Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is an agency of the state of Wisconsin charged with conserving and managing Wisconsin's natural resources.[1] The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board has the authority to set policy for the WDNR. The WDNR is led by the Secretary, who is appointed by the Governor of Wisconsin.[2] The WDNR develops regulations and guidance in accordance with laws passed by the Wisconsin Legislature. It administers wildlife, fish, forests, endangered resources, air, water, waste, and other issues related to natural resources. The central office of the WDNR is located in downtown Madison, near the state capitol.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Building.jpg
Headquarters in Madison
Agency overview
Headquarters101 S. Webster St. Madison, Wisconsin 53707
Annual budget$550.3 million for 2018-2019
Agency executive


The mission of the WDNR is “To protect and enhance our natural resources: our air, land and water; our wildlife, fish and forests and the ecosystems that sustain all life. To provide a healthy, sustainable environment and a full range of outdoor opportunities. To ensure the right of all people to use and enjoy these resources in their work and leisure. To work with people to understand each other’s views and to carry out the public will. And in this partnership consider the future and generations to follow.” [3]


The WDNR was created through the 1967 merger of two Wisconsin state agencies: The Conservation Department and The Department of Resource Development. This merger was designed to reduce the number of agencies and streamline operations. The governor at the time was Warren P. Knowles.[4]

The WDNR is currently led by the Secretary, Preston Cole, who was appointed to the post by governor Tony Evers in 2018.

Wisconsin Natural Resources BoardEdit

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board is the governing body of the WDNR. This board is filled by the Governor, who appoints seven individual members to serve without compensation. The appointments made by the Governor are confirmed by the state senate, and each board member serves a six-year staggered term. The role of the board members is to supervise the actions of the WDNR, make policy, and review the biennial budget.[4]


The WDNR is funded through the state budget, which is set by the Wisconsin Legislature. The WDNR presents a biennial budget to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board for their review and approval. This budget reflects potential changes in the number of Full-Time Equivalent employees (FTE), as well as the overall operating budget the WDNR anticipates needing. The 2017-2019 budget, enacted by the Wisconsin Legislature, decreased the WDNR budget approximately 2.5% in relation to the 2016-2017 base year. The budget allows for $1.1 billion in funding for the WDNR over this two-year period. The 2017-2019 biennial budget also includes a decrease of 49.5 FTE, bringing department staffing to 2,499.6 FTE employees.[5] Staffing for the WDNR decreased by 15% between 2000-2001 and 2017-2019, under both Democratic and Republican administrations.[6]


Environmental Management Division: “The Environmental Management (EM) Division protects human health and the environment by working in partnership with the communities, citizens, businesses and advocacy groups”. This division uses information about the environment such as the air and water to create a more conservation based protection over the different resources. The division is continually working to improve the information obtained through feedback and self-evaluation of different projects or policies implemented.

  • This division consists of six programs:
    • Air Management
    • Drinking Water & Groundwater
    • Office of Great Waters
    • Remediation & Redevelopment
    • Waste & Materials Management
    • Water Quality[7]

External Services Division: The External Services Division was created though the Department of Natural Resources 2016 and 2017 alignment initiative. This division consists of: Watershed Management, Environmental Analysis & Sustainability, Customer & Outreach Services, and Community Financial Assistance. “The purpose of this diverse program is to serve as a primary point of contact for businesses, local government and the public." Through this division, a well-rounded integration of the local government and public are reached. In collaboration with other divisions and other agencies, the WDNR is able to apply more parameters when it comes to making a decision about a project or other initiatives.[8]

The Green Tier Program, a voluntary program set up by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, provides state businesses with the opportunity to bring economics and the environment together.[9] As of March 2018, 73 corporations and companies are Green Tier participants, including 3M, ABB Inc., Frito-Lay, and Roundy's Supermarkets, Inc.[10] Green Tier includes multiple new charters which includes Legacy Communities - a Smart Growth partnership with an aim to assist communities to develop sustainability strategies at the local level.[11]

Fish, Wildlife, & Parks Division: “The Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Division plans and directs activities to protect, manage, conserve, and wisely use Wisconsin’s lands, plants, wildlife, fisheries and recreation resources”. Though monitoring and establishing objectives about the wildlife populations, the division is able to gain a better understanding of the population numbers in an area to help make management decisions about a species. Along with a better understanding of wildlife populations, this division is able to preserve and protect future generations of species. These objectives and monitoring will also allow more statewide recreational and conservation activities.[12] The Wisconsin Conservation Warden Service is tasked with handling law enforcement duties for the WDNR.[13][14] Seven Wisconsin Conservation Wardens have died in the line of duty since 1928.[15]

