As an avid hunter, I care deeply about conservation and am proud of our outdoor heritage. And I have seen first-hand how bad political decisions in Wisconsin threaten our state’s hunting heritage.
Governor Walker and the Republican majority have done many things in the past few years that would be detrimental to Wisconsin’s strong conservation legacy.
For example, they rewrote the wetlands preservation laws to pave the way for the development of our rapidly vanishing waterfowl habitat. They are currently rewriting our shoreline zoning laws to cater to builders and realtors with little regard for the fish and wildlife populations that depend on these important habitats. These environmental rollbacks will undoubtedly also have negative impacts on water quality throughout the state.
In addition Republicans have proposed shutting down hatcheries and nurseries that are critical for enhancing our fish and wildlife populations. They drastically cut the Stewardship Fund, which allows us to preserve the pristine beauty of our state and provide public hunting opportunities. Currently, they are even considering kicking the public off of lands open to hunting to fulfill the wishes of a mining company.
To cover their tracks, Republicans have offered bills such as hunting sandhill cranes and woodchucks in an effort to distract people from the real issues that affect hunters the most.
Even more outrageous, Republicans slipped a $500,000 into the current budget claiming it would be used to promote hunting, fishing and trapping. The truth was exposed that they were actually funneling state taxpayer dollars to a political group with close ties to their friends and allies. United Sportsmen of Wisconsin has no experience in training hunters and a shady tax history, yet was slated to receive $500,000 of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money mostly to pay salaries of people who have worked on political campaigns.
This political favor in the form of a budget grant was halted by an outcry from hunters and conservationists who learned the truth. Now, my Democratic colleagues on the Assembly and Senate Natural Resources Committees and I will put forward a bill to fix this mess and ensure non-profit groups with actual hunter training experience can compete for the grant.
We cannot let Wisconsin’s conservation legacy be eroded and exploited to award political cronies in exchange for a few minor bills.