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DNR Announces Major Reorganization

The state Department of Natural Resources announced a major reorganization Tuesday, including plans to turn over some politically sensitive areas of environmental regulation to a unit of the agency that bills itself as a "one-stop shop for business assistance."

Walker has directed Stepp to reform the agency and make it more user-friendly to everyone from weekend anglers to real estate developers. Stepp has briefed Walker's office periodically, but she said the governor and his staff played no role in the changes.

She emphasized no changes in regulations are planned.

Stepp said the DNR's workload is growing, due to federal mandates and emerging issues, such as new fish and wildlife diseases and the surge in large dairy farms.

Meanwhile, those who pay for fishing and hunting licenses are demanding better fishing and hunting opportunities, and parties needing environmental permits want the DNR to become more responsive, she said.

In a plan outlined to employees Tuesday afternoon, the DNR would consolidate many responsibilities for water and air pollution into a single division and streamline other areas. Other water regulation functions would be housed with air regulation under the theory that many air and water matters are coordinated with the DNR's federal counterpart — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Also to be housed under business support and external services, at least for now, is the Bureau of Science Services, which conducts research for the agency.

Among the changes outlined by officials:

■Merging fish, wildlife and parks into a single division. The three areas were housed in three different divisions.

■Merging air regulation, landfill regulation, many facets of water regulation and the Office of the Great Lakes into a single division. Air and water issues were previously operated in different units.

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