Efforts to roll back and repeal a state law allowing hunting and trapping in Wisconsin state parks has resulted in the election of a few nonhunters to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, which advises the Department of Natural Resources.
Late last year, a groundswell of silent sports enthusiasts opposed the DNR's implementation of Act 168, a quietly passed state law that would have allowed hunting and trapping on most state parks and trails seven months out of the year. Pressured by state park visitors, the Natural Resources Board in December limited hunting and trapping in the parks to a two-month season.
The Wisconsin Conservation Congress, a group long dominated by "hook and bullet" interests, revived the issue when it chose to ask attendees to its statewide spring hearings if they would support the law's greater expansion of hunting on state lands.
That led many cross-country skiers, hikers, birdwatchers and other non-hunters to show up at the hearings held in all 72 counties to vote against expanded hunting, a separate question about the use of dogs to hunt wolves, and to elect representatives to the WCC.
The combined attendance at the hearings in five counties was up 87 percent from the previous year. And the crowds in three of those counties elected at least four delegates with nonhunting interests to the 360-member WCC, reported columnist Pat Durkin in the Green Bay Press Gazette. The five counties where attendance was highest were Dane, Door, Marathon, Milwaukee and Polk.
The majority of voters in those counties, as well as in Ashland, Bayfield and Menominee counties, opposed more hunting in state parks and using dogs for wolf hunting. Those measures still won support in all of the remaining counties, however, Durkin said.
The "silent sports" crowd helped elect four of their own to the WCC: wolf hunting opponent Melissa Smith of Madison, environmental activist Barb Eisenberg of Milwaukee, and nonmotorized trail advocates Brook Waalen of Luck and Paul Kuhlman of St. Croix Falls.
WCC Chairman Rob Bohmann of Racine acknowledged that the "nonconsumptive" recreationists were more motivated to attend the hearings than hunters. "They were definitely more organized," he told Durkin.
An online petition seeks the repeal of Act 168 alleging that i was passed in violation of the state open meetings law. Search for "Repeal illegal WI State Parks hunting law."