Gov. Tony Evers has appointed dairy farmer Paul Buhr to the Natural Resources Board, giving him five picks on the seven-member body.

Bill Bruins’ early resignation came a week after Wausau dentist Fred Prehn, another appointee of GOP Gov. Scott Walker, resigned in December after refusing to step down once his appointment expired in May 2021. Prehn’s continued service kept the board controlled 4-3 by Walker appointees.

Now, in less than three weeks, it has flipped to a 5-2 Evers majority.

Bruins was originally appointed to the board in 2011 and reappointed in 2017 to another six-year term, which wasn’t set to expire until May.

Evers in a statement said Buhr has dedicated himself to ensuring farmers and resources are protected.

“He is a strong advocate and champion for land and water conservation, and he understands that protecting our environment and family farms is a priority for Wisconsin’s future,” Evers said. “I look forward to working with him and have no doubt he will bring a vast amount of knowledge to the DNR board.”

Evers also could be on the verge of replacing the final two Walker appointees to the board.

Chair Greg Kazmierski previously told he would ask to be reappointed to the board with his term expiring in May, but likely wouldn’t try to stay on if the guv didn’t do so. Meanwhile, Terry Hilgenberg said he hadn’t made a decision. His term also expires in May.

Buhr will join four other Evers appointees on the board: Sharon Adams, Bill Smith, Marcy West and Sandra Naas. Naas was able to join after former board chair Prehn’s resignation last month. The state Supreme Court over the summer upheld precedent that gubernatorial appointees can continue to serve so long as the Senate has not approved their replacements.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, has expressed openness to confirming some of Evers’ appointees, but has voiced skepticism about the Dem guv’s choices for the Natural Resources Board. The Senate last session declined to have a hearing on the nominations of Naas and Adams.

Bruins resigned via a phone conversation in late December, less than a week after Prehn left the board.

DNR Deputy Secretary Sarah Barry sent Bruins an email Dec. 29 summarizing a phone conversation earlier that day in which he indicated plans to resign, effective immediately. She followed up with the email to confirm that decision.

Bruins wrote back the next day, “Thank you.” without expanding further.

See the email exchange:

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