Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, with backing from the Hunter Nation lobby group, on Wednesday released a list of 13 bills aimed at expanding hunting in Wisconsin and weakening the power of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR ).
The bills seek to expand opportunities for Wisconsinians to hunt and fish different animals while reducing the DNR’s control over state conservation policy. All summer, Republican lawmakers and Hunter Nation have embarked on a coordinated effort to undermine the DNR’s efforts under Governor Tony Evers and Secretary Preston Cole to steer the department in a more environmentally friendly direction.
The bills will allow the hunt for sandhill cranes and breeding cattle – ungulate animals such as bison, sheep and antelopes – as well as the modification of the hunting seasons for wild turkeys and store more pheasants to be chased away. The bills would also increase the amount of fish stored in public and private waterways across the state.
Other bills will affect how the DNR can regulate hunting in the state.
A invoice, sponsored by Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) and Rep. Calvin Callahan (R-Tomahawk), will require the DNR to eliminate three hunting rules every time it tries to create a new one. Current hunting rules set the seasons, size limits and other conditions to allow hunting while maintaining animal populations. Another invoice, sponsored by Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and Rep. Alex Dallman (R-Green Lake), would require MNR to consolidate or remove some of the licenses it needs to hunt and fish certain species.
The bill list also includes a proposal to reduce regulations on where and when people can carry guns in Wisconsin. The invoice would allow people to carry a concealed weapon without being issued a concealed carry permit by the Wisconsin Department of Justice or a law enforcement ID card. It also eliminates a law that prohibits people from carrying firearms, crossbows or other weapons while driving all-terrain vehicles and prevents local governments from banning guns on public transportation.
Republican Senate and Hunter Nation lawmakers have worked together to retain a Republican majority on the Natural Resources Council – the MNR’s policy-making body. A person appointed by former Gov. Scott Walker refused to step down from his seat even though his term expired on May 1 and his replacement was appointed by Evers.
A Hunter Nation lobbyist worked with board member Wausau dentist Frederick Prehn, encouraging him to resist political pressure to step down as the lobby group and Republican lawmakers attempted to ‘intervene in a trial to impeach Prehn. Republican leadership in the Senate declined to hold a confirmation hearing for Prehn’s replacement.
While conservation policies in areas as diverse as logging and chemical regulation are controversial in Wisconsin, nothing is more polarizing than the fight over wolf hunting in the state. A law in the state of Wisconsin requires that a wolf hunt be organized whenever the animal is not listed as endangered by the federal government. In 2020, the wolf was removed from the list by President Donald Trump’s administration. Since then, environmental activists have clashed with hunters and some residents of northern Wisconsin over the possibility of hunting wolves in Wisconsin, with the DNR often working to limit when and how many wolves can be hunted.
Hunter Nation has played an important role in promoting wolf hunting in the state and the political struggle over the issue is central to the release of these bills, according to a statement.
“Governor Evers and his DNR have not shown good leadership in any aspect for the outdoor men and women of Wisconsin,” Senator Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) said in a statement. “Time and time again, the DNR has made it clear that it will not listen to the concerns of rural Wisconsin citizens, so we are taking a stand with this legislative package. We tell hunters, fishermen, trappers and gun owners that we support them and that we defend our rights to transparency, simplified regulations and better access to our state’s natural resources.
Bills for what Republicans call the “Wisconsin Sporting Freedom Package” have started airing for co-sponsorship.
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