Employees of a state agency that oversees public lands and helps fund school libraries in Wisconsin are not allowed to talk about climate change on the job anymore. They are not even allowed to email about it. The issue was brought up during a meeting this Tuesday, when Republican State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, who also sits on Wisconsin's Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL), began what some board members are calling a “witch hunt” of the board's executive secretary, Tia Nelson, according to Bloomberg.
At the public land board's Tuesday meeting, Adamczyk criticized Nelson, who worked on a climate change task force from 2007 to 2008 at the request of then-Governor Jim Doyle, who is a Democrat. Adamczyk accused Nelson of stealing the company's time by co-authoring a report on policy recommendations for how the state should address climate change while working on state time, according to The Guardian. Although there is crossover between Nelson's work for the board and the work she did on the task force, Adamczyk alleged that she should not have been working on the task force during her hours in the board's office. Nelson has not yet responded to Bustle’s request for comment.
Prior to joining the land board, Nelson ran the Nature Conservancy’s climate change initiative for 17 years, according to Bloomberg, so it makes sense that Governor Doyle wanted her to be a part of Wisconsin’s potential climate change legislation. But this logic apparently doesn’t appeal to Adamczyk, who said that climate change work just isn’t a part of the board’s mission. He told Bloomberg on a conference call:
It’s not a 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 our trust funds.
According to Bloomberg, the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands passed the ban on “engaging in global warming or climate change work while on BCPL time” on Tuesday with a 2-1 vote. The one board member who voted against the ban was Wisconsin’s Secretary of State, Doug LaFollette. In a phone interview with Bustle, LaFollette said Nelson’s work with climate change was completely relevant to what the board does, and that the ban is part of Adamczyk's larger “vendetta” against her. He said:
There are a lot of timber associations in northern Wisconsin who are currently discussing climate change, and because we own land and we do timbering, it would be very appropriate for her to be involved in those discussions, in my opinion.
LaFollette said the board’s trust funds were designed a century ago to help fund public education with money made through the sale of Wisconsin land, which was granted by the federal government years ago. The interest the board makes from its loans to locals schools and Wisconsin communities goes back to funding school libraries. But, because the agency continues to receive some income from timber industries, climate change is an important issue for it.
Despite this connection, LaFollette said Adamczyk has been out to get Nelson from the time he entered office. He said Adamczyk made a motion to fire Nelson after alleging that she stole company time while working on the climate change task force. The motion failed on a 2-1 vote. Then, LaFollette said, Adamczyk didn’t want Nelson’s name on the letterhead of the board’s stationery. Lastly, he was upset with her for subscribing the board to The New York Times, “because it wasn’t appropriate,” LaFollette said. (Adamczyk didn't respond to Bustle's request for comment.)
Now, if Nelson receives an email about climate change, “she can forward it to us, and we can all look at it. I would prefer that we didn’t have to prohibit stuff like this. It just seems silly that we would have to. But I’m not the one that’s been engaging on this topic for years,” Adamczyk told Bloomberg.
Nelson quickly corrected him, pointing out that she hasn’t engaged in climate change work since being on the task force in 2008, but she thinks she attended a timber industry management conference about climate change a couple of years ago.
This ban comes after Florida’s governor recently banned state employees from using the words “global warming” and “climate change.” LaFollette, an environmental scientist prior to being elected, said it was a very sad thing when government officials want to “play games with” one of the most serious issues of the next few decades. He said:
This is one more example of petty elected officials not being willing to admit that climate change is an issue that we should be concerned about, and whether it’s the governor of Florida with his ideas or whether it’s now the state treasurer of Wisconsin, or any of these candidates running for president — they want to deny that this is an issue.
Images: Getty Images (5)