APNewsBreak: Cultural center funding vote on holdRepublican state Rep. Dean Kaufert said Wednesday he will not call for the state Building Commission to vote on revoking a $250,000 grant given to help build a Native American cultural center.
By: By Scott Bauer, Associated Press, Superior Telegram
MADISON, Wis. — Republican state Rep. Dean Kaufert said Wednesday he will not call for the state Building Commission to vote on revoking a $250,000 grant given to help build a Native American cultural center.
The commission was scheduled to vote Wednesday on rescinding the grant given to the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. But Kaufert told The Associated Press in an interview just two hours before the meeting that given ongoing talks between the state and tribe, he was going to delay the vote until May.
Kaufert called for revoking the money in March after the tribes dramatically increased their walleye spearfishing goals, a move Kaufert said would hurt tourism in northern Wisconsin. The state's six Chippewa tribes said they planned to bring in 5,300 more walleye than last year, requiring state wildlife officials to impose a one-fish limit for other anglers on nearly 200 northern Wisconsin lakes.
"At the end of the day it's about tourism for the north woods," said Kaufert, a Neenah Republican who is chairman of the Assembly's tourism committee and vice chairman of the Building Commission.
Lac du Flambeau tribal leader Tom Maulson did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Kaufert's proposal to revoke the cultural center funding set off criticism both from the tribes, who said he misunderstood their spearfishing rights, and Democratic state Sen. Tim Cullen. He said Kaufert was trying to punish the tribes for exercising their legal rights.
Kaufert told the AP he decided to delay the vote after speaking with state Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp, who told him the two sides were scheduled to meet on Monday.
A spokesman for Stepp did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Kaufert said the tribes need to negotiate in good faith with the state or he will call for a vote in May to rescind the funding. He said the tribes have been taking a "my way or the highway" approach to dealing with the state over the past two years that's seen an increase in disputes.
The tribes universally opposed a bill passed in March by the Legislature to make it easier to begin mining for iron ore just south of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa's reservation in Ashland County. Republicans further inflamed the Chippewa last year when they established a wolf hunt, which the tribes opposed.
Last fall the Chippewa authorized tribal members to kill an elk, a species the DNR has been struggling to re-establish in Wisconsin for nearly 20 years. They also authorized tribal hunters to kill deer at night despite the DNR's long-standing ban on the practice. The tribes argued that since state hunters can hunt wolves at night they should be allowed to hunt deer in the dark. The tribes filed a lawsuit demanding a federal judge allow the night hunt; the judge refused but the case is still pending.