UPDATE: Natural Resources Board votes on hunting in state parks - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Natural Resources Board votes on hunting in state parks

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The state Natural Resources Board has voted to adopt a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposal to amend parts of the Sporting Heritage Act.

The law, also known as Act 168, was passed by the state legislature in April to allow hunting in all state parks, but lawmakers gave the board the power to make limitations on it based on public safety concerns.

The DNR spent weeks holding public hearings and got more than 2-thousand emails. Finally, the board heard 4.5 hours of public comments Tuesday afternoon before their decision.

Many people who spoke were not happy with Act 168, and asked the board to postpone its implementation, but the board approved the proposal with a few amendments.

The DNR's suggested plan was to restrict hunting and trapping to just 64 percent of the land in state parks and trails, and only during a period from October 14th to the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. It also restricts hunting and trapping within 100 yards of designated use areas such as campgrounds, trails and beaches.

The board ended up voting to limit the hunting and trapping season to November 15 to December 15, and the turkey hunting season which runs the month of April. Bow hunting season will remain the same, but the board eliminated bow hunting in Buckhorn State Park and Governor Nelson State Park. The law will also require trappers to use dog-proof traps.

Board chair David Clausen says the public's comments did influence the board's decision.

"We became aware through the public hearing process just how many people use these parks during the rest of the year," says Clausen. "I think we're well within our bounds to go ahead and [make these changes]."

DNR secretary Cathy Stepp says the department staff did a thorough review of all the state parks and considered public opinion when making their proposal. Stepp says the decision was a reasonable compromise.

"I respect the board's decision, they're the policy-making body that governs the department and so I respect that," Stepp says. "I'm a little concerned and I'm very hopeful that the legislature sees this as a good faith effort of the board to meet what the intention was of Act 168."

The complete proposal the DNR brought to the board Monday night, including maps, is available on the DNR's website.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Dozens of people made pleas to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board Tuesday afternoon to delay implementation of the Sporting Heritage Act.

Passed by the State Legislature in April, it will allow hunting and trapping in state parks and on state trails beginning January 1st.

The DNR has already placed restrictions on the law, but dozens of people spoke out at a public hearing to say they don't go far enough.

"I plead with you to please not allow hunting or trapping in our state parks," said Madison resident Deanna Devaul.

"At Peninsula Park, how can runners in the Door County half-marathon and the Fall 50 relay feel completely safe, when archery hunting and trapping are allowed when they are in the park," asked Bob Richards, an outdoor enthusiast from Sturgeon Bay.

Some sought specific changes to the law.

"My goal today is to encourage you to include guidelines that enable local park managers to restrict hunting and trapping for special events on a case-by-case basis," said Jack Barker of Madison.

Others simply want the Natural Resources Board to take another look at the law before implementing it.

"We did not see a mandate to implement the law on January 1st of 2013," said Carole Vande Walle of Fish Creek.

But, Board Chair David Clausen disagrees.

"I believe there is.  I believe the legislation says that," said Clausen.

Clausen says the Sporting Heritage Act 168 will take effect on January 1st no matter what.

"If we do not do anything, then the act goes into effect really with no restrictions," said Clausen.
    
Clausen says that is unacceptable and wants the board to vote immediately on a plan that will restrict hunting and trapping to just 64 percent of the land in state parks and trails, and only during a period from October 14th to the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend.

It also restricts hunting and trapping within 100 yards of designated use areas such as campgrounds and beaches.

But Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison), who voted for the law in April, asked the board to give the legislature the chance to draft a new bill.

"I'm hear to sort of say, which legislators rarely do, you can mark my words, we may have made a mistake and we may need to fix it," said Rep. Hulsey to a loud round of cheers from the crowd.

But Clausen says that is also not an option.

"Number one, we don't have the authority to just send it back to the legislature and say try again," said Clausen.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board will make its recommendation on a plan to allow hunting and trapping in state parks.

The law, called the Sporting Heritage Bill or Act 168, was enacted by the state legislature in April. As part of the law, state parks will now be open to hunting, fishing and trapping from October 15 until right before Memorial Day. The Department of Natural Resources can prohibit hunting, trapping and fishing within 100 feet of designated use areas, like a campground, picnic area or beach.

The Natural Resources Board meets Tuesday at 1:00 p.m.

 

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