republicans

we don't care about clean water and breathable air, do we?

jonas
jonas

Buy it if you want it. There is no guarantee you will have clean air or water and businesses need the ability to pollute so they can create jobs.

DeFarge
DeFarge

Hope it hits your water supply not mine.

racedog48
racedog48

So why no questions asked of George Meyer on why Milwaukee is not fined when they dump billions of gallons of human waste into Lake Michigan???

Oscar Topaz
Oscar Topaz

Whats the answer racedog? How does one stop the overflows? Every time I read one of your rants its about the overflows. Please do tell us how to stop it with out it costing tax payers thousands of dollars? You seem to have all the answers.

TheMatador
TheMatador

Because this article isn't about Milwaukee.

witness2012
witness2012

racedog, the problems in Milwaukee now only occur when there is a heavy rain and, with the deep tunnel project being built, it is clear that city leaders are working hard to comply as best they can.

But, they are dealing with some structural problems that were created decades ago when the size of the city was much smaller. By all estimates, the amount of overflow from sewers in Milwaukee has been greatly diminished.

witness2012
witness2012

George Meyer's testimony is very compelling, both as a former DNR secretary, and as someone who knows a great deal about how to balance environmental protection with commercial and sports interests.

For him to speak out in public like this is a sign that things at the pro-business DNR are even worse than we've heard.

The handling of the Herr case was a travesty. The people of Jefferson county deserve better than to have their drinking water contaminated by someone intentionally evading the law.

DeFarge
DeFarge

If you live in Milwaukee County, feel free to leave. Just for your ignorant information, a new bypass has already been built to releave the flood problems that caused only several releases from the combined sewer system in the past years. We are all tired of your lies..must be a repug, they all do naught but lie. Combined sewer water includes almost entirely, just water, not sewage.

Comment deleted.
jonas
jonas

You are clueless to rail on pot smokers, bike riders and vegetarian hippies. These are people too, influencing huge business. If only people like you could understand that its regulation keeping a nearly non-toxic plant (cannabis) illegal, maybe you could begin to see the waste of resources it is.

jmohr
jmohr

Alternate headline:
DNR Crucifixions Down; Retired Centurion Says Current Generation Weak

strat63
strat63

That made me laugh. Good one.

joe
joe

That sums it up nicely, jmohr. Anybody who has dealt with the DNR knows your headline reflects that department more accurately.

joe
joe

The DNR unilaterally created more regulation that was not passed by the legislature in order to control every single minute aspect of the environment. Whether it is putting a bridge over a 1 foot wide creek or digging a 6 foot wide hole for a pond. The only group that got off the hook was farmers and the huge amounts of chemicals they dispense onto the land. Mass quantities of round up sprayed on every cornfield, yet that is not controlled because farmers are a stong lobby.

So don't tell me it isn't politics. Get real. The massive amounts of regulations they create are against groups that do not have a strong lobby like homeowners, landowners (unless it is for farming) and apparently waste spreaders.

The same goes for any state agency. If they don't have a lobby stopping them, they go crazy adding mounds of regulation every year.

number6
number6

Meyer should be governor. Is he R it D? I don't care. Politics -- yikes!

knowitsome
knowitsome

No, no, NO! It's about jobs - stop looking behind that door. It only distracts from our laser beam focus, as we had in the special legislative session on jobs last year.

DNR is as demoralized an agency as any in the state, and George is helping us see what's happening to make it so. This shouldn't be a partisan issue, and sooner or later, either the current approach at DNR will change, or the voters will hold them to account.

dakref
dakref

We must not let the environment get in the way of big business making more money. Maybe more jobs cleaning up afterward will be created.

lute
lute

And don't forget all the long term jobs in health care (private, of course) treating the poisoned citizens of Wisconsin. It's really a win-win situation!

Observer5
Observer5

Not to worry George. Under Scooter and Cathy the state's environment will be toast. It's what the voters wanted.

glenrusswood
glenrusswood

As most southern WISC lakes become more and more Polluted,(witness Monona=Mendota)

forget about it.Walker got elected for job creation,(I saw ads on TV),
with EPA regulations notwithstanding,The people of WI.have finally grasped the
mindset of the Chinese.,
with the gross realization that USED teabags will be Wisconsin"s only pollution

Moles
Moles

You can't attribute the pollution of Madison lakes to Walker. These lakes have been polluted since the early 1900's. In addition the lakeside property owners don't care as long as their lawns look pretty! The head of the DNR should not be a political appointee in my humble opinion!!

jonas
jonas

Don't forget they want their increasingly big boats to go right to their docks, so they have to keep the water levels high!

everclear
everclear

Kathy Stepp says let those in Jefferson county drink crap

RedWhiteBlue
RedWhiteBlue

The people of Wisconsin have spoken. We want the Teabag doctrine. Which means no costly environmental regulations for corporations. This will create jobs! Look at China; it works!

mlinde61
mlinde61

I hope you are joking. Look at China, slave labor, low wage, no benefits jobs and air that is so polluted it is unsafe and water that is not safe to drink.

jonas
jonas

Slave labor and low wages will help corporations be able to lower their bottom line. That might mean they can create more jobs. No benefit jobs means that employees can purchase their own insurance and save for their own retirement and also saves on a company's bottom line, and air and water can be privatized for sale for people who want and can afford the clean stuff. Without regulations for air and water, businesses will be able to save on waste air and water disposal and cleaning.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Exchange ideas and opinions on posted articles. Don't promote products or services, impersonate other site users, register multiple accounts, threaten or harass others, post vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language. Don't post content that defames or degrades anyone. Don't repost copyrighted material; link to it. In other words, stick to the topic and play nice. Report abuses by clicking the button. Users who break the rules will be banned from commenting. We no longer issue warnings. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.