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New legal action stems from WI wolf management plan

Picture of a wolf

Wisconsin's wolf management plan has been in place for months now but the legal fallout continues.

Wildlife organizations have filed a court appeal challenging the process. A coalition announced the appeal this week, which centers on how the management plan came together under the state Department of Natural Resources.

A judge dismissed the original lawsuit earlier this spring. It accused an agency panel of breaking the rules for how it interacted with special interest groups tied to hunting.

Melissa Smith, executive director of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife, said by favoring certain voices, other wildlife groups are left behind.

"It's quite egregious that the citizens of Wisconsin do not have any legal standing to challenge rules in any decisions that's wildlife-related," Smith contended.

The coalition said the judge's decision conflicts with principals under the Public Trust Doctrine. The DNR said it cannot respond to pending litigation. The legal activity comes a few months after federal officials opted to keep the gray wolf on the endangered species list.

State law requires a wolf hunt if the animal is delisted from federal protections but the new management plan does not include a goal with specific numbers. Instead, the plan focuses on sustainability, which is a source of contention among pro-hunting groups.

Meanwhile, Smith stressed she wants state rules to be consistent.

"If you look at the deer plan, our Wisconsin deer plan, it states plain as day that deer are held in the public trust," Smith pointed out. "It seems that it's pretty inconsistent when they decide something is held in the public trust and when something is not."

Around the country, certain hunting and farming groups contend the gray wolf population has grown too large, putting livestock at risk. But conservationists countered the concerns are often overstated and management efforts need to be rooted in science.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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