There are two main events planned in Wisconsin, however we encourage anyone who can’t be in either of these locations, to help organize in your community. Here in Madison, we are gathering outside the State Capitol, outdoors where we do not need a permit and also in Superior, Wisconsin from 4-6pm OCT 15th. We hope you can attend but you can take part from your home or office too! Make this Statewide! Click the link below for more information.
Dear Editor: Some 6,500 residents living in 10 Wisconsin counties were recently asked, “Are you in favor of the use of trained hunting dogs to track wolves in Wisconsin during the upcoming wolf hunting season?”
By a resounding 94 percent, Wisconsin residents said “no.” Many individuals were shocked to learn that Wisconsin is the only state that allows the use of dog to hunt wolves.
I founded the Wisconsin Wolf Front, which sponsored the survey. The survey was conducted at public events each weekend during June, July and August by teams of at least three student volunteers from Wisconsin Wolf Front. Our student volunteers approached individuals at these public events, verified the individual was a resident of the county being surveyed and asked if they would take a few moments to participate in a short survey regarding a wildlife issue in Wisconsin. Surprisingly, only 2 percent declined comment.
The practice of using dogs to hunt wolves is based on poor policy. This is evidenced by the 23 hounds killed this year alone by wolves during the bear training season. Although state Sen. Fred Risser has introduced SB 93, which would ban the use of dogs to hunt wolves, the bill has been stalled in the Committee on Natural Resources since March.
It is important that we apply pressure to Sen. Neal Kedzie by asking him to move SB 93 out of committee. We must stop this archaic practice.
Wisconsin Wolf Front
As this column is published, I am in the 12th day of a hunger strike in solidarity with our bears and millions of other woodland creatures terrified by packs of dogs and traps, suffering and dying in this tragedy.
The Wisconsin my mother loved has turned into hell on Earth for me and my beloved innocent wild friends.
Cathy Stepp recently declared that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which she heads, will take direct control of the MacKenzie Environmental Education Center, currently operated by the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.
What vital interest do Wisconsin taxpayers have in taking jobs from the private sector and adding them to the government payroll? Secretary Stepp explains that the state needs to recruit more hunters, anglers and trappers. Left largely unanswered is why all taxpayers must ante up to promote pastimes practiced by a dwindling few. The secretary has attempted to cost-justify her decision this way: “Hunting, fishing and trapping is our heritage, it is in our DNA, and it makes us Wisconsin.” More on that notion in a moment. First, consider the DNR’s current numbers about one of our legacies: trapping.
The DNR’s most recent fur harvest summary, for 2011-12, shows the commercial nature of trapping. Muskrats and raccoons comprised 87 percent of fur-bearing animals trapped and killed in Wisconsin, and the skins of 90 percent of them were sold. That 90 percent is about the same percent for the total of all 12 of the fur-bearing species tracked by the DNR. Of the 588,000 mammals snared and skinned, trappers made money on 516,000 of them.
These statistics raise the question: Who is buying all these skins? Most of the trappers’ “harvest” in the U.S. is sold overseas, especially to China.
The Chinese and other countries with low labor costs convert the fur into clothing, much of it exported back to the U.S. as trim on parkas and other winter wear.
But these days you seldom see a “made from” clothing tag that lists muskrat or raccoon, or the third most trapped animal in Wisconsin, opossum.
That’s because the clothing manufacturers know that most Americans have become repelled by the idea of wearing fur. Today many humane alternatives exist. So some manufacturers and marketers mislabel the actual fur as “faux fur” or “fake fur.” It’s a good deal for the trapper and dishonest dealer, but not for all involved.
Within the first 30 minutes of capture, a trapped animal can tear her flesh, rip tendons, break bones, and even knock out teeth as she bites the trap to escape.
Some animals will even bite off their own limbs in a desperate attempt to escape. The fact that an animal would sever her own limb shows how horrible the experience of being caught in a trap is. One study found that 28 percent of mink, 24 percent of raccoon, and 26 percent of trapped fox would actually bite their limbs off in hopes of surviving.
In Wisconsin centuries ago, clothing options were few. People often needed to trap to survive. But what in those days was a violent necessity — and they didn’t call it a sport — is today just a cruel money-maker.
