Political Matters: Ma'iingan update
Thursday, February 05 2015
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgThe Minnesota House of Representatives now has a Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee. Such a thing didn’t exist when I worked as a writer at the House Public Information Office, in 1994 and 1995. I covered meetings of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, on the House side of the Capitol. The late Willard Munger, a champion of the natural environment in Minnesota, chaired the committee. He often waged a lonely, uphill fight – against an array of well-funded industry lobbyists and the elected officials in their service – for measures that would have encouraged sustainability for the benefit of our planet.

Anyway, the Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy panel held an informational hearing about ma’iingan, brother wolf, on Jan. 20. As I wrote briefly in my last “Political Matters” column, on Dec. 19, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell, in Washington, D.C., ruled that wolf management in the western Great Lakes states should be returned to federal control.

Judge Howell’s decision, on a motion brought by The Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups, upended the regime of wolf hunting and trapping that ensued after the wolf was removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act, in April 2011, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed protection for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes, in January 2012.

However, agriculture interests and hunting groups want to put the wolf back in the gun sights and traps, so some members of Congress are getting into the act. In January, the Associated Press reported that U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), is leading an effort to legislatively undo Judge Howell’s decision.

“I am pursuing a bipartisan legislative fix that will allow the western Great Lakes states to continue the effective work they are doing in managing wolf populations without tying the hands of the Fish and Wildlife Service or undermining the Endangered Species Act,” Ribble said in a statement, according to AP.

Co-sponsors of the legislation, which has circulated in draft form, include Rep. Collin Peterson, a Minnesota DFLer; Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.); and Rep. Cynthia Lummis, (R-Wyo.).

Regarding Ribble’s assertion that the states are doing “effective work” in “managing wolf populations,” both Minnesota and Wisconsin exceeded the wolf killing targets set for 2014.

“The overage is a reminder that the State of Wisconsin is still really operating on its learning permit when it comes to harvesting wolves,” Peter David, wildlife biologist for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission said. GLIFWC represents 11 Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, which have reserved hunting, fishing and gathering rights in territories ceded in treaties with the U.S. government (1837, 1842 and 1854).

David was quoted in an article titled “Wolves take extra hit in WI,” which appeared in a recent edition of Mazina’igan, which is published by GLIFWC. The article notes that Wisconsin allowed wolf “kills to exceed harvest goals by nearly double in at least one zone.”

It looks like there’s a similar situation in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Web site shows that the 2014-2015 late season for wolf hunting and trapping set a “harvest” target of 126 wolves; but 148 wolves were killed – 17 percent more than the target.

During a phone chat in late January, David told me that Wisconsin overall kept “pretty close” to its wolf harvest target, with one zone coming in with a harvest “nearly double” its quota.

“If the tribe had done that, it would have been front page news, and it got very little press in Wisconsin,” David commented, regarding the state allowing an excessive wolf kill.

David, who alerted me to the draft legislation on wolves in Congress, could not say if there would be another wolf season in the western Great Lakes states later this year.

Another wrinkle in the wolf controversy, according to David, is that wolves in Wisconsin were classified as “endangered”; in Minnesota, the wolf species was listed as “threatened.” When Judge Howell reinstated federal protection of wolves, under the Endangered Species Act, “legal depredation control could go forth” in Minnesota; but “even in cases of verified depredation of livestock, wolves can’t be killed in Wisconsin.”

In any case, as David noted, the Anishinabe creation story relates that humans and ma’iingan are brothers, “and they have an intertwined fate, so what’s going to happen to the one is going to happen to the other … so you want the best for the wolf community … you don’t kill an animal for sport.”

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