Saturday, January 6, 2018

WI's GOP conservation opponents want legalized wolf poaching; hearing Wed., 1/10

Here comes the Wisconsin wolf-killing caucus again.

Despite a drop in confirmed losses of livestock and pets to depredation by wolves, the anti-DNR tag team of GOP State Sen. Tom Tiffany and GOP State Rep. Adam Jarchow are leading an effort to end all prohibitions against wolf hunting in Wisconsin and stop any DNR scientific or law enforcement role in wolf 'management.'

I wrote about this "whiff of vigilantism and secession" in November when the proposal surfaced, and, regrettably, it is coming up for a committee vote next 
Wednesday, January 10th, at 10 AM, in Room 412 East of the State Capitol.

The committee, Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage, is chaired by Waukesha County State GOP Rep. Joel Kleefisch, the highest-profile hunting enthusiast in the Legislature and original lead proponent of recent state-approved, dog-assisted wolf hunts.

Fuller history, here:
How the Wisconsin wolf hunt came into being three years ago speaks volumes about the victory of politics over science over public-interest conservation policy-making.
It's an ugly history about a reality that is at odds with the state's strong environmental traditions - - a partisan, politically-prescribed failure visible elsewhere in deliberately-weakened enforcement, fresh pollution and other abuses now routine across the state's waters, land and air since Republicans and their corporate sponsors took control of the Legislature and the rest of state government in the Walker era...
Remember that the wolf-hunt was implemented by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources quickly at the Legislature's behest, and in part by the agency through its "emergency" rule-making authority that shortcut obviously important assessment of all the issues - - a ploy that allowed the controversial use of dogs against wolves in the hunt and in pre-hunt, disruptive hunting dog training sought by special hunting-and-gun interests.
Dogs in wolf-hunting - - which puts both animals in fighting positions - - is a Wisconsin-only practice among the states.
Except there was no emergency facing the DNR, as noted at the time - - except if that's how you define it to please the conservative, pro-Walker special interests that pushed for the hunt defined by little science and few restrictions.
The pending wolf-poaching bill should not be seen in isolation, as it is being pushed by the same special interests and some of the same GOP legislators who gave Foxconn permission to fill wetlands and alter the landscape at will, fast-tracked the toxic, sulfide mining bill to Walker's desk, want to privatize state wildlife and greatly restrict the authority of DNR wardens and open a million acres of state-protected wetlands to developmentsince what's good for Foxconn will now sought by the private sector statewide.

And these special interests and their legislative bellhops want break up the DNR to bury its mission, legacy and accumulated expertise, wisdom and practical science which, like the water and the wildlife and clean air are being given away and otherwise degraded belong to all the people.

You can't correctly call this wrecking crew "conservatives." They are for conserving nothing, for passing along nothing. 

To them, from Walker on down, they are exploiters, destroyers of the commons, seizing and consuming what is not theirs to filch.

Why don't these public sector nihilists be consistent, return their taxpayer-paid salaries and resign?

Wolf hunting in Wisconsin has been barred by a federal court since 2014, and earlier sanctioned Wisconsin wolf hunting seasons and practices raised a host of questions.

Wisconsin was the only state in the US to allow dogs in the hunt, and allowed kills which exceeded the quotas which had been established, according to this news story.

Here is the heart of their bill
This bill prohibits a law enforcement officer from enforcing a federal or state law that relates to the management of the wolf population in this state or that prohibits the killing of wolf in this state. The bill also prohibits DNR from expending any funds for the purpose of managing the wolf population in this state other than for the purpose of making payments under the endangered resources program to persons who apply for reimbursement for certain damage caused by wolves and prohibits DNR from taking any action to inform or support federal law enforcement officers regarding the enforcement of any federal or state law relating to wolves. 
gray wolf
An Associated Press account of the bill late last year said this:

The Republican lawmakers — Reps. Adam Jarchow, Mary Felzkowski and Romaine Quinn, along with Sen. Tom a memo to their colleagues seeking co-sponsors that wolves “have taken over northern Wisconsin.” “They are depredating our deer population, killing livestock and attacking family pets,” they said in the memo...
Online DNR records show that so far this year there have been 39 confirmed wolf attacks on hunting dogs, cattle, sheep and one pet dog. The DNR recorded 76 confirmed wolf attacks in 2016.
The DNR has also debunked the belief that wolves are causing a shortage of deer available to Wisconsin hunters, noting that winter weather and collisions with vehicles kill many more deer than do wolves.

