“Put a price on death — that’s what you’ll get.” — keynote speaker Darrel Rowledge, Canadian hunter, director of the Alberta Wilderness Association
The huge challenges we face in getting the nonhunting majority to get involved in caring for our wildlife and public lands were the focus last week of the Wolf and Wildlife Conservation and Coexistence Initiative. The theme throughout the two-day conference was how to replace powerful special-interest groups’ influence over legislators, the Natural Resources Board, and the Department of Natural Resources with an all-inclusive democracy and science.
The most cruel and unethical sports killers (bear, wolf and coyote hounders and trappers) have drafted rules and legislation that co-opt our public agencies and legislators. They bypass the public will.
The conference was held at the Ho-Chunk Conference Center in Baraboo and co-sponsored by the Ho-Chunk Nation and Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf, supported by other tribes, wolf groups, and others. The event began with drums and a Ho-Chunk blessing, followed by a touching welcome by the Ho-Chunk Nation president. He reminded us that First Nations had lived in harmony with the earth and her creatures until they were invaded and treated as savages. He said, “Now the animals do not have freedom either. … Maybe it is too late, but we appreciate these efforts.”
Darrel Rowledge, keynote speaker, warned that chronic wasting disease is the conservation “fight of our lives.” His premise is that agricultural practices used on wildlife in game farms are a recipe for disaster and possible pandemic. As the No Accident website notes: “’Nightmare scenarios’ of CWD emerging as contagious in people as in deer are all but unthinkable. Top scientists are holding their breath, but not their concern. They are ‘worried,’ and point out that ‘the threat is far from negligible.’” Rowledge says, “Game farming must go.”
Wisconsin has game farms, fur farms, canned hunts, and fenced hounding enclosures all over the state. These cruel enclosures stress animal immune systems and promote injury, animal fighting, and disease. They are a health hazard and the DNR is not monitoring them. The hounding enclosures are supposed to make quarterly and annual reports of animals killed and animals purchased or taken from our woods, but they are not submitting them. I found altogether 10 reports from a couple of the 23 hounding facilities.
Scott Loomans, DNR wildlife rules coordinator, told me I was probably the first person to look at them.
Peter David is the wildlife biologist for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. He was the one pro-wolf biologist DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp allowed on the state wolf advisory committee only because participation is a sovereign right of the 11 Ojibwe nations he represents. He said, “It is arrogant that we rule since we are dependent.” He decried wolf management. “One doesn’t manage — this should be about wolf stewardship, protection, coexistence.” He described the wolf as brother and educator of the people. “They keep the deer healthy, and teach stamina, work cooperation, family and community support.” He said, “Finally a wolf and wildlife conference not dominated by white middle-aged males,” remarking that women, like natives, are usually excluded from the narrative.
Throughout the conference the 1999 wolf “target” of 350 for minimum survival of the wolf was dismissed as “pulled out of the air.” David said, “Don’t pretend this numbers game works. Three hundred and fifty is not about the health of wolves. They are not recovered until they reach natural populations.”
That is indeed the science documented by Michael Soule’s work for the Rewilding Institute and “the three C’s of conservation” — cores, corridors and carnivores — known since the 1990s. As Dave Foreman writes in “Rewilding North America”: “First, the structure, resilience, and diversity of ecosystems is often maintained by ‘top-down’ ecological (trophic) interactions that are initiated by top predators. … In turn, the large predators require extensive space and connectivity.” Large, strictly protected core areas are essential. Corridors must connect these core areas for migration and genetic integrity. The focus is on self-regulating wildlife communities, not management for killing as the main interest.
Jeannine McManus, a scientist from South Africa, emphasized that we can no longer just think of singular species protection but must prioritize holistic ecosystem preservation. She described research on the efficacy and economy of nonlethal methods used to deter natural predation on farm animals versus the counterproductive lethal methods that increased depredation and costs.
Her studies show that South African national forests bring in much more revenue from wildlife watching than hunting. A discussion ensued that Wisconsin national forests should be set aside as wolf sanctuary treasures and protected from hunting for future generations. Wildlife watching and ecotourism replace violence, allowing our state’s life support systems to recover, balance, and flourish.
Demographics have shifted away from killing for fun and recreation. The abusive cruelties supported by the Legislature, DNR and Natural Resources Board are a violation of the public trust. Their desperate measures of $5 recruitment licenses, indoctrinating children into killing, and exponentially increasing hounding and trapping do not represent our public interest or public health.
A paragraph from the Rewilding Institute sums it up well: “Without the goal of rewilding for large areas with large carnivores, we are closing our eyes to what conservation really means — and demands. Disney cinematographer Lois Crisler, after years of filming wolves in the Arctic, wrote, ‘Wilderness without animals is dead — dead scenery. Animals without wilderness are a closed book.”
The conference was filmed and will be put on YouTube.
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan emailed into the conference that the House bill H.R. 2822 is full of riders that gut the Clean Air Act, foil efforts to address climate change, and remove protections permanently from Great Lakes and Wyoming wolves. The bill has dozens of riders, all bad, that deregulate environmental and wildlife protections. Please call your representatives and ask to remove these riders from this bill.
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