Wisconsin DNR to delay Mercer staff move
November 7, 2019
MERCER, Wis. — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said it will delay reassigning fisheries staff to Ashland by a year.
The Wisconsin DNR said in October that programmatic changes would eventually transition permanent staff positions from field offices to service centers around the state. Two full-time fisheries biologists who currently work out of Mercer, agreed voluntarily to move to the Ashland service center early after learning the positions would be moved there after they retired or left.
That timeline has been updated based on conversations with the Mercer community, said Scott Loomans, division administrator for the Fish, Wildlife and Parks program of the Wisconsin DNR office in Madison.
“We’ve heard some of the concerns in the community,” he said by phone Friday. “We’re slowing down the timeline of the move and that would not be happening before the summer of 2020.”
That doesn’t mean the Wisconsin DNR has changed its plans, he said. The timeline is slowing down and that will allow the Mercer office to take some more time in the transition, he said.
The Mercer field office will continue to use the fisheries staff of the Ashland staff. Biologists from surrounding field stations in Woodruff, Park Falls and Spooner would be available as they are now along with any seasonal part-time fisheries technician at the Mercer field office.
“That is good news for me and I’ll take it. A year is a year,” said John Sendra, chair of the town of Mercer Board of Supervisors. “I still think they are making a mistake moving them to Ashland, economically, morally and job wise.”
Sendra said he had heard there might be a delay in the move after discussing the topic with Wisconsin state Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Mason. The delay is nice but it doesn’t help very much in the bigger picture, he said.
“I hate to lose those people and I don’t think they should go,” Sendra said. “They should be in their territory.”
Sendra said it does not make sense to move fisheries staff who are inland lakes specialists to a post at Lake Superior. He said Iron County and the Mercer area has 494 lakes to manage as compared to 84 lakes in Ashland County.
The fishery management staff have worked out of Mercer for 39 years, he said. The field office specialists are also needed for the Mercer area that is a destination outdoor recreation tourism area, he said.
The Mercer field office is slated to have a new ranger station facility in the state budget to provide more space for offices, certification training space for hunting and other programs. It will also have heated garage space for all-year storage of firefighting vehicles that contain water tanks.