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Fred Prehn has brought shame and embarrassment to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. He has tarnished a nationally-admired reputation for bi-partisan environmental protection and natural resource conservation.
Prehn should leave the Natural Resources Board, the state Senate should confirm his replacement and Wisconsin voters should hold the Republican obstructionists who have facilitated his “seat-squatting” antics accountable in the next election.
Prehn’s term on the DNR board expired in May of 2021. Republican legislators have not even scheduled a public hearing on his replacement much less voted to confirm his qualified, competent successor.
In spite of Tony Evers defeat of the governor who appointed Prehn to the DNR board, Prehn has refused to give up the seat when his term ended, citing an obscure court-ruling that is being appealed while the obstruction continues.
Wisconsin has had a more than 50-year tradition of keeping partisan politics out of DNR board deliberations in order to serve the common good. The result has been a Dept. Of Natural Resources admired throughout America, effective management of our resources by professional staff and clean air and water.
Prehn’s obstructionist squatting in a seat that no longer belongs to him is tarnishing more than Wisconsin’s fleeting image for effective resource management. It will soon impact not only our wolf population but, more importantly, the quality of the water we drink.
That’s because Prehn rejects the recommendations of professional DNR game management staff in order to promote excessive hunting, financially fueling his personal gun and ammunition side-line business in Wausau.
He has also become a lap dog for the Wisconsin Association of Manufacturers and Commerce by opposing efforts to adopt safe drinking water standards. At a recent DNR public hearing in Madison Prehn mocked regulation of PFAS, or forever chemicals, that are polluting wells throughout the state. He mercilessly mocked the mayor of his own city as if he were a third-grade playground bully.
His more than $37,000 in campaign donations to Scott Walker and Republicans appears to be his primary qualification for appointment to the DNR board. It’s certainly not scientific background or the civility of his conduct.
His behavior is proof that the Wisconsin model of bi-partisan resource management no longer works. Petty partisan politics and the influence of insidious campaign donations have placed Prehn in a position where the quality of the water we drink is no longer assured. That is reason enough to demand he step aside and allow the long-overdue seating of his replacement.
If Prehn keeps squatting, the only solution may be the dissolution of the Natural Resources Board and its replacement with a stronger role for the department secretary. Fifty years of resource management and environmental protection by some of the smartest career professionals in their fields is now jeopardized by a sore-loser dentist who won’t leave a seat almost one year after his term expired.
Tell Fred Prehn Tony Evers won the election and it’s time for him to go. If not, his legacy may well be the end of board governance of the DNR and its replacement with a more powerful appointee of the governor.
That’s my opinion. I’d like to hear yours.
Roger Utnehmer, Wausau
President, Nicolet Broadcasting, Inc.