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

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Conservation Congress, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation oppose wolf plan

Conservation Congress and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF) leaders plan to file objections with the DNR's draft wolf management plan. Photo by Stan Tekiela

Milladore, Wis. — At least two state conservation groups disagree with the DNR’s draft wolf management plan and expect to file objections.

Conservation Congress and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF) leaders have said both groups find fault with the plan and will file objections by the current public comment period deadline of Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.

The deadline itself has caused consternation in some circles. After saying the plan would be released in early 2022, the DNR unveiled the draft Wednesday, Nov. 9, the day after Gov. Tony Evers won re-election.

In releasing the plan, the DNR offered a 60-day comment period. The WWF wants a 90-day comment period, according to WWF President Pat Quaintance, of Bayfield, and is working in that direction with WWF Wildlife Committee Co-Chair Laurie Groskopf, of Tomahawk.

In the meantime, the WWF and Conservation Congress committees are working on their wolf plan objections, which would then have to be endorsed by leadership of each group.

The Conservation Congress Wolf Study Committee’s 20 members met Dec. 3 at the George W. Mead Wildlife Area visitor center in Milladore, with members voting against the plan on three primary reasons – the lack of a population goal (the committee wants 350 or fewer), sentiments of people living in wolf country should carry more weight than southern citizens in wolf surveys, and areas currently not inhabited by wolves should not be considered primary or secondary wolf range.

Ed Harvey, Jr., of Waldo, is a Sheboygan County delegate to the Conservation Congress and serves as that body’s wolf committee chair.

“A motion was made to oppose the draft wolf plan, and then three amendments were made to that motion to lay out the reasoning,” Harvey said.

“This motion and the objections were well thought out by committee members. It was apparent from the start the committee would not approve the plan,” he said.

As of the Dec. 8 deadline for this issue, the WWF Board of Directors was scheduled to meet Friday, Dec. 9, at Hotel Mead in Wisconsin Rapids, with the DNR’s Randy Johnson as guest speaker. Johnson guided the wolf plan through the draft process. WWF members were then to have met Saturday, Dec. 10, also at Hotel Mead, to vote on a number of items, including the body’s stance on the wolf plan.

Neither Quaintance nor Groskopf wanted to comment on WWF actions until after the WWF board meets Dec. 9-10, but Groskopf did draft her personal objections that appear in this issue as the Commentary on Page 3.

The Conservation Congress Wolf Committee now bumps its action to the Conservation Congress Leadership Council for final action, according to Harvey. The rub there, however, is the council doesn’t meet until Jan. 13-14, 2023, which comes after the DNR closes public comment on the wolf plan. Harvey believes, however, that any Conservation Congress position can still be delivered to the Natural Resources Board (NRB) at some point since the congress advises the DNR and NRB.

Harvey said Conservation Congress Wolf Committee members also had a number of questions about the expanded buffer zones around Indian reservations.

“They are now basically no-kill areas,” Harvey said. “This plan creates six-mile wide buffer zones around each reservation. They will be part of the adjacent wolf zone, and open to trapping and hunting, but the number of wolves that could be harvested within the buffer zone will be very low.”

Steve Oestreicher, of Harshaw, is a former Conservation Congress chairman and Oneida County delegate who has tracked the wolf plan and appeared many times before the NRB. Oestreicher expects the expanded buffer zones around Indian reservations to be challenged by landowners with property in the buffer zones, especially livestock producers.

Oestreicher characterized the buffer zones as the state now allowing the tribes to manage private land outside of reservation boundaries.

Oestreicher also supports a population goal of 350 wolves or fewer, pointing to a question (No. 47) from the 2022 spring hearings that asked that very question.

A total of 12,978 persons voted in favor of 350 wolves or fewer as a goal, with 6,410 voting against (2,277 had no opinion). The question passed in 63 of the state’s 72 counties.

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