The early returns on a proposal to expand hunting in Wisconsin state parks show a landslide against the plans, based on comments submitted to the Natural Resources Board through Tuesday.
Hikers, skiers and other parks users described the new rules as asinine, insane, deplorable and unethical in more than 100 comments sent to the board, in advance of its meeting to act on the rules Dec. 11. The comment period will remain open until Friday. Click here for details on submitting your views.
The tally of comments shared through Tuesday: 103 opposed the current proposal; two in support.
(I reviewed the comments Tuesday afternoon. This did not include the comments submitted to the DNR staff in an earlier comment period that ended Nov. 23, and the listening sessions held last month).
In addition to the individual writers, the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter, the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin and the The Door County Silent Sports Alliance have called for changes that would limit hunting in state parks; and a group called the Wisconsin Safe? Parks Committee has collected 138 signatures on a petition asking the DNR Board to delay implementing the provisions of the Sporting Heritage Bill. The petition can be found here.
The bill signed into law in April seeks to reverse the decline in hunting in Wisconsin by promoting the sport, encouraging new hunters and opening more of the state parks to hunting.Under the current proposal, hunting would be allowed in nearly all 49 state parks from Oct. 15 to the Thursday preceding Memorial Day. The DNR Board has the authority to designate hunting-free zones, based on safety issues or threats to natural areas.
Prior to the bill, most state parks and state forests were open to hunting, primarily during the gun deer season.
The bill also opens the state parks to trapping, an element that has angered hikers and people who fear their dogs will be injured or killed in traps set along popular trails.
Writers argued that their children and grandchildren would be endangered as they seek peace and tranquility in the state parks, and many said the extended hunting period would drive them from popular recreation areas, particularly the five state parks in Door County.
Paul Jansen, of Dwight, Ill., wrote: “I am not anti-hunting, but I find this development to be deplorable. Even with hunting restricted within 100 yards of the trails and our wearing blaze orange, I feel the danger to us is unacceptable. My wife and I will be voting with our feet and go to Michigan. We can hardly believe it.”
Mike Jamison, of Stoughton, offered a similar view: “After reading about the parameters of this law I can only say that I am flabbergasted that our state legislators would pass such a profoundly ill-advised law. I should state that I am not a hunter, but have no issues with those who do hunt. I am, however, a hiker, biker, and cross-country skier who is a frequent user of our state park system; one I greatly value. This terrible law will drive me away from our state parks, and will also see me looking to spend my money in other facilities. I cannot support a system that endangers its users by allowing hunting and trapping seven months a year.”
Those writing in favor of the expanded hunting called the declarations of imminent threat overblown.
This is from Oliver Pentinmaki: ”Lastly, I think hunters could teach that they are some of the best land stewards of all. By allowing hunting on State Parks, you are introducing an additional group of individuals with a newly vested interest in the responsible planning and management of resources within State Parks.
In summary, I strongly support the implementation of Act 168 with restrictions only as currently proposed. This fairly and safely opens the land to all recreational use. To include additional restrictions unfairly shuts out hunters and trappers in favor of other recreational interest groups. I believe that the concerns and opposition voiced by silent sports enthusiasts is prejudice and unwarranted.”