The version of the Sportsman Heritage Bill approved by the Senate last week allows hunting and trapping in nine state parks where it was previously prohibited, but includes a 100-yard buffer zone around trails and other designated areas.
Trail users, including hikers, bikers and skiers, objected to earlier versions of the bill because the presence of hunters would deter them from their form of outdoor pursuits.
As Paul Smith reported in Sunday's Journal Sentinel, the buffer was viewed as a compromise.
"We did hear from trail users and others who were concerned about conflicts," said George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.
Assuming Gov. Scott Walker signs the bill, the next step will be left to the Department of Natural Resources staff and board to determine which parks, if any, should remain closed to hunting. Under previous law, the board had to act to open a park for hunting. The new law requires a board vote to close one.
The nine currently restricted are Amnicon Falls, Aztalan, Big Foot Beach, Governor Nelson, Lake Kegonsa, Lakeshore, Merrick, Pattison and Roche-A-Cri. Several of those are opened to the sport during the gun deer season.
Initially, the DNR would keep those open to hunting, according to a department spokesman, Michael Bruhn.
"With the new 100-yard “no-hunting” buffer that was included by the State Senate; we believe that there will be minimal problems associated with this provision," Bruhn wrote Monday. "We have committed to the Legislature that the Department will review any issues or concerns that arise over the course of the first year.
"If something were to arise, we do retain the ability through NRB action to close specific areas or properties on a case by case basis to protect human safety or unique flora/fauna."
Close to Milwaukee, hunting would remain prohibited at Lapham Peak, a popular recreation area with hiking, biking and ski trails. Deed restrictions on 400 acres of land within the DNR property, part of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, prohibit hunting there.
Michael McFadzen, a member of the Governor's State Trails Council, was not satisfied with the 100-yard buffer zone established to protect hikers and other non-hunters.
"I agree with the general concept of the Hunting Heritgage Bill, They need to increase numbers due to dwindling use," said McFadzen, a skier and runner from Plymouth.
"But there is no practical reason to allow hunting and trapping in all state parks and trails. State parks and trails are one of the few areas that non-hunters can safely visit during the hunting season.
"There is over five million acres of public lands already open to hunting. Over 50% of Wisconsin population use state parks and trails. Only 20% of Wisconsin residents hunt/trap. There is a huge disconnect here. The amendment does little to allay park/trail supporter concerns."