NWTF support of baiting is challenged

By Dean
Bortz

Editor

Madison – The emergence of a new conservation group and its
support for deer feeding and baiting has some sportsmen wondering
whether the group is legitimate, or a smoke screen for legislators
who believe their past support from hunters is slipping away as
more conservation groups ask for a statewide deer feeding and
baiting ban.

Although it’s not the only conservation group in this new
coalition, the Wisconsin State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey
Federation now finds itself in the middle of a mild controversy
because of its stated position on the feeding and baiting
issue.

Last week, members of several state conservation groups
contacted NWTF national headquarters asking for two things –
clarification on NWTF’s position on deer baiting and feeding, and
the dismissal of state chapter officers if, indeed, NWTF does
support baiting and feeding outside of the CWD zones.

At the same time, members of the new coalition weren’t exactly
in agreement NWTF’s position on baiting and feeding.

Here’s what happened: On March 27, Greg Kazmierski, of Buck Rub
Outfitters, in Pewaukee, addressed the Natural Resources Board
during the board’s listening session on deer feeding and baiting.
Kazmierski told the NRB he was there representing the Hunters’
Rights Coalition, which he later described as a loose-knit group
consisting of the NWTF, National Rifle Association, Dairyland
Chapter of Safari Club International, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters
Association, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, and Sporting
Heritage.

Kazmierski told NRB members that all of those groups support the
state’s existing deer feeding and baiting laws, and would oppose a
statewide ban.

As that information filtered out through the conservation
community during the next week, some sportsmen wondered why NWTF
would support baiting and feeding when turkey baiting is one of the
most common violations during the spring hunting season. Some
groups, including the Wisconsin Deer Hunters Association, contacted
Scott Maves, the NWTF state chapter president, to confirm the
chapter’s position.

Maves reviewed the state chapter’s action on the issue with WDHA
president Mark Toso, and confirmed NWTF’s position with Toso.

Toso then contacted NWTF’s national headquarters in Edgefield,
S.C., to see if the national leaders were aware of their state
chapter’s action. Toso noted that the NWTF’s national website
carries language opposing the baiting and feeding of turkeys.

Carl Brown, of the NWTF national office, replied to one query,
‘The state (chapter) did not come out against the existing no
baiting or feeding emergency law in the CWD area. In fact, they
would still support that as written. However, the state chapter
does not agree with the total removal of a long-standing regulation
on baiting and feeding throughout the entire state. There is
information that suggests this may not change the CWD problem in
Wisconsin. There are times when everyone can’t always agree, and
this may just be one of those cases.’

Brown’s response falls in line with what Kazmierski told NRB
members, and what Kazmierski also told Wisconsin Outdoor News in a
later interview. Kazmierski said HRB, of which the state NWTF
chapter is a member, would oppose any legislation that would create
any sort of ban on statewide deer feeding and baiting.

‘We’re going to support the current law as it is, without
change,’ Kazmierski said. ‘The law works fine. It addresses disease
just fine. I think we should keep everything we have. We would
oppose the Legislature if it (proposed a law change) for a ban.

‘Legal baiting does not stockpile deer, and there is no evidence
of bovine TB in our deer herd or cattle herd,’ he said.

In an interview with Maves on the same day, Maves offered a
different position than Brown and Kazmierski.

Maves said NWTF supports the baiting and feeding ban in the CWD
zones, and does support the current law in the remainder of the
state.

However, Maves said that if sportsmen were able to convince
legislators that a statewide baiting and feeding ban is needed –
and legislators proposed that law change – the NWTF would support
that position.

‘As long as they (legislators) do that, we’re OK with that,’
Maves said. ‘Whatever comes out of the Legislature, we will abide
by.’

Toso has suggested that HRC was created to lend support to Rep.
Scott Gunderson, the chairman of the Assembly Natural Resources
Committee. Gunderson authored the current baiting and feeding law
that sets a 2-gallon limit. A number of statewide conservation
groups have come out in favor of a statewide ban since January,
after bovine TB was discovered in Minnesota, and after DNR chief
warden Randy Stark delivered his report on problems associated with
both practices.

Since then, Gunderson has been working on language to keep the
existing law, but increase fines and license revocations for
violators.

Maves and Kazmierski said HRC is not a ‘front group’ working on
behalf of Gunderson, as alleged by Toso.

‘We are part of the Hunters Rights Coalition and, yes,
(Kazmierski) has permission to speak for the group,’ Maves said. ‘I
wouldn’t say we (NWTF) got sucked in (to the baiting/feeding
issue).

‘At our January board meeting, we took a vote to become a member
of HRC – a roll call vote. It was unanimous,’ he said. ‘We knew
this was going to be controversial.

‘This coalition has been up front and straightforward since we
started,’ Maves said.

‘The HRC kind of got together last year on the youth mentoring
bill,’ Kazmierski said. ‘We started talking about being united on
hunting issues. We lose rights if we’re divided. It’s a loose
coalition – if a group decides it doesn’t want to take on a
specific issue, they’re not on the list.’

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation already exists as an ‘umbrella
group’ for state conservation groups. WWF represents 151 state
groups on conservation issues. Kazmierski said HRC has not
attempted to become a member of WWF.

‘With the groups involved (in HRC), with membership of those
groups, the revenue generated, we believe our group is probably
bigger than WWF, so there is no need to get involved with them,’
Kazmierski said. ‘We’re strictly hunters’ rights – WWF is involved
in a lot of things that are not hunting issues.

‘We are communicating with George (Meyer, WWF executive
director) quite a bit on Stewardship and youth mentoring. We’re not
going to be on the wrong side of issues from a hunting perspective,
so we hope WWF will join us.,’ he said.

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