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Board Chair Asks Worst Question for Spring Hearings

Those serving on Wisconsin’s seven-member Natural Resources Board enjoy the perk of submitting questions for citizen review at the statewide fish and wildlife hearings each April.


Leave it to Greg Kazmierski to squander that opportunity. The question he submitted for next month’s hearings reminds Wisconsin that he’s a slow-learning, single-issue busybody who’s unfit for the Board, and especially its chairmanship.


When Wisconsin’s outdoors-folks go online April 11 at 7 p.m. to answer this year’s 63 questions, here’s the gem Chair Kazmierski offers: Should the DNR conduct another review of the impacts of crossbow season on Wisconsin’s gun deer season?


Charitable folks might think Kazmierski is growing forgetful, or that he’s distracted by his new responsibilities leading the DNR’s policy-setting board.


Pfft! No. This is classic Kaz.


His question reminds us why former state Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, asked Kazmierski during his NRB confirmation hearing in 2011 whether he had enough conservation breadth for the post, given his fixation on deer management the previous 20-plus years. Kazmierski always lacked basic conservation knowledge, of course, but the Senate approved him anyway. And Wisconsin has suffered ever since for the Senate’s rubber stamp.


Harsh? Hardly. In October 2019 — just 29 months ago — the DNR released what is arguably the nation’s most in-depth study of crossbow use in deer hunting. The study took eight months and involved eight DNR employees — four sociologists, two biologists, a survey specialist and top-level analyst.


Their efforts produced a thorough 141-page report that basically verified what sociologists had predicted 30 years earlier: Deer hunting participation was declining as baby boomers aged and drifted from the ranks.


And guess who demanded that 2019 study? Kazmierski, of course. But its findings didn’t tell him what he sought, so he now wants the DNR to repeat everything. In the preamble to Kazmierski’s question he wrote: “In the last 20 years (gun) deer hunters have declined by 100,000. It is expressed by many that with around 40% of the bucks harvested before the start of gun deer season, Wisconsin’s famous and long-standing traditional gun deer season is in jeopardy.”


Odd. In a 2007 article for the “Wisconsin Sportsmen’s Digest,” Kazmierski blamed earn-a-buck regulations for a loss of 60,000 deer hunters since 2000. He neglected to mention that license sales peaked in 2000, four years after the Legislature created EAB. He also didn’t note in 2007, or now, that gun-deer license sales fell nearly 70,000 after CWD’s discovery in February 2002.


And yet we’re supposed to believe that crossbows are destroying our gun-deer season, and that CWD and aging baby boomers have nothing to do with sliding license sales? Kazmierski can’t blame EAB, of course, because he helped outlaw it 11 years ago.


Sigh.


No matter the results of April’s vote, the DNR should not waste more time and expertise by repeating its crossbow study. DNR Secretary Preston Cole should email Kazmierski the October 2019 PDF file titled “Wisconsin’s Evaluation of Crossbow Use and Season Structure,” and write: “Read it this time.”


Fortunately for Wisconsin’s hunters, anglers, trappers and all others concerned with conservation, we have far better questions to address when the hearings begin April 11. We’ll have until 7 p.m. on April 14 to answer every proposal offered by the DNR, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, and NRB member Marcy West.


For instance, a WCC question asks if the DNR should reinstate in-person deer registration, bring back deer carcass tags, and even print back tags again. Another question proposes giving hunters a free either-sex permit if they shoot an antlerless deer that tests positive for CWD. Currently, only those who shoot a CWD-positive buck receive a free replacement permit, and herds in most CWD counties remain well above population goals.


To further address CWD, the NRB’s West suggests the DNR conduct a 2-year pilot program that pays hunters and landowners a significant reward for each CWD-positive deer they remove. West said the payment should be high enough to learn if financial incentives can boost testing rates and slow disease spread.


The WCC has also been working with hunter education experts, and is asking voters to maintain in-person, hands-on hunter-education training for those 18 and younger.


The WCC’s wolf committee, meanwhile, asks whether Wisconsin should set a population goal of “350 or less” for gray wolves, a resolution supported at the 2011 spring hearings. Another WCC question asks if it should be illegal to use trailing hounds to hunt wolves.


The WCC also asks if the DNR should quit issuing free antlerless tags, reduce the price of bonus antlerless tags from $12 to $10 or $8, and sell all antlerless tags to pay for a statewide dumpster program for deer-carcass disposal. The WCC’s final CWD question asks whether voters support captive deer/elk facilities in Wisconsin.


Unlike the NRB, the WCC’s environmental review committee thinks the DNR should conduct more testing for PFAS chemicals in drinking water across Wisconsin, and is pushing for stronger PFAS protections and cleanups.


The WCC’s warm-water committee monitors the state’s fishing programs. The committee suggests it’s time for Wisconsin to designate burbot as a gamefish, given its growing popularity as table fare. The burbot has long been listed as a rough fish, which means there’s no bag limit and few restrictions on how they’re caught. Burbot, also called “eelpout” and “lawyer,” are actually freshwater cod and native to many inland waters, as well as lakes Michigan and Superior.


To correct another oversight, the WCC asks if Wisconsin should crack down on the wanton waste of game animals. Believe it or not, no law forbids a person from killing a deer or other wildlife and letting it rot.


Similarly, the WCC asks whether the DNR should start regulating hunting contests. After all, the DNR has long required fishing contests to register and follow its guidelines. Another question asks if Wisconsin should simply ban all “killing” contests.


For folks who like shooting powerful slingshots, the WCC asks if they should be allowed for hunting squirrels, rabbits, snowshoe hares and unprotected game. After all, 33 other states allow slingshots for small game hunting.


To help reunite people with lost nonmotorized watercraft, the WCC asks if the state should require registration and impose fees for the roughly 200,000 canoes and kayaks now used in Wisconsin. Neighboring states do so. Or should owners simply have to put their contact information on all watercraft, much like people must do when placing traps, treestands or ice shacks on public lands and water?


In addition, the WCC is asking questions about bag limits on many individual lakes, and the DNR is asking 10 questions about fishing and six about wildlife in its advisory questions.


Don’t miss your chance to weigh in on all these thoughtful questions. And while you’re at it, reject Kazmierski’s latest bid to divide the hunting community.

The chairman of Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board is asking the DNR to repeat a crossbow study it conducted just three years ago. — Patrick Durkin photo

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