Perhaps barbarity like this is part of our DNA, as Cathy Stepp suggests. But not all human urges deserve celebration or taxpayer support. If we want to use our past as a guide to our decisions and actions today, look to Wisconsin’s progressive heritage of adapting to the times — of challenging traditions that have become unjust, unwarranted and unnecessarily violent. That would be a vision of leadership desperately needed right now at the DNR.
Charlie Talbert is president of the board of the Madison-based Alliance for Animals and the Environment.
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Patty Lowry had never been to a meeting of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress before attending the group’s spring hearing last week at Sun Prairie High School. But her interest in the group has grown since she learned it was behind the recently passed state law allowing trapping and expanded hunting in state parks.
“I started hearing that the Conservation Congress had a tremendous amount of power and had a lot of clout with the Department of Natural Resources and the Legislature,” says Lowry, who lives in Madison. The Conservation Congress is an advisory body to the DNR made up of elected delegates from each county.
Lowry was one of the 662 people who packed Sun Prairie’s performing arts center April 8 to elect two Dane County delegates and to vote on numerous matters related to fishing, hunting and conservation. The turnout was higher than average, says Kari Lee-Zimmermann, the staff liaison between the Congress and the DNR, as it was at some of the other meetings held the same night in each of the state’s 72 counties.
Lowry says she and others new to the group turned out because they’re appalled at recent state wildlife management decisions, including those that permit wolf hunting with dogs and hunting and trapping in state parks.
“It’s like waking a sleeping giant,” she says. “A lot of people woke up to this nightmare that they were going to have to wear blaze orange in their state parks. You see it and can’t believe it’s happening.”
This backlash likely cost Matt Rainey his seat on the five-person Dane County delegation, as Melissa Smith beat him out for a two-year term in the first election of the evening. Another incumbent, however, held onto his seat for a three-year term.
In her stump speech, Smith declared that “hunting and trapping in state parks is not a compromise.” She promised to “give the majority in Dane County a voice.”
The DNR board in December scaled back the new state law on hunting and trapping in state parks, allowing these activities roughly two months of the year.
The results of the statewide ballot (PDF) distributed at the spring hearing, however, in which 2,922 people voted in favor of expanded hunting and fishing in state parks and 1,922 were opposed, suggest there could be a renewed push to revisit this issue.
The survey results will be discussed at the May convention of the Conservation Congress, which will then forward final positions to the DNR and its board.
Rob Bohmann, chair of the Conservation Congress, declined to speculate on how the body will vote. But Dan Schuller, director of state parks at the DNR, suggests in a statement that some longtime hunts in select parks could be reinstated. These are special seasons that fall outside the two-month window specified in the December 2012 DNR board ruling. “We are looking at some seasons that were previously approved by administrative rule,” says Schuller.
Lowry is incredulous that this issue might be reopened after more than 2,000 comments — most of them critical — were submitted to the DNR in response to its original proposal that would have allowed longer hunting and trapping seasons in state parks.
“For me it’s an issue of what kind of democracy we have here in Wisconsin,” she says. “Generally majority rules,” she adds. A 2010 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey found that 17% of Wisconsin residents had hunted in the last year.
Melissa Smith has been an active opponent of Wisconsin’s new wolf hunting season, but she says she is not opposed to “ethical hunting.” Lowry, too, says there is a difference between a traditional hunt and one where animals have been corralled and trapped by dogs. “It gets away from hunting and becomes something much more disturbing and inhumane to animals. This is the pleasure of killing for killing.”
But Bohmann, who has been hunting since he was five, defends the use of dogs in hunting.
“My son harvested a bear with the aid of hounds,” he says. “These hunters are not barbaric.”
He himself hunts with a Labrador retriever and says he has spent thousands of dollars on the dog’s training and vet care. One of the best parts of the hunt, he says, is “watching our dogs do what they were trained to do.”
His family also eats everything it kills, he says. “We don’t go overboard.”
Lowry and Smith would like to steer the conservation conversation away from hunting, trapping and fishing. Almost every one of the questions put to the public at the Conservation Congress meeting had to do with killing animals, says Lowry.
“I didn’t see anything about expanding public lands for hiking. I didn’t see anything for biking trails.”
Smith points out that one of the questions asked whether willow stakes, usually protected on DNR-managed land, could be cut since they are often used by trappers to mark and anchor traps.
