*Updated 06/11/18 – I attended the monthly meetings of the Secretary Stepp’s newly appointed Wisconsin DNR’s Wolf Advisory Committee 2012-2014. I witnessed just how dysfunctional it would get at these meetings. Cathy Stepp is no longer WDNR Secretary and moved on to accept a key position with the Great Lakes EPA. The following is my account of one of these dysfunctional meetings.
Under Wisconsin DNR Secretary, Cathy Stepp’s direction the WI Wolf Advisory Committee (WAC) decides wolf management policy in Wisconsin. “Cathy Stepp Says Staunch Hunting Opponents Weren’t Being Productive Members Of Advisory Body…” The following news story by Wisconsin Pubic Radio made it clear that a WDNR secretary did indeed kick wolf advocates off her committee: DNR Secretary admits wolf hunt opponents we removed from Advisory Committee
During three years 2012-2014 WDNR managed trophy hunts on Wisconsin’s wild wolf. Wolves hadn’t even been officially delisted when Wisconsin legislators enacted Wisconsin Act 169 mandating in a law that wolves must we hunted when they are not listed.
WDNR was ordered to oversee a wolf hunt under then WDNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. Stepp created a WDNR Wolf Advisory Committee to manage the trophy wolf hunts. Here is a list of Cathy Stepp’s hand Picked WAC, “that she thinks better suited to, “…people who were willing to work with us in partnership…”:United States Fish & Wildlife Service(USFWS), United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services(USDA WS), Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission(GLIFWC), Wisconsin County Forest Association(WCFA), Wisconsin Conservation Congress(WCC), Safari Club International(SCI), Timber Wolf Alliance(TWA), Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association(WBHA), Wisconsin Bowhunters Association(WBA), Wisconsin Cattlemans Association(WCA), Wisconsin Trappers Association(WTA), Wisconsin Wildlife Federation(WWF) and 10 WDNR biologists.
The WAC is heavily slanted towards recreational trophy hunting of wolves with 9 citizen pro wolf hunting organizations to 1 pro wolf citizen organization. Further, according to Cathy Stepp this committee is more productive than opponents of the wolf hunt. There is evidence to the contrary that shows the WAC productiveness is comparable to reality TV’s Housewives of NYC.
I spent eight hours listening to fringe hunters disrupt the meeting in an effort to further a pro wolf hunt agenda; At one point during all the dysfunction, a committee member said, ” let’s vote on how dysfunctional this committee has become.” They further stated (in obvious frustration), “This is like herding cats, said a WCC member.”
Why was this WAC member so frustrated?
The first agenda item was; to set a maximum wolf population number for the new management plan; this agenda item effort took up the entire meeting. Yes! You read this right, it took the rest of the day to accomplish this one agenda item.
The following was a college student’s observation of the WAC meeting:
Valuable meeting time was taken up in finger pointing at each other, so much so, that even the public observers attending the meeting were heard to say, “this committee should act singular with the same goals leaving individual groups names out of the discussions.”
How many wolves can Wisconsin support is even more important factor now that citizens have shown they want wolves on the landscape. Read on:
“Wisconsin residents support a wolf population at least as large as the state has now, according to a draft survey released Tuesday by the Department of Natural Resources. Majority support for at least maintaining the wolf population was present even among county residents in “wolf range,” the area of Wisconsin where wolf depredations are most prevalent. The survey results conflict with a DNR plan to reduce the state’s wolves to 350, a population goal identified in a 1999 wolf management plan.” Source
The goal of the WAC is to determine what the social and land carrying capacity of Wisconsin’s wolf population for the 2105 wolf management plan. The WAC has the obligation to work together for this end goal. Right? This was not the case as several pro wolf hunt WAC members refused to move beyond their own organization’s agenda on wolf population numbers.
Is Wisconsin’s Wolf Advisory Committee sanctioning the hunting of an endangered species?
“In answer to that question the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Representative said, “Well you have to kill them to save them.”
These types of statements claim their (WWF) own special brand of conservation of an imperiled species. This conservation ethic continues to this day.
Trophy hunts are about power not conservation.
Even worse was the squabbling heard coming from hunting groups directed at the WDNR during the meeting.
WI Bear Hunters Association, and WI Bow Hunters Association Committee members accused the agency (WDNR) of being in favor of higher wolf populations. WBA was clear that they want to stick to the 350 wolf population numbers and no matter what the cost; even bringing up past history. WI Bear Hunters Association committee member claimed the agency is not keeping their promises made to them regarding wolves; promises made over 30 years ago.
WI Bow Hunter Association (WBA) committee member went to great lengths to justify keeping wolves to the original management plan written in 1999 of 350. They brought up an old unsubstantiated document from Timber Wolf Alliance; regarding discussion on the now infamous 350 wolf population number from almost a decade ago.
The 350 Wisconsin wolf population number was never meant to be a final cap. It was a suggested number for when wolves could be taken off of life support.
By mid afternoon break it was evident that several pro wolf hunt committee members were not going to compromise on any wolf population number; other than the now infamous 350. Even remarking; that they are not authorized by the organization they represent to approve any other number. Meanwhile, other WAC members were becoming frustrated by this lack of cooperation.
The committee tried to move forward with a vote at that point with one WAC member abstaining from vote because; “it’s become to dysfunctional, said the GLIFWC member.”
In the end, the WAC committee voted to advance the following goals for public input, which are; establish wolf population either, numerical goal of 350 or 650, or numerical range of 300 to 650 or a threshold of 350.
Many WAC members voiced concerns that these numbers are up for public comment; Furthermore, are only recommendations only. WAC Committee member making it clear; that these numbers need to be taken serious, else wise wolves could be re-listed. Even stating, if any federal agencies sees wolf population numbers drop below healthy numbers they could be re-listed as a result.
Even with this these cautions of re-listing wolves; the Pro wolf hunt WAC members wouldn’t budge, making the process of finding suitable middle-ground impossible.
WAC member from WI Cattlemen’s Association remarked that wolves are harassing and killing their livestock; stating they want 350 populations goals that were established over a decade ago.
On the other end of the spectrum; was the opinion given from WDNR Depredations manager, that lethal controls are in place for landowner & livestock owners to remove problem wolves. Stating that the wolf hunt is not needed to control problem wolves.
Interview filmed June 11, 2015 while attending a WDNR wolf population meeting.
WAC is not working for for the public trust. Wisconsin’s wild wolf has great value on the the health of ecosystems, such as; trophc cascade throughout wolf range benefiting White-tailed deer herds, prevention of over browsing of forests, and keeping disease in check. The wolf’s value on the ecosystems far outweighs the small numbers of depredations on livestock, pets and bear hunting dogs; which can be minimized by wolf education & awareness, that is sorely lacking in Secretary Stepp’s WAC.
In its current state WAC is dysfunction junction.