St. Paul — A Senate committee last week approved a bill that would temporarily suspend wolf hunting and trapping in the state, though its future is unclear.
The Environment and Natural Resources Committee approved SF 2256, authored by Sen. Foung Hawj, DFL-St. Paul, on an 8-6 vote (it failed on the first vote, 6-6, but was reconsidered after the arrival of two senators who’d been absent for the initial vote).
The committee is the same one that passed a wolf hunting and trapping moratorium last year. That bill didn’t go anywhere, and indications are this year’s version may not, either, though it did pass out of the State and Local Government Committee earlier this week. It now goes to the environment finance committee, where the moratorium stalled last year.
Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing and chair of the Game and Fish Subcommittee, voted in favor of the bill in the environment committee. But he doesn’t believe there’s traction for it in either the Senate or the House.
“As far as I’m concerned, the issue is settled for the year,” he said.
The bill would require the DNR to close the wolf hunting and trapping season “in order to study the outcomes of the wolf hunt on the wolf population and to implement the wolf management plan.” It would require creation of a new task force to review the plan on an annual basis, and have the DNR collect a variety of data, including a study of public sentiment about wolves.
It also would prohibit baiting – which is legal for hunting and trapping wolves – within 10 miles of tribal lands where taking wolves is prohibited.
The DNR opposes the bill for a number of reasons, including the baiting provision. Such a ban would affect more than 10 million acres of land in the state, of which about 9.6 million acres is in non-tribal ownership, said Bob Meier, DNR legislative affairs director.
Representatives from the Minnesota Farmers Union and Minnesota Farm Bureau spoke in opposition to the bill, as did the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance.
Schmit, in an interview after the hearing, said the state can do better in terms of how it authorizes wolf hunting and trapping. He doesn’t believe the bill is necessarily “the right remedy for the wolf hunt in Minnesota.”
Schmit looks at the bill as a vehicle for continuing the conversation about state wolf management.
“I don’t know if we’ve struck the right balance yet,” he said. “But I don’t think drastic change is necessary.”
Schmit, who is carrying the Game and Fish Bill (SF 2227), said he’s not open to amending the wolf hunting and trapping language on there.
“It’s not appropriate to put it on the Game and Fish Bill,” he said.
Outdoor Heritage Fund
The bill that carries the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council – HF 1926, authored by Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul – continues sailing through the House.
The bill last week passed the Legacy Committee, and could be on the floor by later this week. The bill retains funding for a controversial project Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa project, but in last week’s hearing, funding for aquatic invasive species was the primary point of contention.
Some groups would like to see more money – and tighter timelines – in the fight against AIS. The bill includes more than $4 million to evaluate AIS-prevention strategies.
Hansen noted that last year, the debate was about whether it was appropriate to spend money from the Outdoor Heritage Fund on AIS.
“We’re no longer debating whether (Outdoor Heritage funds) should be expended on aquatic invasive species,” he said. “We are debating how and who, and probably where. But the why is no longer there.”
To read more: http://www.outdoornews.com/March-2014 ... for-wolf-hunt-moratorium/