Friday, January 22, 2021

WI Natural Resource Board votes against immediate wolf hunt

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board at its special meeting Friday voted 4-3 against establishing an immediate wolf hunt that would have begun no later than February 10.

What sank the motion was the board being told by staff and its legal counsel that an immediate hunt with quotas established without required consultation with Wisconsin's native tribal bands would likely not comply with a controlling Federal court ruling known as the Voight decision that affirmed tribal rights established by treaties with the US government.

Below is a running blog post I'd been updating for a couple of days:


WI Natural Resource Board is now considering immediate wolf hunt

1:45 p.m. update - the Board is poised to open the hunt in February, but DNR staff is saying it has not yet had the required consultation on kill quotas with the native tribal bands required by a controlling federal court ruling.

12:25 p.m. update - the Board has closed public testimony which began at 8:30 a.m. and will reconvene its discussion at 12:40 p.m. 

It can take a range of options, from no action to approval of a wolf hunt that could begin before the end of this month.


I am Zoom-watching the Wisconsin Natural Resource Board's meeting on gray wolf hunting -

Wisconsin is killing its wolves

- as I noted this week, but I failed to emphasize that what is on the agenda is implementing an immediate wolf hunt.

Even though Wisconsin state law mandates a single annual hunt beginning in November, as was the case when previous hunts were legal between 2012 and 2014.

The entire matter is back before state regulators because the federal government removed in the closing days of the Trump administration the gray wolf from protected status.

The board oversees the DNR - and the agency does not support an immediate hunt, so it remains to be seen whether the agency position or the oversight board position will carry the day.

Walker appointees still make up the Board's majority. 

Testimony so far reflects long-standing differences in positions between hunting interests and legislative backers, like now-US Cong. Tom Tiffany, (R), and opponents from environmental organizations, and native tribal bands which consider wolves to be their brethren.

Since Wisconsin created its original wolf management plan decades ago there have been advances in awareness of the benefits wolves' bring into the wild.

These benefits have been made more relevant by climate change pressures on forests, water and wildlife, and also by wolves ability to control the spread of deer sickened by naturally removing diseased animals.

It has been pointed today by opponents that holding a rushed hunt right now with little advance notice and based on an outdated plan would trigger litigation a) by disregarding the tribal bands' treaty rights, and b) by disrupting and endangering wolf packs during breeding season.

All of which could fuel pressure on the Biden administration to renew protections for wolves by proving that states would implement wolf hunts based on outdated science and rushed and inadequate public input.

Further 1/22/2021 update:

I am pleased to add this statement by Atty. Jodi Habush Sinykin on behalf of Midwest Environmental Advocates:

To:          Wisconsin Natural Resources Board

From:  Jodi Habush Sinykin, Of Counsel, Midwest Environmental Advocates

Date:  January 20, 2021

Re:          Statement in Opposition to Mid-Winter Wolf Hunt 2021

Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony outlining the consequences of Wisconsin authorizing a rash and unsound 2021 wolf hunting and trapping season.  

With wolves only recently returned to state management, Wisconsin would be wise to take it slow and smart with respect to management of this iconic species.

Rushing to establish a wolf hunting and trapping season in the absence of an updated state management plan and wide public support will accomplish little, other than invite heightened controversy and litigation. 

In order for state governments like Wisconsin to prove their capability to manage wolves in the absence of federal protections, our state must first demonstrate a strong commitment to science-based and representative wildlife management in keeping with Wisconsin’s public trust obligations.

At the present time, our state is in no position to meet this threshold. The biological and social science underlying Wisconsin’s 1999 Wolf Management Plan is critically outdated. Wisconsin citizens and our state’s scientists have yet to be afforded the opportunity to provide substantive input. Consultation with the Tribes, required by law, has not been done. 

Indeed, state decisions pertaining to wolves, particularly state-authorized hunting and trapping seasons and management plans, must be the product of a democratic and transparent process to ensure that a range of representative viewpoints are recognized. 

We need only look to Minnesota, who has wisely invested the time needed to conduct an inclusive, science-driven, and transparent process to update their 2001 wolf plan before initiating a wolf hunting season. Wisconsin should do no less.

Act 169’s wolf harvest mandate already compromises the state’s and Tribes ability to manage wolves in a sustainable and socially acceptable manner. A premature move to reinstate wolf hunting and trapping season in Wisconsin underscores these actionable shortfalls and effectively disenfranchises Tribal nations within Wisconsin’s borders and non-consumptive wildlife users—a course of action that is sure to invite legal challenges at the national and state level.

Accordingly, we ask that members of the Natural Resources Board act judiciously, mindful of good governance and best science, and refrain from backing an immediate wolf hunting and trapping season in Wisconsin.


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