Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bear hounders in line for record payouts from cash-starved DNR

Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Wisconsin Legislature have in recent Department of Natural Resources budgets intentionally degraded the agency and its mission by selling off public land, stripping general budget operating funding from state parks while raising trail, camping and entrance fees (yeah, that purportedly 'no-tax-increase' GOP gang loves its conveniently selective rhetoric), slashing or de-funding science staff positions and, to be small-mindedly consistent, will consider a 2017-'19 DNR budget that further reduces agency work and personnel.

Selling state park naming rights is another possibility floated by the agency's designated 'chamber of commerce mentality chief administrator to compensate for the ideologically-driven budget reduction which Walker, the Legislature and agency officials are teaming up to achieve as they move the DNR farther from its science and public health role to corporate and campaign donor service.

So when your favorite but-cashed starved camp site is overgrown with weeds but costs more to visit, or welcomes you to the Donut Acres Trail or Acme Insecticide State Park, you might consider that a legislatively-approved, DNR-managed state program initially begun in the 1980's to reimburse farmers for livestock lost to wolves also pays bear and other hunters up to $2,500 per off-leash hound killed by wolves during bear hunting or pre-season 'training.'

The total paid for lost hounds to hounders - - even to scofflaws or repeat collectors or those who let their hounds loose in known wolf activity areas or on land where bear bait also attracts wolves - -  was $600,000 through December, 2015, records show, with $161,000 paid out just in the last three years.

There have been 37 hounds killed off leash during bear hunting or 'training' this year by wolves including Black and Tan hounds like this one - - 
Black and Tan Coonhound.jpg
- - a record toll already to date that will push potential payments soon past $100,000 with the bear hunting season weeks from its close before another round of 'training' runs is allowed, in a vicious and costly cycle.

That's a lot of state funding, and, yes the money originates with various hunting fees, but the exclusion of that money from state parks or other DNR programs further drains away dollars which could enrich the wider public's enjoyment of land, fresh water and clean air.

But this sliver of the hunting population has effectively established for itself a special-interest public piggy bank filled with DNR funds that helps enable bloody wolf-hound encounters which come with shooting bears that been chased up trees - - all legal in Wisconsin.

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