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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker goes from censorship to killing state nature magazine

According a Wisconsin DNR spokesperson, nixing the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine has "nothing to do with so-called controversial stories."

According a Wisconsin DNR spokesperson, nixing the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine has "nothing to do with so-called controversial stories."

Larry Sperling edited the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine for a quarter-century. His tenure with the bimonthly periodical from the state Department of Natural Resources ended in 2011, the same year GOP Gov. Scott Walker was elected.

The magazine feared no subject under Sperling. Its coverage included an array of contentious topics like shoreline development and climate change. 

Natasha Kassulke succeeded Sperling. Lost in the transition was the magazine's license to cover all things water and earth.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp often meddled. Under Walker's handpicked cabinet member an article about the state's endangered pine martens was killed. In 2015, a story on climate change and its impact on Wisconsin animals was kiboshed. 

A search of the magazine's archives shows there hasn't been a story regarding climate change or global warming in the past three years.

Walker now wants to kill the publication once and for all. 

His recently submitted budget has it ceasing publication in 2018. Cost savings of $300,000 annually and allowing the DNR to better focus on managing natural resources have been Walker's justifications for the move.  

Since the magazine pays for operations and staff through subscriptions, some Badger State residents say Walker's logic is bunk. Anti-environmental politics is the culprit behind scotching the journal, they counter. 

Kassulke worked at the magazine for about 15 years. She stepped down as editor last summer. 

"When Walker's administration came in," she says, "I was required to show all stories, all text, all photos to the entire department leadership team for review. And through that process, I have several stories that were either edited [down], changed, or at times even killed."

In February, Kassulke's story about feedlots and drinking water was supposed to be included in a magazine insert. It still hasn't been published.

"My gut tells me [halting the magazine] is part of a continuing agenda to create a vacuum and black out information on very important environmental issues and an anti-science agenda," she says. 

DNR spokesperson Jim Dick has repeatedly denied editorial content played a role in the decision.