WISCONSIN - Northwoods Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) said Wednesday the DNR has more impact on northern Wisconsin than any state agency--bar none.
Now, that agency could go in a vastly different direction.
Gov.-elect Tony Evers appointed Preston Cole, the current Milwaukee Neighborhood Services Commissioner with a forestry background, as his next DNR Secretary.
"I'd like to double down on science in the epicenter of natural resource management," Cole said at the announcement in Milwaukee. "Can I get an amen?"
Critics say under DNR secretaries Cathy Stepp and Dan Meyer, both selections by Gov. Walker, the DNR has become too business-friendly at the cost of environmental protection.
But if Cole is confirmed, that trend could swing the other way.
"He's someone who comes out of the woods. He's a forester by profession. We're encouraged by his appointment. We look forward to working with him," said Fred Clark, a former Democratic lawmaker now on the board of the conservation group the environmental group Wisconsin's Green Fire.
In the last eight years, the Walker administration cut science jobs and removed references to climate change from the DNR website.
"We're going to ensure that we bring back science to the Department of Natural Resources," Evers said in Wednesday's announcement.
Tiffany couldn't say yet if he'll vote to confirm Cole when the nomination comes before the Senate.
"I've always had a cordial relationship with him. Disagreed on a few issues without being disagreeable," Tiffany said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to work with him."
Tiffany has supported many natural resources changes in the last decade, including more open mining laws, more timber harvest on state forests, and fewer researchers in the DNR's Bureau of Science Services.
"In some instances, they just end up being a rogue division," he said. "There's plenty of scientists doing lots of good work in the DNR. Let's have them do that within the discipline of the agency."
Tiffany wants the DNR to continue in the direction of the last eight years under Stepp and Meyer. He'd like to see more use of a recent forest practices study. Tiffany said the state left $30 million dollars of value in the forests by under-harvesting them.
"We need continued reforms at the Department of Natural Resources, where they're partners with people here, especially in northern Wisconsin, where they're not an impediment," he said.
Rhinelander's Gary Zimmer serves with Cole on the Natural Resources Board and looks forward to his appointment.
"Very good leader," Zimmer said. "He is a very knowledgeable and intelligent person."
If confirmed by the Senate, Cole will take over an agency with 2,500 employees.
Walker and Stepp tweeted their support for Cole on Wednesday.
Walker called the selection a "solid pick." Stepp called him a "balanced, articulate, accomplished guy."
Meanwhile, Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) found fault with Cole's Milwaukee roots.
"DNR and Tourism secretaries from Milwaukee? That's not very encouraging so far. I'm glad the Legislature is full of great voices for rural WI. Doesn't look so far like the administration will be," he tweeted.
CRANDON - Recently, flooding closed roads and frustrated communities from Rhinelander to Plover. A bad combination of rain and melting snow led to days of flood warnings. As those warnings go away, a related risk could do a lot more than frustrate you - it could make you sick. Flooding can cause contamination in wells, but the Northwoods is lucky to have a world-class water testing facility.
RT Krueger's Northern Lake Service in Crandon has about 50 specialized machines that test drinking water for half of the municipalities in Wisconsin. Krueger tests Rhinelander's water three times a week. Every year 65,000 water samples flow in and out of this lab.
"The safe drinking water testing for the city of Madison is being performed up in little tiny Crandon," said Krueger.
Many people have their own wells, which are not tested regularly like municipal water. If your well is submerged due to flooding, filtered groundwater mixes with potentially harmful surface water.
"You're introducing the bacteria and all the compounds and organisms that are normally above the water that you're drawing," said Krueger.
(Suspects identified clockwise, beginning with upper-left: Robert Daniels, Andrew Phillips, Richard Harris, Geraldine Dubray, Allyssa Wamego, Tammy Mann)
A report of a noisy house party and fight near Crandon led to six drug-related arrests earlier this month. Officers eventually found heroin, cocaine, and guns along with other drug items inside, but getting there took some extra work.
According to a release from the Forest County Sheriff's Office, police responded to a home at 7840 Love Knot Lane in the Town of Lincoln, which is east of Crandon, on March 7 around 7:15 p.m.
RHINELANDER - A Rhinelander man could face prison time after police arrested him in an online underage sex sting. Oneida County prosecutors charged Adam Van Roy with three felonies on Monday.
A Wisconsin Department of Justice Special Agent working with the Oneida County Sheriff's Office posed as a 19-year-old woman named 'Julia G' on several social media applications March 13-15. Van Roy, 36, started talking with 'Julia' during that time.
'Julia' soon told Van Roy she was actually only 15 years old.
The agent's notes show Van Roy asked 'Julia' for pictures, including nude images, and asked her "what do you like in the bedroom?"
MILWAUKEE - Officials say a man shot by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee police on campus is hospitalized in stable condition.
University Police Chief Joe LeMire said at a news conference Tuesday two officers found the man, armed with a gun, sleeping on a bench in the Fine Arts Complex building around 7 a.m., an altercation occurred and he was shot. The police officers were treated for minor injuries.
We talk to a snowplow driver in Lincoln County who says he was attacked with a baseball bat after accidently knocking down a mailbox.
We'll take you to the ribbon cutting for a new utility garage in Stevens Point and show you some sustainable design features that are part of the facility including the largest solar array in Central Wisconsin.
And we'll speak with a water testing specialist in Crandon to go over the importance of testing groundwater especially after there has been flooding in the area.
We'll bring you this and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.
MERRILL - The Merrill Area Public School District will need to replace its school board's vice president.
Eric Geiss emailed his resignation to Board President Kevin Blake, announcing he would step down immediately. Geiss cited personal reasons for his decision.
"I regret any inconvenience that my resignation may cause," Geiss said in his email, which was relayed to Newswatch 12 through the MAPS Administrative Office. "I have enjoyed the experience and am honored to have worked with you in service of the students and the district, helping transform the board's reputation and community relationships. I do believe we have done very good things for our kids, the future of the district and the community."
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