Gov. Walker’s plan to scrap Natural Resources magazine, forestry mill tax a big mistake

Governor Scott Walker’s proposed 2017-2019 state budget would end Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, which is totally self-supported by its 88,000 subscribers and not save a dime of tax revenues, and put the state’s forestry program in jeopardy by eliminating the state’s mill tax. (Photo by Tim Eisele)

Governor Scott Walker has put a Trojan horse into his budget.

The elimination of the Department of Natural Resources‘ popular magazine, Natural Resources, has attracted attention from many people who enjoy the magazine and don’t want to see the magazine scrapped.

The proposal makes little sense because the magazine is totally self-supporting from subscription fees, it helps DNR communicate with the public and educates people about natural resource issues.

The Governor’s spokesperson said it no longer fits the DNR’s mission, which used to involve natural resources education.

But killing the magazine was probably meant to draw attention away from the much larger proposal to eliminate funding of the state’s forestry program with the mill tax and temporarily fund it with General Purpose Revenues (GPR) — income taxes and sales taxes.

By eliminating the mill tax from every resident’s property tax bill, the governor builds brownie points so that the next time he runs for president he can proclaim that he took all state taxes off of people’s property tax statements.

The problem is that the mill tax is what has kept Wisconsin a leader in forestry. It provides 80 percent of funding for the DNR forestry division, including fighting forest fires, identifying invasive pests, and growing trees at state nurseries. It also funds $13 million per year for the debt on the Knowles/Nelson Stewardship program.

Wisconsin landowners have benefitted from having a DNR forester in each county who will come out to their land and provide sound forestry advice.

The state has been a leader in sustainable forestry, but when funding is switched to GPR, nothing is certain. Look no further than two years ago when the governor and legislature eliminated all GPR funding for Wisconsin’s state parks.

Carol Nielsen, DNR retired forester, knows that stable funding of the mill tax kept Wisconsin a forestry leader. She watched as other forestry programs in northeast states declined when state tax revenues were cut.

Dan Pubanz, private forestry consultant, said nobody can understand how a GPR subsidized program will benefit the state.

Legislators need to hear from people concerned about sustainable forestry and the little-known mill tax elimination that’s been slipped into the budget.

And while you are at it, take out a subscription for $8.97 to Natural Resources magazine (P.O. Box 7191, Madison, WI 53707) to make it difficult for legislators to kill a totally self-supporting educational magazine.

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