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League of Women Voters: Gerrymandering is harming environmental protection in Wisconsin

This story was originally published in WUWM 89.7.

The Wisconsin DNR Board meets Wednesday for potential action on a new management plan for the state's grey wolf population.

Several new board members are expected to be on hand, having been appointed just last week by Gov. Tony Evers (D). That was soon after the Republican-controlled State Senate kicked four other Evers' appointees off the seven-person panel, which is also called the Natural Resources Board.

The firings came up later last week at a State Capitol hearing, where dozens of citizens blasted a GOP-written plan to change how legislative districts are drawn, and indicated they don't trust Republicans to set up more competitive elections.

Debra Cronmiller is executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. She testified that a gerrymandered legislature is failing to do its work.

"For example, we need a Natural Resources Board to establish a groundwater standard for PFAS (synthetic chemicals known per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in Wisconsin. Only the DNR can do this. Infants, young children, adults throughout the state need these protections from these dangerous toxic chemicals. We need to authorize the funds for testing and remediation and we need to hold polluters accountable, so Wisconsin taxpayers do not pay the whole bill," Cronmiller said.

Sen. Romaine Quinn (R- Rice Lake) said he doesn't believe his Northern Wisconsin district is gerrymandered, and told Cronmiller that he disputes whether gerrymandering influences legislative actions like removing DNR Board members.

"Can't you just concede the fact that maybe we have a disagreement on the qualification or maybe the ideas of that person? That maybe we'd like to see someone else on that board? Versus, we're insulated from the people? Like, how do you know I voted against those NRB Board members and I wasn't actually representing my district?" Quinn asked.

Cronmiller replied there's a certain irony to the timing of the Senate's move, just ahead of a possible vote on a controversial wolf plan, and with the PFAS issue pending, and that citizens need the legislature to help provide governance.

Legislative hearing audio provided by Wisconsin Eye.