I Went to the Conservation Congress Spring Hearings and It Was Much Friendlier Than I Thought It Would Be

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Last night was my first time ever going to the Conservation Congress, so I’m going to outline my experience for people who plan to go in the future.

My experience:

We registered between 6:30 and 7. There were white tables in front of the entry to the PAC, and we wrote down our names and addresses, and were handed the question packet and three voting ballots. The next table over, we showed our IDs and were given tiny ballots to write the name of the delegates.

We sat in a cluster of Alliance people so I would have the best chance of people finding me if they needed a cheat sheet. We all started filling out our white ballots, flipping between the question packet and the cheat sheet. The actual talking portion started a little after 7. The game warden introduced the event, and his words were supplemented by a powerpoint. He enunciated well, but spoke stiffly, and gave the impression of reading directly from a manual, the way that teachers always have to for standardized tests.

The first election was for the 3-year term. There was a period of time to nominate delegates. Two were nominated. Each took a turn speaking.

While the votes were counted, the game warden started to read through the questions in the packet. He read every.single.question, except for the local measures. I had mixed feelings about this. It’s good to have multiple ways to communicate information for different learning styles and intelligences, and it may have helped people with reading disabilities, so that’s very cool. But it was so dull and so long. We also watched a fishing video during this first hiatus.

After the votes were counted, they announced the winner – the incumbent, Paul Reich. The same voting process was then repeated with the 2-year term delegates, then more question reading as those votes were counted. The 2-year term delegate was also the incumbent, Melissa Smith. Yay, Melissa! I also liked Paul. He seemed like an ethical person who could get things done. Also, he looked kind of like Louis C.K.!

paul reich

The DNR guy finished reading all the questions on the white ballot, then we moved to the blue ballot. The blue ballot concerned citizen proposals, all of which were taped on the wall outside the PAC. The savvy people knew this and had already taken pictures with their smart phones. I was not one of those savvy people, so I had to run out halfway through and do so. The citizen proposals inspired a lot more crowd commentary than the DNR proposals.

We left right before they were going to read the questions for the green ballot. It was about 9 pm. I’m guessing the event went until 9:30 or 9:45.

I was definitely not the only animal lover there, and I didn’t feel out of place.

I was warned by others that the Conservation Congress can be an uncomfortable place to be if you’re non-consumptive (not a hunter/trapper/fisher). Because of this, I asked my mom to go with me. Even if she hadn’t been there, we had a contingent of maybe 15 Alliance people, most of whom were sitting together. The auditorium was huge, and there were only 200-some people there, so I was physically distant from the people who identified as hunters.

It is long, but there are multiple options to leave early. 

The only thing you have to physically be there for is the election of the 3-year and 2-year term delegates. That happens in the first hour. The rest of the time, the DNR reps read the questions that you vote on on the three different colored ballots. You can follow along, or you can fill them out ahead of time, especially if you have a cheat sheet!

I did enjoy the citizen commentary, and I learned a lot.

The reason to stay is that, after each question, there is an option for citizen comments and questions. It’s rare that what a citizen said changed the way I voted, but a lot of them were knowledgeable, and I’m glad I heard what they had to say.

“Conservation” is a bit of a misnomer, since the only issues we voted on are in regards to game species. Nothing about other wildlife, nothing about other environmental issues.

So, there are three different voting cards we fill out. The white is for issues that have passed their specific committees and will be enacted if voted on. I didn’t stay to hear what the green was, but I think it’s similar to the white. The blue is for citizen proposals. If those pass, they are sent to a series of committees in the DNR, and they may eventually become issues for the white ballot.

The white and green ballots only covered game species. The blue ballot had a range of proposals about keeping science in the DNR, doing a full impact study about the oil pipeline, making the voting process more transparent, educating the public, and my favorite, having online voting! When my mother and I Ieft right after the citizen proposals had all been voted on, her response was “that was a lot more balanced than I would have thought.” I agreed at the time, but I’m not sure in retrospect. The only issues where there was balance were the issues where voting didn’t mean that much. Assuming that it’s been this way every year, I think it says something that there’s significant disparity between the green/white ballots and the blue ballots. But let me know if I’m misinterpreting!

People really don’t like Cathy Stepp.

Which is, of course, totally justified. But my favorite part about the blue ballots is that they had at least three proposals that clearly had the goal of never having someone like Cathy Stepp as secretary again.

I have no idea how anyone answers all those questions without a cheat sheet, and without reading the questions ahead of time.

It’s just a lot, a lot of reading and information to do all at once.

A lot of the comments on citizen proposals were by people who cared about animals, the environment, or wanted hunters and conservationists to work together.

It was kind of inspiring.

OVERALL: It’s definitely not my favorite animal related activity, but I feel like it’s an important thing I can do for wildlife, and it’s only one night a year. I appreciate the option to leave whenever we want. I would appreciate even more the option to vote online, but I’m glad I went this year, and I hope to see even more of you at the next one!

