Tag Archives: NRB

Federal Lawsuit by Tribes is the Latest Challenge to Wisconsin’s Wolf Hunt

“The legends and stories tell us as brothers we walk hand in hand together. What happens to the Ma’iingan (wolf) happens to humanity,” said Marvin DeFoe in a statement, Red Cliff tribal elder and member of the Voigt Intertribal Task Force with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

WPR
Art by Mark Anthony Jacobson Gray Wolf

6 Wisconsin Tribes Sue State To Stop Fall Wolf Hunt

Tribes Say State Is Failing To Uphold Tribes’ Federal Treaty Rights By Danielle Kaeding From Wisconsin Public Radio:

  • Tuesday, September 21, 2021, 11:45am

Updated: Tuesday, September 21, 2021,

Six Ojibwe tribes in Wisconsin are suing the state in federal court to stop the fall wolf hunt, arguing their treaty rights are being violated.

The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lac Courtes Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, St. Croix Chippewa Indians and Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa tribes filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Wisconsin against Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole and the Natural Resources Board.

The tribes say their rights under the 1837 and 1842 treatieswith the United States government are being violated by actions taken regarding the upcoming Nov. 6 hunt.

“First in setting the quota for the upcoming wolf hunt, Defendants purposefully and knowingly discriminated against the Ojibwe Tribes by acting to nullify their share. Second, the Defendants failed to use sound biological principles in establishing the quota for the upcoming hunt,” the complaint reads.

Tribes are asking a federal judge to rule that the Natural Resources Board violated their rights when setting the harvest quota and bar the state from a holding a hunt this fall.  The six tribes say the state has failed to put “adequate safeguards” in place to protect tribes’ share of the wolf harvest quota, pointing to the February wolf hunt. In February, hunters blew past their 119-wolf quota, killing 218 wolves in less than three days.  

John Johnson Sr., president of the Lac du Flambeau tribe, told WPR on Monday prior to the filing that tribes are going to stand together and fight to uphold their treaty rights. 

“I would like to see the state working with the tribes, allowing us to take our fair share,” said Johnson.

Tribes are entitled to half the share of all natural resources off-reservation in territory ceded to the U.S. government under federal treaties. In August, the Natural Resources Board voted 5 to 2 to set a quota of 300 wolves for the fall hunt — more than double the quota recommended by the DNR. 

At the Aug. 11 meeting, the board’s vice chair, Greg Kazmierski, proposed an overall quota of 504 wolves, saying that would allow hunters to harvest roughly 300 wolves after splitting the quota with tribes. Cole accused him of trying to manipulate the quota and set it higher, knowing tribes can claim up to half the amount. Kazmierski fired back, saying the agency’s quota recommendation was manipulated when it came before the board.

DNR staff urged a conservative harvest of 130 wolves due to uncertainty over the population’s response to the February wolf hunt. 

Tribes consider the wolf a brother and seek to use their share of the wolf harvest quota to protect the animal.

“The legends and stories tell us as brothers we walk hand in hand together. What happens to the Ma’iingan (wolf) happens to humanity,” said Marvin DeFoe in a statement, Red Cliff tribal elder and member of the Voigt Intertribal Task Force with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Tim Preso, an attorney for Earthjustice, said they’re filing the lawsuit on behalf of tribes who don’t intend to see a repeat of February’s wolf hunt. 

“The February hunt resulted in an overkill of wolves by non-tribal hunters that consumed the entire tribal share of the wolf quota under the tribes’ treaties and more,” said Preso, managing attorney of the biodiversity defense program for Earthjustice. “This time around, the state has, through the Natural Resources Board, established a quota that was explicitly calculated by some members of the Natural Resources Board to take the tribal portion of the quota that the Department of Natural Resources had proposed.”

A DNR spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the lawsuit and declined to comment further. Natural Resources Board Chair Fred Prehn said he believes the board is following the law, saying the process used to set the wolf harvest quota is the same used for any other species. 

