MADISON — There will be a gray wolf hunt in Wisconsin this month after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Board changed course on its earlier rejection.
The board’s change of heart comes after a Jefferson County judge last week ordered the DNR to hold the hunt. It was the latest example of the Evers administration defying state law.
But even as the board voted unanimously and insisted that its intent was to comply with the judge’s order, the liberal-led Attorney General’s office has asked a state Court of Appeals to stay the lower court’s decision while it takes the case.
DNR said it will begin accepting permit applications today for the hunt. The application period closes at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, with the hunt running Feb. 22-28.
Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a complaint on behalf of Luke Hilgemann and Hunter Nation. The lawsuit points to the gray wolf’s delisting from the Endangered Species Act on Jan. 4. That triggered a 2012 state law requiring the DNR to schedule a gray wolf hunting season between November and February.
Critics say the DNR board was slow-walking the launch of a hunting season. Pressed by opponents, the board narrowly voted down opening the season by Feb. 10.
The lawsuit points to President Joe Biden’s executive order issued on his first day in office. It requires all agency heads to “immediately review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies and any other similar agency actions” taken between Jan. 20, 2017 and Jan. 20, 2021. In short, the liberal president wants to wipe out the actions of his predecessor, conservative President Donald Trump.
“The White House announced that this review will include review by the U.S. Department of the Interior of the decision to remove the wolf from the federal endangered species list,” the lawsuit states. “In other words, there is a substantial possibility that Wisconsinites’ time to hunt wolves is limited.”
Gray wolf numbers have surged in recent decades in northern and central Wisconsin forest lands, to more than 1,000 as of December, according to the DNR. Wildlife managers count nearly 4,500 wolves in the western Great Lakes states — Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s wolf population, once considered nonexistent, is nearly three times the size of population goals established by the state. And the growing packs have proved more than a nuisance to farmers, hunters and pet owners.
U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) lauded the board’s unanimous decision to approve the February hunt and follow state law.
“This is a great victory for accurate science, Wisconsin sportsmen, farmers and families that has been years in the making,” Tiffany said. “We couldn’t have made it to this point without the tireless efforts of the board, the determination of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the work of advocacy groups like Hunter Nation.”
Tiffany, who worked with former President Donald Trump’s Interior Department to remove the predator from the federal list of threatened and endangered species after coming to Congress last year. Tiffany has also introduced legislation to make the wolf ineligible for “re-listing,” and advocated for more state and local control over species conservation and resource management decisions.
The DNR’s original rejection of a February gray wolf hunt is just the latest in a long line of the Evers’ administration openly thwarting state law. Most recently, Gov. Tony Evers ignored a joint resolution passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature that ended his long string of emergency declaration orders during the run of the pandemic. That legal dispute is now in the hands of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.