Fresh facts, analysis and expert commentary, here:
Wolves obviously eat deer. According to most experts, an adult wolf will consume the equivalent of 20 adult-sized deer annually.
But when compared to other sources of deer mortality in Wisconsin, wolves rank down the list...
The leading causes of deer mortality in the state, as Wisconsin wildlife managers have long said, are human hunters and severe winters.
Also undermining the claims that wolves are ruining the deer hunt: the DNR late last year noted that despite a increase in the size of the Wisconsin deer herd, fewer hunters were participating, according to the Journal Sentinel:
In the last 35 years, the only year with a lower nine-day gun kill was 2014, according to DNR officials. 
The harvest that year was 192,111.
The 2017 deer kill was down despite a statewide herd that was likely larger this year, according to DNR preseason forecasts. 
So the question is: Will Wisconsin, without data or science or argument to back unrestricted wolf hunting further extend its status as a wolf-hunting outlier and risk federal funding that supports many hunting, fishing and wildlife habitat programs as the state has withdrawn operating and staffing funds from the DNR budget to approve state-sanctioned wolf poaching?

I strongly recommend reading an analysis of the bill by GreenFire, a voluntary, non-partisan organization of Wisconsin conservationists, as the organization is highlighting consequences of the bill which go beyond obvious problems with its frontal attack on science and the DNR in the name of wide-open wolf-shooting:
This legislative proposal would eliminate DNR research, monitoring and management of gray wolves not directly related to wolf depredation until federal delisting occurs. Scientific work that would be eliminated includes annual wolf population monitoring and winter population estimates, radio-collaring of wolves, and monitoring of diseases in the wolf population. Research into wolf monitoring cost efficiency and improved population estimate procedures would stop. This legislation complicates the work of law enforcement officers, raises the risk of future litigation with Wisconsin’s Chippewa Tribes over co-management status, and could jeopardize Wisconsin’s continued eligibility to receive federal Pittman-Robertson funding: 
This legislation would jeopardize Wisconsin’s ability to receive federal Wildlife Restoration Grants commonly referred to as Pittman Robertson (PR) funds. If enacted, the legislation would prevent enforcement of the illegal killing of wolves, as well as scientific population monitoring and management by DNR. Wisconsin’s eligibility for these funds is contingent on DNR having the legal authority to properly manage wildlife populations within the state. It is likely that the USFWS would need to review WDNR’s ability to properly manage Wisconsin’s gray wolf population. A negative finding would result in Wisconsin’s loss of these important PR-funds.
Pittman-Robertson grants, Wisconsin’s share of the federal excise taxes on hunting equipment, are used to monitor wildlife populations, undertake research, and manage wildlife habitat for a wide range of species. In 2017, Wisconsin received over $19 million grant dollars which was nearly 14% of the total revenue to the state’s Fish & Wildlife Account. Loss of these grant funds would require DNR to lay off staff and eliminate wildlife management activities.
To date the DNR has invested staff resources and funding in citizen science initiatives cited in this paper. These programs help reduce the costs of wolf monitoring and management. Lack of continuity in citizen science training will reduce the effectiveness of volunteers and would increase start up costs in the future. 
You might also read one of many studies showing that wolves as the top predator improve the broader health and stability of the ecosystem.


Golden Eagles said...

This is pandering to the rural vote that depends on revenue from deer hunting that is a dying sport. It’s a sadistic attack on innocent wolves to gain votes.

Jim Perry said...

Thank you for referencing our analysis of this proposed legislation. This is a highly charged issue that fits exactly the scientific and natural-resources expertise of the professionals on Wisconsin's Green Fire: Voices for Conservation. And incidentally, we have done an analysis on the wetlands legislation as well. We will be testifying at the 10 January hearing, and welcome any questions of comments. Someone needed to step in to fill the void after the DNR's scientists were muzzled.

I invite every person who sees the need to for science-based natural resource decision making to join the more than 300 current members of WGF and help our cause. Please see and click on "DONATE" to download the membership form.

Jim Perry, Vice President
Wisconsin's Green Fire: Voices for Conservation

Anonymous said...

Did WGF comment on the wetlands application and EIS for the Kohler golf course? The comment period has passed but a few well written editorials would be welcome.