Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine Slated for Closure

Silencing Science Tracker

Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine Slated for Closure

On February 8, 2017, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker published his “recommended budget for the 2017-19 biennium.” In the budget, the Governor proposed “ceasing publication of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine, effective after the winter 2018 edition.” The magazine, which is published every two months by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), provides information on environmental issues in the state. As of December 2016, it had 84,000 subscribers, whose fees cover the costs of publication. DRN officials have, however, reportedly expressed concern that staff “lose time from core duties when they work on articles and that subscription revenue doesn’t make up for the lost hours.” Some have also argued that DNR could reach more people, more cheaply, through social media.

Supporters of the magazine argue that it provides vital information to Wisconsinites, particularly older ones, who make limited use of the internet. Some have claimed that, in closing the magazine, Governor Walker is attempting to limit discussion of climate change and other topics he disagrees with. They note that, since Governor Walker took office, magazine articles have been subject to closer scrutiny. An ex-editor of the magazine, Natasha Kusslke, told reporters:

“When Walker’s administration came in, I was required to show all stories, all text, all photos to the entire department leadership team for review. And through that process, I have several stories that were either edited [down], changed, or at times even killed.”

Ms. Kusslke has expressed concern that the decision to close the magazine was politically motivated, stating:

“My gut tells me [halting publication of the magazine] is part of a continuing agenda to create a vacuum and black out information on very important environmental issues and an anti-science agenda.”

UpdateOn May  31, 2017, a majority of the Wisconsin legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted to retain the magazine. However, in a 12-4 vote, the committee approved a proposal to cut publication of the magazine from six issues per year to four. The committee also voted to eliminate one full time position and require DNR’s communications director to serve as editor of the magazine.


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