Friday, August 17, 2012

Handling of Wisconsin wolf hunt illustrates troubling trend


Associated Press

The state’s first regulated wolf hunt is scheduled for this fall.

The legal challenge to Wisconsin's scheduled wolf hunt this fall should not come as a surprise. The wolf is one of a few animals that can create a visceral emotional reaction, ranging from unbridled hate by some to intense love by others.

This scenario lends itself to interested parties doing whatever it takes to get to their desired end. This challenge, however, is really just a symptom of a much more serious issue. That issue is the way in which new environmental and outdoor recreation policy is created.

The wolf harvest season should be viewed as a tremendous success as it illustrates the vigorous return of the wolf, a vital part of the Wisconsin ecosystem. The controlled harvest of animals benefits people, the ecosystem and ultimately that animal as a species.

As a lifelong hunter, trapper and general lover of nature, however, I have serious questions about some of the harvest methods allowed in Wisconsin's wolf hunt legislation. Given the delicate and controversial nature of this season, extra care should have been taken to forward legislation that provided a hunt in the most ethical way possible.

The use of dogs, which is the basis for the current lawsuit, was strongly discouraged by several wolf experts. Most of the non-hunting public is not going to view favorably the use of dogs to hunt wolves. Heck, most of the hunters I talk with don't like it. So why allow it? Why make it a potential issue?

The other method that is questionable is the use of bait. Baiting wildlife is a contentious issue within the hunting community itself, and most non-hunters do not see it as very ethical. Why include this as a method? Can't hunters hunt anything anymore without sitting over a pile of something?

Don't overlook the separate legislation that now opens coyote season during deer season in the north, either. During the early years of re-establishment of the wolf, hunters shooting wolves during deer season thinking they were coyotes was one of the primary causes of death of wolves. We again can count on plenty of wolves now being shot by "mistake." My guess is that number may be higher than the legal harvest. So who crafted these rules?

To me, there is a more serious issue. This legislation and others affecting our natural resources are part of what I see as a well-planned coup carried out over the past six years or so. Wisconsin Bear Hunters' Association, Wisconsin Hunters Rights Coalition, Wisconsin Bowhunters Association and other organizations have aligned themselves with key legislators and bureaucrats. Politically, these groups now speak for all sportspeople, though not for many of the sportspeople I talk to.

This effort had its infancy in the great deer shortage debate in which Earn-A-Buck and Zone T hunts were very unpopular among hunters. The leaderships of the various organizations learned that the best way to forward their policies and agendas was to go straight to their allies in the Legislature. The election of Gov. Scott Walker apparently sealed the deal.

With the moves Walker has made within the Legislature, the Department of Natural Resources and Natural Resources Board, the groups now have a formidable amount of political pull. If it wasn't so ugly, I'd say it was really a thing of beauty the way they orchestrated this power grab.

Politically, the well-being of our natural resources have never been in worse hands in my lifetime. I don't say that as a Republican or Democrat because, to be honest with you, I don't have much faith in either party.

I am just speaking as a citizen who is concerned that ethically and environmentally, we are straying a bit too far from the trail blazed by the great Wisconsin conservationist Aldo Leopold.

In the end, that should be a great concern for both hunter and non-hunter alike.

Ron Weber lives in Weyerhaeuser.

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