CABLE — A bill debated at the state Capitol last week would stop state funding of wolf conservation and management. It also would make it illegal for state law enforcement officers to enforce laws designed to protect wolves.
Senate Bill 602, and its companion Assembly Bill 712, would be a major setback in responsible wildlife conservation and proper management of the state wolf population.
The lawmakers sponsoring this legislation are misusing their role and responsibility in protecting this public resource. The state, serving as a trustee of wildlife, has been a major factor in the successful recovery of species such as deer, elk, waterfowl and turkeys over the last century. The proper management of wildlife as a public resource has contributed significantly to successful wildlife conservation.
This bill encourages disregard for laws governing endangered and protected wildlife. The bill encourages the killing of wolves without justification, and it ignores the state’s role in managing the gray wolf, an important international resource in North America.
Finally, SB 602 and AB 712 ignore the best available science for setting policies related to wildlife. Since 1979, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has continually monitored the state wolf population. This rich data base has been extremely useful for wolf conservation planning, including the establishment of wolf hunting and trapping seasons. Discontinuing these surveys would put the DNR in a difficult situation for planning harvests and future management of the wolf population if the state regains management authority.
Lack of population and distribution information on wolves also would reduce the ability of the DNR and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to anticipate and effectively deal with wolf depredation problems. Elimination of state wolf monitoring would be detrimental to wolf conservation in the state and the future removal of the wolf from the federal endangered species list.
The authors of this bill had suggested that similar actions by Gov. Butch Otter in Idaho led to the wolf being taken of the endangered list in that region. This suggestion in misleading. The gray wolf was delisted in portions of the northern Rocky Mountains because U.S. Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., authored a delisting rule as a rider on a budget bill. It was this congressional action that caused wolves to be taken of the endangered list in Idaho and Montana, not the threats of Gov. Otter.
SB 602 and AB 712 would not advance the cause of removing the gray wolf from the endangered list in Wisconsin because this proposal:
■ Shows a lack of respect for wolf conservation, and does not demonstrate that the Legislature is ready to assume stewardship of the state wolf population.
■ Transfers all wolf management activities to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, while preventing the DNR from cooperating in legal investigations.
■ This transfer would undermine the long-term partnership the DNR has had with USFWS, an entity that has supported wolf delisting in our region since 2000.
■ Ignores the concerns of Wisconsin Indian people in wolf conservation, and demonstrates a lack of respect for the important role the wolf plays in their culture by jeopardizing the survival and continuation of wolf packs on ceded and tribal lands.
■ Prevents the state from surveying the wolf population, which provides essential information for delisting by the USFWS.
In short, a more inclusive, scientifically sound, culturally sensitive and publicly supported wolf program would be much more likely to garner success in removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes region.