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Farm Bureau Likes Wolf Hunt Approval
WISCONSINREPORT.COM (04/16/08) - Voters at this week’s Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring hearings approved the position of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau on all three questions of interest to farmers. The questions involved Deer Baiting and Feeding, Managed Forest Law Change, and Wolf Management. Citizens who attended April 14th hearings throughout the state supported the creation of a hunting season for wolves, banning deer baiting and feeding, and were against a proposal involving Managed Forest Land contracts that would essentially make it mandatory to allow public access to private lands.
“We are very pleased that citizens attending the hearings supported Farm Bureau’s position on creating a hunting season for wolves, banning deer baiting and feeding, and an unpopular proposed change to our state’s Managed Forest Law,” said Farm Bureau’s executive director of public affairs, Paul Zimmerman.
Wisconsin’s largest farm organization had encouraged casting ballots on three questions polled at the hearings held in each Wisconsin county on Monday April 14.
DEER BAITING AND FEEDING
As Farm Bureau endorsed, 54 percent of the public voted in favor of a statewide ban on baiting and feeding of deer.
Voters approved the measure by a 3,092 to 2,678 vote. Broken down by county, 43 counties voted for the ban, 25 against, while four counties had a tie vote.
As recently as 2006, 56 percent of Conservation Congress voters were against a feeding ban when polled.
With bovine tuberculosis diagnosed in deer and cattle in Minnesota and Michigan, the Farm Bureau wants to step up efforts to prevent the disease from appearing in Wisconsin. While controversy has swirled around this issue for decades, the scientific research is clear. Baiting and feeding deer leads to increased risks of disease transmission.
Minnesota’s recently altered bovine TB ranking makes it more expensive and difficult for livestock producers there to move animals across state lines. Wisconsin’s Agriculture Department estimates that dairy and beef producers would pay $1.87 million annually just in testing costs if Wisconsin were to lose its TB-free status. In 2006, 152,838 head of cattle were shipped out of Wisconsin. Therefore, Wisconsin can ill-afford to put its livestock and deer populations at risk.
Feeding deer also supports artificially high deer populations and complicates effective deer population management.
In 2003 the Legislature passed a law that allows baiting and feeding in 46 Wisconsin counties. The practice is prohibited in counties with confirmed cases of CWD or bovine tuberculosis, and those adjacent to them.
MANAGED FOREST LAW CHANGE
Voters turned down a question that asked “Do you support legislation that would require all future Managed Forest Law contracts to allow public access as currently defined in state statute?”
The overwhelming majority of voters were against the proposal, 3,631 versus 1,763 in favor. The question garnered a majority of the vote in just seven of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.
Under the current Managed Forest Law, landowners have the choice to enroll their land as either open to the public or closed (at a higher per acre fee). Closed MFL lands may be posted as such, while open MFL must allow public access for hunting, fishing, cross-country skiing, sight-seeing and hiking.
To address the need for providing land for hunting and fishing, it has been suggested that all future MFL contracts should require access for such activities in return for lower taxes to the woodland owner.
“While the WFBF understands the need for providing hunting and fishing opportunities, we don’t feel it should be accomplished by taking away this program from landowners who don’t want to open their land up for public use,” Zimmerman said. “WFBF has long opposed using the property tax system as a way of requiring public access to private property.”
Voters overwhelmingly favored developing a hunting season to maintain the state’s wolf population within the Department of Natural Resources’ management goals. The question passed in every county, for a total vote of 4,848 in favor and 772 against.
“The Farm Bureau was glad to see how this vote came out, as our organization contends that without the use of a management plan, livestock producers will be subject to increased depredation problems and have no legal means to control problem wolves,” Zimmerman said.
Gray wolves have made a dramatic comeback in Wisconsin and were recently taken off the Federal Threatened and Endangered Species List. Their population is predicted to continue to grow if no control methods are implemented.
WFBF supports the DNR’s wolf management plan that intended to keep the wolf population between 300 and 500 animals statewide. With no public harvest system in place to maintain the population, there are now an estimated 600 wolves roaming Wisconsin.