Bucky Weasel: Environmental Rodent Model
By Steven Verburg
The Wisconsin State Journal (3/4/17)
Hundreds of phone calls and emails voicing shock, outrage and ridicule flooded state Department of Natural Resources offices in December after top managers deleted language from the DNR website that had described the urgency of addressing human activity that has accelerated climate change.
Some DNR employees handling the public reaction expressed frustration as managers waited days before telling them how to respond, and then provided a script that treated the altered web pages as a routine update.
Documents released to the Wisconsin State Journal under the state open records law show how the DNR tried to manage the outpouring that was unleashed after a blogger discovered the rewritten climate change pages around Christmas and the word spread through other news outlets.
DNR employees were sending the word that the public wasn’t buying the scripted response they’d been given.
Dozens of callers blamed Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who appointed the top executives at the DNR after taking office in 2011.
“You should stand for science and truth, and the truth is that climate change is an accepted fact among the vast majority of the scientific community,” said Michelle Lovrine in a Dec. 30 email. “It’s bad enough the Walker administration has been systematically gutting the actual scientists out of the DNR. Now your website is resorting to classic political doublespeak by distorting and disguising the issue of climate change. It’s a shame to say the least.”
Incredulous, sometimes mocking comments came in. Emails had subject lines like “Seriously?” and “Disappointment and shame.”
“Shame on your agency for misrepresenting the facts,” said Robert King, a Montana resident who sent his message through the DNR comment page.
A DNR employee told a supervisor it was hard to stick to the official DNR response because she was trained as a scientist and knew there was essentially no scientific debate about the cause of climate change.
“It is difficult for me to respond to concerned citizens (by) saying the cause of climate change … is debated, especially when I represent a scientific agency,” the employee, Holly Harpster, said in an email to a supervisor. “I understand that I need to comply with the DNR response. Thank you for listening to my concern.”
While the controversy was raging, DNR spokesman Jim Dick declined to grant interviews explaining the change.
In January, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said the web site was changed in response to repeated demands made by a writer for a newspaper in northern Wisconsin who claims the causes of climate change are unproven. …