A federal judge on Friday agreed to hear a request from six bands of Wisconsin Native Americans who have asked for a preliminary injunction to stop the state’s planned wolf hunt set for November.
The motion was filed Friday by the group Earthjustice on behalf of the Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, Lac du Flambeau and Red Cliff bands of Lake Superior Chippewa, as well as the Sokaogon Chippewa Community and St. Croix Chippewa.
The judge immediately agreed to hear the case on Oct. 29, just a week before the state's second wolf hunt of the year is set to start on Nov. 6.
The request for an injunction follows the Sept. 21 filing of a federal lawsuit by the bands that claim Wisconsin’s planned wolf hunt violates the tribes' federally granted treaty rights. Any injunction would last until the initial lawsuit was decided.
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved a quota of 300 wolves for the November hunt, more than double the 130-wolf limit recommended by wildlife biologists in the Department of Natural Resources. The November hunt follows Wisconsin’s February wolf hunting and trapping season in which 218 wolves were killed in less than 72 hours, nearly double the 119-wolf quota set by the DNR for non-Native hunters and trappers.
PREVIOUSLY: Wisconsin tribes sue to stop November wolf hunt
“Neither the board nor the (DNR) has made any changes to the management of the hunt to prevent a repeat of February’s disastrous overkill of wolves,’’ Earthjustice said in a statement Friday.
Including illegal poaching, Earthjustice said scientists estimate that a third of the estimated 1,100 wolves in Wisconsin have been killed since federal delisting occurred in January.
“Our treaties represent a way of life for our tribal people. Eroding and disregarding our treaties is unacceptable,” said Mike Wiggins, Jr., chairman of the Bad River Band, in a statement Friday. “We view violations of our treaty rights as hostile actions against our tribal sovereignty and the very lives of tribal people.
The Trump administration — following similar actions by the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations before it — moved last year to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the western Great Lakes region and other parts of the country, saying the big canines had recovered enough to hand their management back to states and tribes.
The tribes’ lawsuit accompanies an existing challenge by Earthjustice to the Trump administration’s decision to remove wolves from the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made its decision against the advice of scientists who say wolves are still functionally extinct in the vast majority of the places they once inhabited and need continued federal protections in order to survive and recover.
On Sept. 14, groups representing nearly 200 tribes signed a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland demanding the restoration of Endangered Species protections to wolves nationwide.
Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency recently accepted a petition to reconsider listing wolves in western and Rocky Mountain states because of the claims by environmental groups that overzealous state hunting and trapping will lead to the animals becoming endangered once again.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has delayed any decision on a wolf hunting season until 2022 at the earliest. Minnesota has about 2,700 wolves, more than twice as many as Wisconsin.