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Open 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, whatever its form. 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 open records requests. Requests can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, see Portable Document Format help for assistance.
Open records fees
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. Applicable fees must be paid before the request can be fulfilled.
|Per page fee for copying and printing||15 cents per page (paper printed on both sides equals 2 pages)|
|Per page fee for scanning||7 cents per page (paper printed on both sides equals 2 pages)|
|Location fee||$25 per hour if the cost is $50 or more*|
|CD/DVD/diskette||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 per hour it must be billed at that employee’s hourly rate.
Making efficient requests
When submitting an open records request, be sure to provide enough information so we can efficiently process your request. Suggestions to help expedite your request:
- 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 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#, BRRTS#, Subject Name, Date of Birth, etc.)
Can I get questions answered under the open records law?
Asking questions, which are not requests for records, is not covered under the open records law. Questions are better directed to DNR staff. To locate appropriate DNR staff in regions and bureaus see staff 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
- Environmental cleanup & brownfields redevelopment
- Bureau of Remediation & Redevelopment Tracking System - BRRTS
- Bureau of Remediation & Redevelopment (RR) Sites Map
- Environmental Protection & Enforcement
- Hazardous substance spills
- Waste Management
- Groundwater & Enforcement Monitoring System - GEMS
- Solid & Hazardous Waste Information Management System - SHWIMS
- Water Permits
- Industrial Storm Water Permit Data
- Construction Site Storm Water Permit Data
- Municipal Storm Water Permit Data
- Customer lists - hunting & fishing licenses/permits and vehicle registrations
Includes high capacity wells, public contaminants, public water systems, well construction and the groundwater retrieval network.
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
- Open Records Process Flow Chart
- "Is this a simple open records request?"
The department open 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 email@example.com.