Sportsmen, farmers seek a wolf hunt bill

Editor

Madison At least seven conservation and farm groups have joined
forces with the hopes of getting the state’s legislators to pass a
bill next session that supports public wolf harvest.

Representatives from the seven groups met Oct. 20 in Plover and
crafted orders for George Meyer and Ron Kuehn to walk the halls of
the state Capitol to find legislators willing to offer such a bill.
Meyer is the former DNR secretary and is currently the executive
director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. Kuehn is a Madison
lawyer hired as a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Cattleman’s
Association.

“We have been talking to many groups over the last year and all
groups were interested in dealing with this issue,” Meyer said.
“Looking at it from a timing standpoint, 2005 is the time to go
forward with this legislation. Some would like us to wait for
federal delisting to take place, but that may well take a year, and
then we’re into the second session of the Legislature and it’s
difficult to get anything passed that late. Then we’d be sitting
for two more years.”

The idea to seek legislation supporting wolf harvest got rolling
when Meyer talked with Eric Koens, a beef producer from Bruce who
has spent a several years working on wolf committees.

“We’re not going to be doing anything to change the state’s wolf
plan,” Koens said. “If you look at Appendix J (the part of the wolf
plan that discusses public harvest), we won’t change that. We don’t
want to conflict with federal delisting.

“But, it is imperative to get this in line now if we want
anything to happen in the next year or two,” he said. “It’s
important to get this done as soon as possible.”

Appendix J was written by the DNR in 1999 at the direction of
the Natural Resources Board. The board did not include Appendix J
as part of the formal plan, but it does outline the DNR’s approach
to public wolf harvest at some point in the future.

“We need to proceed here with a public harvest plan as soon as
possible,” said Steve Oestreicher, Conservation Congress chairman.
“There are folks who are certainly against that, but if those folks
are truly serious about this management plan, then they need to
roll their sleeves up and work with us, not against us. We are not
going to let wolf numbers go unchecked, it’s just that simple. By
the same token, hunters and trappers will never allow wolves to be
eliminated from the landscape. These are conservation-minded
people.”

The groups that took part in the Oct. 20 meeting included the
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, the
Wisconsin Bowhunters Association, the Conservation Congress, the
Wisconsin Cattleman’s Association, the Wisconsin Trappers
Association, and the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association. John
Olson, the DNR’s furbearer ecologist, represented the DNR.

“I think many wildlife biologists in the DNR believe many of the
tools in the management plan are not adequate to address
depredation issues,” Meyer said. “The government trapping and the
landowner permits, many people think, will not be adequate to deal
with all of the depredation problems.

“We have pointed out to the NRB that the recovery program has
been successful beyond the initial projections,” he said. “There is
a full range of management tools available to manage any species,
from protected status to game status, that are needed here.”

“This is just another piece of the puzzle,” Koens said. “The
plan already talks about eventual harvest.”

Koens and Meyer say the legislation will not define a season
framework. The DNR would do that later, through the administrative
rule process.

However, the draft bill does specify the following: It calls for
a license fee ($10 for application, harvest tag would be $100);
sets up an appropriation process so the money is used for
education, depredation, and management of system; requires that
anyone drawing a harvest permit would have to take a one-day
education program on wolves before getting the permit; a hunter or
trapper must have a hunting or trapping license to make the wolf
harvest tag valid.

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