DNR’s new public input process helping citizens shape agency direction

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MADISON – Wisconsin residents are taking advantage of a new process adopted by the Natural Resources Board for providing public input in helping shape the direction of the Department of Natural Resources.

Department Secretary Cathy Stepp spoke this week at the board’s final 2014 meeting and provided an update on the new policy, noting that since the agency implemented the process in early 2013, more than 80 percent of the completed guidance the agency posted on its web site received public comments.

“And we didn’t just ask for comments, we listened,” said Stepp. “Most of the documents that received public comment were changed due to that input. That’s another big step toward transparency for us, and something we want to continue.”

Stepp said every year the department develops guidance to help staff make decisions and implement programs when they don’t have specific details in laws or codes, such as guidance on issuing air or water quality permits and implementing fish & wildlife initiatives.

In the past, however, Stepp noted that agency stakeholders felt the DNR was making decisions and implementing programs that directly impacted customers without those individuals or businesses either being notified or being able to provide input into the process.

“Now we have something in place that can helps us change that perception,” said Stepp. “And from the early returns, it seems to be working.”

Step said from early 2013 to fall 2014, there were 104 documents posted on the DNR’s web site for public comment. For guidance the agency completed, 82 percent received public comments and, according to Stepp, 84 percent of the documents receiving public comment were changed due to that input.

Information on the new guidance development process is available by going to the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and typing in the keywords “program guidance.” An example of program guidance is also posted on the department’s web page.

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