Making natural resource decisions in Wisconsin
Two recent meetings I’ve attended indicate that it is not always easy to be the decision maker when it comes to natural resources.
At the Aug. 14 Natural Resources Board meeting in Baraboo, the board heard a host of testimony from people who would like the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant property to remain in natural habitat and for low impact use.
The DNR has more recently added consideration of an ATV trail and a shooting range on the property. Although representatives of several shooting organizations supported these activities, which are considered "high impact," far more people, especially those who live around Badger and were involved in original agreements reached with the DNR years ago, asked for “low impact” activities.
The low impact activities would still include hunting, fishing and trapping. Even some folks representing the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and the local chapter of Pheasants Forever said that they’d like to keep the low impact intact at Badger, and that shooting ranges and ATVs were more appropriate someplace else.
Though some people want all uses for all public properties, it seems sensible to allow specific uses on specific properties that are best for that property. To me, first priority goes to natural resources, with the realization that not every property is suited to every use. It will be a tough decision for NRB members to grapple with.
Then the Senate Natural Resources Committee approved Special Substitute Amendment 1 to Assembly Bill 194 on Aug. 22 that will direct the DNR to set up a crossbow deer hunting season to run concurrent with the bow deer season in 2014 and 2015.
The new season, if approved by the full Senate, full Assembly and signed by the governor, will require that deer will be recorded as shot either by bow, firearm or crossbow. After two years the DNR will be allowed to establish a crossbow season as it sees fit.
The majority of sportsmen’s groups supported the crossbow bill, but authors and supporters all tip-toed around the concerns of the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association. Association officials are concerned that archery hunters could lose hunting days or permits if crossbows are allowed as part of the regular bowhunting season.
This large and well-organized organization is the tail that wags the deer-hunting dog in Wisconsin, and rather than looking out for the interests of all hunting in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association typically looks out for itself and what its leaders want. The organization wants the longest season possible, with exclusive access to the deer woods during the prime time of rut, and has shown little tolerance for other hunting interests.
That is why Wisconsin, rather than sharing and allowing crossbows during the bow deer season, will probably end up with a separate crossbow season and, if buck harvests increase too much (no one has identified how much is too much, or who will make that decision) due to the influx of crossbow hunters and future harvests need to be reduced, compound bow shooters will be the last to feel the effects of permit restrictions.
Some lawmakers had to cover their nose while voting for a compromise that would benefit many hunters while protecting special interests of the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association.
The legislative process has many similarities with making sausage, and legislators have tough choices to make.