“Can we talk about wetlands rather than pulling willows for trapping?” she asks.
Bohmann says that the Congress has recently formed an environmental study committee, but that hunting, fishing and trapping have to be part of the discussion since wildlife can destroy habitat.
“We have a responsibility to manage habitat in our state parks,” he says. “But we have an equal responsibility to manage wildlife populations.”
With recent months having brought everything from the state’s first wolf hunt to a noisy debate over trapping and hunting in state parks, non-hunters and animal activists in Wisconsin are arguing that powerful hunting groups are wielding too much influence with the state Legislature and the Department of Natural Resources.
Now, some of those activists are hoping to crash the party of one of state’s most influential pro-hunting groups — the Wisconsin Conservation Congress.
Melissa Smith, a Madison resident who has helped lead opposition to wolf hunting in the state, has declared herself a candidate for the Conservation Congress, a popular statewide organization that advises the state Department of Natural Resources on outdoor sporting issues.
Though she said she is not opposed to sustenance hunting, Smith said she is concerned that the voices of non-hunters are not being heard or heeded on issues such as the wolf hunt and the expansion of hunting and trapping in state parks. Both issues are the subject of questions that will be asked at Conservation Congress meetings to be held simultaneously Monday night in every county.
“I’m not an anti-hunter,” Smith said. “But it just seems that a lot of the people involved with the Congress have become so extreme. Wolf hunting with dogs? And hunting and trapping in state parks? That’s why I’m running. I don’t know what else to do.”
Smith plans to run as a delegate at the Dane County meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Sun Prairie High School.
The Conservation Congress was created by the state Legislature to advise the DNR on hunting, fishing and trapping as well as broader conservation issues. Every spring, the group holds meetings on the same night statewide to elect delegates and to vote on a long list of issues. Anyone can attend and cast votes.
This year, in addition to dozens of questions about obscure changes in fishing and hunting rules, the questionnaire includes queries about whether dogs should be used to hunt wolves, whether hunting and trapping in state parks should be expanded, and whether a number of hunting seasons — such as those for bobcats and coyotes — should be extended.
Rob Bohmann, chairman of the organization, said that because of the prominence of several hunting issues in the past year he expects a number of animals rights activists and their supporters to attend meetings and put candidates up for election, especially in Dane and Milwaukee counties.
Delegates are important because they serve on committees and help shape and present the organization’s agenda.
Smith’s candidacy has caught the interest of some groups, such as the Dane County Humane Society, that have not traditionally been involved with the Conservation Congress proceedings.
Others also say they are concerned about the views of non-hunters getting drowned out by outspoken hunting groups such as the Conservation Congress or the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, which helped push the wolf hunting season through the state Legislature.
Few people have been more vocal — and more of a lightning rod — on the issue than Patricia Randolph, an animal rights activist who became the first staunch hunting opponent to be elected as a Conservation Congress delegate when she won a position in Dane County in 1999. She served through 2001 and her term was marked by controversy, including a dustup in which she was warned by Conservation Congress leaders that she would be censured or removed if she spoke against hunting.
Randolph maintains that few non-hunters know about the Conservation Congress and the power the organization wields on hunting issues with both the DNR and the state Legislature. The problem, she said, is that the views of the organization are representative not of the general public but of hunters, who make up a minority of the population. As a result, Randolph said, hunting — including seasons on everything from wolves to mourning doves and proposed seasons on sandhill cranes and even gulls — seems to be expanding even in the face of what she says is opposition from the general public on issues such as wolf hunting or trapping in parks.
“We are totally disenfranchised,” Randolph said.
Smith said she is emphasizing her opposition to wolf hunting with dogs and the expansion of hunting and trapping in state parks. But she said she also intends to push the congress to take stronger stands on conservation issues such as the protection of wetlands.
“The Conservation Congress has changed over the years,” Smith said. “There are very few questions at the meeting about conservation. It just seems to have evolved over the years to become a hunters’ club.”
Bohmann, however, said that the strong push by the hunting community in recent years to add more seasons and encourage more hunters is necessary because as the number of hunters drops, they lose their power to influence decision-makers.
“If we don’t fight for what we have, we’ll lose it,” Bohmann said. “I think we’re more active now.”
