DNR Secretary Adam Payne answered questions from the Senate’s natural resources committee regarding wolf management.

Photo credit https://www.voyageurswolfproject.org/

DNR Secretary Adam Payne answered questions from the Senate’s natural resources committee… on wolf management. When asked why the plan lacks a “target number” of wolves, Payne told lawmakers he expects the agency will revisit wolf population metrics to clarify what wildlife managers think is a sustainable wolf population. He said that would be informed by biological and social science.  WPR Interview

“Maybe we’ll see a range,” Payne said. “But we don’t do it for deer, and we don’t do it for bear.” WPR Interview

Payne referred to management plans for deer and bear, saying they don’t contain specific population goals. WPR Interview

In the Wisconsin Public Radio Interview, extremists’ views were also highlighted.  Mike Brust, legislative liaison for the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association, said there’s a place for wolves in Wisconsin. But the organization’s position is that the state’s population goal should be 350 wolves. And the other, Melissa Smith, executive director of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife, argued the goal of 350 wolves is from a vastly outdated plan that doesn’t represent the best available science. As they say, opposites attract, and it should be noted that neither of these individuals has a background as a wildlife biologist. Both these voices represent a minority of nonprofits in wolf advocacy and hunting communities. Many representatives (voices) of stakeholders were weighed as part of an inclusive and diverse WMPC committee comprised of individuals representing hunting/trapping organizations, wolf advocacy/education organizations, and agricultural/ranching organizations. At this point, it is essential to mention that there is a distinct difference between wolf advocacy groups and wolf education organizations

“Numeric population goals are simply not necessary to manage wolf populations — in fact, they just provide a focal point for political battles that take our focus away from better solutions…” Op-Ed by Fred Clark & Adrian Wydeven

I called Sen. Rob Stafsholt’s office yesterday asking if he would consider being interviewed for the Film, and I have not heard back from them yet.  Stafsholt is one of the legislators who is circulating the bill.

Stafsholt and Green, the two legislators circulating the bill,  say they would like to see a goal of 350 wolves. However, Stafsholt said lawmakers wouldn’t want to see wolves hunted down to that level in one year. He said that may be a goal to work toward over two or three years. WPR Interview 

Wisconsin’s Green Fire Executive Director Fred Clark and Wildlife Work Group co-chair Adrian Wydeven bring a crucial voice of science in this opinion article on the recent 2022 Draft Wolf Management Plan. The piece emphasizes that wolf recovery in Wisconsin is a conservation success story, and despite many differing opinions voiced across the state, we can live with wolves if we are willing to do the work to balance competing interests and consider the needs of all stakeholders, using the best available science. Source: Wisconsin’s Green Fire

“Some have criticized the draft wolf plan for lacking a numeric population goal. In fact, our experience with other important wildlife species such as bear and deer in Wisconsin has proven that setting numeric goals for important wildlife populations is both unnecessary and is often counterproductive.”

“Numeric population goals are simply not necessary to manage wolf populations — in fact, they just provide a focal point for political battles that take our focus away from better solutions. Instead, we should focus on other metrics such as wolf population health, levels of human/wolf conflicts, resilience of forests to deer browse damage and the health of prey populations. These metrics can be used to determine if wolf populations in each of the six defined wolf zones should be reduced, maintained or allowed to increase.” Source: Wisconsin’s Green Fire

I encourage Wisconsinites to read the proposed Wolf Management Plan. The public review and comment period officially closed on Feb. 28, 2023, and the DNR no longer accepts official comments on the proposed plan.

DNR staff are reviewing comments received during the comment period and will use them to consider revisions to the proposed Wolf Management Plan. Once ready, the final plan will then be presented to the Natural Resources Board. This will include additional opportunities to provide public comments. Source: WDNR

If you are interested in staying up-to-date on what is happening with the Wolf Management Plan, please consider subscribing to the Wolf Management Plan mailing list.

People & Wolves, a Wisconsin Story Mired in Political Intrigue, is currently in production, gathering interviews.

The film tells the story of Wisconsin’s gray wolves, the controversies surrounding them, and how people learn to coexist as these native predators are again fulfilling their ecological role after returning to the state about 45 years ago.

This documentary will examine the people involved, between several opposing forces for over a decade, culminating in court battles.  

Gray wolves recolonized parts of Wisconsin in the 1970s after being killed off in the state in the 1950s and grew to a population of over 1000 wolves by 2020. Unfortunately, this conservation success story has become very controversial in the last decade. Federal and state endangered species acts have helped recover wolves in the state. Still, four attempts by the federal government to delist wolves from the Endangered Species Act (ESA), have resulted in court challenges returning wolves to the endangered list.  After federal delisting in 2012, the Wisconsin legislature mandated that wolf hunts would be required whenever gray wolves were off the ESA list. 

The most recent delisting battle started in January 2021, leading to a court-ordered three-day controversial wolf hunt during the breeding season in February. It went over the allotted quota, angering many Wisconsinites. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) began work on a new state Wolf Management Plan last completed in 1999. The DNR formed a committee of stakeholders, including the tribes.

Ojibwe bands in Red Cliff and Bad River have their own, Ma’iingan (Wolf) Relationship Plans.  The state must work with the tribes on wolf management, including hunting seasons. Political battles began over how to manage the next hunt in November 2021. The struggle between the DNR, its Natural Resources Board, and pro-wolf advocates ended with several lawsuits and one that yielded an injunction to stop the November 2021 wolf hunt. The Six Ojibwe tribes sued and claimed the wolf hunt violated their treaty rights. A year after the controversial wolf hunt, a California judge ordered gray wolves in much of the lower 48 states back on the ESA on February 18, 2022. Though gray wolves have numerically recovered in Wisconsin, the future of wolf management remains in limbo in the state.

The Trailer

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