Public Records Request
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is committed to the principles of open government and accountability. All persons are entitled access to records in the possession of the DNR. All records created or received by the DNR and its employees in connection with the transaction of public business are subject to public inspection. The working principle is that unless a record is specifically exempt from this requirement, the record shall be released to the public.
Requesting DNR records
Email is the preferred and most efficient way to submit public records requests. Requests can be submitted to DNRRecordsResponse@wisconsin.gov. You can find suggestions below on "Making efficient requests." The DNR also has many records available online. See below for links to online databases.
While email is the preferred method of making requests, requests can be made in any format. Requests received after 5 p.m. will begin to be processed the next business day. For convenience, we have a form available to assist in making requests Open Records Request Form 9500-096. This form is not required to make a request. If you are unable to open the above form, please feel free to submit your public records request in the body of an email and send the request to DNRRecordsResponse@wisconsin.gov.
If you are seeking to obtain a duplicate copy of your hunter’s safety certification, see certificate replacement for instructions to obtain your safety certificate.
Public records fees
The DNR releases records to authorized photocopy firms that will make copies of records for you, and bill you directly at their standard rate. For all but very small jobs, this is the most efficient and cost-effective method. For in house copying the department charges the fees listed below. Some requests will require a fee for locating records.
We will review your request and contact you if a fee will be required to locate records responsive to your request, which the DNR has the authority to pre-bill for public records requests, per Wis. Stat. § 19.35(3)(f). Applicable fees must be paid before the request can be fulfilled.
|Per page fee for copying and printing||$0.0113 per page (Black & white, Paper printed on both sides equals two pages)
$0.0512 per page (Color, Paper printed on both sides equal two pages)
|Per page fee for scanning||Fee waived|
|Location fee||$25.00 per hour if the cost is $50 or more*|
|CD/DVD/diskette/flash drive (each)||actual and direct cost|
|Photographic work, reproduction, transcription||actual and direct cost|
|Postage for mailing or shipping||actual and direct cost|
- The agency will not charge for the cost of reviewing records for possible redaction or removal of confidential information, in compliance with the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. City of Milwaukee, 2012 WI 65, 341 Wis. 2d 607.
- Reproduction costs will not be charged on a per-page basis if the agency provides electronic copies of records that already existed in electronic format.
*If the hourly rate of salary and fringe benefits for lowest paid employee capable of locating records is less than $25.00 per hour it must be billed at that employee's hourly rate.
Making efficient requests
When submitting a public records request, be sure to provide enough information so we can efficiently process your request. Suggestions to help expedite your request include:
- Make the request specific. Vague requests for "any and all records" on a general topic tend to be very time consuming and may be costly. Making requests as specific as possible will cut down on the time required to process requests and will likely decrease or potentially eliminate fees.
- Whenever possible include a date or date range.
- Requesting Environmental Records (including Phase I ESA)
- Records are not managed by facility, rather they are managed by individual programs. Therefore requests for "any and all environmental records" for a facility are very inefficient. We need to know what types of records you are seeking in order to make sure we include all relevant programs in our search. Example: Please provide all records on leaking above ground storage tanks, leaking underground storage tanks, hazardous waste, storm water, wells, asbestos, closure reports for XYZ Facility from January 2013 through June 2013.
- Email requests
- The most efficient way to make requests for emails is to identify the specific staff whose email you would like searched and provide a subject, keywords or key phrases. Example: Please provide emails sent by John Smith from July 7, 2016 to July 28, 2016 including the key words "bird" and "migration."
- Other information
- Provide any other relevant information you have. Examples: permit number, citation number, facility ID# number, BRRTS# activity number, subject name, date of birth.)
Can questions be answered under the public records law?
Asking questions, which are not requests for records, is not covered under the public records law. Questions are better directed to specific DNR staff. To locate appropriate DNR staff in regions and bureaus, use the DNR Staff Directory to search by subject.
DNR online databases and program information
The DNR website provides a great deal of information about DNR activities and can provide direct access to this information as well as records related to these activities, operations and decisions. You may find this information using the search feature.
DNR databases for environmental records regarding properties in Wisconsin.
- Air Permits
- Air Quality & Health
- Drinking Water & Groundwater
Includes high capacity wells, public contaminants, public water systems, well construction and the groundwater retrieval network.
- Environmental cleanup & brownfields redevelopment
- Environmental Protection & Enforcement
- Hazardous substance spills
- Waste Management
- Water Permits
- Customer lists - hunting & fishing licenses/permits and vehicle registrations
DNR policies, procedures, guidance and resources
- Chapter 19.31-39, Wis. Stats.
- Public Records Resources, Wisconsin Department of Justice
- Manual Code 9521.1, Open Records Policy & Procedures Management
- Manual Code 9522.1, Email, Electronic Records & the Records Laws
- Manual Code 9523.1, Records Management
- Public Notice - Access to DNR Records & Fees
- DNR Open Records Coordinator Guide
- Public Records Process Flow Chart
- "Is This a simple Public Records Request?"
The department public records coordinator maintains general information to help requesters locate records and provides policy and procedural information to comply with the records laws. For questions you can call 608-266-2177 or email DNRRecordsResponse@wisconsin.gov.
- Contact information
- For additional advice and assistance, contact:
- DNR Open Records Coordinator