Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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NRB adopts spring hearing fish, wildlife rule changes

Milwaukee ’Äî Bobcat population goals, fall turkey hunting with
dogs, a longer raccoon season, and limited paintball activity on
state lands are just four of the rule changes adopted by the
Natural Resources Board at its May meeting.

The NRB took up proposed rule changes that came in from the
Conservation Congress’Äô statewide convention following the April
DNR and congress spring hearings. All rule changes adopted by the
NRB must now pass legislative review.

’ÄúAll of the rules passed the state hearings, and the
Conservation Congress, at its statewide meeting, also supported the
rules,’Äù said Scott Loomans, DNR rules and policy specialist.

The rules include a two-year experimental fall turkey season
allowing the use of dogs in nine southwestern counties.

The first full year of the season, 2007, was delayed due to the
administrative rule-making process and did not give hunters the
full season to try this form of hunting. In addition, the
experiment was not finally approved until after the hunting
regulations pamphlet was printed, so some hunters may not have been
aware of it.

This change will allow the experimental fall turkey/dog season
to run through 2009, ensuring hunters have had two full fall
seasons to try it. The use of dogs is only allowed during the fall
in Crawford, Vernon, La Crosse, Richland, Sauk, Wood, Monroe, and
Jackson counties.

Another rule will extend the raccoon trapping and hunting
seasons by 15 days to make fox, coyote, and raccoon seasons
consistent.

The next change creates a definition for a live trap and
body-grip trap. A live trap is now described as a ’Äúcage or box
trap’Äù that is designed to allow an animal to enter an enclosure
and remain alive until it can be released or put in possession.

A new bobcat population goal has been set at 2,500 animals, with
a range of plus or minus 20 percent north of Hwy. 64. The old goal
was one bobcat per 10 square miles of habitat, or about 1,800
animals north of Hwy. 64. The DNR’Äôs current estimate is about
3,000 animals..

A restriction will be placed on paintball activity on DNR lands.
This has been controversial in the past and is less so now, as the
proposal passed in all 72 counties last April. It does not
completely ban paintball activity, but does address littering, user
conflicts, and safety problems.

One instance in Brown County forced a DNR conservation warden to
make a quick decision about a person during the summer who had what
looked like a firearm. This brought concerns about paintball
activity to light.

The DNR also will create a $2.75 fee for duplicate trapper
education certificates. Currently there is no fee, but they’Äôre
only available by mail through the DNR’Äôs central office. With the
change, they would be available through license vendors.

Loomans said the DNR also will check to see if the certificates
can be printed at home through the DNR’Äôs web-based Automated
License Issuance System.

A change for dog owners now allows the training of dogs with
captive wild animals ’Äì via permit ’Äì during May and June in the
northern zone. Loomans said the previous rule conflicted with other
rules. The rule originally was put in place so that people
couldn’Äôt say they were training their dogs on raccoons when
actually they were training dogs on bears.

Another change would eliminate the Clam Lake and Forest County
dry-land trapping closed areas that were off-limits to protect pine
martens. However, now it’Äôs believed that fishers are killing the
martens, so now cable restraints and live traps would be allowed in
those areas. Martens could then be released, but fishers could be
killed by trappers.

Conservation Congress chairman Ed Harvey told the board that the
congress voted to support each of the rule changes, as well as the
NRB advisory question that asked whether hunters would support a
longer fall turkey season.

That question was approved at the spring hearings and now it
will go to the DNR Wild Turkey Committee.’ÄàIf it’Äôs supported
there, it then returns as a DNR rule proposal at the 2009 hearings
and, if approved, would go into effect in 2009 or 2010.

NRB member Gary Rohde, of River Falls, questioned the delay. The
board debated whether or not to do anything else to try to get it
on the fast track, but NRB members recalled how unhappy sportsmen
were with a budget bill move on bass and muskie rules earlier this
year.

Board members would like to see the rule change as soon as
possible, but took no action to change the process.

Harvey said the congress also looked at the DNR fisheries
questions and did not support the question dealing with the
proposed catch-and-release muskie season, which originated through
the state budget process.

’ÄúThe department felt obligated by the budget bill to advance
some part of the proposal, but the congress does not support either
part of the question or the language in the budget bill,’Äù Harvey
said. ’ÄúAnd, given that since the congress convention Rep. (Dan)
Meyer has publicly rescinded his support for the proposition, we
wonder if it can be dropped for now.’Äù

The congress also did not support either part of the question
about the release bass season; the question also lost in the
statewide vote.

Harvey said the congress did not support the DNR’Äôs position to
increase the muskie size limit on the Chippewa Flowage.

The congress advisory question about shining from public roads
narrowly was defeated statewide, but the congress overturned that
vote and asked the DNR that it be advanced as a change next year.
Questions dealing with funding deer research and opening future
land in the Managed Forest Law program were not supported in the
statewide vote, and the congress did not forward those questions to
the DNR.

The congress did support the DNR recommendation on other rule
changes, including the DNR recommendation to reject returning the
Prairie River to a Category 5 stream. Harvey said that based on the
votes of the local counties and based on the testimony of Oneida
County and the chair of the Congress Trout Study Committee, the
congress supported rejection.

Harvey said several resolutions were passed, one of which deals
with 2,000 acres of former timber company land for sale in Clark
County. The congress urged the DNR to buy the land with Stewardship
funds.

Another resolution supported establishment of the Chippewa
Flowage Forest Legacy project to protect some 18,000 acres that
otherwise could be sold and developed.

The congress also wants the NRB and DNR to put ’ÄúAppendix J’Äù
back into the state wolf plan. That document outlines when a wolf
season would take place.

’Äú(That) resolution was introduced and unanimously
supported,’Äù Harvey said, adding that the the state would then be
ready should the time come for a wolf season.

Harvey said a question to extend the bobcat season has come in
each year, but was rejected by the DNR Fur Harvest Committee. He
recommended the DNR begin work on the season to propose a rule
change.

Board members Dave Clausen and John Welter followed up on the
congress’Äô rejection of change for the Prairie River. Clausen said
that parts of the stretch of land along the portion of the river
were bought with public money, and he wondered why the congress
thought this was just a local issue. Harvey said every delegate
needs to weigh in when an issue becomes a statewide issue, rather
than a local issue.

Welter recalled that congress rules state that if a county votes
in a particular way, the delegation is obligated to follow that
vote unless new information is presented later.

’ÄúI heard Oneida County say that we support Category 4
regulations and we urge you to support them too, but when I went
back to the Oneida County vote I found that Oneida County voted for
Category 5 regulations,’Äù Welter said. Welter said people could
have been confused.

Harvey recommended the board go with the vote on the congress
floor, and he understood the Oneida County delegation
mis-spoke.

Welter followed with a question about the Chippewa Flowage
muskie regulation. The proposal said it could be a world-class
muskie fishery, and a 50-inch limit should be considered. The
question passed statewide 2,100-1,800, and 47 counties voted
’Äúyes.’Äù

Harvey said that he did not have the specifics on that question
and he will have an explanation for the board for the June meeting
when it takes up the fisheries questions.

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