BY ROGER SABOTA
Special to the Star Journal
In the state of Wisconsin there is an agency that hires many people. Among those that it hires are well trained individuals, many with doctoral degrees. This agency is the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Within the agency are many people who have spent their entire working careers in an attempt to enhance the environment.
At the present time there are proposals to divide the DNR into several smaller units. We have had the opportunity to talk with some of the long-time employees whose jobs may be coming to an end. Of course the need for this fragmentation is being described as a cost saving effort.
Fourteen conservation organizations have teamed up in support of raising Wisconsin hunting and fishing license fees to help close a DNR budget shortfall. About week ago these groups signed a letter to Gov. Scott Walker presenting six recommendations.
The groups that signed the letter were Ducks Unlimited, Federation of Great Lakes Sport Fishermen, National Wild Turkey Federation (Wisconsin state chapter), Pheasants Forever, Quality Deer Management Association, Ruffed Grouse Society, Safari Club International (WI chapter, NE chapter, Badgerland chapter and SE bow chapter), Trout Unlimited, Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, Wisconsin Bowhunters Association, Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Wisconsin Trappers Association, Wisconsin Waterfowl Association and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.
The suggestions that were presented to Gov. Walker were to raise fees in the following areas:
• Archery and gun deer licenses would go up from $24 to $27 raising an estimated additional $1.75 million annually.
•The inland trout stamp would go up from $10 to $15 increasing revenue to $718,000.
•The Great Lakes salmon and trout stamp would increase from $10 to $15 raising revenue by $662,300.
• The bear tag application fee would increase from $5.60 to $10, adding $603,000.
• The state waterfowl stamp would be raised from $7 to $12 adding $303,500 more.
• The otter application would increase from $5 to $8 increasing revenues by about $80,800.
In December the Department of Natural Resources announced that there was an annual funding deficit in the Fish and Wildlife Account of $4 million. The majority of the revenue for that account comes from hunting and fishing license sales. Because of the shortfall the DNR has had to cut some programs and activities.
Changes in hunting and fishing fees would not happen quickly since they require Legislative approval or a Legislator could introduce a specific bill with the changes.
Neighboring states of Minnesota and Michigan have increased hunting and fishing license fees in recent years but in Wisconsin no increase has been put into place since 2005 for most licenses and some have not changed since the 1990s.
Another topic that is receiving a lot of publicity lately in a variety of sources is the wolf population in Wisconsin. Previously reported in this space was the information that bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate that would return authority to the state for regulating the wolf population. In addition the Governors in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Minnesota have joined forces requesting that the wolves be taken off the Federal protected list.
A study conducted by the UW-Madison shows that the human toll on wolves is higher than previously estimated. It is believed that the wolf population is close to 900 animals in Wisconsin. Remember that a wolf population of 350 wolves for Wisconsin would be ideal.
“Proceed with caution,” should be the motto that anyone heading out onto our lakes should follow. I am familiar with three incidents of vehicles falling part or all the way through the ice in recent weeks and there may be more. One happened on Pelican Lake, one on Boom Lake and one on the Willow Flowage.
The wide range of temperatures that we have experienced this winter has affected the thickness of ice in ways that we haven’t always experienced. In addition, on any body of water where there is current the ice may be eroded from underneath. Of course this cannot be observed as we walk or drive on the ice.
For those interested in spring turkey hunting the DNR has issued 135,307 spring turkey permits in the spring 2017 drawing. There will be 105,461 permits available for purchase through over-the-counter sales beginning March 20. Successful applicants have already been notified by postcards.
Longtime Northwoods outdoor enthusiast Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.