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E-M:/ PEER Survey: Take Politics Out of Environment, WI DNR Workers Say

Enviro-Mich message from Billy Stern <billysun@chorus.net>

Apologies, on the last message that you received form me, I honestly 
neglected to delete enviro-mich from my great lakes alert list. Since 
you got the quotes, you may as well get the full press release and 
results. This survey is similar to a PEER survey done in Michigan 
(last year?) and many of you may be interested in comparing the 
results. Both can be found in there original formats by going to 

A PEER employee, who previously worked for GREEN, has asked me to 
pass this on. Look for it in the news!

For immediate release: Wednesday, January 19, 2000   Contact: Amanda Carufel
(202) 265-7337

Take Politics Out of Environment, State Workers Say

Survey of DNR Employees Calls for Reduced Role of Governor

Washington, D.C....Politics color scientific evaluations and permit
decisions to the detriment of the state's environment according to the
results of a survey of all employees of Wisconsin's Department of Natural
Resources (DNR).  The survey, conducted by Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER), also found overwhelming support for
removing the Governor's power to appoint the DNR Secretary and for
reestablishing the Public Intervener's Office which was abolished by
Governor Tommy Thompson in 1996.

This past December, PEER mailed out surveys to all of the approximately
3,000 DNR employees consisting of questions written by employees.   That
same week, DNR Secretary George Meyer sent out an e-mail encouraging all DNR
employees to participate and more than half returned the PEER

According to survey results, a strong plurality of employees registered
concerns about political influence within the agency:

	* Nearly half of respondents feel that scientific evaluations are
influenced by political  considerations with less than a third in

	* More than half do not trust DNR administrators "to stand up against
political pressure in protecting the environment"; and

	* More than two in five think that business "has undue influence on DNR
decision- making."

Overall, nearly half of DNR employees believe Wisconsin's environment is not
better protected now than it was five years ago while little more than a
third disagree.

The PEER survey also asked employees to write essays identifying the
"biggest problem facing the DNR."   By far, the most consistent answer —
constituting more than one-third of all employee essays — was political
interference and the role of the Governor.  As one employee wrote:
	"Big business now runs the Wisconsin DNR.  Our governor has 
done tremendous
damage to Wisconsin's reputation as an environmental leader."

On agency structure, employee sentiment was even more definitive:

	* In excess of nine out of ten think that the DNR Secretary 
should not be
appointed by the Governor with more than eight in ten favoring the return of
this appointment power to the Natural Resources Board; and

	* More than two-thirds of respondents want the Public 
Intervener's Office
restored while less than one in ten disagree.

"DNR employees themselves are doubtful about their effectiveness in
preserving Wisconsin's natural heritage," stated PEER national Field
Director Eric Wingerter.  "Many employees are angry and frustrated from what
they perceive to be political interests obstructing sound science and
environmental stewardship."

The survey asked employees to assess conditions within the agency:

	* Nearly two-thirds believe that DNR lacks "sufficient resources to
adequately perform its environmental mission";

	* Nearly three-fourths say that employee morale is poor; and

	* More than one in six fear retaliation or know of instances 
of reprisal
against employees who advocate stronger environmental protection.

A majority of survey respondents agreed that Secretary Meyer was doing a
"good job" but similar percentages raised doubts about the performances of
other top agency administrators.  "Employees believe that Secretary Meyer is
holding up under tremendous pressure," said Wingerter, citing another
employee essay which read:

	"The biggest problem is to ‘free George Meyer' by letting the Natural
Resources Board appoint the Secretary and restoring the Public Intervener's
Office.  This will give George Meyer all his ‘teeth' back."

	- - 30 - -
	A complete report of survey results in available upon request.

PEER is a national alliance of state and federal employees working in
pollution control, land management and wildlife protection agencies.  PEER
works with public agency professionals to promote environmental ethics,
sound resource management and government accountability.  PEER's job is to
protect employees who protect our environment.
Billy Stern
Midwest State Organizer
1121 University Ave.
Madison, WI  53715
PH (608) 294-6871
Fax (608) 294-9170

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