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Sen. Tom Tiffany says he asked governor for DNR job cuts

Sen. Tom Tiffany says he asked governor for DNR job cuts

State Sen. Tom Tiffany has owned up to asking for job cuts to DNR scientists, who he has said focus too much on climate change.

On Friday’s Devil’s Advocate radio show, the Hazelhurst Republican said he asked Gov. Scott Walker and his staff to include a provision in the state budget axing approximately 17 positions from the Department of Natural Resources’ Science Services Bureau.

“Yes,” he said in responding to a question asking him if he requested the cuts.

Some observers believed Tiffany was behind the cuts, which are in Walker’s budget. The measure prompted layoff notices for 27 staffers in the science bureau, as well as 30 others in the DNR's communications and education section. Tiffany didn’t respond to phone and email messages for a Capital Times story last week on his involvement in the job cuts.

But he told the Devil’s Advocate’s Mike Crute and Dominic Salvia that his concerns about the scientists’ handling of deer management and policies regarding predators such as bobcats, as well as work on climate change, prompted his request.

“I’m one out of 33 in the state Senate,” he said. “I don’t pretend for a minute that it’s things that I’ve been saying that move the governor to do this. They made this decision on their own. But I’ve certainly told him, his staff and others that there’s real concerns here. I mean, I regularly message this in my district. It’s nothing new.”

Tiffany, who called climate change “theoretical” both in the past and on Friday’s radio program, conceded that climate change exists.

“Climate change, climate variability, is happening,” he said. “I mean, all you have to do is look at the climatic record. It clearly is. The problem I have is the people that are promoting anthropogenic global warming, that man is causing global warming. I don’t think that’s proven.”

Tiffany maintained that climate “variability,” the warming and cooling of the earth’s temperature, is a phenomenon that “goes back from the late 1800s to now.”

Scientists began keeping track of global temperatures in 1880, and 2014 was the hottest year on record. But recent data show that March of this year was the warmest March on record during those 136 years, and the first quarter of 2015 is the warmest quarter on record.

DNR scientists have studied the effects of rising temperatures on issues like trout management, tree cover and pest infiltration. Scientists maintain that management of such resources has to take climate change into account.

But Tiffany said there’s no scientific reason to set policy based on climate changes.

“It happens,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that man is causing global warming, and it doesn’t mean that we should have these significant shifts in public policy without having proof that we are causing this.”

Tiffany has also taken aim at the scientists for their work pointing out environmental issues with the Gogebic iron mine in the Penokee Hills in Iron County, a now-abandoned project that Tiffany backed. And he’s blamed scientists for unnecessarily low bobcat quotas and deer management practices that he said have decimated the deer herd in northern Wisconsin.

"I’m critical of science services," he said. "I don’t think they’ve used good science. And I’ve got to tell you, they’ve done big-time harm here to my district here in northern Wisconsin."

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.