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Proposal seeks to limit trapping on Dane County land

FROM ALLIANCE FOR ANIMALS: Alert to AFA members and supporters and concerned citizens in Dane County:

If you have the opportunity, please attend and show your support for
limiting publicly-owned property open to trapping.

While we oppose trapping everywhere, we believe this is a step in the
right direction and allows the county to set a precedent that could
be important if and when the state requirement is overturned.

Dane County Park Commission
Date and Time: Wednesday, January 23, 2013, 5:30 pm
Location: Lyman F. Anderson Agriculture & Conservation Center
5201 Fen Oak Drive – Conference A-B
Madison, WI 53718

Wisconsin State Journal article below:

Calling the practice cruel and inhumane, a Dane County supervisor Wednesday night will unveil a proposal to reduce the amount of county-owned land available for trapping.

Sup. Cynda Solberg, District 36, wants to limit trapping to county land bought with the help of state Stewardship funds that make hunting and trapping a requirement as part of the purchase agreement. The proposal, which will be introduced to the Parks Commission on Wednesday night, could remove up to 345 of the county’s 1,871 acres in wildlife areas that are currently open to trapping, according to the county’s most recent statistics.

“If I had my way I would like to see it banned completely,” said Solberg. “But realistically this is the best we can do.”

The plan would require County Board approval.

Solberg said she was the lone dissenter last year when the board approved accepting state Stewardship funds to help pay for a 25-acre addition to McCarthy Park near Cottage Grove. The use of Stewardship money — a state source many local governments tap to expand or buy new land for parks — made McCarthy the first recreational park in the county to allow trapping.

At about the same time, the state Legislature passed a bill that strengthened rules allowing trapping and hunting on public land purchased with Stewardship money.

Solberg said traps “torture” animals and also endanger young children and pets. Although reports of pets killed or children injured in traps over the past few years are rare, she called them accidents waiting to happen.

“The argument is that traps are not in (recreational) areas. But I ask those people, ‘Do you have children? They never stay where they are supposed to,'” Solberg said. “It’s not reasonable to say it will only trap what it’s intended for. It’s like playing with fire. Why wait for something to happen?”

Mark Peters, a district director for the Wisconsin Trappers Association, said the broad trapping rights granted by the state constitution may only be limited by reasonable restrictions.

“I understand that certain areas should not be open, but there are areas that are county-owned that are open right now that are not causing problems for anybody,” he said.

But Solberg said it’s difficult to thoroughly enforce the law requiring trappers to check their traps daily. She added that she has heard too many stories of animals stuck in traps for days waiting for the trappers to show up and kill them.

“We have no idea where these traps really are. It’s impossible to oversee something like that,” Solberg said. “All these rules are great, but I don’t buy it that they can be checked up on.”

Peters said trappers do a good job of policing themselves. “There are always a few people who violate the rules, but, by far, the vast majority of trappers are trying to do it the right way, ethically and staying within the regulations, sometimes way beyond the regulations, to avoid potential problems,” Peters said.

Peters said approved traps will not kill pets or injure children. He added trapping is used today in city and county parks to control wildlife populations that are damaging public lands and creating public health risks.

A differing opinion was offered by Rick Bogle, a spokesman for the animal rights group Alliance for Animals that Solberg said asked her to sponsor the amendment. “Wild populations just aren’t running amok,” said Bogle.

Bogle called Solberg’s amendment a step in the right direction. “A very few of us want to go out and set traps, leave them there for a period of time until they come back and kill the animals trapped in them and make money selling their pelts,” he said. “That tiny fraction has completely been allowed to trump the concerns of a much larger, majority opinion. I don’t think it’s at all fair that the state forces communities to do this. We think the mandate is biased and undemocratic.”

Proposal seeks to limit trapping on Dane County land : Wsj.

Ex-owners push for investigation after claiming horse neglect

1. Four emaciated horses were residing at the farm of Mary Loeffelholz.

2. Dane County Animal Control has been watching for signs of neglect since 2008.

3. Original owners of two of the horses attempt to rescue all four.

4. Dane County sheriff’s deputies return horses to Loeffelholz farm.

WHAT IS WRONG HERE? Lead animal services worker Pat Comfort said, “The legal process is a slow one, but it’s the process we have to follow.” This is ridiculous. These horses are going to die if not given proper care.

PLEASE contact County Executive Joe Parisi and Dane County Superintendent Jerry Bollig (District 31) to get these horses to safety.

Read the entire article here:

Ex-owners push for investigation after claiming horse neglect.

Alliance for Animals sues over leafleting at Alliant Energy Center during Zor Shrine Circus

A local animal rights group, preparing for a February appearance in Madison of the Shrine Circus, sued Dane County and several sheriff’s deputies Tuesday for alleged past infringements of their free speech and due process rights.

Read entire Wisconsin State Journal article here: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/crime_and_courts/animal-rights-group-sues-over-leafleting-at-coliseum-during-circus/article_84d0d1c0-10a2-11e1-b05e-001cc4c002e0.html#ixzz1dyzWMfPA