Feb 29, 2012

Senate Committee Set to Vote on AB 311

The Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee is set to vote on AB 311 (also known as the Sporting Heritage Bill) on Thursday, March 1st. As we’ve reported, this bill has the potential to affect the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

While the Assembly made significant improvements to the original version of AB 311, we have continued to voice concerns that the legislation would add unnecessary red tape and further restrict the Stewardship Program. While the details haven't been officially posted yet, we have been told that the Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, Senator Neil Kedzie, will be introducing an amendment that will further improve the bill.

In particular, we have heard that Senator Kedzie's amendment will delete the requirement in AB 311 that DNR consider the economic impact of individual Stewardship projects.  This is a positive step and would eliminate an unrealistic and unnecessary mandate from the bill.  No one credibly questions the significant impact of the Stewardship Program on Wisconsin's economy, but a case-by-case economic analysis of Stewardship projects would not be an efficient use of staff resources at DNR and would be unlikely to produce useful data.

Unfortuantely, Senator Kedzie's amendment does not change the requirement in bill that four out of seven NRB members must vote in favor of any prohibitions of nature-based outdoor activities (i.e., hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking and cross country skiing). While 4 out of 7 may sound reasonable, there could be unintended consequences. For instance, if any members of the NRB are absent from a meeting where a decision is made on a Stewardship project, then functionally a super-majority vote will be needed. Or, alternatively, if the NRB sets a policy that it will only approve Stewardship projects at meetings with all Board members present then projects could be delayed for weeks, if not months. A cleaner approach that would reduce the risk of losing important Stewardship projects would be to stick with current law, which requires a simple majority vote of those NRB members in attendance at monthly meetings.

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