By Rachel Roberts
To many, climate change is an important, critical and urgent topic. To others, like the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, talking about it is simply a waste of time.
Last Tuesday, the three-person Wisconsin Board of Commissions of Public Lands voted 2-1 to ban staff members from discussing climate change while on the job. The board is made up of Secretary of State Doug LaFollette (D), Attorney General Brad Schimel (R) and Treasurer Matt Adamczyk (R).
The only member of the board to vote against the measure was LaFollette., who said Republicans are attempting to “gag employees” on climate change. LaFollette said in an interview that not only have the impacts of climate change on forests been well documented, but the agency’s management of land should also utilize experts familiar with forestry and the environment. He also accused of Adamczyk of having personal motivations for instituting the ban.
Adamczyk disagreed, however, saying, “Why should the staff have to talk about it [climate change]? I don’t think that’s our role there. It has nothing to do with our agency… It’s not part of our sole mission, which is to make money for our beneficiaries. That’s what I want our employees working on. That’s it. Managing out trust funds.”
This issue was brought to a vote as Adamczyk was concerned that Tia Nelson, the board’s Executive Director, had served as the co-chair from 2007-2008 of former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle’s global warming task force. For reference, Nelson is the daughter of Gaylord Nelson; a former Wisconsin governor, U.S. senator and the founder of Earth Day.
As for Tia Nelson’s opinion on all of this, “It honestly never occurred to me that being asked by a sitting governor to serve on a citizen task force would be objectionable.”
If there is anything to be learned from Wisconsin, it is that we need to continue to hold our government officials accountable for policies regarding climate change. If our officials can’t talk about climate change because it is regarded as “taboo,” policies to improve the environment can’t be appropriately instituted.
According to the official records, in the end, the Wisconsin Board of Public Lands spent a total of 19 minutes and 29 seconds discussing climate change.