Bill Cosh, a spokesman for the DNR, said the agency does pay close attention to the views of hunters and those who participate in other outdoor sports such as trapping and fishing.
“They are not only part of our culture,” he said, “but they are also methods of responsibly managing our wildlife populations.”
But Cosh also said the DNR promotes many non-hunting activities such as camping, hiking, biking, wildlife observation, and skiing.
Bohmann said he welcomes those with diverse viewpoints to attend the Conservation Congress meetings and to run for the delegate positions. But he said that there has to be a willingness to compromise and he expects everyone on both sides of the issues to respect opposing views.
“Everybody has a right to run for the congress,” Bohmann said. “What they need to understand is it cannot be all one way or another. You have to work together. And let’s be respectful. That’s all I ask for. You don’t have to agree with someone but let’s be respectful.”
Our wildlife is in desperate need of help. The state Department of Natural Resources allows wildlife to be killed in traps and hunted with dogs, which is cruel. Wildlife is killed for fashion, trophies and the thrill of blood sport. Where is our humanity?The DNR has extended trapping to our state parks, and has also extended the hunting and trapping seasons. Where can the public go to enjoy our wilderness that is safe?Your voice matters. Speak up on behalf of our animals by contacting your representatives and attending the Conservation Congress county meetings on Monday. For information: http://www.wiwildlifeethic.org.- Deanna S. Devaul, Madison
“The true measure of how free a society is how its dissidents are treated, not those who refrain from meaningful anti-government activism and dissent.” — Glenn Greenwald, “With Liberty and Justice for Some”
Pay attention to a vitally important election that is hiding in plain sight.
Monday, April 8, 2013, at 7 p.m., all citizens are invited to attend the Wisconsin Conservation Congress election.
In every county, you can vote against running dogs on wolves altogether. You can vote against expanding the newly initiated hunting and trapping in state parks from two months to seven. You can vote against killing coyotes through the nine-day deer kill. Most importantly, you can elect two delegates of five for each county to represent you in governing our 7.5 million acres of public lands and our wildlife.
This election helps determine the quality of life for all citizens — it affects air, water, soil, mining, energy use, climate change and destruction of species. This election and vote is our only official citizen representation to the Legislature, Department of Natural Resources and Natural Resources Board. It is paraded out before the Legislature, annually, as the public’s will.
I contacted the Government Accountability Office to find out why such an important election is not more transparent than it is. The Conservation Congress is “only advisory,” so it is not subject to Wisconsin election laws. It operates in a gray area, with great power and little oversight. No wonder candidates are announced on the floor of the event that night and never debate issues publicly. On average some 5,000 avid hunters, trappers and hounders attend statewide every year — and they elect themselves back into power. The election shoots under most progressives’ noses, stinking of death, unrecognized.
Hidden in plain sight.
When I walked into the Conservation Congress election for the first time in 1997 and realized that nature herself is under the control of a minority whose goal is primarily to maximize killing wildlife, it was a rude awakening. At that time, the few nonhunters attending this public election and voting were seriously intimidated by men who kill wildlife regularly. Men made their arms into long guns and targeted us with pretend trigger-pulls. Dozens of people attended Natural Resource Board meetings to demand that something be done about this intimidation, and the response was, “Our boys were just having fun.”
Wednesday night, I returned home from staffing a table for Wisconsin Wildlife Ethic at the “True Wolf” movie to open a letter from Tim Lawhern, DNR Division of Law Enforcement. The letter addressed my “disruptive and threatening behavior” at the Natural Resources Board meeting Feb. 26. There I had displayed a barbed wire-wrapped pole commonly used by hunters who run down wildlife with packs of dogs. Since the multiple packs of dogs can be replaced with fresh dogs, foxes, coyotes, wolves, or any animals who cannot make it to a tree are run to exhaustion. If they hide in a culvert or den, this barbed pole is thrust into their flesh and twisted to extract them and throw them to the dogs.
No doubt it is an embarrassment to the Natural Resources Board to have this exposed with an example of the barbed pole displayed. The pole and the idea of using it on flesh is indeed disturbing. But it was the wielding of a metaphor that upset the board. As an English major, I understand metaphor, defined as “the application of a phrase it does not literally denote … suggesting comparison to that concept.” I, too, was “having a little fun,” ending my testimony with: “Maybe I should try this on you (indicating the board) to get you out of that deep hole you have dug for yourselves.” Were the board members literally in a hole? Of course not. It was a comparison — not a literal intention. If board members felt mere imagery so keenly, should they be promoting dog-fighting and barbed wire poles on real flesh?
