Tony Evers and Preston Cole (copy)

Gov. Tony Evers, left, and DNR Secretary Preston Cole, center in 2018.

The state Department of Natural Resources is still awaiting approval to fill two new science positions, jobs that were part of Gov. Tony Evers' repeated calls to "bring science back" to the agency.

But a DNR spokeswoman said she anticipates the positions will begin recruitment within a month — though the earliest the new hires could start is January 2020, or six months after the jobs were approved in the state budget. 

Evers signed the biennial spending plan, which included the posts, into law in early July. The governor originally requested five positions in all, as well as the creation of a new Natural Resources Science Bureau, which would be housed in DNR. 

But the Republican-controlled budget committee in May opted to scrap the bureau as well as three of the science positions that went with it. Still, lawmakers approved two new environmental management positions for PFAS-related research and other contaminants. 

One position is to be housed in the drinking and groundwater program, while the other is slotted for the water quality program. Evers, though, wanted to see two new positions for each of the programs, while the last new employee would be tasked with watershed management. 

Still, nearly four months after the budget was signed, DNR has yet to start hiring for them. 

DNR spokeswoman Raechelle Cline said that's because positions are subject to "several stages of approval before recruitment can begin." The agency, though, expects those jobs would begin recruitment within a month. But because the state doesn't begin new hires in December, she said the earliest they could start is January.

An Evers spokeswoman referred to the DNR for comment.

A couple positions that were added to the agency in the budget process have already seen some action on the hiring front. For example, half of the new positions to oversee large-scale farming operations have been filled, Cline said. 

The new positions — four total — seek to regulate concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. Evers sought to add five that would've been funded through CAFO fee increases, though the Joint Finance Committee disagreed

Instead, the committee transferred four positions from DNR environmental management roles to CAFO enforcement. Of those new jobs, those that have been hired include a permit reissuance coordinator, a part-time nonpoint hydrologist and a part-time nonpoint complex permit reviewer, per DNR.  

For the remaining posts — a nonpoint central permit intake specialist and a nonpoint engineer — Cline said recruitment will also begin next month.   

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Briana Reilly covers state government and politics for the Cap Times. She joined the staff in 2019, after working at Follow her on Twitter at @briana_reilly.