On February 15, I had the honor of testifying in front of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on modernizing the Endangered Species Act in Washington, D.C. I jumped at the chance to explain that enforcement of the ESA imposes far-reaching regulatory burdens on agriculture and fails to effectively set parameters and population goals that focus on species recovery and delisting.
It’s nothing new that the large wolf population is a serious issue for farmers and rural residents in northern and central Wisconsin. This issue has been discussed for years and continues to give rural Wisconsin heartburn. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has determined that the wolf population is nearly three times the size of the state management recommendation of 350 wolves. It’s distressing to think of the potential these animals have if the population isn’t controlled soon.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau was asked to provide some insight at this hearing because of our past engagement on the wolf issue and our members repeatedly reaching out to their lawmakers. A prime example of how speaking up for agriculture is needed and effective and we must continue to advocate for a change.
In 2016, Taylor County Farm Bureau member Ryan Klussendorf provided testimony about his horrific experience with wolves at a summit held in northern Wisconsin. His story struck a chord with lawmakers and other attendees. He shared the heartbreak and frustration he felt when he found one of his dairy cows dead from a wolf attack and how that moment impacts his daily decisions for his farm and family.
What a privilege it was to retell Ryan’s tale in a national spotlight and emphasize the other concerns Wisconsin Farm Bureau members have. Ryan’s personal story gave me a way to help visualize the stress that wolves cause rural landowners and the reason reform for the ESA is needed.
We know that coordination with state wildlife agencies is an important step in achieving long-term conservation goals. Who better to manage a wolf population than someone located in our state?
We had a good thing going for the three seasons our wolf hunting and trapping season lasted. Wisconsin authorized a wolf hunting and trapping season in April 2012, after the gray wolf was delisted. Six zones were created within the state, each with individual harvest quotas based on various factors. However, the wolf was relisted as endangered in December 2014 because of aggressive animal activists winning a decision reversal in a Washington, D.C court.
The current laws don’t allow farmers to protect their livestock if they are being harmed by wolves. The delisting criteria is so vague that animal rights groups can sue to prevent delisting from happening or reverse other court decisions. As I said in my testimony, reform of the ESA should include a focus on species recovery and habitat conservation that incentivizes landowners to participate. Why not put a vigilant effort into managing and rebuilding these species to get them off the endangered species list? Isn’t that the intended purpose?
Wisconsin Farm Bureau will continue to support the decision to delist the gray wolf and allow state wildlife officials to manage wolf populations. Please continue to share your wolf concerns with your lawmakers.
Together, we can help resolve this dangerous concern. At some point, they’ll realize we aren’t crying wolf and we need action now.
Jim Holte was elected president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation in 2012. He was elected to the WFBF Board of Directors in 1995. He represents District 9 which consists of the Barron, Chippewa, Dunn, Pierce, Polk, Rusk, Sawyer and St. Croix county Farm Bureaus as well as the Superior Shores County Farm Bureau (made up of Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas and Iron counties). Jim was elected to the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors in January of 2015 as a representative of the Midwest region. Jim grows corn, soybeans and alfalfa on 460 acres of land south of Elk Mound. He also raises beef steers. He and his wife, Gayle, have two children and five grandchildren.