Wisconsin residents clash over influence of hunting groups on conservation

By Grace van Deelen

Tracking and killing bears, wolves, and other animals in Wisconsin may be getting easier for hunters after recent rule changes to the state’s advisory process – moves that underscore clashes underway in many states between conservation groups and pro-hunting interests.

The rule changes in Wisconsin limit the resolutions an advisory group can present to the state’s department of natural resources, upsetting citizens who fear that protections for wildlife are weakening as pro-hunting interests gain ever more power.

In the latest skirmish, the advisory group has been blocked from recommending to the state resolutions that would have prohibited the use of dogs for wolf hunting and the use of chocolate bear bait. They also are blocked from putting forward a resolution that would have required hunters to register their bear-baiting sites.

Residents and advisory group members say the changes infringe on the democratic process, shutting out non-hunters from important decisions, and allowing harmful hunting practices to continue.

“By making these changes, they are really showing just how desperate they are to cling to the status quo,” said Amy Mueller, a volunteer with the Wisconsin Chapter of the Sierra Club, a nationwide environmental organization.

According to Mueller, the advisory group membership is disproportionately made up of members of pro-hunting groups, such as the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, an organization “dedicated to the future of hunting, fishing, trapping and the shooting sports.”

Rob Bohmann, chairman of the advisory group – known as the Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) – did not respond to a request for comment.

Citizens elect delegates to the WCC to advise the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on how to “responsibly manage Wisconsin’s natural resources for present and future generations.”