Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Natural Resources Board to tackle CWD plan – again

By Lee Fahrney

Contributing Writer

Spring Green, Wis. – If the Natural Resources Board doesn’t have
any more luck in settling differences of opinion over the DNR’s
proposed CWD management plan than did a couple of Conservation
Congress meetings, board members could be in for a long day during
their September meeting.

The seven-member NRB is scheduled to take up the DNR’s revised CWD
plan during its meeting Sept. 21-22 in Wisconsin Rapids. The board
typically handles this type of wildlife issue on the second day of
its two-day meeting.

The DNR is coming back to the NRB with a revised plan because board
members rejected an earlier CWD plan for not having enough teeth to
get the job done.

In preparing the revised plan for the NRB this month, the DNR
trotted its new ideas past Conservation Congress District 9 members
and the Congress Ad Hoc CWD Committee. Neither group was enthralled
with the DNR’s plan, and it’s likely some of those Congress
delegates will be on hand Sept. 22 to let NRB members know of their
displeasure.

The plan’s Executive Summary acknowledges that “disease management
in free-ranging wildlife populations generally is difficult,
expensive, and controversial.” The summary goes on to say, “… it
is imperative that the DNR has public support for, and active
participation in, this plan.”

That might be a problem, based on discussions at two recent
Conservation Congress meetings and via feedback DNR officials have
received.

The discussion at an August congress District 9 meeting in Spring
Green noted strong objections, reminiscent of the opposition voiced
when the first CWD plan was unveiled eight years ago. District 9
takes in seven southwestern counties, all of which are in the CWD
Management Zone (CWD-MZ).

The potential return of sharpshooters was perhaps the most
objectionable issue. Lafayette County delegate Dave Breunig
hearkened back to votes taken by the general public at the spring
hearings and by Congress delegates at their annual convention
indicating that hunters find sharpshooting unacceptable.

“We defeated that once before, and now they’re doing it again,”
Breunig said.

Gerry Stadler, of Reedsburg, also was critical of the plan. “It’s a
mistake,” he said. “It’s taking away from the sport, the
traditional family hunt.”

Stadler sees it as a violation of the public trust that requires
the state and hunters take a conservation approach to game
management. “We’re not conserving anymore,” he said. “We’re just
killing deer.”

Others raised concerns about the hiring of a public relations firm.
According to the DNR’s CWD Coordinator Davin Lopez, “The goal of
the effort is to effectively disseminate basic CWD information to
… citizens.”

The cost of the project could exceed $100,000, Lopez said. He also
points out that almost all of the funding going toward the effort
is federal money.

Response to the plan at a recent Conservation Congress CWD Ad Hoc
Committee meeting was more divided. According to minutes of the
meeting, strong opinions were expressed on both sides of the issue.
And, as in the past, views on the issue largely reflect
geographical differences.

Committee members hailing from outside of the CWD-MZ often argue
that the disease must be contained in southern counties, while
those from within the CWD-MZ line up in opposition.

Lopez summarized the difference in attitudes between north and
south: “It stands to reason those outside the CWD core area would
want to see the disease contained.”

At the same time, Lopez acknowledges that hunters in south do not
want to see their hunt disrupted.

Responses to the DNR’s request for public comment on the plan
reflect the same diverging viewpoints. By a margin of roughly 2-1,
respondents from counties within the CWD-MZ either strongly or very
strongly oppose the plan.

Conversely, those who weighed in from outside counties were more
likely to support the plan. Of the 39 respondents from counties
outside the zone, 20 supported the plan, 16 opposed it, and three
were unsure. A majority of the about 120 responses were from within
the CWD-MZ.

Will the plan succeed?

In response to the question of whether the plan would be
successful, however, two-thirds said the plan definitely or
probably would not be successful. Another 18 percent were unsure.
Only 14 (eight from outside the zone and six from within) said they
believed the plan would definitely or probably succeed.

Respondents were offered an opportunity to add their own thoughts
to each question. A Vilas County resident urged that baiting and
feeding be treated as separate issues. “The goal of one (baiting)
is to look down the barrel of the rifle, while the other is done
through the living room picture window as a diversion when the
Packers are losing.”

The same individual also spoke out against the use of scents
harvested at deer farms. “You are silent (about) spreading
thousands of gallons of doe urine across Wisconsin’s
landscape.”

Regarding the use of sharpshooters, Lopez said, “I don’t think
there is a great chance of using sharpshooters as a
population-reduction tool in areas of high prevalence.”

He doesn’t want to rule out the possibility, however. “I am not
convinced we should entirely remove the possibility should
circumstance and science change,” Lopez said. “I just don’t want to
remove tools that may be needed, even tools that we aren’t likely
to use.”

Conservation Congress CWD Committee Chairman Mike Riggle, of Taylor
County, points out, however, that sharpshooting options
remain.

“We still have sharpshooting in the toolbox if we have an outbreak
on the periphery or in an entirely new area,” he said.

Riggle had the dubious task of directing the CWD committee toward
compromise language. Motions to approve the plan failed twice with
emotionally charged discussion leading Riggle to insist that
members speak with civility and respect, or they would be asked to
leave.

The discussion was revived under member matters, with the issue of
sharpshooting again being a major concern. This time, however, the
committee voted in favor of the plan on an 8-4 vote. That portion
of the plan calling for a resumption of sharpshooting activities
within the core area and allowance for additional hunting
opportunities prior to the traditional gun hunt were deleted.

According to the plan, the 2009 season structure within the CWD-MZ
would carry over to 2010 and extend through 2015, with an
evaluation of its effectiveness in reducing deer populations after
the 2015 and 2020 seasons.

In addition to a Nov. 20-28 gun season, the 2010 season would
include antlerless gun hunts Oct. 14-17 and Dec. 9-12. An
earn-a-buck (EAB) muzzleloader season would run from Nov. 29 to
Dec. 8. The plan includes a Dec. 18 through Jan. 9 EAB gun
hunt.

The EAB archery season runs from Sept. 18 through Jan. 9. However,
archers would not be able to shoot a buck during the antlerless
seasons in October and December.

Lopez said there could be substantial changes in the future based
on evaluation.

“It might look quite different at the end,” he said.

The Natural Resources Board will have the final say on the matter
at its Sept. 21-22 meeting in Wisconsin Rapids. Citizens can review
a draft of the plan on the DNR web site at www.dnr.wi.state.gov, or
call (608) 264-6046 to obtain a hard copy.

Plan objectives

• Prevent new introductions of CWD in areas where disease is not
believed to be present;

• Monitor for, and respond to, new areas of CWD infection;

• Minimize CWD geographic distribution and intensity;

• Increase public recognition and understanding of CWD risks and
participation in disease-control efforts;

• Address the needs of hunters;

• Enhance the scientific information about CWD.

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