“This board is going to follow law. I’ve been saying this for many, many years. We follow statute and regulation, and we believe we’ve done that,” said Prehn. “And, if the judge rules differently, then we’ll have to digest the response from the judge and then meet and deliberate as a board.”

Prehn said the board needs to follow Wisconsin’s existing wolf management plan in setting the wolf harvest quota. The plan, which was first written in 1999 and last updated in 2007, outlines a management goal of 350 wolves for Wisconsin. The DNR is currently in the process of updating the state’s wolf management plan.

“This board is following the management plan in managing the species,” said Prehn. “And even with that in consideration, the quota that this board set still wasn’t anywhere close to trying to reach the management plan objective.”

The DNR has said the goal of 350 wolves outlined in the plan was intended as a trigger for management or harvest — not a population goal. Critics have said the plan is vastly outdated and not based on the best available science. 

Wisconsin tribes are among groups representing nearly 200 tribes across the country who are demanding the Biden administration provide emergency protections for wolves. They sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last week calling for emergency protections, arguing states have enacted anti-wolf policies that threaten to decimate wolf populations.

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the agency may restore protections for gray wolves out west due to aggressive wolf hunting policies that have been enacted in states like Idaho and Montana.

The federal lawsuit is the latest challenge to Wisconsin’s wolf hunt. Earlier this month, animal protection and wildlife advocacy groups sued to halt the fall wolf hunt in state court, saying the law that mandates a hunt is unconstitutional.

Hunters and farmers have argued there are too many wolves on the landscape, escalating conflicts between livestock and hounds.

The Trump administration removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list across most of the nation earlier this year. Wildlife and environmental groups immediately sued to restore protections for the animal, but the Biden administration has backed the decision to delist the animal. 

The DNR originally planned to hold a single wolf hunt this fall, but Kansas-based Hunter Nation sued in February to force a wolf hunt. A Jefferson County judge ordered the DNR to immediately hold a hunt in February.

One study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers found hunters and poachers have killed a third of Wisconsin’s wolf population this year. Conservation groups like Wisconsin’s Green Fire fear the fall hunt could cut the state’s wolf population in half since earlier this year.

The DNR estimates Wisconsin had 1,136 wolves prior to the February hunt. The state’s population has grown from just 25 animals in 1980. Source Wisconsin Public Radio

Commentary: Killing is Not the Only Choice for Gray Wolf Management

I am posting a commentary By CHARLIE RASMUSSEN, communications director for the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), because it makes perfect sense when considering how the tribes Honor their obligations towards the Natural Resources of Wisconsin. I’m going to post the last paragraph of Rasmussen’s commentary first because it’s the perfect lead for the post:

“Looking ahead to this November ma’iingan season, Ojibwe bands have declared one-half, or 50% of the wolf quota established by the NRB. Wisconsin DNR officials must also account for the 99-wolf overkill that occurred in the runaway February season. The sum of 99 should be subtracted from the state’s share of wolves after the tribal declaration. When clerical errors have resulted in walleye overages by Ojibwe spearfishers, lakes are closed to harvest the following season to account for the overage. Tribal managers account for their mistakes. It’s well past time the state takes on a similar level of accountability.”

The following is the full commentary By CHARLIE RASMUSSEN:

In setting a 300-kill quota, the Natural Resources Board disregarded wishes from tribes and conservationists, and recommendations from the DNR experts.

Six months after Wisconsin wolf packs were left reeling from an unprecedented recreational hunt during the animals’ vulnerable breeding season, state officials are pushing forward plans to kill hundreds more wolves in 2021.

At its August meeting, a lame-duck-lead majority of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB) made clear that its decision to set the wolf quota at 300 had nothing to do with science or stewardship.  Collaboration with Ojibwe bands is absent here as well—an affront to federal court decisions that make up the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Indians v. Wisconsin, or “Voigt” case, which requires the state to coordinate management with tribes in the 1837 and 1842 Ceded Territories.

