Wisconsin's Natural Resources Board made no decisions Friday, Oct. 8, during a special meeting on lawsuits over wolf hunting as its leader asserted the board's independence amid tensions with the agency it oversees.
Chair Fred Prehn said the board met with Department of Natural Resources legal council but took no action during the hour-long closed session to discuss lawsuits brought by conservation groups and Native American tribes.
Six Ojibwe tribes have sued the board in efforts to stop the fall hunt, accusing the DNR of ignoring "sound biological principles" and mismanaging natural resources in violation of 19th century treaties with the U.S. government that guarantee the tribes a share of resources within the Ceded Territory of northern Wisconsin.
A coalition of conservation groups has also sued in state court to stop the hunt and void the 2011 law mandating a hunt from November through February whenever wolves are not on the endangered species list.
After the federal government removed wolves from the list in January, the DNR planned to hold a hunt in November 2021, but a Kansas-based hunter advocacy group sued, and a Jefferson County judge ordered a hunt in the final days of February, later than any previously sanctioned hunt.
Hunters killed at least 218 wolves in less than three days, more than state and tribal quotas combined.
Friday's online meeting was the board's first since August, when members approved a 300-wolf quota for the fall wolf hunt, more than double the number recommended by DNR wildlife officials.
The DNR last week announced it had modified the quota to the original recommendation of 130 wolves, of which 56 will be allocated to the tribes, which have traditionally chosen to protect their share.
Prehn has refused to give up his seat since his term expired May 1 and the Republican-controlled Senate has taken no steps to confirm Gov. Tony Evers' pick to replace him, securing a majority for Republican appointees.
Attorney General Josh Kaul has sought to remove him in a case likely to end up before the state Supreme Court.
Prehn canceled the board's September meeting after DNR officials said they wouldn't participate because there were no items for board consideration. The board has not posted an agenda for a regular October meeting.
"This board will continue to meet whenever or wherever they choose without being inhibited," Prehn said.
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