Alex Tinder via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0
Six Ojibwe tribes in Wisconsin wrote a letter this week to Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson opposing a bipartisan bill co-authored by Baldwin (a Democrat) and Johnson (a Republican) that would remove the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list in the Western Great Lakes region and Wyoming.
Delisting of the gray wolf would allow the animal to be hunted again. Baldwin and Johnson argue that the wolf populations in these parts of the country are healthy and therefore management should be returned to the states.
The letter sent Wednesday to Wisconsin’s two U.S. senators was signed by the Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, Lac du Flambeau, Red Cliff, Sokaogon Chippewa and St. Croix Chippewa tribes.
The letter states that neither senator reached out to the tribes to discuss how the delisting would affect their rights or treaty-protected resources. The letter notes that in 2021 when the wolf was delisted, the hunt held that February was badly mismanaged by the state and led to hunters overshooting the planned quota.
In that hunt, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources had set a quota of 200, with a portion of that meant to be for the tribes. The tribes didn’t participate in the hunt, but hunters still went past the total quota — killing 218 wolves.
“You both have stated that management of the gray wolf, or Ma’iingan in Anishinaabemowin, should be undertaken by the state,” the letter states. “However, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (“WNDR”) has demonstrated that it is unable to effectively manage the gray wolf population under the state’s current statutory and regulatory framework, as evidenced by Wisconsin’s botched February 2021 wolf hunt. That hunt yielded an excessive removal of wolves that surpassed the state’s hunting quota and consumed the tribes’ entire treaty-protected share of wolves through the actions of state-licensed hunters in just three days. The hunt was ill-advised not only because of its brutality, occurring as it did during wolf breeding season, but also because such hunts destabilize packs, causing dispersal and increasing livestock predation.”
Another hunt was planned for November 2021 with a quota of 300 wolves but a Dane County Circuit Court judge put a halt to it, finding that the DNR had failed to put in place permanent rules guiding the hunt and therefore was unable to move forward.
This February, a federal judge restored endangered species protections for wolves in most of the country.
After introducing the bill, Baldwin told the Wisconsin Examiner that the wolf population is healthy in Wisconsin and that the state can responsibly manage its control — despite increasing polarization over the issue and conservative meddling in the body responsible for setting quotas.
“There is scientific consensus that the population of gray wolves has recovered and the federal government can safely return the stewardship of the animals to the state of Wisconsin,” she said. “In crafting policies to manage these animals, I urge all stakeholders in the state to come to the table in a good faith effort to reach a consensus on hunting regulations.”
In the letter, the tribes specifically call out Baldwin for failing to consult them on her decision to co-author the legislation.
“Senator Baldwin, you have recognized that tribes work to protect Wisconsin forests, lakes, and rivers to ensure that they will be there for the next generation,” the letter states. “We remind you that our work also extends to protection of the species that populate this landscape, such as the gray wolf. That work is imperative to the perpetuation of all species upon which we depend and upon which our descendants will depend. You also have spoken in the past of your trust and treaty responsibilities to tribes, as well as the importance of tribal sovereignty. We are disappointed that you introduced this bill without consulting the eleven federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin to learn our position on what level of protections should apply to Ma’iingan. If you had spoken with us, you would have learned about our efforts to protect Ma’iingan, and the important role they play in the ecosystem, and in our culture.”
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