In a visible change of priorities, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has updated its website, including adding ‘Climate’ and removing ‘Business’ as headings on its home page.
The modifications went live at 8 p.m. Thursday, according to the agency.
The changes are the first to the website under the administration of Gov. Tony Evers, who took office in January 2019, and his appointed DNR leader, Secretary Preston Cole.
The updated website lists Hunting, Fishing, Parks, Climate, Environment, Forestry, Licenses and News across its header.
The previous rendition, designed under the administration of former Gov. Scott Walker and former DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, had Business listed first, followed by Licenses & Regulations, Recreation and Env. Protection.
Evers, a Democrat, defeated Walker, a two-term Republican, in the November 2018 election.
Aided by Republican majorities in the Assembly and Senate, Walker worked to streamline state government, cut taxes and reduce regulations, including cuts of the DNR staff and its budget.
The DNR’s website came under scrutiny in December 2016 when, under Walker and Stepp, the agency scrubbed its mention of climate change.
The ‘Business’ heading was also added under Walker and Stepp.
Friday’s update to the page is one of the most overt demonstrations of the differences between successive DNR administrations.
The ‘Climate’ tab includes a quote, all in capital letters, from Cole:
“CLIMATE CHANGE IS ONE OF THE DEFINING ISSUES OF OUR TIME. FROM SHIFTING WEATHER PATTERNS, INCREASES IN AVERAGE TEMPERATURE, HIGHER FREQUENCY AND INTENSITY OF RAINFALL TO HEAVIER SNOWFALLS, THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE DIRECTLY IMPACT WISCONSIN.”
The project to redesign the website began in June 2019 and was conducted entirely by agency employees, including web coordinators at offices across the state, said Sarah Hoye, DNR communications director.
The goal was to better serve the public, according to Hoye.
“Things get outdated with every website,” Hoye said. “We were looking to make things easier to use and access, and where necessary, update and present the best scientific information available.”
Hoye said the new website features improvements for smart phone users as well as for those with hearing or sight impairments.
Climate change was restored as an acknowledgement of the importance of the issue. The Evers administration has started a climate change task force, led by Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.
Business was removed from the website header but the DNR is still working closely with the business community, Hoye said.
“We just needed to bundle (business) in a way that made sense,” Hoye said. “We’re still here to support that part of our customer base.”
The updated website includes a “Business Resources” section.
George Meyer, a former DNR secretary and current head of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, thought the website update was positive.
“I think it’s a remarkable change and and helps put the science back into the DNR,” Meyer said. “We’ve had a void of leadership on many of the biggest issues facing conservation, and the changes I’ve seen on the agency’s website are very welcome.”