  • Programs within this division are:
    • Parks and Recreation Management
    • Wildlife Management
    • Natural Heritage Conservation
    • Fisheries Management
    • Office of Applied Science
    • Office of Business Services.[12]

Directory of State Parks, Forests, & Natural Areas

  • Wisconsin is home to:
    • 50 State Parks
    • 9 State Forests
    • 9 State Recreation Areas
    • 44 State Trails[16]
    • 687 Natural Areas[17]

Forestry Division: “The Forestry Division protects and sustains forested lands throughout the state, combining technical and financial assistance, planning, research, education and policy to sustain the forest for today and in the future." It covers 17.1 million acres of forest. The forest provides a lot of ecological services that are very beneficial such as timber products, nutrient cycling, habitat for wildlife, clean air, etc. Preserving the forest is therefore a crucial objective that has the potential to enhance our environment. Many outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing can be benefited through the maintenance and preservation of our state’s forests.

  • This division consists of eight programs:
    • Forest Health
    • Forest Products Services
    • Forest Protection
    • Prescribed Fire
    • Privately Owned Forest Lands
    • Public Lands
    • Reforestation
    • Urban Forests[18]

Internal Services Division: “The Internal Services Division serves internal and external customers of the department, which is responsible for Facility and Property Services, Human Resources, Fleet Management, Budget and Finance and Information Technology."[19]

Volunteer opportunitiesEdit

The WDNR provides volunteer opportunities for those interested in natural resources, including Adopt a Fish and Wildlife Area, Wisconsin State Park System, State Natural Areas Volunteer Program, Monitoring, and Safety & Education. Through the Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation, citizens can help care for Wisconsin’s public lands and native landscapes. Citizens can also help scientists monitor Wisconsin's plants, animals, water, weather, and soils, or become a volunteer instructor to help and influence other resource users.[20]

Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Recreation: Veterans are eligible for special benefits from the WDNR to honor their service. These may include reduced fees, resident fees for active duty service members, and eligibility for certain hunts.[21]

Wisconsin Conservation CongressEdit

The Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) advises the WDNR and Natural Resources Board on managing the state's natural resources. The WCC is composed of citizen-elected delegates including five members of an executive committee, 22 members of a district leadership council, 360 county delegates (five per county), and the general public.[22] The WCC was created in 1934.[23] The WCC provides citizens an opportunity to give input and discuss conservation issues.[24]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "About the WDNR". Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  2. ^ "Wisconsin Natural Resources Board - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
  3. ^ "Mission - About the DNR - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
  4. ^ a b Thomas, Christine (Spring 1991). "One Hundred Twenty Years of Citizen Involvement with the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board" (PDF). Environmental History Review. 15: 61–81 – via WDNR.
  5. ^ "Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 2017-2019 State Budget" (PDF). Wisconsin Legislature. pp. 434–477. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  6. ^ Journal, Steven Verburg | Wisconsin State. "Depleted DNR's reorganization appears cosmetic, former secretary says". madison.com. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
  7. ^ "Environmental Management Division - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov.
  8. ^ "External Services Division - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov.
  9. ^ Green Tier: An Overview of Performance-Based Environmental Management. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Published March, 2006. http://dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/cea/environmental/documents/description.pdf. Retrieved 2009-5-20
  10. ^ "Green Tier participants, charters and applicants - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov.
  11. ^ "Website". greentiercommunities.org.
  12. ^ a b "Fish, Wildlife, & Parks Division - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov.
  13. ^ "Wisconsin conservation wardens, forest rangers to see big changes from DNR alignment - Outdoornews". 30 November 2016.
  14. ^ WFL. "Warden Recruitment - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov.
  15. ^ "Law Enforcement". dnr.wi.gov.
  16. ^ "Find a State Park, Forest, Recreation Area or Trail - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov.
  17. ^ "State Natural Areas Program - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov.
  18. ^ "Forestry Division". dnr.wi.gov.
  19. ^ "Internal Services Division". dnr.wi.gov.
  20. ^ "Volunteer opportunities - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov.
  21. ^ "Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs WDVA Federal Claims Assistance". dva.state.wi.us.
  22. ^ "Wisconsin Conservation Congress organizational structure - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov.
  23. ^ "Wisconsin Conservation Congress history - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov.
  24. ^ "Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring hearing - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov.

External linksEdit