Wisconsin wolves lost protection under the Endangered Species Act on January 4, 2021. Then, in late February the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) presided over a chaotic wolf hunt in which recreationists killed nearly 100 extra wolves, soaring past a quota limit set at 119 animals. The unprecedented hunt with hounds during the wolf breeding season was so deadly that it had to be shut down after only three days. Fresh snowfalls made for efficient hunting as many tag-holders used dog packs to run down wolves, some of whom were pregnant, across wolf range in the state.

Now, despite calls from Ojibwe tribes to back away from yet another 2021 ma’iingan (Ojibwe Anishinaabe word for “wolf”) kill, as well as advice from Wisconsin DNR biologists to set a more moderate fall quota, the NRB demonstrated that its illegitimate holdover majority is bent on driving down the state’s wolf population. At a meeting in Milwaukee, members of the board scoffed at the state’s own scientific experts for recommending a 130-wolf quota. The board even went so far as to consider a kill goal as high as 504 before settling on 300 wolves. Faced with a science-based analysis, the NRB stumbled through talking points about the need to move the population toward a non-existent population goal in a 22-year old management plan, in order to manipulate the quota. Denying the tribes their share of a science-based quota—thereby undermining Ojibwe bands’ treaty rights—appeared to be a priority.

Killing is not the only choice when it comes to managing a quota of natural resources. Each sovereign entity, whether tribal or otherwise, decides how its share is used.  While the DNR Board may struggle to comprehend this judicious use, it’s a precept the DNR, the agency, understands. For Ojibwe bands, the current sovereign decision is that the best use of wolves comes in the form of live animals, on the land, helping to enhance and maintain healthy ecosystems upon which the tribes depend.  

Looking ahead to this November ma’iingan season, Ojibwe bands have declared one-half, or 50% of the wolf quota established by the NRB. Wisconsin DNR officials must also account for the 99-wolf overkill that occurred in the runaway February season. The sum of 99 should be subtracted from the state’s share of wolves after the tribal declaration. When clerical errors have resulted in walleye overages by Ojibwe spearfishers, lakes are closed to harvest the following season to account for the overage. Tribal managers account for their mistakes. It’s well past time the state takes on a similar level of accountability. 

The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission is an intertribal agency comprised of 11 Ojibwe bands in Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, and Minnesota. GLIFWC works with member bands to both manage and preserve off-reservation treaty reserved resources. Please visit www.glifwc.org for more information.

Charlie Rasmussen

Charlie Rasmussen As communications director for the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), Rasmussen works to help the intertribal agency’s 11 Ojibwe bands manage and preserve off-reservation treaty-reserved resources in Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, and Minnesota.

*Image of gray wolf credit Snapshot Wisconsin

Political Ploys by NRB Threatening Wisconsin’s Wolf Recovery

Wisconsin’s Wolf Awareness Week will take place October 17-23, 2021. In 1990, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson signed the proclamation of Wisconsin Wolf Awareness Week, a time to celebrate these important animals, by highlighting the threats to their survival, spread the word about what you can do to help wolves stay protected, and help humans learn to live alongside them. Spreading the word about the threats to their survival is urgent! Here’s why:

I’m witnessing the same political ploys being carried over to today’s NRB. In 2011, the wolf advisory meetings that were run under then DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp (R) were chalked full of dirty politics and it’s no different today. It was as hard to watch then as today. Because the same anti-wolf propaganda is being carried on in today’s wolf management.

Op Ed: NRB Politics Threatens Wolf Recovery

In 1987, only eighteen wolves were estimated to live in Wisconsin and fewer in Upper Michigan. That year, the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute began the Timber Wolf Alliance to assist twenty-one organizations and many private individuals in promoting wolf recovery in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula through public education, citizen science, and volunteer activities.

The Timber Wolf Alliance is committed to investigating the facts and relies on research to dispel myths and unfounded fears associated with wolves. TWA provides training in wolf biology and ecology, develops and disseminates educational materials on wolves, and supports volunteers to help with wolf monitoring efforts.

