It’s been almost a year since a Northern California District Court judge restored protection for the gray wolf.
The judge found that United States Fish and Wildlife Service had errored when it determined gray wolf populations had been restored to sustainable population levels.
In response, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources suspended Wisconsin’s annual wolf hunt indefinitely meaning the traditional wolf harvest season beginning in November did not take place. The department also constituted a Wolf Management Committee.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation was represented on the committee by District 8 Board Director Ryan Klussendorf, along with 28 other organizations and Tribal Governments from around the state. The committee was constituted in the spring of 2021 with the purpose of providing input to the DNR during the development of an updated management plan.
Farm Bureau advocated for rural residents and specifically requested maintaining the current numeric population goal of 350 with zone-specific quotas to reduce wolf-related conflicts from high agriculture production areas.
The DNR released a draft management plan on Nov. 9, 2022, with an open public comment period until Feb. 28, 2023. This is a comprehensive wolf management plan that will replace the original plan put in place in 1999. Prior to this process, the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan underwent a review process in 2005-2006 and was last updated in 2007.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau has numerous concerns with the draft plan. The previous plan had a wolf population goal of 350, which WFBF supports in the organization’s state policy. Unfortunately, the DNR has moved away from a population goal, instead favoring a more holistic approach relying on fundamental goals and objectives. While WFBF supports many of the objectives contained in the plan, without a target population number it is difficult to identify success.
The new draft plan considerably expands Zone 4 into Marathon County and central parts of the state previously designated as inappropriate habitat for wolves. This area of the state is now designated as a secondary range for wolves, greatly expanding suitable habitat for wolves in the state and putting additional farms at risk of depredation.
The review process is the next step in what the DNR has promised will be an extensive public input process. WFBF will be filing formal comments to the department and encourages members to review the plan and file comments as well.
The formal comment period ended on Feb. 28.
Wenzlaff serves as WFBF’s Director of National Affairs focusing on federal issues. Column appeared in the February | March 2023 Rural Route.