Dear Sponsors of SB602/AB712, Members of the Committee on Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry, and Members of the Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage,
As you know, SB602/AB712 proposes to discontinue funding for wolf management and to make it illegal for state law enforcement officers to enforce laws related to the management or killing of wolves, for as long as gray wolves in Wisconsin remain listed as a federally threatened or endangered species.
Northland College’s Timber Wolf Alliance—an organization committed to using science-based information to promote human co-existence with wolves and an ecologically-functional wolf population in areas of suitable habitat—has the following concerns about this bill:
1) Discontinuing Wolf Population Data Gathering: Since the fall of 1979, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has continuously monitored the state’s wolf population. This longitudinal database has been essential for wolf conservation planning and management, including the establishment of wolf hunting and trapping seasons and responses to wolf depredation problems. The population information is also the foundation of science-based decisions about the management of the wolf population and about the future status of wolves at both the federal- and state-level. Cessation of monitoring activities would prevent sound, science-based decision making in the future.
2) Weakening of a Positive Relationship with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the USFWS have cultivated a long-term, positive partnership focused on the management of wolves in Wisconsin, and since 2000, the USFWS has supported the delisting of wolves in our region. This bill’s prohibition on the enforcement of state or federal laws related to the management or killing of wolves would seriously undermine this partnership and wolf management activities in the state.
3) Disregarding Tribal Concerns in Wolf Conservation: The wolf plays an important role in the culture of all Wisconsin Indian Tribes, and the lack of wolf protection that would result from this bill would jeopardize the maintenance and protection of wolf packs on ceded and tribal lands.
4) Undermining Support for Delisting the Wolf in the Great Lakes Region: Sponsors of SB602/AB712 have indicated that the intent of the bill is to encourage Wisconsin’s Senators and House of Representative members to take action on delisting the wolf in the Great Lakes region. However, we believe that the bill is likely to undermine support for delisting. Over the last century, the management of wildlife as a public trust in Wisconsin has led to the successful recovery of species such as deer, elk, waterfowl, and turkeys. The proposed bill would abdicate responsibility for managing wolves, another public-trust wildlife species of international significance, to the federal government and would undermine support for delisting the wolf in the Great Lakes region because it would fail to demonstrate that Wisconsin is prepared to assume stewardship of the wolf population. In addition, Wisconsin’s U.S. senators and many of our representatives have already expressed public support for delisting.
Research conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources demonstrated that citizens of Wisconsin support a sustainable wolf population in the state. The mission of the Timber Wolf Alliance is to use science-based information to promote an ecologically-functional wolf population in areas of suitable habitat. The Alliance would welcome an opportunity to share our educational and expert resources with the Legislature as it considers legislation that impacts the State’s wolf population.
The Timber Wolf Alliance also believes that it is important for the Wisconsin legislature to fulfill its responsibility for managing wolves as a public trust resource by supporting the further development and implementation of wolf management practices that are scientifically sound, culturally sensitive, and publicly supported.