Case takes aim at the conservative head of the Natural Resources Board who refuses to step down even though his term ended months ago.
Several wildlife advocacy organizations filed a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court on Tuesday arguing that the 300 wolf quota for the 2021 fall hunt—which is double state wildlife experts’ recommended 130—is invalid and that Wisconsin’s law requiring an annual wolf hunt violates the state constitution.
The Center for Humane Economy, Project Coyote, Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife, Animal Wellness Action, and Beaver Dam resident Patrick Clark specifically named in their petition the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), DNR Secretary Preston Cole, the Natural Resources Board (NRB), and NRB Chair Fred Prehn, who has refused to step down even though his term ended in May.
Emails obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel show that Prehn wanted to oversee decision-making on key issues, such as the gray wolf hunt and clean-water initiatives, despite his term being expired.
DNR wolf experts recommended setting the quota at 130 in order to maintain the population at its current level after hunters killed almost double the quota of wolves during the hastily put-together and botched wolf hunt in February. UW-Madison researchers later found that over 100 more wolves were potentially poached. The DNR’s experts said that due to the abnormal circumstances of the February hunt, they still did not know its full impact on the wolf population.
RELATED: Hunters Recorded Almost Double the Kill Quota In Wisconsin’s Gray Wolf Hunt. It Was Probably Worse, Researchers Find.
“Rather than conducting a reasoned debate, Prehn entertained a confusing morass of motions and amendments that he failed to clarify before soliciting votes, and led the Board in a bidding war that ignored DNR’s recommendation from the beginning of the hearing—starting instead with consideration of a proposed quota of 504 wolves,” the complaint read. “In the end, Prehn cast the deciding vote to set a quota of 300 wolves—more than twice DNR’s recommendation—and to constrain DNR from making any adjustments to the quota to account for excess wolves killed during the February 2021 Hunt Season.”
“The Natural Resources Board should know its role—to oversee and ratify the decisions of the professional staff at the Wisconsin DNR,” stated Paul Collins, a Stoughton resident and Animal Wellness Action’s Wisconsin state director. “Instead, the Board has hijacked wolf management. The courts cannot allow this arbitrary and capricious decision-making to drive wildlife management decisions in Wisconsin.”
The petition alleges that state statute does grant the NRB the power to modify the wolf hunt quota and that it is at the sole discretion of the DNR and therefore the quota set on Aug. 11 is invalid. It also argues that the February 2021 wolf hunt should be counted as the wolf hunt for the year, making the fall wolf hunt invalid as well.
It asks that the court cancel the fall 2021 wolf hunt and bar the DNR from holding another wolf hunt until “[the DNR] has developed a valid and current wolf management plan, which sets wolf population goals that will allow annual hunting quotas to be set.”