The last two months have been confusing as Wisconsin regains the responsibility to manage gray wolves after they were officially delisted. By state law, the Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) must organize a recreational wolf hunt anytime the animals are under state authority, as they currently are as of January 4th, 2021. The problem is, state law also says a hunt must begin in November and end in February. In December 2020, a WDNR press release stated that there would be no wolf hunt until November 2021, allowing the necessary time to consult with tribes, stakeholders, assemble a new Wolf Advisory Committee, and draft a new wolf management plan.
In January 2021 however, Wisconsin state senators Rob Stafsholt and Tom Tiffany held an informational hearing which took public testimony in support of an immediate wolf hunt in January/February 2021. This hearing led to an Emergency Meeting of the Natural Resources Board (NRB) on January 22, that left tribal authorities, biologists and supporters with only three days notice to prepare testimony and submit comments on a proposed immediate wolf hunt. Despite 5 hours of testimony, the majority opposed to the proposed hunt, NRB members quickly moved to discussion on a quota for an immediate hunt. A vote was then held to allow the hunt with members only voting against after the state’s legal counsel advised it’d be in violation of treaty obligations.
It’s important to note that at none of this time has WDNR endorsed a January/February 2021 wolf hunt. Their own biologist know that such a hunt would be during gray wolf breeding season when many females are pregnant as well as during the WDNR’s annual Large Carnivore Survey. At the January NRB meeting, WDNR’s Director, Cole Preston echoed the December WDNR press release stating the many steps that needed to be taken before even a hunt could begin in November.
On February 2, 2021 the sport hunting lobby group, Hunter Nation filed a lawsuit to force the state to conduct an immediate wolf hunt in the time that remained before state law says any wolf hunt should end in February. The out-of-state Hunter Nation lawsuit intentionally ignores all state treaty obligations and provides no scientific evidence to warrant an immediate wolf hunt, other than to argue that such a hunt was needed before the Biden Administration might restore federal protection to gray wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.
On February 11, a Jefferson County judge ruled in favor of Hunter Nation, forcing WDNR to divert attention and resources from other departments to begin the necessary steps to enact an immediate wolf hunt, while at the same time appealing the court order to hold a hunt. In accordance with the court order, the Natural Resources Board is once again holding an Emergency Meeting, this time to simply set the quota for the hunt they already tried to force WDNR to conduct. The February 15th NRB meeting is only taking comments on a proposed quota while disenfranchising any other legal, public or government interest in opposing a February 2021 wolf hunt.
Also on Monday February 15th, the state of Wisconsin and WDNR have asked the court to rule on the following appeal and Motion for an Expedited Stay of the Jefferson County court order. Wolf Patrol will report on both the NRB meeting and court ruling by the end of the day tomorrow!
COMBINED EMERGENCY PETITION FOR PERMISSIVE APPEAL AND SUPPORTING MEMORANDUM:
MOTION FOR AN EXPEDITED STAY OF THE CIRCUIT COURT’S ORDER, ENTERED FEBRUARY 12, 2021:
THE PROPOSED FEBRUARY 2021 WISCONSIN WOLF HUNT AS PROPOSED BY WDNR:
LINK TO FEBRUARY 15, 2021 NATURAL RESOURCES BOARD MEETING AGENDA:
LINK TO WATCH FEBRUARY 15, 2021 NRB MEETING LIVE @ 11AMCT:
PUBLIC COMMENT LIST (99PAGES!!!)