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Cedarburg Beech Forest, Wisconsin State Natural Area #61, Ozaukee County. (Image Credit: Joshua Mayer)

Cedarburg Beech Forest, Wisconsin State Natural Area #61, Ozaukee County. This is the kind of area the BCPL looks after. (Image Credit: Joshua Mayer)

Wisconsin seems to have taken a page out of Florida’s self-destructive playbook. The Badger State is now the second in the country to have banned the words “climate change” from leaving its government employees’ lips.

Earlier this week, the panel that oversees Wisconsin’s Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) voted to ban staff members from discussing global warming and climate change. The panel voted 2-1 on the ban, with its lone Democrat the lone dissenting vote.

Milwaukee’s Journal-Sentinel reported that the ban is a result of a “bitter feud” between two Board members: Republican State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk and the Board’s executive secretary Tia Nelson.

Prior to serving on the BCPL, Nelson, the daughter of Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, oversaw The Nature Conservancy’s climate change initiative. Between 2007 and 2008, Nelson co-chaired a global warming task force at the behest of then-Governor Jim Doyle. This seems to have greatly annoyed Adamczyk, despite occurring half a decade ago. The Treasurer’s contention is whether or not Nelson used personal or BCPL time to work on the task force.

On Tuesday, the Board met to discuss the issue (the minutes of the meeting are publicly available online). Adamczyk said Nelson’s participation in the task force was a “waste of time” and that he was concerned her views were not consistent with the Board’s.

During the meeting, Doug La Follette, the Board’s Chair, said he was opposed to the discussion, which “bordered on the ‘edge of an impossible witch hunt’…he did not want to be a part of.”

“It honestly never occurred to me that being asked by a sitting governor to serve on a citizen task force would be objectionable,” Nelson later said.

It certainly seems to fall inside the BCPL’s wheelhouse. As part of its duties, the Board oversees the state’s income-producing land, which includes contributing to a sustainable timber economy, combatting forest fragmentation, protecting natural areas and securing public access to large blocks of northern forests.

Yet as of this week the BCPL is now prohibited from “engaging in global warming or climate change” discussions.

La Follette told NextGen Climate what he thought of that: “We’ve reached the point now where we’re going to try to gag employees from talking about issues. In this case, climate change. That’s as bad as the governor of Florida recently telling his staff that they could not use the words ‘climate change.’”

Last month, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting discovered that Florida officials have been unofficially banned from using the words “climate change” or “global warming” ever since Governor Rick “I’m not a scientist” Scott took office.

NextGen Climate, a pro-science political group, has decried Wisconsin’s ban and accused the state’s governor of being in the pocket of the Koch brothers.

“This surely comes as good news to Koch-funded Governor Scott Walker who has signaled he wants to be the candidate for the Climate Change Denial Caucus,” said NextGen. “Walker has signed a Koch-backed anti-climate pledge, raised money for the Heartland Institute, an organization that spreads climate misinformation, and even dislikes recycling. You can bet NextGen Climate will be putting Governor Walker on the ‘Hot Seat.’”

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