Democratic legislators Jon Erpenbach and Penny Bernard Schaber joined hundreds of residents in pushing the Natural Resources Board to scale back the expansion of hunting in Wisconsin state parks; and called the proposed rules ill-advised.
Both sought to sway board as it prepares to vote Tuesday on rules to implement Act 168, the Sporting Heritage Bill, which opened nearly all 49 state parks to hunting and trapping. To implement the law, the DNR staff recommended a seven-month hunting season in state parks, from Oct. 15 to the Thursday before Memorial Day, with shorter seasons in some designated areas and buffer zones around designated trails and recreation areas.
The overwhelming response from the public has been various versions of “are you crazy?” Dozens wrote to the DNR that they would no longer buy park stickers or venture into state parks during the expanded hunting seasons, out of fear they would be shot by stray bullets. Others fear their dogs will become ensnared in traps placed along popular trails.
Some have called for boycotting the state parks and others started a petition seeking to delay the bill’s implementation.
In total, the department received 2,003 comments, and adjusted the initial recommendations to shorten the hunting season in some park areas and alter the buffer zones along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and the Elroy-Sparta Trail. The revised proposal can be found here.
Sen. Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Rep. Schaber (D-Appleton) shared their views in letters to the board.
“It is a growing concern among Wisconsin residents that the hunting and trapping permissions in 2011′s Act 168 could become a significant public safety risk,” Erpenbach wrote.
“I have had residents that have purchased permist for decades tell me that they will no longer frequent our parks if the current hunting and trapping season remains in place in our parks. Unfortunately, this will also affect state revenue by reducing the numberof park permist sold, and weill negatively affect the state’s economy.
“Wisconsin needs some common sense solutions put in place, and I ask that the board consider a more sensible, shorter season with concrete dates for hunters and trappers at their Dec. 11-12 meeting so that non-hunters know when they can safely visit our parks.”
Mike Ivey, from the Capitol Times, reported on Wednesday that the DNR had not calculated or accounted for a potential loss of revenue from state park stickers, trail passes and camping fees due to the expanded hunting. The goal of the Sporting Heritage Bill is to encourage more people to hunt, with the result being an increase in revenue from license sales. Ivey also reported that the projected 2% increase in license sales would be offset by the cost of implementing the expansion of hunting in the state.
In her letter to the DNR, Schaber asked the board to consider how the added hunting would push non-hunters out of the parks.
She also questioned the initial promise of the Sporting Heritage Bill vs. its final implications. Schaber said she supported the bill in the Assembly based on assertions it would produce very little change in the amount of hunting allowed in state parks. That proved to be wrong.
She called for the board to close entire parks to hunting, and cited High Cliff State Park and Hartman Creek State Park, as possibilities.