The 2021 Wolf Awareness Week poster is here and it is beautiful! The artist, Morgane Antoine, truly captured the beauty and essence of the wolf. Posters are for sale now at: https://www.northland.edu/centers/soei/twa/wolf-awareness-poster/ Timber Wolf Alliance Facebook Page Post.

I’m going to celebrate Wisconsin’s wolf recovery during Wolf Awareness Week starting on October 17th! Join me! The following is my opinion editorial.

Op Ed: NRB Politics Threatens Wolf Recovery

Laid out before me was the skeleton remains of a White-tailed deer: clear signs of a wolf kill site. The ribs were facing up-right, the hide was in a tight bundle beside the remains, and the fur lay on the ground in a circle all around the remains. I felt a great deal of respect for both the deer and the wolf. This was part of nature’s plan, part of the predator and prey dynamics. I came upon the site in the year 2003 while scouting my wolf tracking block, and those memories remind me of my time spent observing wolf signs during Wisconsin’s wolf recovery program. 

When I became a volunteer Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Winter wolf tracker in the year 2000, there were just 66 wolf packs. I was assigned a wolf tracking block in Douglas County, Wisconsin. The gray wolf population flourished while under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Thirty years after Wisconsin began its wolf recovery program, I witnessed it disappear altogether. Wolf recovery went from zero to sixty, resulting in three consecutive wolf hunts, mandated by the conservative controlled state legislature. 

The most unfortunate aspect of this process was the loss of public education & input: the conservative party controlled wolf management. And, to top it off, anti-wolf fringe hunters also came to dominate politics. They pushed misinformation instead of science. They began campaigns full of political rhetoric designed to scare the public. The propaganda by anti-wolf politicians & fringe hunters were claiming wolves are killing all the deer, and the people in the northwoods don’t want them in their backyards. 

Today I’m reminded of these same political dynamics that surrounded gray wolf management in Wisconsin back then. I debated writing about the recent events surrounding wolf management in Wisconsin because I felt drained by the drama of it all. It’s just more of the same, just a different day, different year and different decade with politics that surrounds the wolf. It’s more about people than wolves because people drive the politics. 

Take for instance the recent August 11, 2021 meeting of the Natural Resources Board (NRB). The chair, Dr. Prehn (R), wants a wolf hunt so bad that he refuses to relinquish his seat to Governor Ever’s (D) appointee Sandy Naas and it’s made headlines all over the world. 

At the NRB meeting, chair Prehn and four other board members went against the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) scientific recommendations of a wolf quota of 130 and voted to up it to 300. They also voted that the DNR must get approval from the NRB if they change the 300 quota number. That move puts conservatives in the majority to control wolf hunting in November 2021. 

For the most part, it’s interesting to add for public information that many are the same players from the past decade.  The same party holds majority power, and refuses to hear any scientific evidence, just as before during the prior three wolf hunts. These same tactics led to the gray wolf being relisted. A Federal Judge ordered that endangered species protection be restored immediately in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan on December 19, 2014. 


I’m witnessing the same political ploys being carried over to today’s NRB.  In the past, the wolf advisory meetings that were run under then DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp (R) were chalked full of dirty politics and it’s no different today. It was as hard to watch then as today. Because the same anti-wolf propaganda is being carried on in today’s wolf management. Just like back then, the anti-wolf crowd would have you believe everyone living in wolf country doesn’t want them there. 

Meanwhile, I don’t believe the anti-wolf’s argument that all the people living in wolf territory want them gone or hunted down to a population of 350.

Based on my experience, not everyone in wolf country hates & fears wolves. I track wolves in Douglas Ccounty, Wisconsin. In 2004 I needed a plot map for tracking and went over to the Douglas County forestry office to purchase one. While I was standing by the counter, in the office waiting for someone to wait on me, I looked up to see several pictures hanging above the counter of wolf puppies. 

In conclusion, in a DNR Public Attitudes Towards Wolves Survey taken in 2014, Douglas County has the highest density of wolves and people, with 56% of the citizens wanting to live with wolves. Interestingly enough, Douglas County has the oldest populations of wolves and the most tolerant people, showing that Wisconsinites can coexist with wolves. 

