The Journal Sentinel ran a curious editorial today in support of the Natural Resources Board move last week to fix the upcoming wolf hunt kill quota at 156.
The paper is comfortable with the "reasonable" figure because it takes a middle ground between the goals and views of wolf advocates who oppose the hunt and wolf hunting supporters who wanted a higher kill.
Editorials like this are not uncommon: 'No one's happy with the decision...so it must be the right call, etc.'
So I get that.
But what is troubling is that the editorial endorses the current quota that originated with a DNR advisory committee that will also play a key continuing role drafting a broad, wolf management plan based on a 1999 recommendation of 350 as the state's wolf population goal.
The wolf advisory committee had, until recently, been made up of a broad cross-section of interests that included both hunt opponents and proponents. It was called a stakeholder's group.
Well, stick a stake in that, as proponents were handed control of the committee when most of the opponents were booted off - - a situation explained in a recent Journal Sentinel op-ed and admitted to just last week by DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp in a media interview.
One link with context, the Stepp interview and the op-ed about the remade committee is here.
I'm surprised that the newspaper, in the face of these developments, would validate the work and the mission of such an advisory committee.
Where's the fairness and a true search for facts in that kind of a process by a public agency, let alone one dedicated to management of shared resources?
In fact, how about a committee with membership, like the wolf quota praised by the newspaper, that splits the number down the middle - - half opponents, half proponents - - with a priority on scientists from both sides.
Secondly, the goal of a statewide wolf population of 350 has been challenged as politicized, superficial, and outdated even by members of the wolf committee before Stepp remade it into a defacto wolf hunt support group, who objected as recently as last fall to the lack of transparency and science in the creation of the hunt by the Legislature and its implementation by the DNR.
Here is how one independent expert put it last year:
“My opinion is the 350 number is the one people who simply don’t like wolves have seized upon,” said Timothy Van Deelen, a wildlife ecologist and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who is not on the committee. “You have a lot of the stakeholders who don’t know the science or feel any obligation to the science.”That's the sort of opinion and information less likely to be heard or recommended by the remade advisory committee.
The paper should be calling for an independent, unbiased and scientific-based assessment that takes into account the last 15 years of wolf research.
If 1999 was the baseline defining sound government action and scientific focus, we'd still be planning for Y2K, no?
If we relied on 1999 standards, we'd be buying cars that met federal standards of 27.5 MPG instead of the 34.1 MPG that will be required of 2016 passenger vehicles.
We'd be following health standards that do not take into account the last 15 years of knowledge from research and science about cholesterol and sugar intake, or PTSD treatment, or weather and climate prediction.
We'd be telling veterans that the way that VA has been operating since 1999 is good enough for them, and for us, too.
Just because something was stated or believed in 1999 doesn't mean it's valid, let along set in stone; shouldn't the state's largest newspaper be calling for independent science to be used as the standard for the size of Wisconsin's wolf population - - living creatures over which the state has life and death power ostensibly for the benefit also of all the people in the state,?