The DNR letter contends that I may continue to attend NRB meetings, and provide written testimony, “but may not orally testify at these meetings … or distribute information, not carry in props, signs or display items.”
In other words, they intend to muzzle me. And, interestingly, since I was not arrested as a threat, on this trumped up first “offense,” there are no laws cited as broken. Even more telling, there is no timeframe given for this arbitrary “sentence.” Lifetime?
In “With Liberty and Justice for Some,” Glenn Greenwald aptly depicts my situation in relation to the DNR and Natural Resources Board: “In essence, the bargain offered by the state is as follows: If you meaningfully challenge what we’re doing, then we will subject you to harsh recriminations.” He continues: “Rights exist to protect dissidents and those who challenge orthodoxies, not those who acquiesce to those orthodoxies or support state power.”
My First Amendment rights are denied arbitrarily.
Greenwald says, “The genius is that those who accept (passive compliance), are easily convinced that repression does not exist.”
Election posters and flyers for download are available at www.wiwildlifeethic.org.
MADISON (AP) – A Democratic state senator plans to introduce a longshot bill that would prohibit Wisconsin wolf hunters from using dogs, marking another chapter in a months-long battle to stop the practice before it begins.
Sen. Fred Risser of Madison sent an email to the rest of the Legislature on Monday asking for co-sponsors. He noted that Wisconsin is the only one of seven states with a wolf hunt that allows dogs. He said humane societies are concerned about the risk of bloody clashes between dogs and wolves.
“It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s nothing more than state-sanctioned dog fighting,” Risser said in a telephone interview. “We shouldn’t have done it in the first place and maybe we can stop it before it becomes too ingrained.”
A lawyer representing a group of humane societies that sued last year to ban wolf hunters from using dogs called the bill “wonderful.”
“That would be a very sane change in public policy,” said Carl Sinderbrand, an attorney for the Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies, Inc. “It would reflect the will of the vast majority of Wisconsinites.”
But the bill has almost no chance of success; Republicans control both the state Senate and Assembly.
Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, was the chief sponsor of the bill that established the wolf hunt. He serves as Assembly majority leader and plays a huge role in deciding what legislation makes it to the floor for a vote. He said during a telephone interview Monday that Risser’s proposal will probably go nowhere.
“To totally eliminate an entire privilege that is out there for sportsmen, it goes too far,” Suder said.
The wolf hunt has been a flashpoint of contention since Republicans passed Suder’s bill about a year ago. Animal rights advocates see the hunt as unnecessary; farmers maintain something must be done to control a burgeoning wolf population preying on their livestock.
The bill scheduled the wolf season to run from Oct. 15 to the end of February or whenever hunters reached a kill limit imposed by the state Department of Natural Resources. The legislation allows hunters to pursue wolves with up to six dogs after the end of the November gun deer season.
Emergency rules the DNR crafted to get the first hunt off the ground limited dog use to daylight hours but set no other restrictions. A group of humane societies filed a lawsuit in August alleging the lack of regulations would lead to deadly wolf-dog fights during the season and throughout the rest of the year as hunters trained their hounds on wolves.
Dane County Circuit Judge Peter C. Anderson temporarily barred hunters from using dogs while he weighed the case. The first season began and ended while the prohibition was in place. The ban didn’t seem to hamper hunters; the DNR closed the season two months early in December after hunters had killed 117 wolves, one more than their limit.
When Anderson revisited the lawsuit in January, he concluded that the DNR didn’t have to impose restrictions on dogs in wolf hunts but that it should have tweaked its rules to account for the risk in training dogs on wolves. He issued a double-sided ruling, saying hunters could use dogs to pursue wolves during the season but barred them from training on wolves.
The DNR is currently drafting permanent rules that would allow hunters to train dogs on wolves during in-season daylight hours and the month of March. Each dog also would have to be tattooed or wear a collar with its owner’s name and address. The agency doesn’t expect to implement the rules until 2014.
The humane societies say that’s not good enough because hunters will face no restrictions going into the 2013-14 hunt.