Each year, questions for the Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) spring hearings come before the Natural Resources Board (NRB) before being passed on to be voted upon by citizens and stakeholders of Wisconsin.
Larry Bonde of the WCC recently brought a list of questions generated by his group to the NRB.
Several questions proposed by the WCC were specific to certain lakes or areas, such as asking if stakeholders would favor removing the largemouth bass size limits on Buckatabon Lake in Vilas County. There will also be an option to create a restrictive slot size limit, where there would be no minimum length, with a protective slot of 14-18 inches and only one fish over 18 inches could be kept with a total bag of five. The third option was to prefer no change. Each respondent at the spring hearings, or those who vote online, could choose from any of those options.
There was also a question regarding musky season in the north. It asks if stakeholders would be in favor of a change in the opening date of musky fishing to the first Saturday in May in the northern zone with the month of May being catch-and-release only. This would allow for musky fishing opportunities on the same date as fishing begins for other species, according to the background information provided by the WCC.
Another question looks at alternative funding sources for the Fish and Wildlife Account in addition to license fees. This has been a topic of discussion for several years, as expenses for habitat work and other management continue to rise while license fees remain mostly steady, and some of those sales slipping. At issue is also the cost for non-resident bear and deer tags, which could be another funding opportunity.
Wild rice harvest licenses by non-residents are also on the spring hearings questionnaire this year. The question asks if respondents would be in favor of the WCC, the DNR and the legislature working together to establish a non-resident wild rice harvest license for $30 for a three-day opportunity.
The turkey and upland game committee is posing a question that asks if there would be support to move the opening date of the spring turkey season to the second Wednesday in April, a week earlier than the current season starts.
In the way of fur harvest, a question was posed asking if hunters would support an experimental three-year badger season.
At present, there is no opportunity for badger harvest within the state. However, recent genetic studies indicate badger are widespread in the state and use a variety of habitats, according to the background of the question.
With genetic diversity similar to western states that support a robust badger population it has been suggested the populations here are such that they could support a regulated trapping season.
Another fur harvest question looks to change the cable restraint use framework. It asks stakeholders if they would support a change allowing use of cable restraints in the trapping of fox, coyote and bobcats beginning on the first day of the harvest season for each species.
Deer and elk committee
An ever-hot item on the spring hearings questionnaire is deer management. In past years, County Deer Advisory Committees (CDACs) have asked for more "tools in the toolbox" for deer heard management.
One question respondents will find on the spring hearings questionnaire will be whether or not there is support for the return of Earn A Buck. This management option, which was eliminated in 2011, required hunters to harvest an antlerless deer prior to harvesting a buck. While it was unpopular with many hunters, it was said to be an effective management tool. According to the background, no other tool has been proven as effective at "slowing, stopping or reversing herd growth in high density areas."
The question has two options: whether there is support in allowing the DNR to use this as a management tool in overpopulated counties, and whether or not there is support in allowing the CDACs to use this as a tool in their respective counties.
Another question looks at baiting and feeding.
A three-year baiting and feeding ban is currently in place all counties where a CWD-positive deer has been harvested and a two-year ban is in place any county within 10 miles of that positive finding. One part of the question asks if stakeholders would be in favor of the DNR being given the authority to determine those regulations and to decide when and where they are put in place, rather than having this legislated. The other part of the question is whether or not this should be left to the CDACs and whether they should be given the authority to make that determination within their own counties.
Another question is similar to a question put forth by the NRB itself, but asks for a 16-day gun deer season. That season would open the Saturday nearest to the 15th of November, which would be closer to the rut, offering a possibly increased harvest opportunity. This would require a legislative change, but the question looks for support from hunters for this change to see if there should be a move for legislation.
The bear committee, too, looked to put questions out to the public for a vote. One of those questions asked if there would be support for use of man-made containers to bait bear on private land. While there may be litter concerns on public land, the background states, use of these on private land would not cause that public land concern. Other states, as well as Canada, allow the use of barrels or plywood boxes in order to keep bait fresh and dry as well as to keep it away from other animals such as squirrels and raccoons, it was noted.
The other question from the committee asks if there would be support for the WCC to work with the DNR to find solutions that would allow the use of man-made materials and plastic adhesives in addition to the required log/stump
DNR proposed questions
The DNR also has questions it would like to pose to the public at the spring hearings. Many of those questions involve toxic shot. One asked for support to allow only non-toxic shot on all state-owned or managed lands while another asked for support for shotgun slugs on those same lands.
Separate questions will also be posed for various species. Doves, pheasants, turkey and ruffed grouse all received their own question related to allowing only non-toxic shot on state-owned or managed lands.
Another question to be posed is in regard to artificial water sources in CWD-affected areas. While the current definition of "bait" does not include water, this question asks if there is support to include artificial water sources in that definition and not allow those that are not for agricultural purposes in CWD-affected areas. According to the background information, hunters may currently place stock tanks and the like in the woods or in a field and refill them periodically to draw deer in. The question asks whether there is support to restrict that in those areas.
The NRB asked for a change in one other question proposed by the department. That question asked whether there would be support for establishing a "new, all-inclusive multi-species license" to be awarded via lottery drawing where the winner(s) would receive several other difficult-to-draw tags and authorizations. The proceeds from this lottery would go to wildlife habitat management and restoration.
The board asked for a slight change in the wording for this question, which will appear somewhat differently on the questionnaire in April. It will ask, in some fashion, simply if there is support for creation of a letter or raffle system with proceeds going to support habitat management. The exact wording of the question is yet to be determined, but that direction was given.
The spring hearings are held in every county in the state at 7 p.m. on the first Monday in April. This year, for the second year, there will also be an option to respond via online questionnaire, giving those who are unable to get to the hearing location in their county the ability to offer input as well. More information regarding the spring hearings can be found on the DNR website.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at email@example.com.
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