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Wisconsinites this spring will get their first taste of any differences in the state’s management of its deer herd under the new Department of Natural Resources secretary.

Cathy Stepp took over the agency in January as one of Gov. Scott Walker’s appointments. She vowed to streamline the process for companies seeking regulatory permits and improve DNR’s customer service while “preserving a healthy environment and natural resources for our quality of life.”

She takes over an agency criticized for its approach to deer management, particularly after the state’s gun deer harvest declined roughly 30 percent in 2009.
Critics say the DNR years has been too conservative in setting population goals for the herd in recent, resulting in a poor hunt.

During lat year’s gubernatorial campaign, Walker charged that the decline in the deer harvest was the result of “mismanagement.” Even members of the Assembly committee that handle herd-related issues have disagreed on whether the state correctly manages the herd.

Stepp, a former state senator who has hunted turkey, told a newspaper in late January “how we manage deer in Wisconsin will always be controversial because we have so many stakeholders. ... maybe we’re going to have to look at different ways of managing deer going forward.”

But she indicated that more public input is needed before DNR could determine whether specific changes are needed.

The DNR this month will hold forums around the state to share information with constituents regarding deer management.

They’re scheduled before the April 11 public hearings in which people interested in resource management can provide their input to the Department of Natural Resources, Natural Resources Board and the Conservation Congress on proposed hunting and fishing rule changes.

Find a meeting in your county here.

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