Therefore, I encourage Wisconsinites to get involved in the wolf management plan that is in the process of being written.

I found remains of a white-Tailed deer in wolf range.

Op Ed: NRB Politics Threatens Wolf Recovery

Laid out before me was the skeleton remains of a White-tailed deer: clear signs of a wolf kill site. The ribs were facing up-right, the hide was in a tight bundle beside the remains, and the fur lay on the ground in a circle all around the remains. I felt a great deal of respect for both the deer and the wolf. This was part of nature’s plan, part of the predator and prey dynamics. I came upon the site in the year 2003 while scouting my wolf tracking block, and those memories remind me of my time spent observing wolf signs during Wisconsin’s wolf recovery program.

When I became a volunteer Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Winter wolf tracker in the year 2000, there were just 66 wolf packs. I was assigned a wolf tracking block in Douglas County, Wisconsin. The gray wolf population flourished while under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Thirty years after Wisconsin began its wolf recovery program, I witnessed it disappear altogether. Wolf recovery went from zero to sixty, resulting in three consecutive wolf hunts, mandated by the conservative controlled state legislature.

The most unfortunate aspect of this process was the loss of public education & input: the conservative party controlled wolf management. And, to top it off, anti-wolf fringe hunters also came to dominate politics. They pushed misinformation instead of science. They began campaigns full of political rhetoric designed to scare the public. The propaganda by anti-wolf politicians & fringe hunters were claiming wolves are killing all the deer, and the people in the northwoods don’t want them in their backyards.

Today I’m reminded of these same political dynamics that surrounded gray wolf management in Wisconsin back then. I debated writing about the recent events surrounding wolf management in Wisconsin because I felt drained by the drama of it all. It’s just more of the same, just a different day, different year and different decade with politics that surrounds the wolf. It’s more about people than wolves because people drive the politics.

Take for instance the recent August 11, 2021 meeting of the Natural Resources Board (NRB). The chair, Dr. Prehn (R), wants a wolf hunt so bad that he refuses to relinquish his seat to Governor Ever’s (D) appointee Sandy Naas and it’s made headlines all over the world.

At the NRB meeting, chair Prehn and four other board members went against the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) scientific recommendations of a wolf quota of 130 and voted to up it to 300. They also voted that the DNR must get approval from the NRB if they change the 300 quota number. That move puts conservatives in the majority to control wolf hunting in November 2021.

For the most part, it’s interesting to add for public information that many are the same players from the past decade.  The same party holds majority power, and refuses to hear any scientific evidence, just as before during the prior three wolf hunts. These same tactics led to the gray wolf being relisted. A Federal Judge ordered that endangered species protection be restored immediately in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan on December 19, 2014. 


I’m witnessing the same political ploys being carried over to today’s NRB.  In the past, the wolf advisory meetings that were run under then DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp (R) were chalked full of dirty politics and it’s no different today. It was as hard to watch then as today. Because the same anti-wolf propaganda is being carried on in today’s wolf management. Just like back then, the anti-wolf crowd would have you believe everyone living in wolf country doesn’t want them there. 

Meanwhile, I don’t believe the anti-wolf’s argument that all the people living in wolf territory want them gone or hunted down to a population of 350.

Based on my experience, not everyone in wolf country hates & fears wolves. I track wolves in Douglas Ccounty, Wisconsin. In 2004 I needed a plot map for tracking and went over to the Douglas County forestry office to purchase one. While I was standing by the counter, in the office waiting for someone to wait on me, I looked up to see several pictures hanging above the counter of wolf puppies.

In conclusion, in a DNR Public Attitudes Towards Wolves Survey taken in 2014, Douglas County has the highest density of wolves and people, with 56% of the citizens wanting to live with wolves. Interestingly enough, Douglas County has the oldest populations of wolves and the most tolerant people, showing that Wisconsinites can coexist with wolves.

Therefore, I encourage Wisconsinites to get involved in the wolf management plan that is in the process of being written.