MADISON, Wisconsin (CN) – Six Chippewa tribes in Wisconsin sued state government officials on Tuesday in the latest attempt to put a stop to a gray wolf hunting and trapping season slated for this fall which has been the subject of controversy.
Tribes complaint filed in Madison federal court says wolf hunt was scheduled to begin Nov 6 and its swollen killing quota violate several long-standing tribal rights as held by the treaties they signed with the federal government in 1837 and 1842. They want the court to rule that the fall hunt violates their treaty rights and l ‘completely abolished.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Chippewa Indian bands of Lake Superior, Red Cliff, Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles and Lac du Flambeau, as well as the St. Croix and Sokaogon Chippewa tribes. The reserve lands of the six federally recognized tribes encompass more than 300,000 acres in the northernmost region of Wisconsin.
The tribes are represented in their lawsuit by lawyers from the Chicago and Washington offices of Earthjustice, a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental litigation.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole is a defendant in the lawsuit, in addition to the seven members of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, or NRB, a policy-making body of the DNR whose members are appointed by the governor. and approved by the State Senate.
The wolf hunt in Badger State has come under intense scrutiny since a hunt in February, hastily started by legal action conservatives and hunting advocates after the Trump administration deleted the gray wolf on the federal endangered species list at the end of 2020 – saw 218 wolves killed in less than three days, exceeding State hunters slaughter quota by 99 wolves and generating widespread bad press.
In the aftermath of the February hunt, the NRB in August approved an unprecedented second hunting and trapping season for the calendar year by a split vote after hours of tense deliberation and public testimony from outraged wildlife advocates and of those who support the rights of hunters. Council ultimately set the fall hunting quota at 300 wolves, more than double the recommended quota of 130 wolves proposed by the MNR.
At least one NRB member expressed concern at this August meeting that lawsuits over hunting and quota were all but inevitable, and Tuesday’s filing is the second so far after human rights groups. animals. for follow-up to Dane County Circuit Court late last month to quash the hunt and overturn Wisconsin’s 2011 law that mandates a gray wolf season if the species is not on the federal endangered species list .
The Chippewa, or Ojibwa, had lived in the Upper Midwest, including what is now Wisconsin, for centuries by the time they entered into their first treaty with the United States in the 1820s. Two additional treaties cited in the Tuesday’s trials – one from 1837, the other from 1842 – ceded tribal lands to the federal government, but the tribes retained their right to hunt, fish, and gather on the ceded lands.
The tribes argue in their record that the history surrounding the treaties of 1837 and 1842 demonstrates not only the reserved right of the tribes to hunt, fish and gather on the land, but “this same story shows that the tribes also retained the right to conserve and protect the key species on which they relied for their livelihoods, to maintain healthy populations of these species and to ensure their continued existence.
Among the rights protected by treaties and violated by the actions of the DNR and NRB regarding fall hunting, the tribes say, is the claim of a half share of virtually all natural resources on the surrendered lands, including the wolves, and the court. established right that these resources be managed according to sound biological principles aimed at conservation.
The tribes say their right to their share of the wolf quota was essentially canceled by some NRB members pushing for a higher killing quota for this fall’s hunt to bypass the tribal take. They also claim that the quota of 300 wolves has no basis in sound biological principles and threatens the conservation of the state’s wolf population, especially because of the excessive hunting in February.
Animal rights groups attest, with some Support in the scientific community, that the February hunt, which took place during the wolf’s breeding season, could have killed up to a third of Wisconsin’s gray wolf population.
Wisconsin is the only state that allows hunters to use dogs in their pursuit of wolves, a tactic that the tribes say accounted for 86% of wolves killed in February. Hunters in Wisconsin can also use bait to attract wolves and chase them at night, but not with dogs. Trappers can use foot traps or restraint cables to trap wolves.
A DNR spokesperson made no comment on the tribal trial on Tuesday. The spokesperson confirmed that the agency had received a total of 27,388 applications for the fall wolf season, including more than 16,000 for a harvest permit. Planning for the fall hunt is underway, she said, and the drawing to determine which hunters get wolf permits has yet to be done.
Gray wolves are held in high esteem as brethren of the Chippewa tribes, explains the tribal complaint, who “exemplify perseverance, guardianship, intelligence and wisdom” and not only play a vital role in the health of their tribes. ecosystems, but share a special cultural partnership. with the tribes.