The Kewaunee County Land & Water Conservation Committee has forwarded a resolution to the full County Board asking the state Department of Natural Resources to prioritize hiring a conservation warden dedicated to covering the county.
“It is important for the citizens of Kewaunee County to have a local conservation warden to address fish, game, recreation, and other environmental concerns,” the resolution reads.
The state’s decision to leave the local warden position open has been a sore spot for county leaders and residents for some time.
“I’ve been on the board six years, and there hasn’t been a warden here for those six years,” Supervisor Ron Paider said.
The state has been sending mixed messages, but they all point to someone being hired this year: Committee members said they’d heard a new warden might be hired after university students graduate this spring, or later this summer.
Supervisor Pat Benes, who attended the Local Emergency Planning Committee earlier Tuesday morning in the same building as Land & Water, said they had been told a person actually has been hired but would not be available to report to Kewaunee County until December, because of DNR staffing cuts in state parks.
“They took away the people from parks, so (wardens) all have to do an eight-hour shift in the park,” Benes said, “so he says you’ll have a representative here but if he’s assigned these park issues, you may have to wait for a warden to come out of Marinette County in case of a call.”
State Rep. Joel Kitchens, who attended the committee meeting, said he’s been told that applicants don’t want to come to Kewaunee County because of widely reported issues involving groundwater contamination and manure.
“(Graduates said) they didn’t go to school to do that, they want to deal with fish and wildlife, so Kewaunee County wasn’t a plum position,” Kitchens said, adding that DNR officials have “promised they would take someone from this year’s class and say, ‘You’re going to Kewaunee.’”
Supervisor Lee Luft said it may be true there have been highly publicized manure issues for the past three years or so.
“But we haven’t had a warden for six years, and there was very little in the news about our manure issues then,” Luft said. “It’s simply a matter of failure to fill the position.”
The County Board is expected to consider the resolution when it meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the County Administration Center, 810 Lincoln St., Kewaunee.