Deer feeding back for the summer; ban could return

Editor

Madison Game on. Or is it game off? Keeping track as to whether
or not it is legal to feed deer took more confusing turns the last
week or two, but, as of May 1, it is again legal to feed deer no
restrictions, no limits.

For now.

That could change on either Aug. 1 or Sept. 1 depending on a
couple of things: 1) whether the permanent ban on deer baiting and
feeding makes it through Senate and Assembly review with no changes
to the Natural Resources Board’s (NRB) rule passed April 24; and 2)
if the DNR can get the rule published in the state register by Aug.
1 or Sept. 1.

As of press time, the Senate and Assembly committees that review
natural resources issues had set a joint hearing date of Wednesday,
May 14 for the NRB permanent CWD rule, which includes the deer
baiting and feeding ban. The hearing is tentatively set to begin at
10 a.m. in Room 411 South in the state Capitol. On that day, Sen.
Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) and Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud (R-Eastman) will
bring their committees together to hear testimony from the DNR and
sportsmen regarding the NRB rule.

If neither chairman calls for a vote from their committee, the
rule will pass that hurdle, then moves on to DNR staff, who must
then finish the rule language and get it published in the Wisconsin
Administrative Register, which comes out twice a month. If the rule
passes Senate and Assembly review, the DNR would like to put the
rule in place by Aug. 1.

The DNR would have to submit the rule to the “revisor of
statutes” by June 10 for an Aug. 1 effective date by being
published in the register. July 10 would be the deadline for a
Sept. 1 effective date.

Neither Johnsrud nor Kedzie were saying much about the rule last
week.

“DuWayne has never had any secrets on where he stands on
(feeding and baiting),” said his assistant, Scott Loomans.

Dan Johnson, the clerk for Kedzie’s Senate Environmental
Committee, noted that Kedzie is separating baiting from
feeding.

“Those are two components. Everyone keeps putting together those
words, baiting and feeding, as one topic, but they are clearly two
separate issues,” Johnson said. “We’ve been hearing from folks all
across the state. It’s difficult to take a position or find a
compromise. Even finding compromise is going to cause controversy.
We’re absorbing a lot of information right now. We’re trying to get
a grasp on all of the groups being created just over this topic
alone.

“It’s confusing as to where support and opposition lies. I don’t
think this is going to be an easy decision for legislators. Senator
Kedzie is a hunter, he has never hunted over bait, he but
understands that people have a concern about viewing deer on their
property. That opens questions of landowner rights that we’re going
to have to answer in some fashion.”

Emergency rule relaxed

The NRB voted 4-3 to approve the DNR permanent CWD rule on April
24. That same day, the NRB was asked by the Joint Committee on
Review of Administrative Rule (JCRAR) to consider its compromise on
the emergency rule that would allow baiting and feeding in northern
Wisconsin.

Board members disagreed over the JCRAR request, but after
hearing from six scientists on April 21-22 that feeding and baiting
could make it easier for diseases to spread, the board again voted
4-3 to “respectfully decline” to accept the JCRAR’s offer to
compromise on the emergency rule.

That meant the JCRAR had to decide whether or not to extend the
baiting/feeding ban portion of the emergency rule through the
summer. The JCRAR had set an April 30 deadline for that portion of
the emergency rule, hoping that the NRB would come around to its
way of thinking. When the NRB did not accept the JCRAR compromise,
Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) said the JCRAR opted not to take
up the topic before May 1, meaning the emergency rule
feeding/baiting ban expired that day.

“Baiting and feeding deer raises the risk of disease
transmission,” said Tom Hauge, DNR director of wildlife management.
“The emergency ban enacted by the NRB last summer, and continuation
of that ban by permanent rule, was endorsed April 21 by a panel of
nationally recognized wildlife health and CWD experts.”

Add Bill Smith, deputy secretary at for the DNR: “As part of its
vote to approve a continued ban on baiting and feeding, the NRB
also respectfully requested that the JCRAR consider extending the
emergency baiting and feeding ban. JCRAR did not extend the
emergency rule so we have a gap from May 1 to September.”

“Between now and September, we’re asking the public’s help in
controlling spread of disease by voluntarily not feeding deer. It’s
important for the health of the herd,” Hauge said. “We’re very
close to the end of our CWD testing effort, and it appears that the
disease is contained to a relatively small area west of Madison.
Voluntarily not feeding deer through the summer will help to limit
the spread of CWD and other diseases.”

Grothman said he is not worried about the disease popping up
somewhere outside of the two CWD zones this summer because the
JCRAR did not extend the emergency ban.

“I believe that DNR attitude is there is no hunting season, so
baiting is not a problem and feeding will be minimal between now
and then,” he said. “Don’t but the onus on me. I called for the NRB
to meet again. I wanted feeding outside the zone, the NRB didn’t.
If the NRB had done what we wanted them to do, we wouldn’t have
this mess. I would have gone to Hwy. 64 (as a boundary). I was
willing to compromise, but the DNR board was bullheaded on this.
Three times we met, three times we made it clear we don’t want this
to be a permanent thing. This was ultimately a negotiation; they
should have come back.

“If they (NRB) believe feeding is a problem, why wouldn’t they
want to reach a compromise with JCRAR. Compromise, this is a
political world,” he said.

On April 24, NRB members struggled with their final decision
after hearing from more than 50 people who spent most of the day
testifying before the board. NRB chairman Trig Solberg, vice
chairman Jim Tiefenthaler and member Stephen Willett tried to amend
the DNR rule to allow limited baiting and feeding, by permit, in
northern Wisconsin. Tiefenthaler’s amendment did not pass.

Board members Herb Behnke, Gerald O’Brien, Dan Poulson and
Jonathan Ela pointed to comments from six national wildlife disease
experts as their reason for voting in favor of the DNR rule.

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