Hearing on ending wolf management gets off to tense start

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Gray wolves

MADISON — A public hearing on a Republican bill that would end state wolf management got off to a tense start Wednesday after the measure’s chief Assembly author didn’t show up to speak.

Rep. Adam Jarchow didn’t appear to advocate for the bill before the Assembly’s natural resources committee, leaving that task to the bill’s chief Senate sponsor, Tom Tiffany, and Rep. Rob Stafsholt, the bill’s sixth Assembly sponsor.

Before testimony began, Rep. Nick Milroy, a Democratic committee member, said he was “disgusted” that Jarchow didn’t show up to defend such a contentious bill. He said the measure is nothing more than really just an attempt to appeal to Jarchow’s conservative base as he heads into a special election Tuesday for an open Senate seat in northwestern Wisconsin. He accused the committee’s chairman, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, of colluding with Jarchow to hold the hearing before the election.

That brought a charged response from Kleefisch, who insisted he scheduled the hearing without speaking to Jarchow. He said Milory was belittling Tiffany’s presence and asserted — wrongly — that Stafsholt was the bill’s second Assembly sponsor. He also promised that the committee wouldn’t vote on the bill until after Tuesday’s election.

Jarchow aides didn’t immediately reply to an email from The Associated Press asking why Jarchow didn’t appear at the hearing.

The bill would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from spending any money to manage wolves other than to reimburse people for depredation. State law enforcement officers would be barred from enforcing any federal or state law relating to wolf management or that prohibits killing wolves.

Wisconsin wolves are on the federal endangered species list. The bill would be void if President Donald Trump’s administration removes them from the list.

Tiffany told the committee that the bill will signal to the federal government that it needs to delist Wisconsin wolves. Northern Wisconsin farmers are tired of losing livestock and pets to wolf depredation, he said. He also complained that the state has to use revenue from hunters and angler fees track and research wolves and reimburse farmers for wolf damage when the federal government won’t let the state control the animals.

“There’s great harm being done to families across northern Wisconsin. Pets, animals, all the rest,” Tiffany said. “It is time we get action and we need to do everything possible. We want to send a clear message that it’s time for you to act.”

Conservationists warn the bill would end attempts to track wolf population growth and lead to widespread poaching. Tiffany said he doesn’t think people would simply start blasting away at wolves.