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United Sportsmen grant controversy far from over

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MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) - Do you remember that half-million dollar sportsman grant that almost went to a Wisconsin group to promote hunting and fishing? The grant has been stopped, but the issue has created a bit of a firestorm at the Capitol.

The grant was awarded to United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, Inc. by the Department of Natural Resources as part of the budget, but later rescinded by Governor Scott Walker. Many Democrats complained the recipient wasn’t well qualified to promote the outdoors, and was nothing more than a Republican action group.

Information has surfaced showing the grant probably should never have gone through the budget process at all. Legislators on both sides of the isle are upset they were not told about two letters from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service explaining that the $500,000 grant would have endangered Wisconsin’s ability to receive $28-million dollars a year in federal wildlife protection funding.

One of the Legislators furious about the letters to DNR Deputy Secretary Matt Moroney being kept secret during the budget process is Democrat Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point. Shankland says Governor Walker’s administration willfully moved forward with the grant during the budget knowing the risk to federal wildlife funds. “It appears that the Walker administration failed to do their due diligence and informing all members of the Legislature of this issue, specifically members of the Joint Finance Committee who voted to approve this $500,000 grant without knowing that we would be losing $28 million dollars in funds.”

Shankland says knowing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had weighed in on the issue in June, the grant should never have proceeded through the budget process. “I think this shows that they deliberately obfuscated and prevented information from coming to light in the Legislature, and if we are going to act on behalf of the public, with the public’s trust, we need to be fully equipped with information that other branches of government, other members of government, and the DNR should be prepared to give to us at all times.”

When asked if this issue will come up soon in a committee meeting, Shankland says, “It better.” She added, “I think this isn’t over. As a member of the Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage Committee in the Assembly, I’ll be following this issue very closely, and at the very least, we need an apology.”

Another Legislator upset about this is Republican Senator Rob Cowles from Allouez. Cowles says lawmakers should not be finding out about potentially costly problems with a state budget provision months after the budget was signed, and that this whole situation raises serious questions.

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